As part of a unique project to design a STEM-inspired ‘playground for the future’, a group of school children from across Europe visited AkzoNobel’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Ashington.

The year six pupils, who hail from Germany, Italy, Poland and Ashington’s own Bothal Primary School enjoyed a full day at the plant where they were treated to site tours, an interactive colour workshop, a virtual reality experience as well as a surprise visit from AkzoNobel’s iconic Dulux dog.

The children have been taking turns since the project commenced in September 2017 to visit each other’s schools overseas during key phases of the project. Bothal Primary School was responsible for hosting the children during a key design phase and helped to organise the visit to AkzoNobel.

“The ERASMUS+ scheme is a European funded programme designed to enable schools from other countries to work together collaboratively on a project,” explained Leanne Johnson, assistant head of school at the Ashington Learning Partnership Trust.

“We place a huge emphasis on STEM across all of our primary school sites so when we saw that the International School of Stuttgart was looking for partner schools on a STEM-based project to design a futuristic playground, we jumped at the opportunity to get involved.

“Pupils from Bothal have already visited the partner schools in Poland and Germany so it was really exciting for us to welcome their students here to Ashington.

“We thought about the different activities that we could plan around the theme of ‘design’ and given that the world’s most advanced paint factory is right on our doorstep, we thought it would be a shame not to include AkzoNobel in the itinerary.

“The day we spent on site with the team from AkzoNobel was a huge success. Despite the language barriers, all of the children had a fantastic time. The appearance of the Dulux dog was a lovely added surprise as well!”

AkzoNobel has worked alongside the Ashington Learning Partnership Trust on a number of projects since opening its doors in 2017. Earlier this year, the site donated paint to rejuvenate Bothal Primary’s sister school, Central Primary’s corridors and main sports hall as well as create a vibrant and inspiring STEM suite for the children to enjoy.

“We have a fantastic working relationship with the ALP Trust so we were delighted to be approached about the ERASMUS+ project at Bothal,” said Jill Johnston, site support coordinator at AkzoNobel Ashington.

“The children thoroughly enjoyed the day they spent with us on the site. They were really engaged and loved getting hands-on with the painting exercises.

“Bringing colour to people’s lives and engaging with the local communities around the site has always been a key priority for us.

“We hope that the visit will help to inspire the children with ideas for their playground as the project progresses.”

“The visit to AkzoNobel has definitely been one of the highlights of the week,” Leanne Johnson added.

“The ERASMUS+ programme has a number of key benefits for the children, it enables them to travel and experience other cultures, as well as develop key skills for life such as problem solving and communication, but it also provides them with access to businesses such as AkzoNobel which can help to inspire them for their own future careers.

“On behalf of all of the staff and pupils who took part, I would like to thank AkzoNobel for their continued support.”

AkzoNobel is the world’s leading producer of decorative paints and coatings. Famous for its household brands such as Dulux, Polycell and Hammerite, the company’s Ashington site is capable of producing up to 100 million litres of paint per year in up to 33,000 different colours.