An argument in favour of an extra curricular adventure curriculum for kids

With just a few weeks left until the end of the summer holidays for most school kids and teachers alike, I take a moment to reflect on the privilege of getting out into the great outdoors.

Have your kids and others had the privilege of a bit of adventure this summer? How many have not? How many have sat at home while parents worked? How many have been stuck with their nose glued to the TV, computer, games console or mobile phone indoors during the heatwave?

I’ve been grateful myself to have got myself out of the city and into the countryside this summer. I’ve been to three national parks: Snowdonia, The Brecon Beacons, and The Lake District. I had a serious go at hiking up Snowdon and got 3/4 if the way up. I started out by heading with all good intentions up Scafell Pike but then realised i was probably not ready for that yet – nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed a six-mile hike around the bottom and various neighbouring tarns. And then, finally, I achieved a summit – I got to the top of Pen Y Fan last week and felt a sense of fulfilment.

Aside from all the personal challenge confronted in my current round at getting fitter again after spending a few years in air conditioned Dubai, by pools and cocktail bars, the gorgeous green, natural beauty and sumptuous fresh air I encountered on my hikes in Wales and the North West of England did of course fill me with awe and wonder: it was inspiring, breathtaking, and humbling, magnificent, tremendous and pleasantly overwhelming. Perhaps it was the contrast between leaving the desert cities of the Middle East and launching myself back into this lushness that made me appreciate it all the more. I do know that many others have felt the same on their return from the human grilling machine of the UAE summer sun and sandpit.

What did make me smile quite warmly was also seeing families and children enjoying themselves out in these places as well. There were groups of teenagers with maps in hand carrying rucksacks bigger than them heading up mountains probably on a Duke of Edinburgh mission. There were five year olds running ahead of puffing and panting parents up mountain paths. There were kids fishing with adults along the canal, paddling canoes together, cycling around reservoirs, and camping in fields. It was a dream to behold: the halcyon days of youthful summers were there in plain view.

It wasn’t quite Swallows and Amazons: I didn’t see any groups of children trundling off unsupervised onto islands in the middle of lakes, but then we aren’t living in 1930s Britain anymore, are we?

But one chance conversation with a headteacher from London outside a welsh tea shop last week out things into perspective. She smiled when she affirmed that at this age her gang of boys thought all caravan and boat trips were pure adventure, but lamented knowing that on her return to school life in September there would indeed be hundreds of kids who had never made it off their street or out of the house. Some parents, she explained, had not even known where Regents Park was when letters were sent home about the location of last term’s sports day, as most of them it seemed just went to work, the shops and school for the kids. The headteacher was sad to report that as a result it was all too easy for children to end up in inner city gangs.

When I returned to London last Friday and crossed the road to catch the bus, I was happy to see a minibus pass me by with a load of kids crammed in it, with a tonne of gear covered by a tarp on the roof, and the words, “Bede’s Adventure Project” emblazoned across the side. ‘Heading home, or just going out?’ I wondered. Either way it was win/win.

That’s what we need now. More weekend adventure opportunities for children who otherwise wouldn’t get the chance. Parents should be encouraged to get involved if possible or even take the lead, but if parents aren’t available then there should still be chances for kids to get out there and do stuff anyway under correct supervision and training: hiking, cycling, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, mountaineering, abseiling, and the like.

What can Schools and local authorities do to help? I’m sure they do want to close their doors for a much needed break over the summer months, goodness knows they need it. But as the teachers close the doors on weekends and for summer holidays, could external agencies open them to use the facilities for extra curricular activities such as these? Should school buildings ever be locked up empty when they could be used for hubs for so much more?

It’s true that some organisations do exist to provide all of the above. Eg Guides, Brownies, Scouts, Cadets etc. But are these secular enough and do they reach out to all enough? In today’s diverse England, does everyone wish to pledge allegiance to the Queen and have automatic assumptions made about attachments to faith based organisations? Can we have adventure and the outdoors without all that so that more diverse inner city populations in London, for example, might wish to engage?

Food for thought.

In the meantime, I’d love to see an extra-curricular, age-appropriate, adventure curriculum offered (not mandated) for all school age children, and especially for disadvantaged children. This could include the full range of activities currently covered by those groups such as Scouts to DofE.

