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GYM TIME The UAE’s newest kids’ fitness hub

ART DUBAI

The one exhibit you must visit page. 69

Emirates

Take a SEAT Are classroom desks a thing of the past?

Shaping

MINDS WHY THE ARTS AND CREATIVITY MATTER MORE THAN EVER

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CONTE N ISSUE 5 • 2018

46

upfront

12 NEWS What’s going on in UAE schools

14 ON THE COVER How Aldar Academies future-proofs students

16 TOP BUYS Must-have seasonal school supplies

20 CREATIVITY COUNTS An education expert defines “being creative”

22 THE STUDENT VIEW What one Year 11 pupil thinks of art classes

24 THE LOVE OF WORDS Isobel Abulhoul OBE shares her story

s c h o o l’ s i n

30 CREATIVE SCHOOLS

38 TAKE A SEAT

How four UAE institutions teach the arts

Ranches Primary School’s move to flexible seating

34 THE RIGHT TOOLS

42 ART IS (NOT) DEAD

Behind Dovecote Green Primary School’s ethos

Michael Lambert shares his opinion

36 THE WAY FORWARD

46 FUTURE ARTISTS

Why Early Years education is creative too

Mark Steed on technology’s role in art

50 THE SOUND OF MUSIC Are our classrooms in danger of falling silent?

inclusion

55 FULL POTENTIAL How the Arbor School defines “inclusion”

56 POWER OF SELF Uncovering art therapy in the UAE

78 98

58 GYM TIME The new kids’ gym for children of all abilities

MOOCS

b e i n g a pa r e n t

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63 THE HUMAN FACTOR A clinical psychologist’s tips on being creative at home

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NTS

72 GROUP EDITOR UA E

Katy Gillett

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF UK

Amanda Constance PUBL ISHER UA E

Amina Ahmed ž

A DV ERTISING M A NAGER

Hayden Taylor ž

A RT DIR ECTOR

Phil Couzens ž

SENIOR DESIGNER

Pawel Kuba, Linsey Cannon ž DESIGNER S

Rebecca Noonan, Catherine Perkins, ž PRODUCTION M A NAGER

Chris Couchman ž

FINA NCE DIR ECTOR

Alexandra Hvid ž

PA TO THE DIR ECTOR S

Eva Lehoczky ž DIR ECTOR S

Greg Hughes, Alexandra Hunter ž PUBL ISHING DIR ECTOR

Sherif Shaltout

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s c h o o l’ s o u t

70 SUMMER CAMPS Ten creative courses to enrol your kids on E D U C AT I ON E M I R AT E S

EDUCATION

I S S U E 5 . 2018

72 THE GREATEST GIFT

GYM TIME

I S S U E 5 . 2 01 8

Emirates

Dame Jacqueline Wilson on reading for pleasure

78 READING CORNER How to start a children’s book club

l a s t wo r d

ART DUBAI

30

The one exhibit you must visit page. 69

Are classroom desks a thing of the past?

Shaping

MINDS WHY THE ARTS AND CREATIVITY MATTER MORE THAN EVER

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F RO NT COV E R Pupils at Aldar Academies; aldaracademies.com

2018

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Take a SEAT

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82 MIKE WILSON The new Headmaster of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi

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• E D U C AT I O N E M I R AT E S •

CON T R IBU TOR S

Fiona Cottam

Principal, Hartland International School

Fiona Cottam studied for a degree in Classical Music and then pursued a career as a teacher. Now, as the Principal of Dubai’s Hartland International School, she is making sure the arts and creative subjects, including Music, are not forgotten amid all the checks, balances and exams. Turn to page 50 to read her thoughts on how the sounds of music provision are in danger of being silenced.

Mark S. Steed Director, JESS Dubai

Mark Steed is well known for his focus on making sure students are future-ready and technologically literate. This also extends to the arts, as one student from JESS Dubai just became the first person in the world to submit a piece of Virtual Reality Art as part of her IB portfolio. He tells us all about this – and why he thinks all secondary school Art departments should be pushing boundaries – from page 46.

Michael Lambert Headmaster, Dubai College

“Watching the slow and steady decline in the uptake of arts and languages subjects at GCSE feels painfully inevitable,” writes Dubai College Headmaster Michael Lambert. Yet, there are two extremely important reasons why creativity should be continually encouraged among students. Find out what these are in Lambert’s thought-provoking piece from page 42.

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We l c o m e

From the

EDITOR

M

y school days would not have been the same without the arts classes. Music, in particular, played a central role in my educational journey. It was thanks to an enthusiastic teacher, who spotted I had a knack for it, that I soon began exploring a world of melodies through guitar, piano and brass instruments. As I got older, I also fell in love with the words we came across in English Literature, and took to creative writing. Again, because of a teacher who saw potential and eagerness to learn, and looked to encourage that within me. In this issue of Absolutely Emirates Education, we feature a wide range of UAE-based Heads and Principals who are doing just that – making

Airline Festival of Literature, similarly shares her story, and how having her father come home and read to her each evening is what started her life-long love of reading. Meanwhile, on page 80, Dubai-based artist Jessica Watson-Thorp tells us how she has managed to pass on her own love of art to her four children. This issue is packed with expert advice, facts, stats and opinions on how and why the arts and creativity are still – arguably more – important in 2018. JESS Director Mark S. Steed talks about how technology now plays its part in Art (page 46). Dubai College Headmaster Michael Lambert shares two big reasons why he believes students, parents and teachers should focus on fostering creativity (page 42). Outside of the classroom, we also take a look at art therapy, and how it can help children achieve their full potential (page 56), plus Fiona McKenzie, Director of Gabbitas Education

“IT CANNOT BE EMPHASISED ENOUGH HOW IMPORTANT UNLEASHING OUR CHILDREN’S CREATIVITY IS TODAY” sure their students have access to creativity in the curriculum, and allowing them to explore and develop their individual talents. They recognise that dedicating space and time to the arts subjects is one of the most crucial ways young people develop significant skills that will apply to their personal and professional life in the future. On page 50, for example, Fiona Cottam, the Principal of Hartland International School, tells us how her own family’s love of music has changed the way she perceives education today. On page 24, Isobel Abulhoul OBE, the founder of the Emirates

Middle East, rounds up ten creative summer schools you can enrol your kids on now (page 70). It cannot be emphasised enough how important unleashing our children’s creativity is today, as the skills that appear in its wake become more and more prized in the workplace. These are the abilities that underline what it means to be human, after all. And that is something technology cannot take from us.

Kat y Gillett GROUP EDITOR

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HAPPINESS by DESIGN KHDA’s Chief of Creativity, Happiness and Innovation tells us more about its Dubai Saturday Clubs, which aim to build kids’ creative, collaborative and communication skills HIND AL MUALLA

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FOR EWOR D / K HDA

LEFT Students develop projects together RIGHT Yoga and wellbeing are also on the agenda BELOW Kids identify pressing community needs

numbers would drop steadily as each week went on. We were surprised and delighted, however, to see them turning up for all sessions, with many telling us it was the highlight of their week. Since then, more than 180 students have attended 22 workshops delivered by local social entrepreneurs and change-makers. As the name suggests the students meet on Saturdays, and learn from mentors working in design, entrepreneurship, technology and wellbeing. They work together to identify the most pressing needs of the communities they wish to serve, then design and prototype solutions that will address those needs. So far, our students have designed: an app that locks users’ social media accounts so that they can do homework without the temptation of checking their phones; a video game to increase empathy and fight racism; technology that combats air pollution by enabling different plants to grow on the sides of skyscrapers;

I

magine a space that looks nothing like school, with not a book or a uniform or a test in sight, where students from different parts of Dubai come together to design and create meaningful projects that benefit the community. That’s the idea behind Dubai Saturday Clubs, a programme that helps students to build their empathy, creativity, collaboration and communication skills – essential attributes to their current and future wellbeing and happiness. Dubai Saturday Clubs are held in a safe, supportive and happy environment and we value the uniqueness each student brings. The first of Dubai Saturday Clubs was held in March 2016 for 100 students over a six-week period. We anticipated that all students would come for the first session, and that

“The students learn from mentors working in design, entrepreneurship, technology and wellbeing” shoes with in-built sensors to improve the mobility of people with visual impairment; and a fashion collection made out of recycled materials that will be exhibited at the SIKKA Art Fair this March. We appreciate the support of the Dubai Design & Fashion Council, d3 (Dubai Design District) and the Dubai Creativity Clusters Authority, and are thankful to the UK National Art & Design Saturday Club for giving us the inspiration to start our own Saturday Clubs in Dubai. The next round of Dubai Saturday Clubs will start later this year, so keep an eye out on KHDA social media accounts for more details!

