A Case Study – Academy9

To illustrate these principles and practical measures, this case study gives information about the Academy9 programme. In the Appendix there are details of Academy9 core learning events and experiences.


In 2015, the Knowledge Exchange Partnership Ltd. was invited by Transport Scotland to develop a framework (under the title of Academy9) to run in parallel with the upgrade of 80 miles of trunk road on the A9 between Perth and Inverness, to dual carriageway. This Framework was introduced in May 2015 and highlighted a progressive, evolving programme of STEM-related activities and experiences covering school, college and university education. It is aimed at pupils, students, teachers, parents and the wider community, along the A9 corridor.

Academy9 sets out a strategic vision of educational engagement:

  • Recognising and building upon knowledge exchange and creative thinking in professional and social contexts
  • Capturing the power and potential of collaborative and partnership working
  • Leaving a legacy of achievement and desire for learning for all.

It aims to achieve the following:

  • To promote increased levels of knowledge and understanding about the upgrade of the A9 between Perth and Inverness
  • To create positive STEM-related learning opportunities, linking achievement with clear career pathways and employment destinations
  • To engage young people, teachers and the wider community in STEM-related activities that instil personal and social confidence, motivation and resilience
  • To leave a legacy of STEM-related learning and good practice that impacts on future educational initiatives in and around the A9.


Academy9 was planned as a programme comprising several phases, each phase concurrent with a stage of the upgrade of the A9. The aim of each phase was outlined as follows:

  • Phase 1: Raising awareness and improving understanding about the benefits of upgrading the A9.
  • Phase 2: Increasing the impact of STEM-related activities on the motivation and aspirations of young people.
  • Phase 3: Strengthening the scope and depth of STEM-related education through legacy planning.
  • Phase 4: Promoting good practice in partnership working between education and industry to improve the life chances of young people.


The partnership comprises:

  • Transport Scotland personnel – responsible for budgets, managing the A9 upgrade and co-ordinating Academy9
  • Education specialists from The Knowledge Exchange Partnership Ltd., with the overall vision to drive the programme forward and provide expertise in a range of areas, including quality assurance
  • Education Liaison Officers (ELOs) – industry-based individuals, with a mix of industry and education backgrounds, who deliver the programme by organising learning events and challenges for young people in schools and who contribute to everyday ideas, reflections, improvements, etc.
  • Industry professionals working on the A9 upgrade, for example, as managers, engineers, geologists, ecologists, landscape architects, surveyors, etc. and who are official STEM Ambassadors.

Academy9 partnerships

Collaboration and integration

Academy9 is based on several assumptions/values:

  • The vision for the programme is valid and worthwhile
  • Sharing joint ownership of the programme is crucial for education and industry partners, members of the delivery team and participants
  • Interactive challenges and innovation are at the core of a positive mindset
  • Learning about STEM through work-relevant events/challenges benefits young people
  • Education practitioners (teachers) need to be actively engaged with the events and challenges
  • Mutual trust and respect lie at the heart of strong and sustainable collaboration between education and industry professionals
  • Industry professionals are expected to lead events and challenges
  • Staff in the programme welcome opportunities for learning from new experiences themselves, as well as providing learning experiences for young people
  • The programme needs to be forward-thinking, dynamic, evolving and progressive
  • A positive mindset is crucial to learning and achievement
  • Stepping outside a ‘comfort zone’ can be both challenging and rewarding
  • Ongoing reflection and analysis of events/challenges is essential to the high standards, expectations and improvement of the programme.


A number of organisational features apply to Academy9:

  • Input from education specialists (The Knowledge Exchange Partnership Ltd.) to provide expertise to the programme
  • Creation of a Management Team with representation from all partners, meeting on a bi-monthly basis
  • Establishment of a team of ELOs responsible for everyday planning, design and delivery, meeting on a monthly basis
  • Regular communication between The Knowledge Exchange Partnership Ltd. and the ELOs, via video links, phone conferencing, face to face contact and email
  • The development of a central, electronic, file-sharing, document storage facility, accessible by team members regardless of geography
  • A secure and readily-accessible physical storage space for catalogued programme resources.


Research into STEM-related networks and current national priorities:

  • Academy9 has tapped into existing STEM networks, with STEM Hub providers advising on local businesses in which STEM Ambassadors already operate, and advising about which local school(s) might be interested in establishing education-industry partnerships
  • Academy9 uses industry professionals who are also registered as STEM Ambassadors – PVG [Reference 17] checking (essential for working with children/young people) is undertaken by STEMnet and training opportunities are provided to support industry professionals in their work with young people.
  • Identifying current STEM programmes and government priorities.

