Category Archives: English

Teach a Class a Song! No Piano Needed!

Who has heard of Choon Baboon on YouTube? I discovered it today and just had to pass it on for any teachers out there with groups or classes they are thinking of doing some singing with in the run up to the Christmas hols.

First, do a warm up! See eg for one of those, complete with upper body, face, mouth and vocal chord warm up. Get the kids to stand up to do this preferably. If your group still needs a little more to get them in the mood for singing, try warm up 2 at

Then, you’re ready for your first song! Check out for example the teaching video for “superhero” at – decide if it’s the right level for your class, or choose a different one. I saw this one in action with a key stage 3 special needs group but it might be too young for many secondary school pupils. I liked this song for the group in question and they seemed to enjoy it too. They also liked another that the teacher led with sign language. So many possibilities with all this!

Once you’ve gone through the teaching video, try the singalong version at

Great for a nurture group to contribute to the Christmas show – and no piano needed!

How to lead schools innovatively rather than in a spirit of compliance… using the STIR model #BELMAS2019

STIRring Times: Accelerating Innovative Change through Leadership in UAE Schools“,
Khalid, F., Webb, C. (July 2019). Conference: BELMAS Annual Conference 2019 – ‘Educational Leadership for Social Change’. Jury’s Inn, Hinckley Island, Leicestershire, United Kingdom. 12-14th July 2019
“The UAE has undergone significant changes in the educational sector in an attempt to overhaul didactical methods to teaching and learning. The changes were announced in 2014 with an ambition of accomplishment by the year 2021 focusing mainly on improving student attainment and progress as measured by the international standardized test TIMSS and PISA, in which the UAE plans to be in the top 25 performing countries. The UAE ‘National Agenda’ sets clear criteria to improve educational systems with special emphasis on leadership and the role leaders undertake in ensuring effective change implementation. Leadership in the region has often been dominated by authoritative individuals’ apparently compliant to highly bureaucratic systems that can sometimes fail to place students and staff teams at the core of planning.
In light of this, the study reported on in this paper investigated effective leadership in two schools in Dubai, exploring distinctive leadership behaviours, expertise and actions, specifically looking at how leaders guide teams in adopting effective practices to improve student and school performance. The purpose of the study was to investigate leadership holistically, linking to literature in an effort to define effective leadership in the context of implementing change.
Research adopted a post-positivist paradigm approach, founded on a critical realist perspective, attempting to validate data using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The qualitative data rested on semi-structured interviews (n=10) with SLT members across 2 schools, and quantitative data was derived using online surveys (n=105) completed by teachers in both schools.
Findings revealed that SLT members had extensive knowledge of effective leadership behaviours, and similar perceptions were also shared in teachers’ responses. This however when analyzed revealed that both teachers and SLT aligned their discernment and knowledge to the given structured KHDA criteria for successful leadership and management which coincidently can be suggested to be contradictive to the proposed collegial and innovative approach to change management and implementation as recommended in the literature.
A model was therefore suggested founded on a paradigm suitable for UAE schools which considers an incremental approach factoring on culture and school capacity to accept and implement change using processes that are reflectively iterative and based on team empowerment. The resultant STIR model can be useful to leaders aspiring to be agents of effective change, who are creative and innovative exploring multiple views in an effort to improve and sustain organizational progress.”
Download conference paper slides from:

When Outdoor Learning Gets Hot! Leadership skills for UAE style Forest Schools? #BELMAS2019

