A unique educational programme which mentors and inspires secondary school children culminated in an aspirational tour of the metropolitan centre of the north. More than 20 Year 10 pupils from across West Cumbria participated in this year’s ICanToo programme run by charitable organisation The React Foundation, in conjunction with leading employability skills provider Inspira.


The key focus of the programme is for the pupils to see beyond their limits and explore opportunities in science and engineering, and the participants were treated to a three-day visit of Machester where they engaged in the city’s rich and diverse industrial and engineering heritage, visiting Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium and enjoying an experience in the cockpit of an iconic Concorde aircraft. The programme, supported this year with funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Francis C Scott Charitable Trust and the Granada Foundation, combines a range of aspirational activities such as educational university workshops, tours of engineering facilities, business-related tasks and regular individual personal development mentoring sessions with Inspira.

Each interaction, engagement and activity throughout the year is educational, inspirational and unique, and bringing these events to a memorable conclusion, 21 pupils from West Lakes Academy (Egremont), St Benedict’s (Whitehaven), Netherhall (Maryport) and Cockermouth schools were treated to the residential trip to Manchester. The trip started with a stadium tour and an educational workshop at Old Trafford, also known as the Theatre of Dreams, followed by a tour of the city’s historical landmarks, led by John Alker from New Manchester Walks.

Up next for the students was a visit to the University of Salford where they were given a tour of the educational facility and took part in a 3D modelling exercise, before the highlight of the trip saw them jump into the cockpit of a Concorde with retired pilot Tony Fallows at the city’s Runway Visitor Park at Manchester Airport. There was still time for the cohort to make one final stop at the Museum of Science and Industry for a special tour led by the museum’s head of learning Chris Keady.

Ben Clements, a pupil at West Lakes Academy, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed all the experiences. I have an interest in architecture and was fascinated by the new skyscrapers during the tour of central Manchester.

“I enjoyed exploring the museum as this was the first time I have had the opportunity to do so for a whole day and I liked taking in all the information provided. I can speak for everyone and say that Concorde was a real highlight.”

The ICanToo programme is an initiative developed and organised by the trustees and volunteers at The React Foundation, which enrolls students in Year 9 and supports them through Year 10 encouraging them to see beyond their existing horizon, raising their aspirations to help them to achieve their potential and consider STEM subjects beyond GCSEs. The Foundation was created in 2004 by Cleator Moor-based company React Engineering to raise aspirations of young people and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

The ICanToo organiser and volunteer of the Foundation, Tom Wright, said: “It is with thanks to my colleagues at The React Foundation for their hard work behind the scenes in organising such a memorable trip, to the Granada Foundation for their valuable and generous support and to Inspira for their ongoing vital input that this trip was such a huge success. Most importantly, we have to say thank you to all the pupils who showed great commitment to learn throughout the programme and seized these great opportunities which don’t come about easily.”

Andrew Monaghan, group leader and mentor from Inspira, who accompanied the pupils on the trip, said: “It’s been great to mentor the ICanToo cohort throughout this year and the Manchester trip has been a fitting finale for the trips they have been on. The pupils should be proud of themselves and I can’t wait for the next Manchester trip with The React Foundation.”