Not necessarily Swallows and Amazons, but definitely a chance to get their feet wet somehow. But perhaps we are going in this direction… I was happy to read Nick Gibbs’ announcement the other week that the DfE would be investigating links between extra curricular activities and social mobility over the next few years. Bring it on! But please bring with it the above opportunities too.

Enjoy the rest of your summer.

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.

How I’d educate my child from EYFS through to uni

This blog post is inspired by a tweet I saw yesterday, which said we should teach our students as we would like our own children to be taught – or something along those lines. This got me thinking how that would go if I could self indulgently plan the monolithic scheme of work and educational settings I’d have my fictitious child go through from EYFS to uni. It’s actually quite a useful exercise to go through as it helps you to unearth some of your own educational values and beliefs if you weren’t that in touch with them already. I’d be interested to read other peoples attempts at such an envisioning of what actually might be described as pushy parent educational proxyism – it’s the ultimate in imposing your values on the life of your child after all… a personal educational imperialism if you will.

So anyway, here’s my attempt …

First of all, I’d want my child to be happy, healthy and whole… but I’d also want to hot house them a bit too, to set those high expectations and help them really achieve their full potential, giving them every chance possible to do that. I must confess I like the Russian style philosophy of finding out in what areas a child is talented and then nurturing and really pushing them in those areas. If I could see from an early stage that my kid was really great at gymnastics or art or languages, music or science… I’d really want to give them all the support I could to help them then be the best they could be. I’d throw all resources possible at that. At the same time I do like the South Korean hard work mentality and extra hours of tutoring that students get until late in the evening. And let’s face it, boarding school education comes with supervised homework / study hall until 9pm every night so I’d be in favour of all that.

I think that core subjects like maths and English are important, and science and tech, so I’d want them to do well in those areas too. But I’m an advocate of the liberal arts and humanistic education, so an overarching priority for me would like to see my child being mentored and developed through all that these paradigms offer while being rounded out in debating skills and leadership training too.

I’d expect any kid of mine to be swinging through the trees like Tarzan or Jane in Forest School, climbing Kilimanjaro during the school holidays, and getting their gold Duke of Edinburgh award age 16.

I’d want my child to not be risk averse. So I’d usher them towards all the dangerous sports: skiing, skydiving, parachuting, mountaineering and more. I’d expect them to be highly competitive and go for the Olympics.

I’d like to offer my child legal and financial savvy. I’d like to empower them for high levels of personal and social success later on. If I could get them into private schools for those al important social networks I’d do it. And I’d work as hard as I could to get them into a PPE type situation at Oxbridge.

I’d like them to have the opportunity to go to INSEAD, Europe’s most high returning business school it seems.

I’d expect them to speak three or four languages minimum. Actually let’s go for all 6 United Nations languages.

And I’d want them to make the world a better place.

But then if they got to 18 and told me to shove it and that actually they just wanted to work at the local corner shop… then fine. No. Really. Their own children will give them hell for that when I get to give them the doting grandparent treatment so why worry 🙂

That would be my aspirations for my kid – what about yours?

Forthcoming conference paper: “The Innovation Imperative: Adding Fire to the Fuel of Genius in UAE Schools?’ 8th International Conference on The Future of Education, 28th-29th June 2018, Florence, Italy


This paper provides an overview of innovation strategy prioritized globally and 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.

Keywords: innovation, UAE, schools, enablers, barriers, school improvement


Webb, C. (2018). “The Innovation Imperative: Adding Fire to the Fuel of Genius in UAE Schools?’ Accepted for The 8th International Conference on The Future of Education, 28th-29th June 2018, Florence, Italy.


Learning from Sheffield’s Little Mesters: Innovation in Schools for the 4th Industrial Revolution

Learning from Sheffield’s Little Mesters: Innovation in Schools for the 4th Industrial Revolution

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme” ― Mark Twain


I’ve been developing an interest in innovation in schools recently (Webb, 2018). I skirted by innovation during my time at Cranfield University as a PhD Student and researcher, and a littler later on in academic appointment at Sheffield Hallam University. During those times my interest emerged through interactions with other colleagues whose work more closely focused on innovation, getting involved in their projects a little, and then also publishing and relating some of my own findings from research to innovation in the context of organizational learning and the people learning in them (Webb et al, 2006).

Some of the earlier work I was invited to help publish focused on innovation labs or hubs and their role in organisations and communities in forming part of the enabling culture and environment for innovation to flourish (Dvir et al, 2007; Dvir et al, 2006; Dvir et al, 2004).