“Out of the Woods and into the Desert – Leadership of Forest Schools: A UAE Case Study”. Hendawy, Z., Webb, C., July 2019. Conference: BELMAS Annual Conference 2019 – ‘Educational Leadership for Social Change’. At: Jury’s Inn, Hinckley Island, Leicestershire, United Kingdom. 12-14th July 2019
This paper presents research on an exploration of leadership in Forest Schools as a model of nature-based learning. A needs analysis indicated demand for creating nature-based learning environments in the UAE. Therefore, this study investigated leadership in UAE schools and changes required to initiate nature-based learning relevant to the UAE context of nature, culture, and heritage, over the period from April to June 2018. The first research question focused on establishing a thorough understanding of leadership styles and characteristics in Forest Schools by interviewing a range of international Forest School leaders and experts (n=10). The second research question explored leadership style and characteristics of UAE school leaders across Abu Dhabi schools using a survey questionnaire(n=74). These questions were put forward to offer a clear understanding of the relationship between leadership and creating outdoor learning experiences. Literature and interview results indicated that with leadership distributed at different organisational levels Forest School Principals allow great flexibility to adapt to environments pertaining to nature pedagogy. School leaders interviewed suggested they adopted a transformational leadership style which can positively encourage and promote change required to create nature-based learning opportunities. However, roles and responsibilities in UAE schools need to be distributed to involve more teachers indecision making, and to motivate and empower them to take part in the required change towards nature-based learning. On the basis of the above, it was possible to derive a nature-based leadership model with specific style and characteristics that offers several ways to initiate nature-based settings in UAE schools.
Link to conference slides:
Zinab 3rd version - CW 30th June BELMAS Presentation

So many ways to lose your teachers – how can we keep them? 120 teacher retention factors & strategy explored… #BELMAS2019

“120 Ways to Lose your Teachers: Teacher Retention Factors for School Leaders to Act On”. Longdon, S., Webb, C., July 2019. Conference: BELMAS Annual Conference 2019 – ‘Educational Leadership for Social Change’.At: Jury’s Inn, Hinckley Island, Leicestershire, United Kingdom. 12-14th July 2019.
This case study explores factors that contribute to teacher turnover and the opinions of educators on what can be improved to aid retention based on a study conducted in an international school in Dubai, UAE. Collecting attitudinal data and determining the most significant factors that affected teachers’ employment decisions supported the evaluation of leadership’s impact on the retention of international-school teachers. Two stages of data collection were conducted in a mixed method design, consisting of semi-structured interviews (n=10) and asurvey (n=80). The sequential sampling and staged research approach were usedto add credibility to the research by synthesising the findings from bothmethods to support triangulation. The study discovered that in the opinions of these educators, 120 factors either cause or contribute to teacher turnover and retention. Of this multitude of factors, leadership was the most significant reason teachers left the School, which was primarily caused by the lack of appreciation or recognition leaders show towards their staff. The main reasons teachers stayed in the School was due to the familiarity they had established with their colleagues and the work environment. Teachers believed that leadership’s behaviour was the most significant area to improve to retain teachersdue to the perceived lack of recognition, support, empathy, approachability, instructional involvement, autonomy and trust in teachers their leaders provide. These findings provide educational leaders in international schools around the world, and in particular, Dubai, valuable information on what influences teacher employment plans. With this knowledge, leaders can select effective leadership styles and interventions to retain teachers.
Conference slides available from:
BELMAS Conference - Simon Longdon with CW Notes v2

Can recruitment of teachers aligned with school values ever be authentic? #BELMAS2019

