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!

An Afternoon with Rt Hon Rory Stewart: UCL, London, 6/12/19 at 3pm

Dear All,

Join us for an afternoon with the Rt. Hon. Rory Stewart on Friday 6th December, 15.00-16.00 at Medical Sciences Building, 131 AV Hill Lecture Theatre. 

Please secure a ticket at:

About the speaker:

Roderick James Nugent Stewart OBE FRSL FRSGS is a British politician who was Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border from 2010 to 2019. He served in several ministerial roles, including as Secretary of State for International Development in 2019. On 3 October 2019 Stewart announced he had resigned from the Conservative Party and would stand down as an MP at the next general election. He will stand as an independent candidate in the 2020 London mayoral election.

After receiving his education at Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford, Stewart became a diplomat, working in Indonesia and Montenegro. He left the civil service to undertake a two-year walk across Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal. He later wrote a best-selling book, The Places in Between, about his experiences. He subsequently served as a Deputy Governor for the Coalition Provisional Authority following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and wrote a second book covering this period, Occupational Hazards or The Prince of the Marshes. He later lectured at Harvard and worked for several non-governmental organizations, including as executive chairman of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation.


Please secure a ticket at:

Best Wishes,

IRS Committee

An evening with Mr. Ziauddin Yousafzai – December 4th, 7pm, UCL

Join UCL International Relations Society for an evening with Mr. Ziauddin Yousafzai.

About the Speaker:

Ziauddin Yousafzai is a Pakistani education activist best known as the father of Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who protested against the Taliban’s opposition to the education rights of girls, especially for Pakistani girls. He is currently the Co-Founder and Board Member of Malala Fund and the author of Let Her Fly.

Mr. Yousafzai will cover his personal story as a teacher in Swat Pathan. He will also share his perspective on Malala’s activism and his personal thoughts on the development and future of equal education in Pakistan.

Register to attend at

Wednesday 4th December at 7pm, UCL… venue location details on Eventbrite page

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

Thoughts on Releasing the Political Grip on UK Education: Could the Haldane Principle Offer Inspiration?

The argument that the UK education system should not be thrown around on the tides of politics is frequently made and the extant situation bemoaned: every time a new minister for education or political party takes the helm, everything changes, and teachers and children suffer. It even affects educational delivery in other countries, as so many British curriculum schools exist internationally.

Activist efforts to reclaim pedagogy grassroots style are often made by teachers themselves (e.g. through teachmeets and conferences, in schools and even pubs – c.f. ‘#BrewEd’). More formalised efforts to remove education from the tight grip of political interference also come in the form of the Chartered College of Teaching, set up in much the same manner and with similar aspirations to the Royal College of Nursing – to create a professional body to oversee, nurture and lead the profession and to eventually regulate it no doubt.

Another example exists, from within education itself, which may also offer a model to consider for further innovation and development, perhaps aligned with the idea of expert peer review.

I refer to the manner in which research funding is allocated in the UK, based on ‘The Haldane Principle’: “the idea that decisions about what to spend research funds on should be made by researchers rather than politicians” –“named after Richard Burdon Haldane, who in 1904 and from 1909 to 1918 chaired committees and commissions which recommended this policy”[i]

“In 1918 Haldane’s committee produced the “Haldane Report”. The report suggested that research required by government departments could be separated into that required by specific departments and that which was more general. It recommended that departments should oversee the specific research but the general research should be under the control of autonomous Research Councils, which would be free from political and administrative pressures that might discourage research in certain areas. The principle of the autonomy of the research councils is now referred to as the Haldane Principle. The first research council to be created as a result of the Haldane Report was the Medical Research Council. The principle has remained enshrined in British Government policy”[ii].

Certainly, releasing education from political pressures would be welcomed by many.

What if an evolved version of the Haldane Principle were adapted for review of educational policy, practice and school inspection? Government officials influenced by politics would no longer be able to interfere and influence the direction of education. UK education may even become self-regulating. Imagine if your school was not inspected by Ofsted, but instead a local panel of headteachers representing a cross-section of regional schools, who were not ascribing a ranking or rating to the ‘inspected’ school, but instead providing expert peer review to be channeled directly into school improvement and recommendations for authentic and constructive assistance based on contextual need.