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The Five Prizes

The World’s Best School Prizes will be awarded to schools that have developed expertise in five key areas. Discover our five Prize categories.

Under the auspices of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), our five Prize categories represent our proposed approach to help schools strengthen their institutions and contribute to wider societal progress. By encouraging schools to embrace this framework, we believe we are contributing to accelerate the pace of change through the education ecosystem, making a sizable contribution to attaining the SDGs.

For each Prize category, we have developed a rigorous set of criteria to judge and rate schools’ applications.

Download the Prizes Framework and Judging Criteria

Discover our Prize Categories

Community Collaboration
Environmental Action
Innovation
Overcoming Adversity
Supporting Healthy Lives

This Prize recognises schools that have collaborated and developed partnerships with their community to have an integrated approach in helping each of their students striving for a whole child approach based on equity and inclusivity. Making the school a true learning institution that benefits all members of the community, becoming its hub, gives the opportunity for all-stakeholders to take ownership in every child’s education.

Criteria for judging and rating this Prize category

Home, School, & Community Engagement

Linking the school to the broader community, enhancing the range of support and opportunities available to students, families, and the community. It is the connection between school and all the education stakeholders with proactive consultation, collaboration and shared leadership with these stakeholders which enhances the school and the community.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school have active, healthy and continuous relationships with students’ families and guardians? 
  • Does the school have engagement of parent/guardian/other community member engagement in the child’s learning and schools functioning? 
  • Does your school have relationships with community partners and other stakeholders in your community that impact students’ lives?

Collaborative Leadership & Practice

Shared leadership & management practices, decision-making processes, use of data and data systems, rules, pedagogy, culture, procedures, and policies at all levels that are a foundational sustainable part of the school prioritising shared ownership of education in the community.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school have collaborative leadership & practices that build relationships throughout all key stakeholders in the school’s community? 
  • Does the school use and share data with community partners to meet students and families’ needs?
  • Does the school have active family & community engagement dialogue, participation and/or programs that help reach every child with access, relevance and/or quality holistic education?
  • Does the school address differences through procedures, systems, programs and communications that are inclusive and equitable?

Enhances the Community

School becomes the hub of the community and a life-long learning institution that will enhance the community through developing key strategies, programs, projects such as parent and family learning and literacy programs, food growing programs, infrastructure investments, improving quality of life with physical activity or mental health programs, economic development etc.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school have programs that are intergenerational that enhance the school and community life?
  • Does the school have volunteer or mentorship programs to help and support families?
  • Does your school have projects and programs in place to help with equity and inclusiveness in the community and at school?
  • Does the school offer programs that expand beyond the school day from before to after school as well as during weekends and over the summer?

Integrated Student Services

Securing and coordinating support that targets academic and non-academic barriers to achievement in order to promote improved outcomes for students, families, and communities.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school have supportive working relationships among its staff and students? With other schools? And other community organisations and representative groups?
  • Does your school offer support programs to address relevant socio-economic and health challenges at both the student and family level?
  • Does the school assign staff to coordinating programs so that the right service gets to students and families at the right time? 
  • Does the school have integrated student services that support students by providing help with health care, mental health, guidance, learning resources, food insecurities, social work and/or other services? 
  • Does the school have collaborative leadership & practices that share the accountability for students doing what’s best for the student, no matter the jurisdiction?

Teaching & Learning

Enhances access, relevance and opportunities for all within the community, making the school the hub and learning institution for the community while connecting students’ lived experiences to what they are learn0ing in the classroom.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school enhance its curriculum through the use of resources, technology, space, infrastructure, extra time and /or many more that help develop the whole child in a personalised way?
  • Does the school have experiential programs and pedagogy for students to collaborate with the community?
  • Does the school have projects and collaboration between students and intergenerational family/community members, NGOs, academia, clubs, businesses, other schools and/or others?

This Prize recognises the importance of youth, students and schools in climate action that engage with solutions for global warming and climate crisis. Seeking to mitigate and reverse the adverse impact of climate change on the planet, and all species, and the issues of uncertainty, inequity and poverty that results from it, taking individual and collective responsibility for the environment and a focus on the importance of sustainability is key for all schools and their communities. We are looking for schools that help students take action to protect their future as one of the school’s priorities.