H I N D A L M UA L L A Chief of Creativity, Happiness & Innovation Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) khda.gov.ae 2018

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Up Front

WEST YAS ACADEMY, ALDAR ACADEMIES

SCHOOL NEWS P . 12 MUST-HAVE SUPPLIES P . 16 EXPERT OPINIONS P . 18

IN FUTURE

The students you see here and on the cover attend one of the Aldar Academies. We learn all about how they are being prepared for the future, from page 14.

2018

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T h e l e ga c y o f S h e i k h Z aye d

WO R L D E XC E L L E N C E Mohammed Al-Qawasmeh, a student at Brighton College Al Ain, was awarded the highest GCSE grade in the world for Arabic, it has been announced. He said: “I extremely proud of my achievement. My biggest inspiration to excel in my studies is my mother, who has a PhD in education.”

Living Arabic, an event hosted by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), brought more than 300 Arabic teachers together to discuss innovative teaching practices and to celebrate the Year of Zayed. KHDA CEO Fatma Al Marri said the themes “focused on empowering students with language skills through the use of drama in teaching Arabic, enhancing selflearning tools within the classroom and encouraging new ways to enhance communication between teachers and students while making Arabic enjoyable”.

New campus Repton School Abu Dhabi has announced the launch of a new campus on a 25,000-squaremetre plot on Al Reem Island, with capacity for 1,800 pupils. Fry Campus, which soft launched in September 2017, is currently catering to students from Years 3-6. Year 9 will be on offer from September 2018, and the school will eventually provide facilities for up to Year 13.

G R OW I N G SOMETHING G R E AT Stephen Ritz, the founder of the Green Bronx Machine, shared an inspiring talk about student health, wellness and learning at Fairgreen International School’s Open Day. Guests were also able to learn about the Million Solar Stars programme and its mission to provide solar energy to underprivileged children.

FUTURE CHANGE MAKERS Admissions are now open for the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI), which runs a four-year Bachelor of Design Degree (BDes), unique to the region. The curriculum has been created in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is firmly embedded in design thinking and creative problem solving.

B OYS ’ B OA R D I N G The first boys’ boarding house has opened at the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai (SISD), with girls’ boarding to follow in September. Students from Grades 6-11 have full-time, weekly and flexi boarding in facilities with 14 rooms for a total capacity of 100 students per house.

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls” PA B L O P I C A S S O

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UPFRON T / NEWS Top Story

Wi s h f u l thinking Greater use of technology and appropriate integration into the school curriculum are what school leaders and teachers want in their classrooms this year, according to a poll of nearly 1,000 education professionals across the Gulf by GESS Dubai.

SCHOLARSHIP O P P O RT U N I T I E S The British International School Abu Dhabi recently revealed its Senior School Academic Scholarship Programme for 2018-19 for the IB Diploma Programme. There are a number of Scholarship Awards available, which come with reduced academic fees. Senior School (Year 12) Academic Scholarships may be awarded to students applying for entry from other schools, but these are also open to students currently enrolled. Applicants must submit an application form and the scholarship examination takes place on Sunday 18 March, 2018. bisabudhabi.com, +971 (0) 2 510 0101

B E AC H CLEAN-UP RAK Recycles, an Emirates-wide recycling initiative, is conducting weekly clean-ups of Ras Al Khaimah’s beaches. Outreach co-ordinator Janet Hartenzberg, said the initiative is “inspiring people to recycle because they want to, not because they have to”. The next clean-ups take place on 24 March at Bin Majid Beach and 4 April on Rams Beach. janet.h@wm.rak.ae

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”

Yo u n g I n n ova t o r s A team of five students from ADNOC Schools reached first place in Etihad Airways’ Artificial Intelligence Competition. The winning team, A.I.rlines, created Murshid, an intelligent “chatbot” that acts as a personal assistant optimising transit passengers’ experience via a mobile app.

E D WA R D D E B O N O

SOMETHING THEY SAID

“Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it’s produced the most extraordinary results in human culture” KEN ROBINSON

2018

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UPFRON T / OPINION

T

his issue of Absolutely Education Emirates is all about creativity, as this is what will drive the future. That is why, on the cover, you will find students from Aldar Academies, one of the UAE’s leading education providers. Its schools and faculty understand they must gain a calculated understanding of the direction society and economies are moving in, in order to ensure they are preparing students adequately for the future. Here, Michelle Forbes, Director of Special Projects at Aldar Academies, explains how...

STEAM-powered education

I

t is undeniable that the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) skills are playing a hugely transformative role in global economies. As a result, education providers must shape their curricula around these disciplines, thereby inspiring students to pursue a career in a highly in-demand field, while equipping them to succeed once there. To this end, one very effective method is project-based learning (PBL), which tasks students with solving real-world problems

ABOVE West Yas Academy has created a STEAM Innovation Room for all students

On the COVER

There are three important ways Aldar Academies is future-prooďŹ ng its students MICHELLE FORBES

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“Through closer collaboration with their teachers and peers, students’ soft skills are strengthened” in class. For example, students may be asked to devise new ways in which a coastal city can mitigate the threat of rising tides. Through collaboration between teachers, this challenge might be tackled across the subjects of Geography, Science, and IT, bringing a deeper understanding of how the STEAM subjects relate to each other. At Aldar Academies West Yas Academy, our American Massachusetts State Curriculum school, we have created a STEAM Innovation Room for this reason, where all students have the freedom to explore and experiment.

Soft skills and hard workers

I

n tomorrow’s working world, where automation is handing manual jobs over to technology, the combination of STEAM expertise and soft skills will be hugely influential. Here, industries benefit from the emotional reasoning of the human mind alongside the efficiency of tech-driven ways of working. To develop soft skills, education providers are shifting their pedagogy – the art of teaching – towards a method known as “flipped learning”. Instead of dictating knowledge at the head of the class, the teacher would record learning content as video, image or text for

ABOVE & LEFT The performance and creative arts is also a focus RIGHT Collaboration is important at Aldar Academies

students to study as homework – hence the “flipped” element. Students would then bring this knowledge back into the classroom and apply it to problem solving, under the supervision of the teacher. Here, the student is in charge of applying theory using independent and critical thinking, interpersonal communication, and problem solving, but with guidance.

Creating citizens of the world

F

inally, technology has built bridges between continents and metaphorically “shrunk” the world, meaning businesses can operate effectively across borders and time zones. It is now normal to encounter people from different cultures and backgrounds in the work environment, and to thrive students should grow as global citizens. Schools have an important role to play here, starting with instilling values of tolerance, respect and equality from the earliest age. This is especially important for a diverse international school community like Aldar Academies. We teach a cohort of more than 100 different nationalities, so respect and tolerance of others must exist.