Strategic Framework

A Framework was created for Academy9 in 2015 and updated in 2018/19:

  • The Educational Framework (2015) outlined phases of the programme and gave information sufficient to initiate implementation
  • The Revised Framework (2018/19) gave more detail, to reflect how thinking had evolved – Phase 1 had been completed; and there were emerging ideas about Phase 2
  • The Framework is regarded as a working document – to be updated in line with fresh thinking and in parallel with developments in the construction work on the A9.

Initial set-up

Academy9 focused initially on:

  • Having a clear, work-relevant context (i.e. the upgrade of the A9)
  • Winning the approval and commitment of senior personnel from both education and industry
  • Using industry professionals to lead some of the learning events and challenges
  • Mentoring – not just for and by young people, but also within the delivery team
  • Having a team that was geographically spread across different areas of Scotland.

Innovative approaches

Academy9 uses experimentation and controlled risk. Some of the events and challenges have run more smoothly than others, but in all instances young people and delivery team members are stretched (sometimes beyond their comfort zone) to think ‘outside the box’ and work to their maximum potential. This is at the heart of having high expectations and standards.

This approach (being willing to ‘have a go’) is embedded in positive mindset principles, encouraging young people (and delivery team members) to face interactive challenges ‘head on’, risk ‘failure’, learn from mistakes and enjoy success. This type of experience helps build endurance and resilience that can become lifelong skills.

Outlined below are some of the core events, developments and challenges from Academy9. The summaries provide brief information about the activities, the benefits, target audiences and time allocated. A web link https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/academy9/how-to-guides/ allows you to access the resources and detailed information you need should you want to use/adapt any of these for your own programmes.

The resources available include videos, photographs, blogs, vlogs, documents about the A9 and accompanying paperwork.

All events promote and integrate personal resilience, positive mindset and creativity.

Each event builds and reinforces previous learning.

Teaching staff should be encouraged to attend events and challenges and provide advice as required.

Gateway Event

Hosted by secondary schools, attended by associate primary school pupils.

AUDIENCE: P4-5 pupils (ages 8-9)

PURPOSE: Introduces pupils to the A9 dualling and Academy9 team

DURATION: Morning or afternoon event (half-day)

CORE ACTIVITY: Pupils take part in mixed team challenges relating to the A9

  • Facilitated by Education Liaison Officers (ELOs) and young industry professionals (senior mentors)
  • S3 pupils (junior mentors) are trained for the event
  • Challenges focus on safety, planning, teamwork, spatial awareness, communication and problem solving.

Top tips

  • Teachers split the pupils into teams and issue team information in advance so that primary pupils arrive prepared to join a team
  • All mentors should have a positive/productive role
  • Check venue, health & safety plan, risk assessment and equipment in advance
  • Have music during challenges to create a pleasant atmosphere
  • Certificates for participants help generate conversations with family and friends after the event.

Roadshow Experience

Introduces STEM subjects – engineering, ecology and geology.

AUDIENCE: P6-7 pupils (ages 10-11)

PURPOSE: To understand how engineers build a road

DURATION: Teacher-led classroom activities – Morning or afternoon; Activity workshops – morning or afternoon event; Follow-on lessons – take place over 1-2 school terms

CORE ACTIVITY: Workshops on A9 Route Options, Ecology and Geology. A comprehensive manual of supplementary teaching materials is provided for follow-on lessons

  • Challenges focus on exploration, investigation, communication, scientific experimentation and assessment of factors.

Top tips

  • Advance teacher-led experiences are developed to prepare staff and pupils for the event
  • Use local examples and real-life materials/resources, e.g. different soil samples
  • Challenges should be interactive with clear learning objectives and outcomes
  • Pupils should be asked to confirm their understanding before ending the session
  • Consider follow-up sessions to extend the learning and offer support to teachers for further lesson delivery.

Town Planning Challenge

World Town Planning Day (WTPD) consists of both teacher-led lessons as well as industry professional-led lessons.

AUDIENCE: S1 pupils (ages 11-12)

PURPOSE: To understand processes of town planning

DURATION: Teacher-led classroom activities, based on 3 x 1-hour lessons relating to the geography curriculum

CORE ACTIVITY: S1 geography pupils learn about the roles of a town planner and a Geographical Information System (GIS) professional as well as having the opportunity to use GIS software to develop their own ‘towns’

  • Challenges focus on what is town planning?, the roles of a town planner, who town planners work with and how to become a town planner.

Top tips

  • There are clear advantages to making the development relevant to the local area
  • Teachers may need support to prepare for the first three sessions
  • Consider using electronic mapping tools rather than paper, if this is available, to support cross-curricular learning.