Criteria for judging and rating this Prize category

Teaching & Learning

Teaching and learning opportunities and pedagogy both inside the classroom and out, that helps to build knowledge, habits, engagement, advocacy and skills to empower sustainable living for all.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school develop teaching & learning that is eco-friendly, contextualised to their community and student centred (hands-on learning) resulting in advocacy, action and empowerment for students?
  • Does the school have a project and problem-based pedagogy for environmental sustainability that addresses the issue in a systematic way?
  • Does the school have green learning programs that develop learning from nature, nature walks etc. that develop an appreciation for nature and the environment?
  • Does the school have green learning programs that develop knowledge about our ecosystems, the environment, and climate change; green skills necessary for living and working sustainably; and mindsets oriented toward sustaining planetary balance?

Home, School, & Community Engagement

Links between the school to the broader community, enhancing the range of supports and opportunities available to students, parents, educators and the community to find solutions towards local environmental challenges. A shared responsibility for sustainable living that empowers all involved.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school collaborate with community, academia, NGOs, business, schools, parents and/or others on prototyping student projects to solve local problems? 
  • Does the school have community partnership programs such as local cafeteria programs run by students buying from local producers, recycling programs creating art with local artists etc.?
  • Does the school's approach to sustainability have an impact on the conservation of natural resources by the community?

Collaborative Leadership & Practice

Leadership & management practices, decision-making processes, systems, school norms, pedagogy, procurement, practices, culture, procedures and policies at all levels is a foundational piece of the school prioritising environmental sustainability that is inclusive and equitable.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school collaborate with all education stakeholders and the greater community for the purpose of achieving environmental sustainability in an inclusive and equitable way?
  • Does the school publish, share and advocate via social media, local media and traditional media their students’ projects for environmental sustainability? 
  • Does school governance integrate environmental sustainability and green learning in their leadership, management, and decision-making?
  • Does the school integrate and implement eco-friendly practices into daily school life?

Campus/Infrastructure

School infrastructure, school grounds, equipment, and systems that are designed, created, developed, produced, and implemented with the goal of environmental sustainability from end to end, including economic, pedagogical, financial, social and institution. All stakeholders are empowered to learn and look for areas to improve based on all-round sustainable principles.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school have green initiatives within the school such as water or energy saving initiatives, recycling programs, recycle art for advocacy, carbon footprint initiative, growing and eating local programs and/or other?
  • Does the school develop, reorganize, design, advocate, build, and partner with the community for living conditions in the form of eco-villages, eco-municipalities, and sustainable cities?
  • Does the school reappraise their involvement with the economic sectors (permaculture, green building, sustainable agriculture) or work practices, such as sustainable architecture?
  • Does the school utilise, develop and prototype new technologies (green technologies, renewable energy, etc.)?

This Prize recognises “leapfrog” innovation in schools that help improve access, quality, and relevance, especially for the most marginalised children, all at the same time. We are looking for any idea, tool, or practice that you are implementing that breaks from tradition in your context, that helps you face your challenges and solve key issues. Innovation in schools can come in many forms to impact teaching & learning such as pedagogy, approaches, systems, procedures, collaboration, infrastructure and much more. Technology can be an important tool in education innovation but it’s only an aspect of it, and we are more interested in what it is that the technology does to accelerate progress than the technology itself.

Criteria for judging and rating this Prize category

Home, School, & Community Engagement

Increasingly diverse people and places are involved in educating children, an approach that is inclusive, equitable. A wide range of stakeholders including teachers can or are, in fact, playing a part in the innovation whether within and/or outside of school.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school engage and collaborate with all education stakeholders, families and the greater community to focus on helping students?
  • Does the school have students receiving formative and constructive feedback on their collaboration from multiple sources? How are students given chances to grow through this feedback?  
  • Does the school have innovative practices, procedures, practices, and/or systems that bring the classroom out into the community and the world?
  • Does the school have learning that happens not only in the classroom but in a diversity of context, connecting students and classrooms to the outside world? 

