As a major donor, the Ernest Cook Trust has always been particular in defining the kinds of education work it funds. These have included initiatives which further young people’s interest in the countryside and environment, in arts and crafts, architecture, music and dance, and projects which improve reading, writing and maths.
Now ECT’s Trustees have decided to expand on this by adding a further category – science. Although increasing numbers of young people are now opting for STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at university, the UK still lags behind other countries. So this is seen as a vital area to include in our £1.8m-a-year grant donations.
Over the many years of our grant funding, the Trust has not ignored this area. Since 1998 the Ernest Cook Trust has been helping to foster a love of engineering among young people by supporting the Arkwright Scholarships Trust.
The charity was founded in 1991 by Design & Technology teachers who wanted to encourage more able students to pursue careers in engineering. Each year Arkwright awards two-year scholarships to high-calibre Year 11 students studying Design and Technology and Maths and who have an interest in engineering, to support them through A-levels or Scottish Higher exams.
The scholarships include funding for the student for text books and project materials, mentoring from a professional engineer, ‘experience days’, free CAD/CAM software and training, and money for the school to enhance engineering teaching.
Last year Arkwright awarded a total of 371 scholarships and this year it expects that figure to be 385. Since ECT began giving grants to the charity in 1998, it has directly supported 45 Arkwright Scholars. And regular progress reports show that our support is really bearing fruit with 87% of these going on to study engineering or design at university.
The charity is also running RISE – a pilot project in five schools in disadvantaged parts of London, which will be working with year 10 students, to try and inspire younger pupils to opt for careers in engineering.
As well as funding for Arkwright Scholars, ECT has supported other science and engineering initiatives in recent years. These include King’s College, London, whose Institute of Making programme supports young people’s interest in STEM subjects, involving them in workshops with senior people from companies such as Dyson and Samsung, as well as post-doctoral students and young professionals.
ECT has also given grant awards to the Edinburgh International Science Festival, whose outreach programme takes science shows and workshops to schools throughout Scotland. Last year the programme reached nearly 60,000 pupils across 29 local authorities, with a particular emphasis on supporting children in rural and disadvantaged communities.
And the Dorset ASSET & Valter Prize Trust – a charity which provides cash prizes to encourage teenagers to study subjects appropriate to careers in science, engineering and technology – has also had ECT support towards its mathematics prizes.
Now with our renewed commitment to funding science education, we look forward to supporting many more such initiatives in future.