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  1. ITV Report

Fourteen-year-old engineers swap school for university

They may be just 14, but the new intake at the JCB Academy in Staffordshire have gone straight to university - for their first week.

One hundred and forty pupils entering Year 10 at the academy based in Rocester near Uttoxeter are spending part of their studies at the Harper Adams University College in Shropshire as part of their introductory project.

The students are in their first year at the Academy and will spend the next two studying for their GCSEs with the potential to stay on to do A-Levels or enter a work based apprenticeship.

The JCB Academy in Rocester is where the students are normally based Credit: ITV Central

Until recently many of the students had never met, so the week's study trip to the university works both as a bonding exercise as well as a way to get the practical teaching started.

The youngsters will spend the next 8 weeks designing and building a remote controlled off-road vehicle, with the first spent learning the theory behind it.

Ollie Fogg hopes getting a place at the Academy will help him get to Oxford or Cambridge Credit: ITV Central

Ollie Fogg, who's 14, and is from Repton in Derbyshire, previously studied at a secondary school in Derbyshire.

He says he applied to the JCB academy because of his passion for engineering and hopes that one day he'll get the grades to study at Oxford or Cambridge University.

He says the teaching at the academy is very different to his former school:

"The teaching's a lot more hands on and the teachers address you as adults instead of children. We do working hours but the upside is that we don't get any homework instead and we don't work in notebooks or workbooks we work on computers and laptops"

– Ollie Fogg, Year 10 student, JCB Academy

The £22 million JCB academy opened in 2012 and that's also when the partnership with Harper Adams began.

This is the third group of students who've been on the week long trip to learn about 4x4 design; expertise which is usually taught to degree students.

Harper Adams University College near Newport in Shropshire Credit: ITV Central

Engineering lecturer at the university Simon Woods says he enjoys the energy and enthusiasm the younger students have towards their work.

He says the opportunity for the youngsters to experience university life at this age is beneficial to JCB but also to the university, as he expects some of the students may choose to study engineering in Shropshire when they complete their A-Level studies.

He also says the group based project work helps to develop important skills they will need in the workplace.

"Very quickly they need to sort themselves into a team - who's going to do the measuring, who's going to push the go-kart about, and it gels them together really quickly"

– Simon Woods, Engineering lecturer, Harper Adams University College

Principal of the JCB Academy Jim Wade also says the group work is a huge part of the college's approach to learning,

"Our curriculum experience that we put young people through is aimed at developing that set of skills which will enable them to transfer and be effective employees whether that's at 16 or 18 or when they leave university"

– Jim Wade, Principal, JCB Academy

The new students fought off some stiff competition to get a place at the Academy.

Recruiting from schools across Derbyshire and Staffordshire, there are ten applicants for each place.

And with 99% of last year's students getting a C grade or above, it's hoped these youngsters will plug a skills gap in the industry to become the engineers of the future.