In search of global innovations for education

Julia Weston

Julia Weston is Chief Executive of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust which runs the Churchill Fellowships, a unique programme of overseas research grants. The Churchill Fellowships were set up in 1965 as a national memorial to Sir Winston Churchill. They fund UK citizens from all parts of society to travel the world in search of innovative solutions for today’s most pressing challenges. Each year, up to 150 Churchill Fellows are funded to spend 6-8 weeks overseas, researching practical innovations across a range of fields in order to bring back ideas to make positive change in the UK. 

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In global rankings and comparisons of education systems around the world, the UK’s education system regularly scores highly. Yet, these rankings can overlook the multitude of challenges faced by teachers, parents, schools, social workers and policy makers on a daily basis, in providing the vital education and support needed by our children and young people. 

Here at the Churchill Fellowship programme, we believe that the UK’s education sector can learn from new ideas and best practice in other countries. We also believe in people and in the potential of an inspiring individual to be a changemaker in their profession or community. 

In March we announced this year’s Churchill Fellows: a group of 141 dedicated individuals from across the UK who will be seeking international solutions to some of the UK’s most pressing challenges. Thirty of them will be looking for innovations in educational topics. They will bring these back to the UK and, with our support, will share their findings in their workplaces, schools and communities in order to bring about positive change. 

From education in rural communities or how robots in schools can help children with medical needs to participate in lessons remotely, to mental health programmes in schools or supporting young people following a crisis or bereavement, these 30 Churchill Fellows will explore a range of life-changing issues. Here are just a few of their upcoming projects... 

Supporting and training teachers with safeguarding responsibilities

Poor mental health, self-harm and suicide within schools are increasing, and teachers are not always equipped to cope with their safeguarding responsibilities. Integrative Child Psychotherapist Jane Brinson will visit models for clinical supervision of teachers and school staff in Australia’s and New Zealand’s health and social care sectors, which can be applied to education settings in the UK. Jane will use her findings to create a framework for UK schools and supervisors.

Teaching Science in schools

Scientific illiteracy is common in the UK and less than one in ten students leave secondary school with an A-Level in maths or physics, leading to a skills shortage in the UK. Science teacher Simon Palmer is investigating ways to improve the teaching of maths in secondary school science, in Singapore and the USA. Simon will share his findings with colleagues to help make the subject more accessible. 

Teaching sex education and relationships in primary schools

From September 2020, the teaching of relationships and sex education will become compulsory in UK primary schools, yet teachers have little clarity on the level of training they will receive. Primary school teacher Hannah Steele will explore how Estonia, the Netherlands and the USA have delivered sex and relationships education as part of initial teacher training programmes. Hannah will use her findings to influence teacher training programmes in the UK. 

Disability inclusion in schools

Only 6% of school leavers who have a learning disability go into employment. Head of Growth at the learning disability charity ENABLE Scotland Ashley Ryan will visit the USA and the Netherlands to research inclusive education and transitional support opportunities for people who have learning disabilities. Ashley plans to use her findings to influence UK government policy on inclusive education.

We’re hugely excited to see what ideas these new Fellows will bring back to the UK and what changes they will initiate. You can view more of this year’s Fellows’ projects in education here

Anyone can apply for a Churchill Fellowship, regardless of age, background or qualifications, so long as they are a UK citizen aged 18 or over. In the last ten years, we have appointed more than 150 Fellows in the area of education and have seen some incredible results. You can read some of their stories here. This year, our Education Fellows are jointly funded through a partnership with the Mercers’ Charitable Foundation, enabling us to support more in one year than ever before.

If you would like to find out more about applying for a Fellowship, and to be alerted when we open for applications, please visit We would love to hear from you.

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