Now we sit on the edge of what Schwab is calling the 4th Industrial Revolution – I am not 100% convinced by this. My skepticism rests on feeling that the claims are too grand and perhaps unsubstantiated: a bit like the dot com boom of the 90s – is there really any substance behind it? Like the dot com boom, and subsequent crash, my feeling is that there are certainly technologies emerging which are providing more diverse ways of getting things done. However, like the internet and the dot com boom, due to great social and technological inequalities, there will continue to be legacy systems and modes of practice in existence for some time to come, and rather than being a revolution that will eradicate what came before it, rather there will be complimentary ways of doing things offered, providing evermore proliferation of choice.

In this vein, and revisiting my own local history from my birth town of Sheffield, the first industrial revolution that took place there was largely instigated by what came to be known as “the Little Mesters”, as Griffiths explains:

“Between 1770 – 1850, Sheffield’s metal trades expanded prodigiously, predominantly in the areas of cutlery manufacture, silver plated goods and steel production. Industrial organisation in the metals industry during this period was generally small scale, the typical unit of production being the individual cutler in his (and occasionally her) workshop. Plating and steel production were larger operations but they still relied on small teams of skilled metal workers and bore little resemblance to the factories of the textile industry or the steel works of the later nineteenth-century”  … “independent cutlers and metal workers or small, usually family based, partnerships”.


The small teams of skilled metal workers, independent cutlers and small, family-based partnerships were the Little Mesters. The skills were based on rigorous apprenticeships grounded in technological knowledge and skills development learned through on the job training and experience side by side with master craftsmen (and sometimes women too).

This reminded me of several things in the context of the current discussion on innovation in schools and the 4th industrial revolution. Firstly, the high level technical skills being channeled into current technological innovation and advancement are based on artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the access of the masses to the use of such technology to the same degree as ever person’s access to knives and forks: the mobile phone sits on the dinner table by most meals too. Secondly, some schools are ramping up and empowering kids with the knowledge, know-how and resources to see what they can do with this stuff (Webb, 2018). Where schools are not delivering innovation labs or the right culture to do their bit to foster innovative potential among school age children, universities are now starting to fill the gaps and invite school age kids along to play anyway (Zaatari, 2018).


However, while some kids will no doubt rise to the challenge and do wonder, who will be left out? How can we make sure everyone is included? Does the future just belong to the bright and the privileged? I’m interested to see how the most underprivileged will be given access and advantage and expert mentorship as apprentices of the future of innovation that lies before us. How will you help all children to have their chance of becoming a Little Mester of the 4th Industrial Revolution?

Innovation labs as a means of preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet | BERA

Innovation labs as a means of preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet
— Read on

My latest blog post published by the British Educational Research Association

Abstract: Using Agile Project Management for Managing Regional Innovation Projects (2008). Wolf, Webb and Schweikert

Wolf, P., Webb, C., Schweikert, S. (2008). “Using Agile Project Management for Managing Regional Innovation Projects.” Full paper accepted to the 9th International CINet (Continuous Innovation Network) Conference, ‘Radical Challenges in Innovation Management’, Valencia, Spain, 5-9 September 2008.


In this paper, the authors assume that the application of Agile Project Management practices in regional innovation projects – which are seen as complex adaptive systems – would benefit the sustainability of the project outcomes and thereby the capability of a region to continuously innovate. To clarify this issue, they conducted a single case study with a project aiming towards the development of a regional innovation strategy. This paper presents the findings.

Download paper full text from

Abstract: Proposing the Need for an Integrated Diversity Agenda for European Business, Management and Social Policy at the Regional Level. By Webb, C (2008).

“Proposing the Need for an Integrated Diversity Agenda for European Business, Management & Social Policy at the Regional Level”

Submitted to and presented at the ‘Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Global Diversity Management (GDM): Mainstreaming Diversity through Effective CSR Programmes in Global Organisations’ Track of the 8th EURAM Conference, May 2008, Ljubljana & Bled, Slovenia

Dr Carol Webb

Abstract: This paper presents an overview of current thinking on the topic of diversity and diversity management. The field of concern spans the organizational context as well as the social and regional sphere and a core premise of this paper is that in order to conduct significant and effective diversity management the endeavour as a methodological starting point, approach, and any interventions must be integrated across these different units of analysis and application. This paper considers the context of the European Union, outlines the opportunities and challenges presented by diversity, and summarises recently proposed methods for diversity management which appear to offer value. The substantial gap identified presents a lack of frameworks, approaches and methods which step up to the challenge of conducting diversity management at
the integrated regional level to encompass the social as well as the organizational contexts of diversity.