Teaching & Learning

Teaching and learning approaches that offer a diverse menu from direct instruction to playful learning so that students are able to develop a wide range of skills and competencies from mastering academic subjects to learning to creatively and collaboratively solve problems to learning how to apply knowledge to real world situations.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school have formative assessment practices, procedures, systems that students self-reflect on their practice, learning, competencies, skills and work in order to improve?
  • Does the school make student learning collaborative?
  • Do the students actively publish and/or prototype to solve community problems?
  • Does the school enhance the teaching & learning by having a balance between competencies, skills, and knowledge?
  • Does the school have practices, procedures, pedagogy, systems that have students learn by playing?
  • Do the students apply knowledge, evaluate, create, publish and reiterate in their work and projects?
  • Do the students exhibit resiliency and improve through reflection and feedback on their solutions, prototypes, academic work, projects etc?
  • Does the school have a student-centered approach and philosophy?
  • Does the school practice hands-on learning that enhances the learning? 
  • Does the school infrastructure and/or spaces encourage playful learning and enhance teaching & learning to the whole child?
  • Does the school use curriculum that reflects the students’ lived experiences?

Recognition of Learning

Creative forms of recognizing students learning while in school (e.g. from standardized tests on academic subjects to demonstrating mastery of competence on key skills like communication and empathetic listening; from cohort-based to personalized).

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school have innovative alternative assessment practices that students are getting constructive timely feedback from multiple sources, not only teachers?
  • Does the school have student’s work assessed and recognised in different contexts from multiple sources including teacher, school leadership, peers, community, parents, NGOS, industry, etc?

Relevant Technology and Data

Technology and data are used to enhance the learning and pedagogical practice for inclusivity and equity with teaching and learning being modified/redefined. Evidence and data are used to transform the learning experience and improve on programs, procedures, and pedagogy.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school utilise technology to redefine or augment the teaching and learning?
  • Does the school utilise technology & data to help the student enhance their self-reflection and learning?
  • Does the school deploy technology to help improve back-office efficiencies, collect better data, and streamline communication inside schools, with parents and the community?
  • Does the school leverage technology to engage the students and communities?

Teaching & Learning

Enhances access, relevance and opportunities for all within the community, making the school the hub and learning institution for the community while connecting students’ lived experiences to what they are learn0ing in the classroom.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school enhance its curriculum through the use of resources, technology, space, infrastructure, extra time and /or many more that help develop the whole child in a personalised way?
  • Does the school have experiential programs and pedagogy for students to collaborate with the community?
  • Does the school have projects and collaboration between students and intergenerational family/community members, NGOs, academia, clubs, businesses, other schools and/or others?

This Prize recognises that, while living in an increasingly uncertain world, schools must support and develop children in the kinds of socio-emotional skills that can support their personal growth and the school as a community. Adversity will come in many forms for schools, whether its social issues, natural phenomena, economic constraints, pandemics, and many more. The dynamics, situations, and contexts are truly limitless. School leadership develops all stakeholders to deliver empowered decision-making which will energise their people to be problem-solvers and take ownership while facing adversity in their context. The development of resilience for the school and all its stakeholders matters because many succeed in spite of all the challenges and obstacles they face. This category therefore assesses how the school builds the character strengths both individually and as a community in order to support the greater resilience of all students.

Criteria for judging and rating this Prize category

Teaching & Learning

Teaching and learning opportunities and pedagogy both inside the classroom and out, that help to build knowledge about the self and others, habits and skills to build resilience and navigate uncertainty amongst students, and all stakeholders in the school community (teachers, parents, headteachers), and community overcoming adversity.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does your pedagogy and learning develop a growth mindset and resilience?
  • Does the school have pedagogy and programs that help develop mindfulness and self-regulation focused on positive belief in oneself and building healthy relationships within and outside the school?
  • Did the school overcome a significant challenge(s) within their context to help students and support the quality of teaching & learning, and that helped with education access, relevance and/or opportunity that was inclusive and equitable?

Home, School, & Community Engagement

Linking the school to the broader community, enhancing the range of support available to students, school, parents, and the community. It is the connection between school and all the education stakeholders with proactive consultation, collaboration and shared leadership with these stakeholders to tackle adversity, obstacles, and/or challenges the school faces every day to make it a safe space.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school have programs in place for students, parents, and the community to help with equity and inclusivity issues to overcome adversity? 
  • Does the school have collaborations that engage all education stakeholders to overcome adversity for the school, families, and/or students?
  • Does the school have projects, programs, procedures, and/or systems that help create an inclusive and equitable environment for all students?

