What is Subject to Change?

Subject to Change is a long-term national project combining powerful insight, collective action and public engagement to set a new direction for learning in England.

The scale of our ambition for this project is matched by our passion, energy and hope for the future. Big Change provides a “home” for the Subject to Change core team, but we work through an Enabling Coalition of partners and with a Project Council of young people who guide decision-making.

The project will show a new way is possible; where the commitment, passion and insight of young people, parents, teachers, leaders and employers can be unlocked to support big changes to learning and education in their communities and for the country.


Subject to Change is focussed on driving 5 outcomes to achieve transformative impact at different levels of the system.

1. Young people are agents of change

Through the project and across the wider system youth are empowered to shape the learning they need.

2. Tangible impact at different levels of the system

Demonstrator projects test new and expanded learning opportunities for young people, create new system structures, in specific communities and nationally.

3. The wider learning ecosystem is aligned in pursuit of long-term change

The project captures the interest of diverse actors, bridging divides, and galvanising key parts of the ecosystem to work together in pursuit of long-term change.

4. Increased demand for change in education among the public

Diverse ‘demand-side’ voices (youth, parents, teachers, leaders and employers) are engaged in an ambitious, future-focused public conversation about education and learning. 

5. Policy and formal decision makers are receptive to change and taking action

The project has engaged key local and national decision makers who are willing to take action that can meet shifting public demand.

To achieve these ambitious outcomes, we have developed an integrated model for action which supports a collective approach. We believe that the power of our model is in the two-way relationship between the strands, and the focus on youth leadership and agency that binds them – the golden thread.

Powerful insights: young people, parents, teachers and employers will deliberate new insights and evidence from an innovative programme of local participatory research and generate policy recommendations.

Collective action: 3-5 places will develop and test new learning approaches and experiences (demonstrator projects) and come together to identify the wider system barriers to transformation. 

Public engagement: national and local Big Education Conversation campaigns and events will shape the public debate about education and learning, build demand and agency for change, and share and test insights.

Youth leadership: youth agency and intergenerational collaboration is the golden thread throughout the project. A Project Council empowers 11-18 year olds to be at the heart of decision-making.

Why do we need Subject to Change?

Since 2020, Big Change has been working with IPPR, with young people and other expert Partners to design Subject to Change.

After a period of profound disruption, our education system is at a crossroads. Now is the moment when its long-term direction of travel will be set. Amidst this uncertainty we have the chance, and a duty, to ensure young people, as well as teachers, parents and employers, are in the driving seat.

In 2021, after a year of co-design we embarked on a bold national listening exercise, engaging with young people, parents, teachers, school leaders, and employers to understand their hope and ideas for change post-pandemic. Across these groups, 77% agree that now is the time to rethink what education is really for and to change things for the better. We have an unbalanced education system with too narrow a focus and need to move to an inclusive system that inspires lifelong learners.

We also launched the  Big Education Conversation, a  national campaign to get people talking about what education is really for, and how it should change for the future.

Thanks to the efforts of 44 partner organisations and champions, over 25,000 people across all regions of England took part in the Big Education Conversation.

From Zoom rooms to classrooms, school runs to Facebook groups, from podcasts to cafes, the Big Education Conversation showed that the public are united in their belief that now is the moment to rethink the purpose of education. 

How will young people be supported to lead and have agency within Subject to Change?

As part of our commitment to ensure that youth leadership and agency remain at the heart of the project,  we have been working alongside our partner Leaders Unlocked to recruit the Subject to Change Project Council – a dynamic group of 11-18 year olds who are located all across England, and come from diverse backgrounds and educational experiences. 

The Project Council places current and very recent learners in a leadership role, enabling them to hold the initiative to account and to guide key decisions across all Subject to Change strands.

How can partners get involved?

We are establishing an Enabling Coalition of expert partners who share our ambitions, are in it for the long-term, and are brave enough to do the work that’s needed – with and for young people. 

Each partner will have a different focus or role in the project, most leading or funding within or across the different strands of Subject to Change.

If you are interested to find out more about Subject to Change, please get in touch with Keisha.

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