Read full paper at

A Framework for UK Teacher Training and Career Progression?

A Framework for UK Teacher Training and Career Progression?

Prompted by another Tweeter this week (@MrsSpalding), I was keen to give my views on the proposed framework for UK Teacher Training and Career Progression, as put forward for consultation by the UK DfE[i] (@educationgovuk).

The main framework suggested is depicted thus:

QTS framework and career progression

My main feeling was that this was a positive step in the right direction, and the progression with implication of NPQ suite training from ML to EL levels was much needed. I believe that middle leaders and up should have this leadership training mandated – for the good of their own CPD and abilities in the job and career progression potential, as well as for the benefit of those in the profession serving under and alongside them. I currently teach MA Education Leadership & Management in HE and have experience in teaching in many settings and levels, including as a secondary school teacher. I feel everyone would benefit by having all leaders, middle level and up, take part in leadership training before being placed in a position of leadership, and definitely if newly appointed. Teachers who are good at teaching and good at having many of their students achieve well may well have leadership potential, and everyone should be given a chance to develop their leadership, but leadership training is essential. It’s the difference between having an HoD who drives a team into the ground, or just leaves them to it while they just focus on their own success, and someone on the other hand who coaches and mentors and develops all working with them so everyone is the best that they can be, on an ever improving journey, based on values that work for all. Ethical, values based leadership is the only way I’d say a school should be able to do well in a holistic manner, while considering the wellbeing of both students and staff.

However, what is missing from this framework is a range of factors. Firstly, routes into teaching are not so cut and dry. The consultation does not make mention of QTLS, which is now a legally accepted route into teaching in schools and achieved through Further Education routes of teacher/lecturer training and progression. For example, someone who ends up a teacher of design and technology or another technical subject specialism, may have come into teaching in FE via an industry first route. They might have been trained and apprenticed as a joiner, plumber, graphic designer, technical drawer, or another vocational area of expertise, and then gone into teaching in FE. They might have been trained with a TEFL/CELTA qualification and had many happy years teaching English as a foreign language abroad and then come back to the UK and got into English teaching that way. They may have then, alongside their teaching/lecturing role, worked their way through the PTLLS, CTLLS or DTLLS training suite (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector; Certificate in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector; Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector) and received accreditation for teaching in that way, alongside many years of experience in the classroom. They may have then finally completed a module with prior accredited learning to achieve a PGCE in Education and Training 14+ and then completed the SET/ETS QTLS final module that may give them parity in legal terms with teachers in state schools, legally allowing them to teach in such schools.

Are they then to be put on a scale which only recognises them as NQTs or RQTs? When they may have had many, many years industrial and teaching experience? Are they then not given any prior accreditation for any previous managerial experience that may well equate with NPQML/SL?  What recognition is there for such previous experience? This is not currently mentioned in the DfE consultation and nor is recognition easily given in educational establishments.

Other managerial and leadership qualifications should be established with parity to allow prior accreditation in this regard.

In addition, the suggested career progression routes highlighted in the above diagram give no mention of teachers stepping into teacher educator roles in ITT or ITE programmes in HE or elsewhere (Initial Teacher Training or Initial Teacher Education). Career progression might be very different and the assumed model is quite limiting and non-diverse. It is very common for many teachers to follow MA/PhD or EdD routes of professionalization and then become teacher educators in HE or other similar provided programmes. I therefore believe that the proposed model should be developed to integrate the diversity of possible routes, rather than conservatively portraying the school based teacher progression route as a university to school to headship route of progression only.

Finally, membership of the Chartered College of Teaching should be accessible from any and all stages of entry, as mentioned above. Why preclude teachers who have not reached a very precise moment in time in a restrictively estimated career progression path? I am a professional associate of the CCT, and I can only advocate membership for all – access to journal papers is such a great benefit for one thing.

My own entry into teaching and path through the profession has been very non-standard according to the above diagram. I certainly don’t feel recognised by it, which is a shame, as I think there are probably many others like me too. What of diverse paths into and beyond the school?


[i] Strengthening Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and Improving Career Progression for Teachers – see to engage in the consultation prior to the deadline of March 9th, 2018.