Collaborative Leadership & Practice

Shared leadership & management practices, decision-making processes, systems, rules, pedagogy, culture, procedures and policies at all levels is a foundational piece of the school in creating a safe space where all stakeholders can thrive.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school lead with inclusivity and equity? 
  • Does the school create an environment where all education stakeholders are engaged and help create a safe space for all students?
  • Did the school model the steps for overcoming adversity including planning, collaboration and focusing on the school’s purpose, mission and/or vision?
  • Does the school role model, mentor, encourage, inspire, and motivate others by overcoming adversity to help inclusivity and/or equity?
  • Does the school provide ongoing leadership for your partners, community and/or other schools on promoting the skills and qualities for overcoming adversity, challenges and/or obstacles?

Integrated Student Services

Securing, coordinating, and integrating student support services to help develop and promote resilience for students, families, and communities giving them the tools to self-regulate, practice mindfulness and overcome their personal challenges.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school collaborate with all stakeholders to overcome challenges, adversity and/or obstacles to reach all learners?
  • Does the school have programs that help develop resilience including socio-emotional behaviors, skills, knowledge and ability?

Forgiveness & Healing

Students, school, and staff implement restorative practices that develop the ability to forgive, build positive relationships, develop self-regulation, and a positive mental outlook of themselves and their future.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school develop trauma-informed practices?
  • Does the school have programs that are focused on restorative practice and forgiveness?

Purpose & Outlook

Developing programs, procedures, pedagogy, partnerships that are focused on the purpose of building resilient students, staff, and community. While overcoming adversity, the school stays through to their purpose and tackles any obstacle/challenge with a positive outlook and strength-based approach.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school create a safe campus that is inclusive and equitable for all stakeholders?
  • Does the school create a positive, resilient and strength-based culture for all to thrive?
  • Does the school make a considerable positive impact on the local community and/or students by overcoming adversity, challenges and/or obstacles?

This category recognises schools that provide access, relevance, and opportunities for students, staff, and the community to develop healthy habits, behaviours, knowledge, and skills. We understand that health is about balance, resiliency, and consistency and has many components including mental, physical, nutrition, personal safety, sexual, environment, emotional, and much more. We are looking for a school that promotes any and all of these areas of health in a planned, integrated and holistic sustainable way.

Criteria for judging and rating this Prize category

Teaching & Learning

Teaching and learning opportunities and pedagogy both inside the classroom and out, that help to build knowledge, habits and skills to improve health and wellbeing for students, the school, and the community.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school have resources, activities and provincial curriculum where students gain age-appropriate knowledge and experiences, that help them build the skills to improve their health and well-being?
  • Does the school have play as an integral part of how it approaches education?
  • Does the school have physical activity as a priority in designing the teaching & learning of all subjects, especially at the elementary and middle school level?
  • Does the school utilise restorative practices to help students learn and build healthy relationships and sense of self?
  • Does the school participate in the promotion and implementation of inclusive and equity focused initiatives that promote wellness?

Collaborative Leadership & Practice

Leadership & management practices, decision-making processes, systems, rules, pedagogy, culture, procedures and policies at all levels is a foundational piece of the school prioritising health and wellbeing that is inclusive and equitable. They can include everything from guidelines for recess every day, for play based learning, for physical activity, for healthy food programs, social and mental health programs etc.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

Does the school have procedures, programs, systems that support inclusivity and equity?

  • Does the school model healthy systems, procedures, vision, mission, practices, and pedagogy for students?
  • Does the school encourage healthy lifestyle choices, and promote students and community health and well-being?
  • Does the school have health promotion programmes for staff, nutrition and food safety programmes, opportunities for physical education and recreation, and programmes for counselling, social support and mental health promotion?
  • Does the school have a healthy, proactive approach to managing social media usage for its students?
  • Does the school use social media tools to enhance healthy lifestyles?
  • Does the school have management practices, decision-making processes, rules, procedures, guidelines and policies at all levels that promote health and well-being, and shape a respectful, welcoming and caring school environment?
  • Does the school implement policies, pedagogies, and practices that respect an individual's wellbeing and dignity that is inclusive and equitable?

Social & Physical Environments

Quality relationships, emotional well-being within the school and the wider community as well as the school infrastructure, grounds, and equipment in and surrounding the school to promote, teach, and enhance healthy behaviors, food security, healthy food choices, skills, knowledge and ability for all stakeholders.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school create a social and physical environment that is inclusive and equitable, giving everyone the chance to flourish?
  • Does the school prioritise in their teaching & learning natural settings, the environment and the local ecology? 
  • Does the school strive to provide a healthy environment?
  • Does the school have basic amenities such as sanitation, air cleanliness and healthy food?
  • Does the school advocate for and participate in community development initiatives that improve social and physical environments?

