“Innovation Express”

26th July 2023

Northumberland Freemasons have taken an active role in a transformative project at the Dales School in Blyth. Their involvement has fostered the unique conversion of two ex-Class 144 Pacer train carriages into a custom-made library and STEM classroom, aiming to enrich the lives of students with special educational needs and disabilities.

With establishments in Blyth and Ashington, the Dales School serves as an essential resource for its pupils, 70% of whom are currently living in poverty. The school focuses on nurturing life skills and foundational capabilities, aiming to make a significant change in the lives of these students.

The innovative train project and as a pivotal step in this direction. The first carriage, which has been transformed into a library, has already received acclaim on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces TV programme for its inventive utilisation of space. As part of efforts to promote reading enjoyment among children, the carriage includes a train simulator to ignite early career aspirations while enhancing numeracy and literacy skills.

The second carriage is a dedicated STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths) hub. It acts as an engaging platform to inspire students towards a future in these fields, featuring a variety of construction materials, electronic boards, and immersive VR technology.

School representative James Groundwater expressed profound gratitude for the support provided by the Northumberland Freemasons, who generously donated £10,600 towards iPads, VR technology, and large modular building Lego sets for the project. According to James, this invaluable contribution will enable students to virtually explore landmarks such as New York City and the Egyptian pyramids, and engage in hands-on learning by constructing life-sized Lego structures.

Dr Sue Fisher, the headteacher of the Dales School, echoed James’s sentiments. She lauded the Freemasons for their generosity, stating, “The train has carriages devoted to reading and the new STEAM carriage is now ready for passengers!” The school hopes that this unique initiative, coupled with the Freemasons’ kindness, will significantly bolster the pupils’ education and development.

Initially, the Richard Henry Holmes Masonic Benevolent Fund was approached to make a contribution towards this project. However, upon understanding the initiative’s potential impact, the fund decided to fully finance the equipment purchase, as stated by Trustee Norman West.

The project sets the Dales School on an exciting journey towards innovation and success, all aboard the “Innovation Express”

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