From education to employment

£1 million prize launches for bold ideas to transform education

Students walking holding books

Today, a £1 million prize fund is being launched to reward bold ideas that have the potential to transform education and learning in the UK, as new research reveals that 65% of UK adults think the education system is not preparing young people for their futures. The Big Education Challenge is run by Big Change, a charity that catalyses change in education by supporting new initiatives that set up students to thrive in life.

The launch coincides with the release of new data demonstrating widespread frustration across society with an education system that is not adequately preparing young people for their futures, and calling for those on the frontline of education to have the chance to create changes. Three-quarters (75%) of UK adults believe the country needs a bold, long-term vision for education that all parts of society contribute to.

Around two-thirds (64%) of UK adults think that the current education system doesn’t sufficiently cater for students struggling with their mental health, while three in five (61%) believe it doesn’t do enough for students with special educational needs. Two-thirds of the adult population (64%) believe that the education system leaves the most disadvantaged pupils behind.

However, the data shows that grassroots involvement of those closest to the system could help enable change – as almost eight in ten (77%) people said that teachers should be given time, resources and support to introduce new learning approaches and three-quarters (76%) think that ideas about how to improve education need to come from grassroots sources, including teachers, parents, students and the community.

James Pope, Founder of HeadsUp4HTs, a national network focused on supporting headteachers, says:

“The culture in the education system is such that we don’t tend to ask our headteachers what they think about education. So headteachers become the deliverers of somebody else’s agenda, and that’s not the reason why most headteachers become headteachers. 

“I think if we can really understand what headteachers think, instead of the ‘party line’, then we can drive a significant change in education. But the change needs to come from the people that engage with schools – children, teachers, headteachers, school leaders, communities with families, the parents and the grandparents. There is a disconnect between what the curriculum teaches and what most of society wants from education and schooling and we hope to see some of these issues addressed in the solutions that come from The Big Education Challenge.”

The Big Education Challenge will draw on over a decade of experience from Big Change and seek to use the lived-experience of innovators, including young people themselves, to make grassroots transformation of education and learning a reality.

The Big Education Challenge is made up of two prizes:

  • The Groundbreaker Prize (up to £300,000) for young people aged 18-25 with a bold idea or new project. 
    • Up to 10 finalists will receive grants of up to £10,000 to further develop and test their ideas. 
    • One of these finalists will go on to win £50,000 to fully pilot their idea, with up to two runners up each receiving £25,000.
    • In addition, finalists will benefit from £100,000 of expert support to develop and test their ideas prior to final judging.
  • The Gamechanger Prize (up to £700,000) for individuals with a track record of leading innovative projects or approaches with tangible social impact.
    • Up to five finalists will receive grants of £50,000 to further develop and test their ideas.
    • One of these finalists will go on to win £200,000 to fully pilot their idea, with up to two runners up receiving £150,000 and £50,000. 
    • In addition, finalists will benefit from £50,000 of expert support to develop and test their ideas prior to final judging.

The challenge will support bold new ideas that support young people to thrive and prepare them for their futures. These may include ways to make learning more inclusive, relevant and joyful, new projects that give more agency over education to young people and teachers, ways to integrate learning and assessment, and involving the wider community in supporting education and learning. 

Caireen Goddard, Senior Director of Impact at Big Change said:

“Big Change has over a decade of experience in backing ideas that have the potential to transform education and support the next generation to thrive. In the next decade we want to create an even bigger impact – which is why we have launched the Big Education Challenge, to accelerate change from the bottom up, to reach more diverse innovators, and ultimately help to transform education for the long-term.

“We’re pleased to see the new Prime Minister setting out goals for education in recent weeks, and to know that the need for change is part of the wider conversation. The results from our research released today highlight the urgent need for a shared national vision and purpose for education that the whole country has contributed to. A new purpose and vision, coupled with a shift in power to make change happen from the bottom up, are critical to achieving the long-term transformation of education, rather than more incremental reforms.”

Holly Branson, Trustee and Founder of Big Change said: 

“Our current education system encourages stress and rote-learning through reliance on exams – which are not only inaccurate in determining success, but also unfair. 

“We need a future of education that centres on the needs and ideas of students as well as educators, employers and communities. Through Big Change and our drive to work with others to reimagine education I would love to help bring about a future where everyone in our communities and wider society supports these groups in making positive changes for all our young people. The current ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work for young people or for those who support them, and it is only with the ideas of those closest to education that the system can be positively transformed. It is exactly ideas like these – grounded in experience – that the Big Education Challenge hopes to attract.”

Entries must be submitted by midnight on the 8th of February 2023. Finalists for both prizes will be announced at the beginning of March 2023.

For more information and to find out how to enter the prize go to

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