Rugby meets tech to tackle the regional stem skills gap

Tuesday 07 March 2023 Written by: Adam

Current Newcastle Falcons players Will Welch and Sean Robinson attended the launch to showcase the smart ball and put STEM into action.

43% of STEM vacancies are hard to fill* and within education by key stage four, girls are significantly less likely to rank STEM subjects as enjoyable. Only 32% of girls said they enjoyed STEM, compared to 59% of boys**.

Sage, a global technology leader, has joined forces with Newcastle Rugby Foundation (NRF) to inspire young people into stem careers, through the power of sport.

The programme, supported by Sage’s social impact division Sage Foundation, will target 10 regional schools~ including North Fawdon Primary School where the launch took place and make science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics more accessible and engaging for 600 young people (aged 9-11), with a focus on girls.

Sage is the Official Insights Partner to Six Nations Rugby, and by working with NRF, will help pupils learn about the power of STEM in sport while showcasing the smart ball technology, currently being used for the first time in the Six Nations Rugby tournament.

Through the partnership, Sage hopes to give young people the chance to participate in the game who may not usually be able to, helping to improve physical and mental wellbeing.

The programme will also touch on the core values of the sport, such as teamwork, respect, discipline, and sportsmanship, while promoting the link between STEM and diverse careers.

The 5-week programme will see the roll out of rugby themed STEM classroom lessons using data and insight provided by Sage + tag rugby coaching sessions. In addition to classroom sessions, the pupils will be encouraged to follow the Six Nations competitions and gather game insights to mark off in their workbooks.

An end of programme celebration will be held on 25th March, which coincides with the opening Red Roses match of the Women’s Six Nations at Kingston Park, Newcastle. 15 children and their parents from the project will take part in a ‘money can’t buy’ stadium tour pre-match, and take part in the pre-match Guard of Honour.

All pupil participants will also be invited to Newcastle Rugby Foundation schools’ festival & rugby taster day on 30th March.

Cadence Willis, VP, Sage Foundation, said: “Right now, stem shortages in the UK means the country is at risk of being left behind. We know that 43pc of STEM vacancies are hard to fill*, so as a global tech business, based in the North East, it is critical we play an active role in helping plug the skills gap.

“This means developing and supporting programmes and partnering with brilliant organisations such as NRF to inspire young people into STEM careers they never thought were achievable. This is how we will build a highly skilled, highly productive regional economy.”

Melanie Magee, Head of Newcastle Rugby Foundation said: “We are delighted to play a role in this exciting partnership with Sage Foundation.

“Combining the inspirational event at Kingston Park as England’s Red Roses take on Scotland, with exciting smart ball technology, alongside the opportunity to participate in the schools’ sessions, is a unique way to promote STEM learning in schools and beyond the classroom.

“We know this project will make a positive difference to more than 600 young people and we cannot wait to see the positive impact the programme will bring.”

*UK Commission for Employment & Skills, 2022.

**Department for Education, 2019.

~ School names are: Kenton Bar Primary School, Cambois Primary School, North Fawdon Primary School, Mountfield Primary School, Stocksfield Avenue Primary School, Hilton Primary School, St. Cuthbert’s Primary School, St George’s Primary School, Croftway Primary School and Horton Grange Primary School