Apprenticeship Academy

AUDIENCE: S2-3 pupils (ages 13-15) with S5-6 pupils (ages 15-16) acting as group mentors

PURPOSE: Industry professional-led activities, based on bridge-building, the environment, road surveying and ground conditions, and risk resolution

DURATION: Two-and-a-half day event

CORE ACTIVITY: A mega challenge – to build a bridge over a 3D landscape. Family and friends join the pupils and the Academy9 team for the challenge results and prize-giving to share the outcomes of the learning experience.

  • Challenges focus on risk resolution, multi-disciplinary assessment, team-working, communication and careers.

Top tips

  • Engaging school staff (teachers, etc.) in the event is crucial for maximising potential benefits
  • The event involves engagement with families and community leaders, extending awareness about the A9/Academy9 to a wider audience
  • The mega-challenge event should be allocated plenty of time and effort should be made to attract maximum support from family/community members
  • Young industry professionals should be actively engaged in creating some of the challenges, to engender feelings of joint ownership and commitment and make use of their expertise.

Next Steps Workshop

Requested by schools and in support of the ‘I can’ statements in the Career Education Standard 3-18 – available at: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/dyw2-career-education-standard-0915.pdf

AUDIENCE: S5 pupils (ages 15-16)

PURPOSE: Preparing for the workplace

DURATION: Part-day workshop

CORE ACTIVITY: Activities on interview techniques, and CV and personal statement writing. Pupils are given the opportunity to speak with professionals during a speed networking session.

  • Challenges focus on preparation for the workplace – interview techniques, CV writing, personal statements and careers.

Top tips

  • The young people need to feel fully engaged and inspired
  • Members of the delivery team (including young industry professionals) should be trained/briefed on e.g. CV writing techniques/formats; personal statement requirements, etc. beforehand
  • A full complement of staff is needed for this event to ensure that pupils receive generous one-to-one time and attention
  • Resources can usefully include a ‘delegate pack’ for pupils, filled with tips about interviews, writing CVs, making career choices and drafting personal statements, etc.
  • There should be an emphasis throughout on the fact that no career pathway is unthinkable; young industry professionals provide real-life examples of how people arrive at their career destinations and each is unique

SCQF [Reference 18] Level 6 Qualification for Educational Practitioners

AUDIENCE: Teachers and other educational practitioners

PURPOSE: To increase knowledge of the A9 Dualling Programme

DURATION: 10 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) time

CORE ACTIVITY: Credit-rated (approved) by Inverness College UHI onto the SCQF at Level 6 (equivalent to a Higher in terms of level of demand). Identifies the benefits of the upgrade, the role of professionals working on the A9 and some factors that need to be considered in major road construction projects.

  • Focuses on aims and benefits of the A9 dualling, job roles, mitigation of constraints and sharing this knowledge with others.

Tip tips

  • The qualification targets educational practitioners who are mainly teachers, but may include teaching assistants, careers or enterprise development staff, local authority education staff, etc.
  • The qualification can be scheduled over a period of six months
  • Individual CPD arrangements can be made through the school/local authority
  • Tutors for the qualification are young industry professionals, appropriately trained in assessment and marking by staff from the Knowledge Exchange Partnership Ltd.

SCQF Level 4 SQA [Reference 19] Customised Award

Prior to delivering this Award, teachers should have completed the Level 6 qualification for educational practitioners (or equivalent). The Award is delivered by teaching staff in schools.

AUDIENCE: S3, S4 and S5 pupils (ages 13-16)

PURPOSE: To increase knowledge of civil and infrastructure engineering projects

DURATION: 20 hours

CORE ACTIVITY: Credit-rated (approved) by SQA onto the SCQF at Level 4

  • Focuses on defining civil and infrastructure engineering projects, job roles and mitigation of constraints. The dualling of the A9 can be used as a case study.

Top tips

  • The qualification is targeted initially within the A9 area, but has the potential to be delivered more widely
  • Delivery of the qualification can include classroom visits by industry professionals and/or local site visits to witness a project in action
  • The qualification should be delivered over a period of time (e.g. 6-8 weeks) accommodated within the school/college timetable.

Industry Experience Week

Piloted in November 2018 in partnership with SSERC. [Reference 20]

AUDIENCE: Educational practitioners

PURPOSE: To increase knowledge of STEM career pathways

DURATION: Five days

CORE ACTIVITY: Providing real-life knowledge about STEM-related careers and progression routes.

  • Focuses on career skills, industry networks and processes, insights into the workplace, inspiration and confidence-building.

Top tips

  • The week focuses on sharing and exchanging information through interactive activities – formal presentation input should be minimal
  • The emphasis is on real-life and work-relevant examples
  • The event can be hosted in the work environment (e.g. office) of a local industry provider
  • Account needs to be taken of education term-times and holidays
  • It may be possible to find sources of funding for this type of event.


17 Protecting Vulnerable Groups

18 Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework

19 Scottish Qualifications Authority

20 Scottish Schools Education Research Centre