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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.7 Skills for innovation

Last update: 27 January 2021
On this page
  1. Innovation in formal education
  2. Fostering innovation through non-formal and informal learning and youth work


Innovation in formal education

Compulsory curricular requirements are reduced at Key Stage 4 (pupils aged 14-16), but under the ‘Learning Pathways’ approach for 14- to 19-year-olds, pupils have an entitlement to choose other subject options from those provided by schools under the statutory ‘local curriculum’ offer. Courses must be available across five areas, two of which are:

  • mathematics, science and technology 
  • humanities, social sciences and preparation for life and work.

Beyond this, in post-compulsory upper secondary education for students aged 16-18/19, formal education is characterised by subject choice and is qualification-led. The development of the type of competences which foster innovation, is therefore, something which varies according to the individual choices made.

However, the Welsh Government is encouraging the development of broader competences, including those that foster innovation, through its support for the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification (WBQ). The WBQ is an overarching qualification, which incorporates academic qualifications (such as GCSEs) and/or vocational qualifications with the development of key skills that are intended to equip young people with the skills they will need after leaving school. The WBQ is not a statutory requirement, although schools may choose to make it compulsory for their students, and the Welsh Government is encouraging universal adoption.

It consists of the successful completion of a Skills Challenge Certificate and supporting qualifications (generally GCSEs or A Levels depending on the level being undertaken).  It is available at two levels for both Key Stage 4 and post-16, and at a further, advanced level for post-16 only. The primary aim of the WBQ is to enable learners to develop and demonstrate an understanding of and proficiency in essential and employability skills. As well as literacy and numeracy, these skills include:

  • digital literacy
  • planning and organisation
  • creativity and innovation
  • critical thinking and problem solving
  • personal effectiveness.

These skills (apart from literacy and numeracy) are all assessed through the Skills Challenge Certificate. The emphasis is on applied and purposeful learning and on providing opportunities for assessment in a range of real life contexts.

A new curriculum will be phased in between 2019, when it will be available in draft form for comment and 2026 when its rollout to all year groups will be complete. The Welsh Government’s policy document, A Curriculum for Wales: a Curriculum for Life, gives as one of the four purposes of the new curriculum the development of ‘enterprising, creative contributors who:

  • connect and apply their knowledge and skills to create ideas and products
  • think creatively to reframe and solve problems
  • identify and grasp opportunities
  • take measured risks
  • lead and play different roles in teams effectively and responsibly
  • express ideas and emotions through different media
  • give of their energy and skills so that other people will benefit and are ready to play a full part in life and work’.

The pedagogical tools used by teachers are a matter for the teacher or school to decide. As part of its programme of action for improving the use of digital technology for teaching and learning in schools, the Welsh Government has made a wide range of resources available across all subject areas on its ‘Hwb’ platform.

Further information

There are overlaps in the types of skills supporting innovation and those supporting both entrepreneurship and creativity. See the article on 'Development of Entrepreneurship Competence' and the section 'Acquiring cultural and creative competences through education and training' in the article 'Developing Cultural and Creative Competences', respectively, for information on these.

Detailed information on teaching and learning is also available in the individual articles and topics of the Eurydice education system descriptions for Wales:

Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Fostering innovation through non-formal and informal learning and youth work

The National STEM Learning Network is a joint initiative by the Department for Education, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and The Wellcome Trust. The initiative, which is UK-wide, was set up in direct response to concerns about the engagement of young people in science.Among the programmes and projects run by the network, is the STEM Ambassadors programme. STEM Ambassadors are volunteers from a wide range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related jobs and disciplines. As well as working with schools and colleges across the UK, the network works with youth and community groups and others to ensure they have access to STEM Ambassadors to engage young people with STEM subjects outside the classroom.With the support of Government funding, this programme is offered free of charge to education providers and youth and community organisations.

See Science is responsible for managing the STEM Ambassadors scheme in Wales.

British Science Week is an annual ten-day programme of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths events and activities across the UK for people of all ages. It is run by the British Science Association (BSA). British Science Week supports any type of organiser, including youth and community groups and will help organisers to plan events by providing a range of free activity and support resources. BSA also ran a new extra-curricular initiative in 2017 for young people aged 11- to- 19 to come up with innovative solutions that have the potential to change the world in global health and development issues. The theme for British Science Week 2018 is  was exploration and discovery.

The initiative, Youth Grand Challenges, links with BSA’s CREST Awards programme which is the only nationally recognised accreditation scheme for young people’s project work in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. The awards are offered at six levels and are for 5- to 19-year-olds. CREST gives young people the chance to participate in hands-on science through investigations and enquiry-based learning. The programme can be run in schools, clubs, youth groups, other organisations or at home.