Special recognition for ex-Amble student after GCSE subject reinstated to Northumberland school’s curriculum

An Amble man has received an award for his work to get computer science back on the GCSE curriculum of his former school.
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Alex Penrose, a former pupil at James Calvert Spence College, won the Special Recognition category at the North East STEM Awards.

The award recognises people who have made an outstanding contribution to STEM education in the North East.

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The challenge started after Alex joined Alnwick-based manufacturing software company, MSP, as a software engineer in 2021.

Alex Penrose.Alex Penrose.
Alex Penrose.

He wanted to give something back to his former school and recognised that reinstating the GCSE onto the curriculum would give students the opportunity to learn computer science skills from a vital age; an opportunity he unfortunately didn’t get himself.

Alex met with JCSC’s headteacher and IT teachers to discuss the importance of its place on the curriculum, explaining how it would have assisted his own career path.

The subject was successfully reinstated to the JCSC curriculum and the first intake of approximately 25 students, started in September 2023. The hope is to introduce it as an A Level in the future.

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Alex says: “Studying GCSE computer science would have given me lots more confidence with programming tasks at the start of my degree and I’m delighted students now have this chance.

Alex has been involved with various STEM events, including open days at James Calvert Spence College.Alex has been involved with various STEM events, including open days at James Calvert Spence College.
Alex has been involved with various STEM events, including open days at James Calvert Spence College.

"Reinstating the subject back on the curriculum will also hopefully raise awareness and encourage more students into exploring computer science and realising the importance of it in the world we live in today.”

David Smith, computer science teacher at JCSC, said: “This achievement speaks volumes about Alex’s impact.

“Alex’s enthusiasm for STEM is contagious. His vibrant energy and genuine excitement for the subject matter has captivated students’ attention and ignited a renewed interest in learning.”

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Alex has also been involved with supporting two Industrial Cadet programmes, organised by the Engineering Development Trust (EDT).

During the first, a Gold Industrial Cadets programme, Alex supported students in a mentoring capacity over a six-month period on a real-life STEM industry project, of which the work the students completed was successfully implemented into MSP’s processes and products.

Paul Batley, former Head of Sixth Form at Alnwick’s Duchess’s Community High School whose students took part, says, “The students he worked with really enjoyed the experience and felt able to discuss any problems they had about the project with him. They all benefited massively from the programme. It developed their confidence and they have now all secured engineering and maths places at top universities.”

Alex also supported a Bronze Industrial Cadets programme; a six-week programme working on a wellbeing app where the team won the regional teamwork award.

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Marianne Whitfield, MSP director of development, says: “At MSP, we are all extremely proud of Alex’s achievements and this special recognition is so well deserved. If this is just the beginning of Alex’s impact on the North East’s STEM agenda, I am excited about what’s to come.”

Alex said: “It’s lovely to receive this recognition and hear so much positive feedback. To think I’ve been able to improve the education of many students is incredible and I’m so pleased they’ll have a chance I didn’t get. I hope this inspires more people to look at ways for improving their community or places that have helped them in the past.”

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