One way to achieve this is to give the curriculum an international dimension. Here, the content of lessons such as History, English Literature and Geography would be tailored for an international context, to help students understand foreign perspectives on the subjects. An emphasis on bilingualism only strengthens this understanding. The future is for our students to shape, and, although education providers cannot predict it, we have an obligation to prepare our students for whatever lies in store.

M I C H E L L E FO R B E S Director of Special Projects Aldar Academies 2018 | E D U C AT I O N E M I R AT E S | 15

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E M I R AT E S E D U C AT I O N

TOP BUYS HERSCHEL

Pop Quiz Meadow Kids Lunchbox, AED139; virginmegastore.ae

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS Erasable pens (4), AED31.50; mumzworld.com

OHH DEER

Introverts HeartHey Everyone A5 Notebook [Pack of 2], AED39; virginmegastore.ae

OOLY

Switch-eroo colour-changing markers, AED42; mumzworld.com

GUESS

KUKUKID

GUESS Kids Spring 2018 Collection, Prices vary; guess.com

Grey beanie, AED95; littlewren.com

STUCK ON YOU

Write On Stick-On Shoe labels, Prices vary; stuckonyou.ae

Spring supplies Fun and functional items for fashionable school kids

LITTLE LULU’S

Molly shoes, AED220; littlewren.com

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SELFIE CLOTHING Superhero Colour-In Cape, AED125; littlewren.com

2018

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UPFRON T / SHOPPING

THE 3DOODLER

Essential Pen Set, AED319; virginmegastore.ae

KORES

5-Piece Finger-paint set (150ml) and Kromas Colouring Pencils (6 pieces), AED59; aceuae.com

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS

Slow-rising squishy toys, AED36.75; mumzworld.com

ROLL’EAT

Boc’n’Roll Square Green Lunch Kit, AED65; virginmegastore.ae

STUCK ON YOU

Back to School Backpack, AED195; stuckonyou.ae

GO STATIONERY

Monochrome Bark Exercise Book, AED39; virginmegastore.ae

LITTLE MISSY

Girls’ shoes, AED89; shoemartstores.com

Editor’s pick

BAN.DO

Gel Yeah Gel Pen Set Metallics, AED75; virginmegastore.ae

IF

Children’s Electronic Dictionary Bookmark, AED157.50; mumzworld.com

2018

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UPFRON T / OPINION

WHY ARTS MATTER A personal viewpoint from the Director of Arts at the BBC

I

t is fair to say my parents were under the moon when I told them I wanted to study Art at A-Level. With English Literature, History and Philosophy already lined up, it was clear I was never going to find the cure for cancer or save the British car industry. But having encouraged me to while away many an hour in art galleries throughout my childhood, they were aware it was their fault as much as mine, and it would be hypocritical to stand in the way. I was lucky enough to go to a school that was supportive of arts subjects, but was still aware of that strange hierarchy which so often puts more value on the sciences and mathematics. There was even a first division class for those who excelled at those subjects. I could not explain why this was the case: the arts were what I was good at, while my brain shut down at the mere thought of Double Physics. Why should what one child is good at be valued differently than another? There is ample space in the world – and need – for us all.

“Art is what survives, telling future generations what it was like to be human” Through the arts I learned two essential skills that seem to me as indispensable as anything else. The first is how to empathise. I was drawn to books, paintings, music, cinema because they presented alternate realities, different ways of being. The arts made me feel empowered, like I could make choices; that I could live simultaneously in the world, in my head and in the minds of others. The arts take you out of yourself

J O N T Y C L AY P O L E

school or university, most of us have to quickly shape our interests into skills and tasks somebody might want to pay us to do. The important thing is that you are good at it and studying the arts enabled me to excel in ways I could never have imagined if compelled to plug away at Science and Maths. Education is surely about listening, watching and encouraging children to follow their talents as much as pedagogically plying them with the stuff we think they ought to know – it is the former that will ultimately help them to fulfilment and success. I bring this conviction to work every day at the BBC and see it as my job to use broadcasting to ensure children, teenagers and adult learners like me do not A B OV E get left out. BBC does this and allow you to look back at your own Jonty Claypole is with children’s programmes life – and when you do that you can escape Director of Arts using storytelling, music, the ruts and stride out on new paths. Yes, at the BBC craft and film-making. better career paths, too. And it is the spirit behind And if this sounds a bit airy-fairy still, Civilisations – a major series presented by let me be more material: the arts taught me Mary Beard, David Olusoga and Simon how to write, by which I mean construct Schama looking at the history of art from an argument and articulate complex ideas the dawn of human history to the present – rather than flowery prose (although I have which launches on BBC Two in March. time for that too). Over the last 20 years of Art is what survives, telling future my career, I have come to believe this most generations what it was like to be human at elementary of skills is also the rarest and a certain place and point in time. It is, more I’ve seen individual after individual soar than anything, at the heart of our human because they are able to do what so few story. While my A-Level art work, boxed others can: express themselves clearly away in that attic room where it belongs, and persuasively. may not be part of that story, it was central If my parents were concerned I would to my discovery of the developmental and spend my life making collages in the attic mind-expanding vitality of art and culture room or contemplating, like the philosopher – and that is as worthy as anything else of a Heidegger, “the thingness of the thing”, they place in our syllabuses. need not have worried. On emerging from

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C R E AT I V I T Y

COUNTS An education expert talks about the difference between the arts and being creative at school, and why the latter is so important... Wo r d s F I O N A M C K E N Z I E I l l u s t ra t i o n PHIL COUZENS

T

he days when your children come home buzzing with excitement about something they have learned are the days you know they have truly engaged with a topic. Perhaps they spent the school day as Romans. Suddenly, there is nothing they don’t know about what the Romans wore, ate, drank or talked about. Yes, making that costume might have been a chore, but suddenly it is all worth it when you see what a memorable experience it has been for your child. Sir Ken Robinson, the renowned British author and creativity guru, would be proud, as that – right there – is creativity in the curriculum. It is far more memorable to actually “experience” being Roman, than being “taught” about it. The children will have had the opportunity to research Roman food, cook some ancient delicacies, work out how Romans sat at a banquet, and even speak some Latin. They have not only learnt about a historical topic, but also acquired

“It is far more memorable to actually ‘experience’ being Roman, than being ‘taught’ about it” valuable life skills by creating their own understanding and appreciation of how the Romans lived. They get the opportunity to use their creative voice to act out the parts, acquire some contextual knowledge and perhaps some technical skills, working collaboratively with their classmates and then sharing it with you on the car ride home. Many of us fall into the trap of thinking that creativity is the preserve of the arts, and can only be acquired through activities such as drama, dance, music and creative arts. Of course these subjects do give multiple opportunities to develop different talents and skills, but being creative is about playing with ideas and this can equally be done in a

number of subjects, including Maths, Science and Technology. Educationists appreciate the vital role of creativity across the curriculum and – within the sometimes-rigid confines of an assessment-driven curriculum – there is recognition that the “academic” way is not the only way to learn. For many children, approaching traditional subjects in different ways can fire up their curiosity. Encouraging them to look at things from a different angle and to try things they would not expect to do in lessons can draw children into learning. Di Latham, an experienced primary school teacher, talks about using the stimulus of Sir Michael Morpurgo’s novel Kensuke’s Kingdom. “From reading this one book we had children working out how to build a shelter, and then writing an instruction manual on how to do it, painting in the Japanese style, producing Haiku poetry, and writing a diary about living on a desert island.” The children who thrived on the practical tasks, she says, learned about teamwork and decision-making, and found writing an instruction manual much easier

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UPFRON T / OPINION

“Organisations everywhere say they need people who can think creatively” once they worked out how to create the structure. The less able scribes loved keeping the diary as they could write freely in their own style. Having gained confidence, they were better able to tackle more complex writing tasks. Professor Guy Claxton, the originator of Building Learning Power, explains: “Students who are confident in their own learning ability learn faster and better”. Thomas Friedman, author of The World Is Flat, says those people with the imagination “to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers and new ways to combine existing technologies” will thrive. While education is not a linear path, with the sole aim of preparing children for the future, one of its roles is to ensure that people are equipped with the skills they will need to earn a living. And one of the most marketable skills this future generation will need is creativity. As Sir Ken Robinson explains: “the real driver of creativity is an appetite for discovery and a passion for the world itself”. This takes us back to the Romans… The children engaged on a journey of discovery and became passionate about this topic. They might have thought they were learning about the Romans, but, in fact, they were learning about research, collaboration, teamwork, communication, decision making, adapting to new circumstances and being creative. These are the skills that will give them the best opportunities in the future.

