Guidance and FAQs

Some common questions you may have about the awards have been answered below. If you have any further questions not covered on this page, or on our guidance for applicants, please contact us at

Applying for an award

What makes a good application?

We have prepared some guidance for applicants based on the strongest applications for previous awards. This includes some technical advice on preparing your application, as well as observations about what made a good entry, and some tips on what to avoid. Critically, you must be able to show that your project is innovative and has had a positive impact on learners. We strongly advise that you read this guidance before and during your award submission.

What makes practice innovative?

While we can’t definitively tell you on this page whether your specific practice / project is innovative, we can try to help you answer this for yourselves. This year we’ve created an innovation checklist containing six questions that you can consider as part of your application process. Please do use this before preparing your submission. You can also check out ‘What is innovation?’, a blog in which 26 experts share their own definitions.

Who can enter for an award?

The awards are open to any specialist FE provider that is currently a full member of Natspec. You can learn more about membership of Natspec on our website. The awards are not open to Natspec Transform members or General FE Colleges.

Do I have to ask permission before applying for an award?

All applications will require confirmation that your Principal or Chief Executive Officer is supporting the application.

How do I apply?

Application is via an online application form. No paper applications will be accepted.

How much work is involved in applying for an award?

You will need to look carefully at the criteria for the category/ies you plan to apply for. This will help you describe your project in a way that demonstrates why you think it is deserving of an innovation award. Our application form has been designed to help you structure your submission to align with the criteria.

Then you need to complete the online application form and upload any additional evidence you want to provide, ensuring you are adhering to any word / size limits.

What are the word / size limits the application needs to adhere to?

The criteria section of the application form is designed to help you tailor your entry to the specific award criteria. Each one of these individual criteria sections should contain evidence that is no longer than 200 words. If you are submitting additional evidence files, these should be no larger than 30mb each. If you are submitting a file that is larger than this (i.e. a video file), you will receive a warning that the upload cannot be accepted and you will need to submit this as an URL rather than a file upload. This can be done by uploading to YouTube or an online file sharing portal. Any video evidence submitted must not total more than 3 minutes. Any written evidence submitted must not total more than 500 words. If you go over these restrictions, any evidence over these limits will be discarded by the judges.

How many awards can I apply for?

Each college is eligible to apply for all eight awards. There is, however, a maximum of one application per category and you cannot enter the same project into more than one category. For example, you cannot enter a project involving work with employers into both the ‘Innovative partnership working’ and ‘Innovative routes into employment’ categories. You will need to choose the category which you think best fits your project.

How are submissions scored?

Each submission is given a score out of 24. Criterion 1 (innovation) is marked out of 8. Criteria 2 and 3 (specific to each award) are marked out of 5. Criterion 4 (evidence) is marked out of 6.

When is the closing date for applications?

The closing date for applications is Wednesday 29 March 2023 – at 4pm. Natspec reserves the right to refuse any submissions received after this time. Please ensure you start your application well in advance of the deadline and contact as soon as possible if you have any queries or issues with your submission.

Shortlisting and Awards winners

What happens after I have submitted the application?

Once an application is submitted you will receive an email confirming receipt. If you do not receive this, please check your spam before emailing

After applications have closed, all entries will be assessed against the relevant category criteria and a shortlist for each category will be produced. Shortlisted applicants will be informed individually and announced publicly by 28 April 2023.

A panel of independent judges will select the winner of each category.

What will winners receive?

Award winners will receive:

  •  £250 CPD bursary
  •  use of the Natspec Award winners’ logo on their college headed paper, websites and other promotional materials

Award winners will also be presented with a certificate and a trophy, designed by learners, to keep.