“Leadership of Authentic Values-Based Recruitment in Schools: Implications for Teacher Retention”. Nolan, B., Webb, C., July 2019, Conference: BELMAS Annual Conference 2019 – ‘Educational Leadership for Social Change’. At: Jury’s Inn, Hinckley Island, Leicestershire, United Kingdom. 12-14th July 2019.
Since the turn of the 21st century, educational recruitment processes have evolved as globalisation has created a need for organisations to focus on attracting international as well as local talent. A distinctive global teaching labour market and enhanced teacher mobility have emerged as a result. Concurrently, a need for a reemphasis on values within education has been reported globally. In the UAE, the international school market is vast, and expanding at a rapid rate. The government has responded with Vision 2021; an ambitious set of goals that prioritize the development of a first-rate education system by the year 2021. A key issue challenging the vision is high teacher turnover rates, with official reports identifying figures up to 60% in some UAE schools. Subsequently, attributing adverse effects on the quality of educational instruction across the country have been identified. There is therefore an urgent need to define strategies in order to lower turnover rates and avoid further adverse effects. This study proposes values-based educational practices, particularly values-based recruitment as a key tool for educational leaders in order to improve teacher retention and lower teacher turnover. The 2018 study assessed the extent to which educational leaders in the UAE are currently engaged with values-based recruitment (VBR) practices and the potential for their application across UAE schools, with an emphasis on lowering teacher turnover. Mixed method research was conducted in which surveys and interviews were undertaken across four international schools in the UAE from April to June 2018. Responses obtained from educational leaders (n=10) during the qualitative interview phase and classroom teacher (n=142) survey respondents during the interview phase identified a strong correlation between values-based leadership practices and teacher turnover rates, explored through statistical tools including regression analysis. As a result, a model to support authentic values-based recruitment for educational leaders in Dubai schools is presented and discussed with an emphasis on increasing values-based recruitment practices in order to address high teacher turnover rates. This raises further questions as to how these findings may be of value to the teacher recruitment and retention crisis in the UK, and whether it would be possible to adapt the developed model for implementation in socio-economically diverse contexts where a values-based recruitment and education model could also respond to current and evolving challenges, which will be discussed at the conference.
Link to conference slides:
Brian Nolan and Carol Webb BELMAS Presentation 29th June Final

To what extent is UAE school leadership transformational? #BELMAS2019

Without Reflection, We Go Blindly: The Direction-Giving Power of the Process of Writing Education Leadership & Management Reflective Journal Entries During Times of Change in the UAE. Webb, C., July 2019, Conference: BELMAS Annual Conference 2019 – ‘Educational Leadership for Social Change’. At: Jury’s Inn, Hinckley Island, Leicestershire, United Kingdom. 12-14th July 2019.
To complete the titular quote, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful” (Margaret J. Wheatley). Conversely, this paper highlights the learning achieved and focus gained for the continuing professional development of 10 UAE-based current and aspiring school leader managers as evidenced in their own qualitative reflective journal entries as completed over the duration of 7 months. The 10 research participants each made 10 entries of approximately 200 words into their work-based diaries over the time period from October 2017 to April 2018. To give structure to the task they were required to focus on a different topic pertaining to education leadership and management in each entry, to reflect on their own experience or observations of others in practice, to relate this to relevant theory, to create personal learning and professional development targets, and to reflect on their own progress made over the course of the 7 months. The richly qualitative yet pithy accounts collated provide insights into the UAE’s current efforts in educational leadership and management transitions from the challenges of the autocratic transactional towards transformational leadership approaches grounded in more collegial and distributed styles. Amidst the backdrop of this dramatic tension, the research participants each relayed snippets of their own stories of sense-making, while clinging to their own visions of ideals of leadership and management in education, and continually striving ambitiously to meet them. In spite of the use of reflective journal writing being far from new, the context, content and mode of application in evolving time and space invariably leads to new insights – in this case on the emergence of a new group of visionary education leaders in the context of a rapidly changing UAE knowledge-based society and post-oil economy. Extracts from the data to be discussed will highlight the highs and the lows of such journeys, and point to new directional futures.