Home, School & Community Engagement

Linking the school to the broader community, enhancing the range of supports and opportunities available to students, parents, educators and others by making connections between the school and the community, including parents, other schools, community organisations and health professionals. Consultation and participation with these stakeholders enhance access, relevance, and opportunities for health promoting school, students, and the community.

Guiding questions for this criterion:

  • Does the school have education and programs for self-regulation – mindfulness, positive view, healthy social interactions, social -emotional skills, healthy relationships, and/or inter/intra personal development?
  • Does the school have students being active in all its forms, programmed into the day, created opportunities with community organisations and partnerships?
  • Does the school engage, collaborate, and partner with health and education officials, teachers, teachers' unions, students, parents, health providers and community leaders?
  • Does the school have community and school-based services that support and promote student and staff health and well-being?

Created by Educators

We are proud that the Prizes have been conceived and designed by teachers and education experts, grouped as our Review Panel. On the basis of research, evidence and wide consultation with them, we have chosen the five categories which we believe reflect key strategies that will help us accelerate the pace of change in education, and encourage schools to try different approaches to strengthen their institutions.

Meet our Review Panel

Andria Zafirakou

Award-Winning Teacher, UK

Maggie MacDonnell

Award-Winning Teacher, Canada

Hiba Ballout

Teacher at St. George’s School, Lebanon

Vandana Goyal

COO at Avanti Fellows & former CEO of Akanksha Foundation Schools, India

Armand Doucet

Teacher at Riverview High School, Canada

Koen Timmers

Teacher at Hogeschool PXL, Belgium

Rebecca Winthrop

Co-Director of the Centre for Universal Education, Brookings, USA

Stuart MacAlpine

Initiative Lead, Playful Schools Initiative, LEGO Foundation, Denmark*
*for identification purposes only

Christina Kwauk

Non-Resident Fellow, Brookings, USA

James Toop

CEO, Bite Back 2030, UK

Azad Oomen

CEO, Global School Leaders, India

Camila Pereira

Director of Education, Lemann Foundation, Brazil

Eric Jamieson

Former Director of High Performance, New South Wales Department of Education, Australia

Fiona Gatty

Research Fellow, University of Oxford, UK

Sarah Peterson

Senior Director of Attendance, Research and Innovation with the Office of Community Schools, NYC Department of Education, USA*
*for identification purposes only

Andria Zafirakou - Educator Committee
Andria Zafirakou

Award-Winning Teacher, UK

Maggie MacDonnell - Educator Committee
Maggie MacDonnell

Award-Winning Teacher, Canada

Hiba Ballout - Educator Committee
Hiba Ballout

Teacher at St. George’s School, Lebanon

Vandana Goyal
Vandana Goyal

COO at Avanti Fellows & former CEO of Akanksha Foundation Schools, India

Armand Doucet - Educator Committee
Armand Doucet

Teacher at Riverview High School, Canada

Koen Timmers - Educator Committee-1
Koen Timmers

Teacher at Hogeschool PXL, Belgium

Rebecca Winthrop - Expert Committee
Rebecca Winthrop

Co-Director of the Centre for Universal Education, Brookings, USA

Stuart MacAlpine - Expert Committee
Stuart MacAlpine

Initiative Lead, Playful Schools Initiative, LEGO Foundation, Denmark*
*for identification purposes only

Christina Kwauk - Expert Committee
Christina Kwauk

Non-Resident Fellow, Brookings, USA

James Toop - Expert Committee
James Toop

CEO, Bite Back 2030, UK

Azad Oommen - Expert Committee
Azad Oomen

CEO, Global School Leaders, India

Camila Pereira - Expert Committee
Camila Pereira

Director of Education, Lemann Foundation, Brazil

Eric Jamieson - Headshot
Eric Jamieson

Former Director of High Performance, New South Wales Department of Education, Australia

Fiona Gatty - Expert Committee
Fiona Gatty

Research Fellow, University of Oxford, UK

Sarah Peterson
Sarah Peterson

Senior Director of Attendance, Research and Innovation with the Office of Community Schools, NYC Department of Education, USA*
*for identification purposes only