As well as offering a wide-ranging programme of land-based learning for children and young people, the Ernest Cook Trust gives grants to registered charities, schools and not-for-profit organisations wishing to encourage young people’s interest either in the countryside and the environment, the arts (in the broadest sense), or in science, or aiming to raise levels of literacy and numeracy.

Since the ECT is a land-based Trust, work which encourages or ensures the continuation of rural skills and crafts is of particular interest to the Trustees. All applications are expected to link in with either the National Curriculum or with recognised qualifications.

Each year the ECT Trustees give around £1.8 million to support hundreds of educational projects throughout the UK. Click here to download a list showing a selection of recent grant recipients.

A large grants programme for awards of over £4,000 and a small grants programme for awards of under £4,000 operate throughout the year.


Children make musical connections

Connections (500x333)Gloucestershire schoolchildren joined world-class musicians recently in a creative music project inspired by Stroud and Gloucestershire’s canal and railway heritage.

The Connections project, which was part-funded by ECT, involved 120 pupils from Chalford Hill, Eastington and Stroud Valley primary schools and Tredworth Junior School, Gloucester, in a series of creative music workshops, culminating in a concert performance.

The project started with an ‘inspiration day’ where children thought about what life was like for those who worked on the canals and railways, and listened to classical pieces performed by the renowned Carducci String Quartet.

In later workshops the children produced artwork and creative writing inspired by the music, and were helped to compose their own songs.

Finally, accompanied by the Carducci Quartet and fellow musicians, the children gave a breathtaking performance to a packed audience at Stroud Subscription Rooms.

Photo by Graeme Dougan, courtesy of the Connections project

Latest Grants News

ECT Arkwright ScholarsAs 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.

Graduate chooses woodland career path

Young graduate Fiona de Wert has chosen an unusual career – working in a Dorset woodland, learning an ancient rural craft.

Fiona, aged 25, is the first trainee in a newly-funded apprenticeship scheme designed to halt the decline in the traditional rural skill of coppicing.

The apprenticeship is backed by a £1/4m investment from the Ernest Cook Trust, and is run by the charity Small Woods working in partnership with Dorset Wildlife Trust.

ECT’s funding has been granted in perpetuity and will fund the training of a new coppicing apprentice every three years.

Fiona de Wert and Toby HoadCoppicing is a centuries-old and environmentally-friendly way of managing woodland. Trees are cut at ground level causing straight rods to grow, which are harvested to make products such as rustic furniture, garden hurdles and walking sticks.

It has been identified as an endangered rural skill with an ageing workforce and a shortage of new recruits.

Fiona de Wert is part of a new younger generation choosing the woodland as their workplace. She graduated from the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus four years ago with a degree in conservation biology and ecology, and has moved to Dorset to take up the apprenticeship.

She will spend the next three years training with coppice and green wood worker Toby Hoad on the Rempstone Estate, Isle of Purbeck. When fully trained, Fiona aims to set herself up as a self-employed coppicer, managing an area of woodland, making coppicing products and selling them.

She said: “I realised after my three years at university that the academic side isn’t for me. The thing that really sparked my interest was being practical, doing things with my hands.

“This apprenticeship is exactly the challenging learning environment I’ve been looking for. Hopefully the new skills I’ll learn will benefit the woodlands of Purbeck as well as allowing my creative side to flourish.”

The Ernest Cook Trust’s Chief Executive Nicholas Ford said: “We are very pleased to be supporting Fiona in her training over the next three years.

“Our investment of £1/4 million in coppicing apprenticeships was made to celebrate the Trust’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee year, to help halt the decline in this traditional rural craft. It is so good to know that there is a younger generation eager to come in and learn these old skills and help keep them alive.”

Small Woods’ Apprenticeship Officer Fran Fowkes said: “We are really pleased that we can support an apprentice in Dorset.

“This area has such a long history of coppice management that it is essential to keep it going. We are very grateful to the Ernest Cook Trust for supporting the coppice sector and providing this opportunity.”