To truly support the next generation to thrive, we need to be bold and reimagine what is possible, then work together to transform how young people experience education and learning.

Working across the system and beyond, we want to create a new public conversation about the purpose of education, and to bring young people, parents, educators and employers together to create a new education story. 

Through projects like the Big Education Conversation national campaign, we are getting people talking about what education is really for, showing the public demand for big change, and shining a light the work of others 

Big Change advisor Jaiden Corfield, 5×15 event in partnership with Big Change

The case for change

Our 10 big hopes for change are a response to our belief that, despite the best efforts of schools, our education system is not working well enough. Some of the key problems are:

  • That the system focuses too narrowly on academic outcomes. It neglects the wider attitudes, knowledge and skills that help young people to thrive and reach their potential (Porticus/ACER 2020).
  • It confuses means with ends. It prioritises performance in high-stakes exams over genuine learning and development, despite the many limitations of grades as the only measure of success (Coe 2010; Sherwood 2019).
  • Test scores may have improved, but Britain’s young people are amongst the least happy and healthy in the world (UNICEF 2020).

Most importantly, the current system is unjust. Too many children are left out through exclusion or left behind, locked in a game of catch up that they cannot win. Despite a decade of focused effort to close socioeconomic achievement gaps, progress has been slow (EPI 2017), and may have been wiped out entirely by school closures (EEF 2020).

Over the last decade, policymakers in England have pursued a series of reforms, but with limited impact on outcomes for young people, and especially those who are most disadvantaged. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on and exacerbated many of these pre-existing problems.

Whenever I hear people say that “change is hard” I think, yeah, change that nobody wants is really hard. But there are moments in time when there is a confluence of events, when people are not just deeply frustrated with the way the system functions, but what its purpose is.”

Professor Todd Rose
Big Change Global Network

Rethinking education’s purpose

We want to see a society where every young person is set up to thrive. Achieving such a bold mission requires us to focus on not just reforming the current system, but on transforming it.

Our approach to system change is based on the work of Donella Meadows, a seminal figure in system dynamics. She argues that there are a range of levers for system transformation. All are important but not all are equally powerful. Changing the public mindset around the purpose of a system is one of the most high-value levers for transformation.

Our global network of pioneers and experts in system transformation is working together to understand how change is happening and acting collectively in response. We continue to support and learn from them. At the end of 2020 we curated a global insight series called a #NewEducationStory, which has reached over 8.5 million people on LinkedIn alone.

A Co-mission on the Purpose and Future of Education

The first of our 10 big hopes for change is to “create a new public conversation about education”. To bring this hope to reality, we have been working with IPPR to scope and plan a new kind of “co-mission” on education in England. New because it will not be the preserve of the great and the good, but a genuinely collective endeavour between those for whom education matters the most: children and young people, parents, teachers, education leaders, and employers.

Starting before the pandemic and continuing throughout 2020, we’ve had hundreds of conversations to shape the initiative. We’ve learnt from different experts, approaches, sectors and geographies. The result? An approach that turns the traditional commission model on its head and addresses its limitations.

The Co-mission on the Purpose and Future of Education will be a national platform for hopeful conversation, insight and action. Running across 5 years and 3 phases, with a plan to launch this summer, it will:

  • Ask and answer the big questions the public cares about
  • Highlight the perspectives and participation of those seldom heard and under-served by the current system
  • Give young people the power to influence and make change
  • Establish a new purpose for education and shape a hopeful vision for the future
  • Learn from and invest in powerful new solutions

The co-mission has three phases, and we are at the start of Phase 1. In a few short months we have secured strong support from an initial set of strategic partners and funders. This puts us in a good position to continue with our plans for launching the co-mission publicly in the summer of 2021.

However, we are under no illusions about the size of the task that lies ahead. Our fundraising target is significant: £3.5m for Phases 1 and 2, and much more for experimentation. So if you would like to support this work, either as an individual or organisation, we’d love to hear from you. Funding system change is a tough ask, but we believe very much needed.

There are other opportunities for organisations to get involved. So if what you have read feels exciting, needed, and aligned, and you have either expertise, capacity or other resources to bring to the table, please get in touch.

The co-mission model

The co-mission model and approach will inspire debate, insight and action.

Download the co-mission blueprint

Latest research

We supported IPPR research into the new normal for schooling after Covid-19.

Download IPPR research

We have a lot to learn from Charlie

The latest co-mission blog explores the opportunity and challenges of the initiative.

Read the co-mission blog

Together we can make big change

Become a Striver

Strive is a movement. It’s about people challenging themselves, connecting with a like-minded network and creating a better future for young people.

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Become a Supporter

By donating to Big Change you’ll help us to support all young people, regardless of their background or circumstances, to thrive in life, not just exams. Your support is needed now more than ever.

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Become a Partner

You could be a business, trust or foundation. If you’re passionate about working towards a more hopeful future by providing either financial or non-financial support, we’d love to chat.

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