Without Reflection We Go Blindly - C Webb 2019 BELMAS

Does School Leadership Impact on Social Change? #BELMAS2019

“Best Practice in School Leadership Maximising Social Change in Areas of Disadvantage: Lessons from Liverpool”. Webb, C., Newport, S., July 2019 – Conference: BELMAS Annual Conference 2019 – ‘Educational Leadership for Social Change”. At: Jury’s Inn, Hinckley Island, Leicestershire, United Kingdom. 12-14th July 2019.
Since 2012 more than 20 Merseyside schools, mostly in the RI (Requiring Improvement) category have been engaged in an ongoing university partnership with the aim of adding value to their school improvement journey under the umbrella of an unfunded project referred to as ‘The Hope Challenge’. The Hope Challenge Programme has been developed to support the work of Local Authorities and HMIs in working with schools in socioeconomic challenging circumstances and those judged as requiring improvement. Liverpool Hope University is working proactively with Local Authorities, regional HMIs and schools to lead North West collaboration with the aim of improving the life chances of children. For the purposes of the Hope Challenge Programme – schools in socioeconomic circumstances are deemed to be those where Pupil Premium is at least 25%. The purpose of the ‘Hope Challenge’ is to support Liverpool Hope University and its partner Local Authorities to ensure that all schools within their influence are at least ‘good’, a particular challenge for many LAs with reduced capacity. This particular project is Liverpool Hope University’s response to the new ITE Ofsted requirement to work with schools in ‘challenging socioeconomic circumstances (Pupil Premium at least 25%) and those judged as requiring improvement’ (RI) by Ofsted. The benefit of working collaboratively is to ensure coherent and planned ways of working that support the improvement plans of schools to create synergy, add value and build capacity, rather than onerous parallel working which has little impact. The Programme also develops research informed teacher education and enables staff and students to undertake action research and to use their findings to inform future practice. This paper will report on the emerging narrative highlighting the important role of school leadership and their buy-in and ongoing commitment to the impact of this process, and how this has now evolved into impacts on the curriculum and pupil achievement in areas of disadvantage. Through 7 qualitative interviews, data has been collected around the impact of this effort so far, on teachers and their practice, in addition to the role of leadership. The work of Leithwood and Robinson has been used to articulate an emerging framework of best practice demonstrated by leaders arising from successful experiences of engagement in the project. This framework and qualitative findings from the interviews will be relayed at the conference as lessons learned with recommendations for creating impact for social change through such endeavours.
Download conference slides from:
C Webb Friday Workshop BELMAS 2019 Front Slide

Full Special Issue Now Live: Middle Eastern post-conflict futures in education: Iraq, Syria and Yemen. IJCED, Vol 20, Issue 3 / 4

Special Issue Update: Middle Eastern post-conflict futures in education: Iraq, Syria and Yemen

Table Of Contents: Volume 20 Issue 3 / 4

Published: 2018, Start page: 130 Special Issue: Middle Eastern post-conflict futures in education: Iraq, Syria and Yemen, Editor(s): Juliet Millican and Carol Webb

Foreword by Yasmine Sherif, (United Nations – Education Cannot Wait – Global Fund for Education in Emergencies UNICEF, New York, New York, USA):

Yasmine Sherif
, (2018) “Middle Eastern post-conflict futures in education: Iraq, Syria and Yemen”, International Journal of Comparative Education and Development, Vol. 20 Issue: 3/4, pp.130-131,


“We are still here”: the stories of Syrian academics in exile

Tom ParkinsonTarek ZoubirShaher AbdullateefMusallam AbedtalasGhana AlyamaniZiad Al IbrahimMajdi Al HusniFuad Alhaj OmarHamoud HajhamoudFadi IboorHusam AllitoMichael JenkinsAbdulkader RashwaniAdnan SennouFateh Shaban (pp. 132 – 147)

Keywords: SyriaHigher educationExileCollaboration

Type: Research paper

Yemen and education: Shaping bottom-up emergent responses around tribal values and customary law

Carol Webb (pp. 148 – 164)

Keywords: YemenEducationConflictTribesComplexity scienceCustomary law

Type: Conceptual Paper

School block grants as a model of financial decentralization in Iraq

Swapna Nair (pp. 165 – 175)

Keywords: DecentralizationChannels of school financingIraq education sectorSchool-based managementSchool block grants

Type: General review

Conflict, insecurity and the political economies of higher education: The case of Syria post-2011

Jo-Anne DillaboughOlena FimyarColleen McLaughlinZeina Al-AzmehShaher AbdullateefMusallam Abedtalas (pp. 176 – 196)

Keywords: Higher educationPolitical economyConflictDisplacement

Type: Research paper

New Journal Paper Published: A narrative structure for teacher educator team analysis and development

Pleased today to share my latest journal paper published in the University of East London’s Research in Teacher Education (RiTE) journal, “A narrative structure for teacher educator team analysis and development” – read full paper at: – thanks to Editor, Gerry Czerniawski, for his support in getting this published. My basic premise underpinning this paper is that it is in everyone’s interests for university departmental staff to get along well: for individual, team and student benefit. And, I draw attention to some theoretical reflective tools for helping to oil the wheels a bit… 


