About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

A new movement is afoot in the world of education. It combines academic education with practical learning, and traditional teaching with new technologies.

We see it in the Studio Schools movement, whose schools are intimately linked with workplaces; in the Make Things Do Stuff programme, which gives children the chance to learn through making with digital technologies, in innovative schools like the Brit School, and in parts of the Higher Education system too.

There’s increasing evidence that the combination of practical and academic education, a meeting of traditional subjects and a focus on problem solving and creativity, is what we need to give children the skills to succeed in a high-tech economy.

But plenty of barriers stand in the way. Recent curriculum reforms make it hard for pupils to study science and arts together. Innovation in the university system is slow, making it hard to develop new models blending practical and academic learning. Schools find it difficult to know which new digital products are worth it and which are just hype. And while computing has made it into the curriculum, there is room to do much more.

A few simple policies can help this movement thrive.

Our recommendations

1. End the barriers to interdisciplinary teaching. In particular:

  • An arts subject in the English Baccalaureate. At present young people who are strong in sciences are positively discouraged from considering the arts as a valuable complement.
  • Ofsted should report on cross-curricular learning.

2. Encourage more new entry in Higher Education, particularly institutions that combine academic learning with practical work-based experience.

3. Help schools buy the best digital technologies by developing a kite-mark for digital education technology to allow parents and teachers to judge the effectiveness of technology products in achieving learning outcomes.

4. Put digital making into the curriculum by adding a set of overarching cross curricular skills, with elements identified across subjects.