The development of wider skills and capabilities, alongside academic attainment, is often difficult to prioritise in schools today. At Nesta, we believe skills such as interpersonal skills, resilience, problem-solving and creativity are crucial to success in the economy and life - both today and in the future.
In particular, our research has shown that changes like automation will make these wider skills more important than ever, and help future-proof our workforce. That’s why we are supporting pioneering interventions that develop these crucial skills.
Nesta has undertaken a range of research into the types of skills that will be essential in the future. This includes the Future of Skills report, which showed that a range of skills, including interpersonal and social skills, and a range of higher order cognitive skills will be important for employment in the future.
But this isn’t just about tomorrow’s jobs. Today’s employers, teachers and young people consider skills such as interpersonal skills and resilience to be important for successful life outcomes including getting a good, fulfilling job. We also know that schools struggle to find effective, time and cost-efficient ways to develop them. The reasons for this include funding, teacher workload and accountability pressures.
What are we doing?
This £500,000 fund supports high-potential, early-stage interventions to test and further develop interventions that promote wider skills in secondary-age (11-18) young people, focusing on social and emotional skills and resilience (see further detail in the criteria).
Read about the ten grantees.
£35,000-£50,000 was available for around ten grantees alongside non-financial support focusing on evaluation.
Our previous work has focused on supporting broader skill-sets, including collaborative problem-solving. This will continue to be an area of focus for Nesta, although this first round of funding is supporting specific, related skills - as listed below - that underpin strong collaboration and problem-solving capacity.
This fund supports grantees with existing early-stage interventions that have shown potential for significant impact on these skills. There are a wide variety of definitions and terms for these and related skills, including 21st century, non-cognitive and soft skills.
For clarity, we have used the descriptions in the Education Endowment Foundation’s SPECTRUM framework. This framework covers the key areas relating to our target skills, and within this framework we will be focusing on:
- Emotional intelligence, in particular how to build good relationships and collaborate effectively
- Social and emotional competence, particularly in relation to collaboration
- Resilience and coping
- Perceptions of self (self-confidence and self-efficacy)
- Motivation, goal orientation and perseverance
The funding and support supports grantees with their:
- Scalability and implementation - testing their projects in more locations, in order to further improve and refine them.
- Efficacy - improve the quality of their evaluation processes, including testing the use of standardised, proven measures to understand impact (e.g. this list of measures compiled by University of Manchester in 2017).
Successful grantees were already delivering their project in at least one location and were able to demonstrate how it is replicable, and were seeking to test the implementation of their intervention in other school contexts. They needed to be keen to improve the quality of their evaluation - including through the use of standardised measures.
Awards will be made in March 2019 and will run for 18 months.
The broader aims of the fund are to:
- Support a small number of high-potential interventions to grow further, and improve their delivery and evaluation processes.
- Demonstrate that effective interventions based on the existing evidence base can be delivered in a scalable, replicable way, and use secure measures to better understand their impact.
- Use the learning and insights from this fund to launch further work targeting the skills we know will be important in the future world of work.
Why are we doing this?
Provision to develop wider skills and capabilities in the UK is inconsistent and there are few funders explicitly seeking interventions that intentionally and directly target them. The current debate about how the education system should develop wider skills and capabilities is limited to the periphery, and discussions are often not backed by practical action and funding.
There is however strong demand from teachers for students to be prepared with these skills - whether we call them life, essential, soft or non-cognitive skills - and the importance to the future of work is clear, including through our own research.
Increasingly the sector is paying attention to the need to help young people develop skills and competencies. The Education Endowment Foundation has expanded its work beyond academic attainment and into non-cognitive skills (including developing the SPECTRUM framework that we will be using as a selection and evaluation framework for this fund). The Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, said in a July 2018 speech that ‘you won’t crack social mobility by only focusing on exam results’, and praised new research into the influence of ‘so-called soft skills’ on social mobility.
Eligible projects were invited to submit an expression of interest (EOI) by 9am on the 10th December 2018. Find out more about our selection criteria. This deadline has now passed.
The fund targeted a range of organisations, including social enterprises, schools and colleges and private enterprises. Interventions can be delivered within the school curriculum, in non-curriculum time or outside of/separate from school. They should be interventions that could eventually work with large numbers of young people.
We are asked applicants to demonstrate that they target an unmet need, and we were particularly interested in interventions that work in disadvantaged communities, schools and young people. This does not mean that interventions can only be delivered to one set of students (e.g. Pupil Premium eligible students) - but projects needed to demonstrate how they reach students who most need help with these skills.
Different language and terminology is often used to describe these skills, and not all projects will use the same language as the SPECTRUM framework. Applicants needed to show how their definitions and descriptions of targeted skills have a grounding in the evidence.
We expected successful grantees to take evaluation of such skills seriously (with an interest in how to use standardised measures), and see improving evaluation as a strategic priority for their development, and as a way of contributing to the wider sector.
Please also see our FAQs which explain more about the eligibility criteria and the skills we targeted.