First Newton Room Opens in UK

Richard Lochhead speaking at the opening. Photo: HIE

The first Norwegian style learning centre in the UK has officially opened in Thurso on Monday.

Newton Rooms are designed to inspire more young people to become interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and encourage them to study these subjects in school and beyond.

The centre at North Highland College UHI in Thurso is the first of a network of Newton Rooms being created in the Highland region by the Science Skills Academy, a partnership project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) with £3m from the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal.

It will provide an inspirational setting for school pupils to take part in practical activities which complement the STEM sectors found in the region. It also provides an accessible base for extracurricular STEM activities not only for young people but also their families and others in the local community as well as across the region.

Although initially focused on the Highland region, due to City-Region Deal funding, the programme will seek to spread its activity across all areas in the Highlands and Islands region.

Other organizations behind the initiative include Skills Development Scotland, the University of the Highlands and Islands, the Highland Council and NHS Highland.

International specialist firm FIRST Scandinavia, the company that developed and owns the Newton concept, was appointed by HIE last year to create Scotland’s first Newton room in Thurso.

Scotland’s second Newton Room in Lochaber will be opened on April 2, 2019, and, in the interim period, will be hosted at Caol Youth Centre. It is intended that it will later be part of the new Centre for Science and Technology in Fort William which is being planned by West Highland College UHI.

Organizations behind the project are developing Newton Modules to match STEM sectors in the Highlands and Islands, which will complement the Scottish Government’s Curriculum for Excellence and Scottish STEM Strategy.

Andrew Johnston, HIE’s director for the Science Skills Academy, said: “It’s great to see the first Newton Room in the country officially opened in Thurso. Caithness has been at the forefront of scientific and technological advances in Scotland for more than 60 years and this facility will help it stay there. The centre will aim to inspire young people across the whole of Caithness and North Sutherland who are interested in STEM subjects.”

Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Richard Lochhead said: “The Newton Rooms project offers pupils and the community a wonderful opportunity to discover and become enthused by STEM.

“This is the first facility of its kind to open in the UK, supported by the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal, and reflects Scotland’s position as a pioneer in STEM. It is important that we engage and involve people from all walks of life and at all ages to develop STEM skills and knowledge in our rapidly changing world, to enrich their lives and benefit the Scottish economy.

“I would like to thank the staff of North Highland College and their partners for their work inspiring children and young people and providing new and creative opportunities to make STEM education stimulating, attractive and rewarding.”

Donald MacBeath, principal of North Highland College UHI, added: “I’m delighted that the main campus of North Highland College UHI will be hosting the country’s first Newton Room. I believe it will become the focal point for innovative and industry-focused STEM learning for the area’s young people. Being located in a college environment with a significant STEM research portfolio will only further add value to the overall Newton Room experience.”

The Science Skills Academy is a partnership project led by HIE with £3m from the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal and support from The Highland Council, the University of the Highlands and Islands, Skills Development Scotland, and others.

The Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal is jointly funded by the Scottish and UK Governments. The Scottish Government have committed up to £135 million in the Deal, the UK Government has committed up to £53 million, and the Highland Council and regional partners have committed up to £127 million over 10 years.

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