United Kingdom (UK) teacher educators in the midst of professional practice changes have been reported to find benefit in being exposed to different theories with a view to resolving conflicting demands and developing new perspectives. This paper provides a synthesis of theories that can help teacher educator teams in universities to make sense of changes in practice together. The theoretical synthesis presented includes models of stages of team development, sense-making, experiential learning and complexity science principles. It is here argued that such a deftly applied synthesis can then facilitate higher education institution (HEI) education department teams to create individual narratives with a view to then sharing them with each other to develop a group narrative. The purpose and benefits of this would immediately be sought in improving team functioning and performance in order to create a more solid foundation from which individuals might even begin to engage in career development along the fellowship trajectory assumed by the UK Higher Education Academy (HEA). A key assumption this paper rests on therefore is that team functioning is a positive asset that is pivotal to individual career development and prerequisite impacts on teaching and learning, and leadership and management of coaching and mentoring with respect to these in a department or team. The contribution this paper makes therefore is a practical approach for analysing and further developing academic teams of teacher educators in a landscape of continual professional change, with a greater theoretical toolkit to draw from to achieve this.

Keywords: Teacher Educator Department; Team; Development; Improvement

Cite as: Webb, C. (2018) ’12 A narrative structure for teacher educator team analysis and development’. Research in Teacher Education, Vol 8(No.1). Available at:


Innovation in School: Video, Paper and Thoughts…

conf picInnovation in Schools: Video, Paper and Thoughts…

I’m now happy to share links to my conference paper and virtual (i.e. video) presentation, now both available online for my Future of Education conference contribution this year.

The video can be viewed by following this link: The Innovation Imperative: Adding Fire to the Fuel of Genius in UAE Schools?

And the full paper (2000 words including references word limit) can be viewed and downloaded here: PDF

Abstract: This paper provides an overview of innovation strategy prioritized globally implemented in the education sector in schools, with particular reference to the example of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Data from a 2018 qualitative survey of 12 school teachers/leaders representing 9 different UAE schools from 4 separate emirates are presented and results are discussed to elaborate the extent to which innovation is currently embedded and the impact it is currently recognized as having – as evidenced by such indices as innovation prizes, registering patents, or other indicators suggested by research participants. Key results of the survey are shared. Nine enablers and 10 barriers for innovation in schools and 6 recommendations for practice are presented. Recommendations for further research include a need for a UAE 7 emirate-wide survey. The value of longitudinal research is suggested to chart the emerging narrative of innovation in schools to capture long term impacts.

This work builds on a mini-review of innovation labs I wrote earlier this year (available to view on the BERA Blog here)

I really enjoyed this mini project and it excites me to think where this will go – the cultural mindset shift desired and outlined in the UAE Innovation Strategy certainly conjures the idea that children should be brought up to be innovators and creative problem solvers adding benefit to society and people.

At the moment I feel that by contrast in the UK the innovation agenda as pushed through for education is more STEM focused, and therefore not as open and wide as it could be. Social entrepreneurship and social innovation might well be enhanced through STEM, but not all innovation has STEM at its heart. More important right now are the massive social inequalities our and every other society around the world is facing, and the need to focus on alleviating the problems that lead to the bad decisions of populism, and majority-ism swinging the pendulum of democracy towards illiberal ends. It might well be that STEM, and especially technology, will have some deep contributions to make to help, but the starting point might well be elsewhere. The 17 Sustainability Development Goals are, in my view, one such good starting point for problem solving and innovation focus.

As an aside, and on reflection of the above link to the virtual presentation I made by video for this conference: what a great idea to reduce carbon footprint of academics and other conference attendees! There will always be a strong argument in favour of actual face-to-face interactions made available at conferences, however, with climate change agendas and sustainability being such an important and high priority in our world today, I believe that the argument in favour of increasing the potential for and participation in virtual conferences is far greater. Maybe conference attendees in person should only be from maximum 5 miles radius, and everyone else can send a video and tune in to social media. Food for thought.