FIONA MCKENZIE Director Gabbitas Education Middle East 2018 | E D U C AT I O N E M I R AT E S | 21

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UPFRON T / THE STUDEN T V IE W

One of Hannah’s favourite hubs for art is the Louvre in Paris, France

Art in Retrospect

One Year 11 student tells us why she thinks keeping the arts in education is crucial to developing students’ confidence and learning

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HANNAH DUALE

n hindsight, I have realised the profound effect studying art has had on my thinking patterns. Through those many hours of painting in that calm and focused art classroom, I really honed my imaginative and creative skills. Academics are all very well, but the skills required to create a beautiful picture on canvas cannot be learnt from textbooks. The intense focus of creating art out of a blank A4 page was a real part of my education. The creativity and discipline I developed in this aspect only benefitted me in the long term. Yes, visiting the Tate and the Louvre (I highly recommend visiting) is a lot more pleasant after art lessons. But, also, as I near my GCSEs, the perspective that Art gave me – along with the discipline, commitment and attention to detail – was crucial. My one regret is not pursuing this subject further, but art can also be a

“Academics are all very well, but the skills required to create a beautiful picture on canvas cannot be learnt from textbooks”

therapeutic pastime after school. The confidence students gain from the Performance Arts is simply irrefutable. Students have the lowest self-esteem especially in KS3. However, being able to really relax and confidently act is an important part of strengthening your character. I am familar with – and I am sure you are, too – unconfident students that resort to conformity. However, a single lesson where individuality is championed is really beneficial to students. This is a class where it does not matter how small everyone’s role is, and that can be both endearing and motivating to a student. Personally, I found that not only does it help individuals grow but it also helps the class cohesion. Furthermore, the confidence and the emotional intelligence last much longer than your lesson. Throughout my years studying Music in school, too, I have gained invaluable skills that will stay with me for life. I learnt a thorough appreciation for melody, allowing me to fully enjoy trips to the opera and ballet. Writing music, as well as analysing the works of great musicians, really taught me something about positive critique. Also, though Music is not a traditionally “academic” subject, there is a considerable amount of hard work involved, and a large degree of commitment. Nowadays, education has become a more exam-based, memory-dependent system. So, the rise of mindfulness and the focus on the therapeutic benefits of the arts subjects, in my belief, is not just a short-lived trend. The ability for students to mentally recharge and yet still be productive is unquestionably valuable. And weekly arts lessons give students an ability to find a release in a calm environment. Essentially, the learning of the arts helps to create a balance between the left and right sides of the brain, making students more productive in the long-run.

H A N N A H D UA LE Year 11 student at Repton Dubai agirlspenandpaperblog.wordpress.com

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The Arbor School in Al-Furjan provides a high standard of education based on the National Curriculum for England, which is enriched with a compassionate and ethical outlook focused on eco-literacy, sustainability and environmental justice. This vision will be embedded within the curriculum of the Arbor School and reflected in every lesson and task. Through project-based, experiential and outdoor learning, children will make meaningful changes to the world around them in a fully inclusive and supportive environment. Arbor will also benefit from both a scientist and artist in residence, who will inspire the whole school community to think and act differently. In support of this vision, the school boasts top-class facilities, using climate controlled biodomes and learning gardens as key educational spaces to engage children in a richer and deeper understanding of their ecology and environment.* C

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ISOBEL ABULHOUL A woman who has spent a lifetime promoting education, reading and writing

For the LOVE of WORDS Emirates Airline Festival of Literature founder Isobel Abulhoul OBE speaks to Absolutely Education about ten years of celebrating the world’s literary heroes K AT Y G I L L E T T

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UPFRON T / EMIR ATES A IR LINE FESTI VA L OF LITER ATUR E

At any point in time, there are two Emirates Airline Festival of Literature events being planned. It takes 18 months to pull just one together, due to its sheer scale and size. The festival was founded in 2009, by self-confessed bookworm Isobel Abulhoul OBE, with 65 authors in attendance, and, this year, from 1-10 March, it sees more than 185 celebrated literary talents fly in to Dubai from 37 nations across the world to educate its 44,000-plus visitors. “Each year, we have different ingredients in our festival cake,” Abulhoul creatively explains. “Those ingredients come together and it somehow or another dictates the shape of the festival. So, the programme is

category for students of determination in the Poetry for All competition. And the team has revealed For the Love of Words, which sees the best performance poets from the UK and the UAE share the Dubai Opera stage in a one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-seen-again event. It was Abulhoul’s own love of words that originally inspired the now-mammoth festival in the first place. “I remember I used to wait for my father to get home, around a quarter to six, and I’d be sitting by the front door waiting to go to bed so he could read to me,” she reminisces, recounting her childhood in Cambridge, England, where she grew up before coming to the UAE in 1968. “We were library-goers – we went every week – and apparently I could read by the time I was three... I never looked back. “I still read at least two books a week – and that’s just books for grown-ups. I now have grandchildren, so I read a huge number of children’s books, too.” Children’s writers are among Abulhoul’s favourites, which is why the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature features such a strong line-up in the Children’s Programme each year (this time the likes of Dame Jacqueline

never met after her parents and servants die from cholera. “It just said to me – at quite a young age – that we have the power to change what we do, and to change ourselves. “It’s those sorts of characters that have flaws and that are real in ways we can recognise that are so appealing.” As someone who has spent most of her adult life promoting education, reading and writing, Abulhoul believes more could still be done to instill a love of literature in kids, particularly at school. “I think it’s really important in primary schools that the day ends with reading a story.” She says having a teacher read a chapter of longer books to children of all reading abilities every day will have a great and wide-reaching impact. Besides the advantages for cognitive and listening skills, “it’s been proven that within six minutes of reading, or being read to, your heart beat and stress levels lower. That’s a great way for children to end their day.” The onus is not just on the schools, however, as parents also need to work to encourage their children to love words, she says. It does not matter what medium you or your child prefer – physical novels, tablets or

“ONCE YOU READ FOR PLEASURE YOU WILL ABSORB A HUGE AMOUNT OF KNOWLEDGE AND VOCABULARY” always different every single year because the ingredients are different.” We’re sat in a small courtyard at the charming, coral-hued offices of the Emirates Literature Foundation, which are nestled in the nostalgic, maze-like Al Shindagha Historical Neighbourhood, Dubai. Abulhoul sips on a lemon and ginger tea, as she speaks easily and eloquently, in a matter-of-fact manner, about running one of the biggest events on the UAE’s annual calendar. “For 2018, it’s our 10th anniversary, and we will be celebrating that throughout the festival.” Each year, there are myriad workshops, storytelling sessions, panel discussions, keynote speeches, writing competitions and a range of other activities across the adults’, children’s and educational programmes. For this edition, the team has introduced University Day – aimed at students across the Gulf, Egypt and Jordan – and also included a new non-competitive performance

