To truly support the next generation to thrive, we need to be bold and reimagine what is possible, then work together with young people to transform their  experience of education and learning. We work in the UK and globally, with diverse allies in and beyond formal education systems, to explore and challenge old assumptions about what education is and can be, who and what it is for. 

Together we are creating a new education story for our times.

A New Education Story: Three drivers to transform education systems is the result of global research led by Big Change with OECD, Teach for All, HundrED and RewirED. It makes the case for transformation not reform, setting out why and how to shift the purpose of education (goals and outcomes), power (voice and agency), and practice (unlocking innovation).

A year of listening to the public, including through the Big Education Conversation national campaign, tells us that 77% agree that now is the time to rethink the purpose of education and change the system for the better. Read the insights and find out more about Subject to Change, a national project that will empower young people and the public to shape a new direction for learning in England. 

Big Education Conversation with Aliyah Irabor York, George the Poet and Holly Branson

The case for transformation

To prepare all young people for their futures, we need to set our sights on transformation, not reform. Reform focuses on incremental improvements to a system that is no longer fit for purpose. Whereas transformation creates and moves us towards a new purpose and vision for young people’s learning. 

Established during the last industrial revolution, for a Victorian society and economy, the English system doesn’t support the breadth of young people’s talents and potential, with a narrow focus on “in the moment” academic achievement, rather than on what young people and communities need for their future success.

This ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work for young people or those who support them. Diversity and individuality are not valued, injustice and unfairness is baked into the system, and teenagers’ wellbeing too often comes at the cost of “doing well” in high-stakes exams.  

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, and may have been wiped out entirely by school closures.

  • Every year, a third of 16 year-olds fall short of achieving a grade 4 in their GCSE English and maths. This is a product of the way our exam system is designed.
  • Every year, 100k or 18% of students leave school without 5 good GCSEs or equivalent qualifications. 
  • At the current rate, it will take 500 years to close the attainment gap for poorer pupils, who are an average of 18 months behind their wealthier peers.

Global research

A New Education Story:
Three drivers to transform education

Since 2017 Big Change has had the privilege of bringing together global partners who share a commitment to reimagining education with and for young people. At the end of 2021 we launched new global research that brings together the wisdom of global contributors (including OECD, RewirED, HundrED, Teach for All) to share A New Education Story: Three drivers to transform education systems. 

At this moment, when education leaders, policymakers, and funders in every context are making decisions about how to restore learning and education, we want to offer a provocation. To say that it is simply not enough to “go back”. The publication is an invitation to education system leaders and decision makers to step back, to ask big questions, and to think differently about both what we are aiming for, and how to get there.  

This is not to say that the job of transforming education is theirs alone. The nature of transformation requires a new mindset and set of approaches that work with those across the system – educators, students, parents, communities and peers. Working with global partners and contributors, we have identified three drivers to transform education systems, along with nine actions and real world stories that show how to make progress. 

The drivers require us all to think differently about; purpose – the goals and outcomes of education; power – expanding who has voice and agency in education; and practice – unlocking innovation that has transformative potential. They encourage leaders and funders to act in new ways, with a greater focus on the wider ecosystem.

Public Campaign

Big Education Conversation

Across June and July 2021, we ran a national campaign called the Big Education Conversation to get people talking about what education is really for and how it should change for the future. 

From Zoom rooms to classrooms, school runs to Facebook groups and podcasts to cafes, over 25,000 people and organisations came together to debate important topics in education. Over 4,000 ideas and opinions were submitted that were each read, systematically coded and analysed by our team of youth activists, former teachers and parents.

Big Change, IPPR and their partners have taken the findings of the Big Education Conversation and used them to set-up an ambitious 5 year project, led by young people, parents, teachers and employers. Launching in 2022, Subject to Change is a new national project that combines powerful insight, collective action, and public engagement to create a new direction for learning. 

New national project (UK)

Subject to Change: Empowering young people
and the public to set a new direction for learning

For 18 months Big Change has been working with IPPR, with young people and other expert partners to design a 5-year project that combines powerful insight gathering, collective action and public engagement and campaigning to set a new direction for learning in England.

Over the past year we have listened to the voices of 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. 

They also agree that one size doesn’t really fit anyone – many many young people feel like the system is failing them and we need a system that celebrates diversity, gives choice and allows everyone to enjoy success. Finally, we heard a really strong message that it really does take a village – it takes young people, parents, employers working with and alongside teachers to support young people’s learning. 

In 2022 we will launch Subject to Change – starting with the recruitment of a Project Council of 11-18 year olds who will lead the project. We’re seeking partners and funders to help shape this work so we invite you to get in touch if you’d like to be part of it. 

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.

Join the Strive movement

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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