Twenty-seven students from Wykham Park Academy recently visited the site of the Thame Valley viaduct currently under construction for HS2 near Aylesbury.

The day was hosted by EKFB, the joint enterprise created by leading civil engineering and construction companies Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Agroman and BAM Nuttall, as part of the ‘Open Doors’ programme which aims to introduce students to the range of roles that are available in the construction industry.

The students, all sixth formers, participated in the visit as part of a unique employability scheme operated by Aspirations Academies Trust of which Wykham Park Academy is a part. The Aspirations Employability Diploma encourages the development of workplace skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication through real world projects with local employers.

Students were given a presentation by engineers and managers working on the project which involves constructing an 80 km stretch of the HS2 line from Great Missenden to Southam. They explained the different contributing roles from ecologists to engineers and finance, to Health and Safety officers, as well as outlining how they are reducing the environmental and community impact of HS2.

Students donned full PPE to make a visit to the viaduct itself where they got to climb up onto the structure to examine it at close quarters and see the vehicles and machinery used in the construction. The importance of Health and Safety was explained as well as some of the design features which help the viaduct withstand flooding and train vibrations.

Year 12 student Keleigh commented: “It was really eye opening, and a once in a lifetime experience.”

Later in the day, a decision-making exercise saw the students consider the differences in constructing a steel truss or concrete bridge, exploring costings, time scales and environmental impacts before coming to an informed decision.

Students James and Santosh, both 17, were happy that concern for local wildlife had been taken seriously in the original decision making process:

“We were interested and impressed by the efforts that had gone into moving the great crested newts so they were not harmed by the construction”

Geography teacher at Wykham Park Academy, Kirsty Michell was pleased with the day’s learning: “Trips like this are invaluable for students to see the range of opportunities that are open to them when they leave school, college or university. Students were really excited to see the viaduct up close and appreciate the size of the operation. Experiences such as this really deepen their understanding of these projects, which is something that is hard to do from the classroom alone.”

Reproduced courtesy of Banbury Guardian.

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