Wilson, David Walliams, Tony Ross and Anthony Horowitz feature). “They are the cleverest of writers, those who can write a children’s book that’s going to be enjoyed by the adult who’s reading it and the child as well.” There is no need for the book to be particularly educational, either, she says. “Reading should be pleasurable. Because once you read for pleasure, by default you are going to absorb a huge amount of knowledge and vocabulary. So any child who grows up in a house where there are books, where his or her parents read to them daily, by the time they start school they’ll have a head-start.” Also, she adds, children who love reading become more empathetic. Abulhoul remembers the first book to have an impact on her, when she was around seven years old. It was the 1911 classic The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the story of a sickly, spoiled and selfish 10-yearold girl who is sent to live with an uncle she’s

even audiobooks – “I think you’ve got to find what works for you and remember there is no one size fits all. “There is a book for every child, but it might not be the obvious one. You have to work as a parent, teacher, school or librarian to find the right book for every child. Because once they’ve found that book, they’ll be off.” Of course, events such as the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature will also continue to encourage young readers, and the next ten years look promising, particularly due to the strong sense of community that has been fostered over the past decade. “People recognise this is a special treat and they support it,” concludes Abulhoul. “Ultimately, we want to make sure that the festival is as accessible as possible, everyone is included and we spread the word as far as we can.” emirateslitfest.com 2018

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UPFRON T / ISL A M

A Global

TREASURE Discover one of the world’s oldest surviving Islamic manuscripts at the latest Birmingham Qu’ran exhibition in Dubai’s Design District K AT Y G I L L E T T

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first-of-its-kind, interactive digital exhibition hit the Sharjah International Book Fair and Abu Dhabi’s Umm Al Emarat Park a few months ago, introducing visitors to the fascinating story of the Birmingham Qur’an. Now it is coming to Dubai’s Design District, from 19 April to 3 May. The Birmingham Qur’an, which can be found at the UK’s University of Birmingham, is part of the institution’s Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts. It is written in Hijazi, an early form of Arabic script, and consists of two leaves containing parts of surahs (chapters) 18 and 20. It was radiocarbon dated to the early seventh century, making it one of the earliest examples of the Islamic holy book in existence, according to the university. This touring exhibition – organised by the University of Birmingham in partnership with the British Council and with the support of the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development – allows you to explore this treasured fragment of history in digital form, as well as see a detailed replica of the holy script. It also includes an education programme, with talks,

“The exhibition includes an education programme, with talks, workshops and tours for students and the general public”

ABOVE RIGHT See a detailed replica of the holy script ABOVE The UAE exhibition tour started in Sharjah

workshops and tours for students and the general public. Alongside an accompanying immersive electro-acoustic soundtrack and free calligraphy workshops for children, it is also possible to take a free four-week online course, titled the Birmingham Qur’an: Its Journey from the Islamic Heartlands, which discovers its origins and has been developed by the team looking after the manuscript at the University’s Cadbury Research Library. It will take you through topics, such as: how the manuscript ended up at the University of Birmingham; how it relates to the development of the Arabic written tradition; the conservation and care of historic manuscripts; the value of these sources as a resource for research; other historic manuscripts of the Mingana

Collection; and the ethics of collecting from different cultures. It is a must for anyone who has an interest in the history of religious texts, the study of Islam, manuscript culture and Islamic arts in particular. Professor Sir David Eastwood, the University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor, commented: “The Birmingham Qur’an manuscript is of huge significance to Muslim heritage and the academic study of Islam. We are immensely proud to host such a treasure. “Together with the development of our campus in Dubai, this exhibition symbolises the University’s deep commitment to working with partners in the UAE to enhance academic opportunities and cultural understanding.” 2018

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www.jess.sch.ae

#FutureReady

+971 4 3619019

CONNECT

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22/01/2018 17/01/2018 15:23 08:45


School’s In

DOVECOTE GREEN PRIMARY SCHOOL, DUBAI

CREATIVE SCHOOLS P . 30 EARLY YEARS P . 36 WHY ARTS MATTER P . 42

I N N O VAT E

We visit Dovecote Green Primary School – where they just wrapped up Creativity and Innovation Week – and learn more about its specific teaching methodologies (page 34).

2018

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B EHIND

SCHO OL G ATES Absolutely Education Emirates explores how four UAE schools are teaching the arts... K AT Y G I L L E T T

CRANLEIGH ABU DHABI

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he Abu Dhabi branch of world-renowned institution, Cranleigh, has a strong focus on the arts and, in particular, performance. In fact, it recently worked with the British Schools in the Middle East (BSME) to host the first-ever Dance Invitational. Natassja Williams, Cranleigh’s Head of Dance, tells us more… What was this event all about? The event, under the theme “Seen and Unseen”, is designed to bring together schools from across the region to develop their technical, expressive and performance dance skills, celebrating the importance and power of dance as a performance art. Teams from schools in Oman, Pakistan, Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi (over 100 children) arrived at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi on Thursday 22 February and spent the weekend in a mixture of workshops and performances. Four professional practitioners led the workshops. Q A

What does the theme mean? We chose “Seen and Unseen” for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it is non-prescriptive. In other words, it is patently open to artistic interpretation and that is exactly what we wanted. Our ambition was that it would act as a creative catalyst to get everyone thinking about the complexities of life and how this can be explored through the medium of dance. The Cranleigh dancers have focused on the contradicting and contrasting themes of power and freedom; individuality and limitations; restrictions and parameters. A second reason we chose the theme was to stress the power of the “unseen” element of the creative process. For an audience, the “seen” part of a performance is what happens on stage. However, when young people are creating a dance, it is not solely about the outcome. A significant part of the learning happens before the performance makes it on to the stage – through the incredible journey they go on individually and as a group, when they are devising and rehearsing their performance. It is this journey that really Q A

CRANLEIGH ABU DHABI

The school recently ran the first-ever Dance Invitational with BSME

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UPFRON T / CR E ATI V E SCHOOLS

“A significant part of the learning happens before the performance makes it on to the stage” helps children to think about and respond to the world around them with empathy and insight. Understanding the thought process behind each school’s interpretation of the theme was fascinating and enlightening for everyone, helping to open all of our minds to new perspectives and cultural nuance while hopefully underlining the fact that the most important of human values are shared and universal.

DUBAI COLLEGE

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he arts has a central place within the Dubai College [DC] community”, says Alan Crawford, Head of Academic Music, SLE Action Research. “In an age where all too often, testing and targets have become the staple of mainstream education, creative arts are a way to transcend this box of obsessive measurement and, at the same time, offer an invaluable source of pleasure. “In this article, we could celebrate our many alumni who have had successful international careers as actors, musicians and artists, including Tom-Weston Jones and Dinuk Wijeratne. We could alternatively point to DC’s winnings in a plethora of competitions, including F1 in Schools, Young Musician of the

DUBAI COLLEGE

An Art student working on her piece during Open Day

DUBAI COLLEGE

The school’s 40th anniversary production of Guys & Dolls

Gulf and ChoirFest. Instead, more than these remarkable achievements, what is most important to us is how all our students, of whichever level, are engaged and enriched through the arts. At individual, collective, college and (wider) community levels, our arts programmes have an impact. “We both nurture and celebrate the capacity of the individual to create and self-express. Each student entering the college has the opportunity through our Beginner Band programme to learn an instrument from scratch. At the other end of the spectrum, this year we have had a student compose a piece for a full symphony orchestra, which he trained the senior orchestra to play, and then successfully conducted them in a recent concert. Aside from this, our gamut of ensembles, concerts and diversity of music covered fosters wide and inclusive participation. “Moving beyond what is arranged by the Music staff, students are central to the shaping of the department. They often form their own ensembles and can be heard jamming, practising and improvising when rehearsal spaces are available. Indeed, the Sixth Form take it upon themselves to organise and run events such as Music, Charity, Love. This is a real feat and contribution to our school community and philanthropic causes beyond our confines.

