Big Education Challenge Finalists

30 May 2023

15 finalists with bold ideas get to the heart of the biggest challenges they see in education and society.

Big Change CEO Essie North reflects on the Big Education Challenge journey so far as we announce our 15 finalists.

Big Change is proud and humbled today to launch 15 inspiring finalists in our first Big Education Challenge, a prize designed to find and support early-stage ideas with the potential to transform education and learning in the UK. The finalists, 13 of whom are under 25 years old, have highlighted some of the most pressing issues that they feel young people face in education, and their wider lives.

We have been actively listening to the public; young people, parents, teachers and businesses, and we know there is appetite for big changes to how and what young people learn, as well as how the education system itself is designed. We feel it. But real change won’t happen if we keep asking the same people to come up with solutions, we will just get different versions of the same answers. So we decided to do something a bit different and we have already learnt so much by reading the experiences and ideas, for change.

Big Education Challenge Finalists

Which is why we are so excited that the 15 finalists, chosen through a rigorous process involving over 130 judges from across education and social business, are using their lived experiences to shed light on the underlying barriers to engagement in learning, and come up with fresh ideas.

Our finalists, along with hundreds of others who applied for the Challenge, feel let down by a system that doesn’t value and encourage diversity and individuality, where wellbeing too often comes at the cost of “doing well” in high-stakes exams, and where their learning is disconnected from real life. 

This chimes with Big Change’s recent research which revealed that 7 in 10 young people aged 18-25 in the UK feel that the ‘one size fits all’ approach to education is failing too many young people. Three-quarters (74%) of 18-25 year olds believe that the current education system doesn’t sufficiently cater for students struggling with their mental health and two-thirds (65%) said the same about special educational needs. These aren’t just fringe issues but are being felt by the majority of young people.

“Collectively, the finalists are looking at ways to help create a more inclusive education system that celebrates diversity, allows every child to thrive and enjoy success, and is relevant to the challenges they see in the world, e.g. climate, identity, wellbeing, and work readiness.”

Specifically, their early stage ideas are focused on neurodiversity, gender and identity, disability, racism, climate anxiety, food poverty, loss and trauma, creativity and leadership. Their ideas are both local and national and will support students inside and outside of school. Some are using AI and digital technology, others working alongside teachers, or looking to change policy. All of them are insight-led and bold in ambition to impact the reality of young people across the UK.

They are at an even earlier stage than projects we have backed during the last ten years, and over the next six months they will take part in a bespoke learning and support programme created by Big Change in partnership with The Young Foundation. This will give them the tools they need to develop their idea, as well as access to invaluable peer support as they work together as a community of innovators. 

Read all about the 15 finalists at, and stay tuned for the announcement of the Big Education Challenge winners and runners up in early 2024.

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