We had a three year plan for the program and we've achieved that in less than 12 months- Dr Scott Sleap
A school program that started in Cessnock has recently been expanded to schools across the state.
The Cessnock Academy of STEM Excellence, which is a collaboration between a handful of local schools, kicked off a year ago and its model has now been picked up by the Department of Education to be incorporated into official policy.
"It's exciting that a project from the Hunter has developed into that," Cessnock High deputy principal STEM Scott Sleap said.
The model, now known as STEM Industry School Partnerships Program, is currently being taught in five regions across NSW - Hunter, Mid-north Coast, Central West, Southern England and Riverina.
The project will be expanded to three more regions across the state each year for the next three years.
For those unfamiliar, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
"These are all areas in which there are skills shortages," Dr Sleap said.
'We know 75 per cent of the fastest growing jobs are going to require STEM skills."
The Cessnock Academy of STEM Excellence - known as CASE - is a partnership between Cessnock High School and its feeder primary schools (Cessnock, Cessnock East, Kearsley, Kitchener and Abermain).
Related: A CASE of collaboration
Students engage in problem and inquiry based learning - doing things such as designing environments and solving problems using robotic systems.
The program also involves industry partners who provide experts to teach how to use their products.
"It's about making it real world and interesting for the students," Dr Sleap said. "It's more student focused and hands on rather than the traditional chalk and talk."
And the kids are loving it.
"We've halved our suspension rates, enrollments are up in Year 7 and attendance is through the roof," Dr Sleap said.
"I've worked with hundreds of schools and have not seen a school so readily take on a program.
"We had a three year plan for the program and we've achieved that in less than 12 months."
The academy is holding a ShowCASE event at Cessnock Performing Arts Centre in August during Education Week, where students will "showcase" their work to the community.
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