“Artists are constantly questioning what art is, and challenging what art can be. We approach art as ‘process’, rather than ‘product’. We are concerned with the doing; the gathering, thinking, sorting and collating; researching and associating; and looking, experimenting and playing. Originality and independence of thought is paramount – students learn to think and act as artists while also learning to appreciate other works, and to understand the context in which they are made. “Meanwhile, Drama and Theatre further encourage imagination, empathy and reflection. In this department, collaboration is at the core of the skills and experiences that are drawn upon, with students working together to explore diverse texts, characters, themes and emotions. Stepping into the lives and feelings of others empowers our young people to develop their sense of self. Through creation, performance and evaluation, students can both practise the skills of the art form and then challenge the underlying meaning, equipping them with the necessary tools to begin deconstructing the multiple forms of media that dominate the modern world. From discrete lessons to large-scale productions, DC Drama inspires confidence, imagination and critical thinking in all our students.”

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UPFRON T / CR E ATI V E SCHOOLS

GEMS DUBA I A MER IC A N AC A DEM Y

DESS & DESC

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he diversity and strength of the arts programmes at Dubai English Speaking School (DESS) and Dubai English Speaking College (DESC) are well known, as they cover everything from KS1 choirs and clarinet lessons to full school drama productions and Drama and Theatre Studies or Music and Music Technology at A-Level. Sarah Kelly, Head of Performing Arts at DESC, says: “The Performing Arts faculty promotes a lifelong relationship with the arts that enhances, challenges and inspires both the individual and the community. The Performing Arts Department at DESC is a highachieving, vibrant, and creative environment.... We hope to provide diverse and quality opportunities for artistic experiences, inspiring participation in the creation and appreciation of the arts. We hope that students are able to explore the potential for artistic activities to enhance learning across all areas and promote high levels of participation in extra-curricular arts activities. Furthermore, we hope to maintain the highest academic, artistic, and ethical standards during the cultivation of creativity and continuous personal and professional growth of our students.” Clare Hall, Head of Art at DESC, explains: “Art is important at DESC because it develops a visual literacy so important in our digital-rich world. It allows students to understand how to make aesthetic decisions and think creatively. Students become mini-project managers in their ability to form a starting point, develop, experiment and reach solutions. At DESC, Art is the perfect vehicle to develop our students in a more holistic capacity, in relation to the Super Sixteen skills that are so inherent in our school ethos; skills such as the ability to reflect, refine, experiment, investigate and invent.” Tracey Wilding, the Founder and Artistic Director of Dubai English Speaking Performing Arts Academy (DESPA), says: “We are especially proud to be the first school in the Middle East to have our

K D E S PA

DESSC’s performing arts academy explores drama, dance and singing

“We are the first school in the Middle East to have our very own Performing Arts Academy”

very own in-house Performing Arts Academy. DESPA offers outstanding education in Musical Theatre and the Performing Arts, for children at DESS and DESC. We offer a carousellearning environment, covering all three of the disciplines: drama, dance and singing. We have students performing together, from as young as three to our A-Level students, and we strive to build confidence and give students opportunities to perform in school and within the Dubai community. Highly experienced and qualified staff members, who all have backgrounds within the Performing Arts industry, teach our classes. DESPA Academy continues to provide a fun and inspiring environment, nurturing confidence and developing skills for life.”

ate Acheson, the Head of Arts at GEMS Dubai American Academy, shares more about the school’s focus on the arts. “In order for a school to have a fully flourishing community the arts need to be ever present in the ethos and physical space of the school. It gives everyone a sense of the ‘whole’ child and provides a platform to show how students can push the limits of their creativity. A school without a serious approach to Arts does not plan for the holistic development of the child or the challenges of the modern world where creation is paramount. Each project, play or performance is built to provide students with the structure, skills and ability to succeed within their area of focus. “Taking an active part in the arts involves exploring the real world through research, field trips and workshops where students learn about societies, cultures and countries. Our Theatre department is going to Cambodia, where they will explore Cambodian history and take a visit to The Killing Fields. Based on their experiences, they will devise and create a piece of theatre with local artists trying to understand what happened. We are also taking a collaborative IB trip to Japan where Art, Music and Business students will explore different cultural elements of this forward-thinking country. Throughout the lead up and during the trip we will pull our knowledge and skills from each subject area to create an exhibition exploring cultural structure upon return.”

GEMS E D U C AT I O N

Music and the arts is a focus for many GEMS schools in the UAE

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The RIGHT TOOLS Dovecote Green Primary School is preparing its 21st-century learners for the future through creativity, innovation and thinking maps… K AT Y G I L L E T T

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e take a tour of Dovecote Green Primary School in Dubai Investments Park during half term. The wide, welcoming hallways and cosy classrooms may be quiet, but the colourful remnants of a productive Creativity and Innovation Week remain stuck to the walls and hanging from the ceilings. “We wanted to give the children a big voice in terms of where they wanted to take the learning in their classes,” Principal Patrick Affley tells us when explaining the project, which centred on Dubai’s World Islands. It all began in an assembly, when one student from each class was able to randomly pick the name of an island from a hat. “We had the Rainforest Island or an island on stilts, for example,” Affley says. They then all went back to their classrooms and decided, with their teacher, what they were going to learn the following week. “Basically, the children then had a mind map of the things they wanted to do, and the teachers cross-referenced that with age-appropriate work.” That week, the children did an incredible range of activities – they created artwork, dances and stories; made job descriptions 34

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“When children have more ownership of what they’re doing, the more interested and more focused they are” for people who lived on the island; designed flags; even developed trade links with other islands. “They really took it off in all sorts of directions, and the teacher was more of a facilitator,” Affley adds. “What I saw, when walking around, was that every child in every class was completely integrated. It just showed that when children have more ownership of what they’re doing, the more interested and more focused they are.” While this might have been the idea behind one special week, taking a creative and innovative approach is not abnormal for Dovecote Green Primary School, Affley explains. “We consider ourselves a ‘thinking

school’… and that means using a variety of thinking tools in lessons with the children, making a common language and framework for them and their teachers to use.” In order to do this, the school has brought in the Habits of Mind, which identifies the 16 learning habits of children – including persisting, thinking flexibly, striving for accuracy, questioning and posing problems, and applying past knowledge to new situations – and these skills have been integrated into the curriculum. Teachers are also trained to use Bloom’s Taxonomy, the Six Thinking Hats system, and the school has recently introduced Thinking Maps, too. With the latter, the maps are visual representations of eight thinking skills, and use a common framework to organise the children’s ideas in a systematic way. “It is a dynamic tool based on a clear conceptual framework that can be used by any age group, is crosscurricular and, perhaps most importantly for our staff, is a tool that they could see immediately benefits their teacher and their pupils’ learning. “Our idea is that we teach the children how to think and then the children can think how to learn. You can’t just tell the children how to think, you need to give them the skills first. Then they learn to use those across the subjects.”

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SCHOOL’S IN / DOV ECOTE GR EEN PR IM A RY SCHOOL

ABOVE Pupils get the chance to work in groups and individually RIGHT Dovecote Green will soon The linking of subjects open a nursery and is another cornerstone of secondary school Dovecote Green’s methodology, and there will often be a focus on topics and themes throughout the year, such as Creativity and Innovation. Another example is FS2’s current assignment – Under the Sea. “We don’t feel these topics should be taught in isolation. Children learn better when it’s linked to something meaningful to them.” In action, this means various which is much smaller by comparison to teachers will get together every half-term other institutions across the UAE – beyond to see how their subjects can be connected the colourful classwork we are also struck through the chosen theme, and that can by a strong sense of community. include everything from Art to PE, and “I want Dovecote Green to be a beacon Maths to Music – to name a few. school in Dubai,” Affley asserts. “A school It does not matter if we are talking about that other schools can come to and learn Moral Education, the Dubai Inclusive from, and vice versa.” It might have Education Framework Policy or even only been three years since it officially the school’s focus on Islamic Studies, opened, but the student population has adaptability, creativity and critical thinking been growing exponentially ever since, are clearly important principles at Dovecote so Affley’s ambitions for the future are Green. As we walk through the school –

perhaps not unattainable, particularly as they also plan to open a nursery and secondary school in the very near future. Soon, students from 18 months right through to 18 years old will be able benefit from this specific teaching methodology, allowing those children to learn it from a young age. This will also enable the school to more easily and comprehensively track each child’s progress. Because that is what is most important, Affley concludes. “It’s all about progress.” 2018

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SCHOOL'S IN / E A R LY Y E A R S

THE WAY FORWARD An expert talks about the benefits of creativity in Early Years education, and why it is not just academic rigour that matters when you are choosing a school

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are all examples of creativity. These mental processes are defined as creative learning. Further characteristics include questioning and challenging, exploring ideas, reflecting on ideas and outcomes, and making new and useful connections. Imagine if your child was always taught Maths and Science by rote and they had no

“All children are born with an innate curiosity that can be developed through creative learning” experience of how to apply these subjects practically. The ability to problem-solve or develop practical applications effectively would be missing. This leaves a child without a vital part of their mental toolkit. All children are born with an innate curiosity that can and should be developed through creative learning. We cannot ignore the benefits of the arts, and related creative

l The Montessori Method and The Reggio Emilia Approach A number of nurseries in Dubai follow Maria Montessori’s Method. This nurtures creative learning as the core principle of its approach. Children are encouraged to explore topics that capture their imagination, allowing them to question and think for themselves. Meanwhile, the Reggio Emilia curriculum, which is found in some nursery schools in the UAE, recognises that children are born with an innate sense of creativity, which needs to be nurtured. Reggio Emilia practitioners make children very much part of their own learning structure and realise that it is important within their learning to allow them to make mistakes. This allows them to be free of the fear of failing and thus explore original thought more often.

PRIMARY CURRICULA

S O P H I E OA K E S

t is all too easy when choosing a school to consider its academic prowess over everything else. Even with the wide range of nurseries in the UAE, many parents consider how much academia their child is going to achieve. “Will they be able to count to 20?” “Will my child be able to read by the age of four or five?” Far less consideration is given to creativity within Early Years education by parents. Most deliberation is invariably focused on the oldest child. They are, in effect, the guinea pigs and, subconsciously, the hopes and dreams of the parents are often resting on the shoulders of the first born – certainly before number two is considered. We often see children being slightly pigeonholed into what their parents want or believe their child to be and, as a result, emphasis is placed too heavily on one strand of the entire educational spectrum. This is a major oversight, as creativity plays a huge part in Early Years education and is an essential component of any child’s development. But what is creativity? It is often thought to be solely about the arts. This, of course, is partially true, but creativity can also be applied in areas such as Science and Maths. Finding practical solutions for scientific problems, or musing on a theory,

NURSERY CURRICULA

disciplines, on so many areas of a child’s development. Making a “pasta necklace” is not solely for Mummy’s jewellery box, as it also helps children develop their fine motor skills (while they concentrate deeply on putting a piece of macaroni onto some string). This exercise in concentration and fine threading is cultivating necessary skills for the next stage of development, such as learning to write. Meanwhile, dancing and sports help children with their spatial awareness and gross motor skills (balance and coordination, for example). And drama and role-play can stimulate the imagination and help children focus on language and communication. There has also been a lot of research into music – both being exposed to it and learning an instrument – that shows the mental benefits are huge and there is strong evidence that musical creativity can actually activate the same areas of the brain that are also tuned in during mathematical processing. Here in the UAE we are spoilt for choice with the different curricula that are available for our children. Fortunately, there is a strong emphasis on creativity in most educational methods, but it is worth looking at these particular approaches in more detail when choosing a school…

l EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) and the IB (International Baccalaureate) Primary Years Programme The EYFS is the curriculum adopted in all British-curriculum schools, but also within many nurseries in the UAE. There are four specific areas of the EYFS and one of them is “Expressive Arts and Design”. This area is what “enables children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role play, and design and technology”. There are plenty of IB schools available in the UAE, too. Educators in this curriculum are constantly studying ways to make it

ABOVE Little Land Nursery & Montessori Centre BELOW Jigsaw Nursery, Abu Dhabi

“IB encourages pupils to ask questions and learn to think” more creative. Academia and creativity are not mutually exclusive and one of the main mantras of IB is to encourage pupils to ask questions and learn to think, which in itself is wholly creative. As parents, it is easy to steer our children in one particular way over another, but in the Early Years it is so important to keep all the doors open. There will be plenty of time to refine a child’s strengths and desires, as they venture through their educational journeys, but as parents it is up to us to show them the variety of different roads they can take. Only then can we be sure that we have fully equipped our children with the necessary tools for viewing, exploring and understanding their new world.

Taking creativity home Sophie Oakes’ tips on how to nurture a child’s creativity yourself… Potato printing: just don’t be surprised if there is more interest in the paint and the potato than perhaps the final image! That is the whole point of creativity; it is an exploration of the task and not the finished piece. —

Set an obstacle course involving balancing and coordination. —

Bake a cake. It is normally all about the decoration, but don’t be upset if it doesn’t turn out perfect. —

Start a round-the-table story. Each person has to say one sentence and see where the story takes you. There are brilliant story cubes from toy shops that have pictures on them that can provide a guide for a story. —

S O P H I E OA K E S

Try some philosophy. Ask your children some questions, such as: What is love? What’s the difference between telling a lie and keeping a secret? What would you change about the world? This can be a wonderful moment, when you realise how unfettered a child’s mind is compared to one’s own. Remember, there are no wrong answers, just be a guide and be prepared for the unexpected!

Early Years Education Consultant Gabbitas Education Middle East 2018

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THE WAY FORWARD An expert talks about the benefits of creativity in Early Years education, and why it is not just academic rigour that matters when you are choosing a school

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are all examples of creativity. These mental processes are defined as creative learning. Further characteristics include questioning and challenging, exploring ideas, reflecting on ideas and outcomes, and making new and useful connections. Imagine if your child was always taught Maths and Science by rote and they had no

“All children are born with an innate curiosity that can be developed through creative learning” experience of how to apply these subjects practically. The ability to problem-solve or develop practical applications effectively would be missing. This leaves a child without a vital part of their mental toolkit. All children are born with an innate curiosity that can and should be developed through creative learning. We cannot ignore the benefits of the arts, and related creative

l The Montessori Method and The Reggio Emilia Approach A number of nurseries in Dubai follow Maria Montessori’s Method. This nurtures creative learning as the core principle of its approach. Children are encouraged to explore topics that capture their imagination, allowing them to question and think for themselves. Meanwhile, the Reggio Emilia curriculum, which is found in some nursery schools in the UAE, recognises that children are born with an innate sense of creativity, which needs to be nurtured. Reggio Emilia practitioners make children very much part of their own learning structure and realise that it is important within their learning to allow them to make mistakes. This allows them to be free of the fear of failing and thus explore original thought more often.

PRIMARY CURRICULA

S O P H I E OA K E S

t is all too easy when choosing a school to consider its academic prowess over everything else. Even with the wide range of nurseries in the UAE, many parents consider how much academia their child is going to achieve. “Will they be able to count to 20?” “Will my child be able to read by the age of four or five?” Far less consideration is given to creativity within Early Years education by parents. Most deliberation is invariably focused on the oldest child. They are, in effect, the guinea pigs and, subconsciously, the hopes and dreams of the parents are often resting on the shoulders of the first born – certainly before number two is considered. We often see children being slightly pigeonholed into what their parents want or believe their child to be and, as a result, emphasis is placed too heavily on one strand of the entire educational spectrum. This is a major oversight, as creativity plays a huge part in Early Years education and is an essential component of any child’s development. But what is creativity? It is often thought to be solely about the arts. This, of course, is partially true, but creativity can also be applied in areas such as Science and Maths. Finding practical solutions for scientific problems, or musing on a theory,

NURSERY CURRICULA

disciplines, on so many areas of a child’s development. Making a “pasta necklace” is not solely for Mummy’s jewellery box, as it also helps children develop their fine motor skills (while they concentrate deeply on putting a piece of macaroni onto some string). This exercise in concentration and fine threading is cultivating necessary skills for the next stage of development, such as learning to write. Meanwhile, dancing and sports help children with their spatial awareness and gross motor skills (balance and coordination, for example). And drama and role-play can stimulate the imagination and help children focus on language and communication. There has also been a lot of research into music – both being exposed to it and learning an instrument – that shows the mental benefits are huge and there is strong evidence that musical creativity can actually activate the same areas of the brain that are also tuned in during mathematical processing. Here in the UAE we are spoilt for choice with the different curricula that are available for our children. Fortunately, there is a strong emphasis on creativity in most educational methods, but it is worth looking at these particular approaches in more detail when choosing a school…

l EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) and the IB (International Baccalaureate) Primary Years Programme The EYFS is the curriculum adopted in all British-curriculum schools, but also within many nurseries in the UAE. There are four specific areas of the EYFS and one of them is “Expressive Arts and Design”. This area is what “enables children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role play, and design and technology”. There are plenty of IB schools available in the UAE, too. Educators in this curriculum are constantly studying ways to make it

ABOVE Little Land Nursery & Montessori Centre BELOW Jigsaw Nursery, Abu Dhabi

“IB encourages pupils to ask questions and learn to think” more creative. Academia and creativity are not mutually exclusive and one of the main mantras of IB is to encourage pupils to ask questions and learn to think, which in itself is wholly creative. As parents, it is easy to steer our children in one particular way over another, but in the Early Years it is so important to keep all the doors open. There will be plenty of time to refine a child’s strengths and desires, as they venture through their educational journeys, but as parents it is up to us to show them the variety of different roads they can take. Only then can we be sure that we have fully equipped our children with the necessary tools for viewing, exploring and understanding their new world.

Taking creativity home Sophie Oakes’ tips on how to nurture a child’s creativity yourself… Potato printing: just don’t be surprised if there is more interest in the paint and the potato than perhaps the final image! That is the whole point of creativity; it is an exploration of the task and not the finished piece. —

Set an obstacle course involving balancing and coordination. —

Bake a cake. It is normally all about the decoration, but don’t be upset if it doesn’t turn out perfect. —

Start a round-the-table story. Each person has to say one sentence and see where the story takes you. There are brilliant story cubes from toy shops that have pictures on them that can provide a guide for a story. —

S O P H I E OA K E S

Try some philosophy. Ask your children some questions, such as: What is love? What’s the difference between telling a lie and keeping a secret? What would you change about the world? This can be a wonderful moment, when you realise how unfettered a child’s mind is compared to one’s own. Remember, there are no wrong answers, just be a guide and be prepared for the unexpected!

Early Years Education Consultant Gabbitas Education Middle East 2018

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Let’s MOVE A Year 4 teacher explains why his school has chosen to get creative and offer flexible seating to its students…

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LIAM MARSHALL

ALL IMAGES Year 4 students at Ranches Primary School now have numerous seating choices in class

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ur children are growing up in a dynamic, fast-paced, and ever-changing world full of choices, yet classrooms have remained much the same for more than 100 years. Most children still sit at the same desk, next to the same person, day after day, with little opportunity for choice or movement. As adults we like to make informed choices on where we sit based on our feelings at the time. For example, some adults prefer to work from sofas or armchairs, whereas others choose the option of a table and chair. Why can’t classroom environments be responsive and dynamic, reflecting the life of choices that awaits the pupils when they enter the “real world”? At Ranches Primary School, we have become interested in “flexible seating” for pupils; the creation of engaging environments that support optimal conditions for growth. Yet there is more to flexible seating than the addition of a few comfy sofas – we need to put time and effort into understanding the needs of our cohort and use our findings to create an adaptive learning space that supports both learning power and independent skills. There is plenty of research to support flexible seating in the classroom and most of it suggests this approach directly boosts academic attainment through greater engagement and increased motivation. Because flexible seating allows more movement in the class, advantages also include the burning of calories through using up excess energy, creating a better flow of blood to the brain, improving core strength and ensuring good body posture.

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“Why can’t classroom environments be responsive and dynamic, reflecting the life of choices that awaits the pupils?” The use of flexible seating is not an “exact science” and should be administered with an open mind and a developmental view. To make the change from “traditional” to “functional”, we need to relax our fears about things going wrong or the class responding negatively, and trial a few minor changes over the course of a few weeks. In order for the innovation to be successful, the teacher must also be willing

to change. That is, replacing desks with Pilates balls and sofas will not accomplish much of anything unless the teacher is prepared for the change. Furniture is still just furniture. We need to ask ourselves: “What is the impact of this space on the learning of my pupils?” Continually revisiting this point will bring about a culture of child-centred classroom design, which is evaluated on a daily basis. The first step must always be to remove any furniture that does not serve a purpose in the learning of your class. For example, is the majority of the furniture in our classrooms purely for the storage of teachers’ equipment and lesson resources? Revitalising space is a straightforward way to let pupils exercise choice and find academic success on their own terms. Pupils should also be included in the planning and arrangements of their room, and they should design rules and routines. This will provide an increased sense of ownership and ensure they develop knowledge of how they learn best. Pupils who fidget during class instruction need to be able to move in order to stay focused. So, we need to allow them to sit on a gym ball or a chair that can swivel from side to side. This will permit them to exert their kinaesthetic energy gradually and, in turn, will mean they can remain focused on the learning involved in the lesson. Being comfortable somehow helps the pupils to stay vested in the task, and their behaviour is equally positive. They are willing to work with others, share ideas and move around the room. Traditional seating still has its place in the classroom and should not be totally eradicated. This process is about providing options for our pupils to learn in the way that is best for them. Moreover, we need to ensure they are educated about making the correct choice for the learning activity. The best educational environments should nurture a pupil’s ability to solve problems and make choices independently. They should be conducive to collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. Through flexible and adaptable seating arrangements, pupils are prepared to become better global learners and difference makers.

LIAM MARSHALL

Your thoughts... Parents, pupils and experts weigh in on Ranches Primary School’s switch to flexible seating

“I think your classroom is amazing and it works perfectly for Nathan. I asked if Nathan likes the class layout and he says: ‘I loooooove it’. Since the children spend a lot of time inside the classroom, I am so thankful that you have paid attention to their learning environment.” Debora, Year 4 parent  “I would like to start by thanking you for your great effort with Year 4 and making their classroom an amazing place to learn. Malak likes the freedom to move and work in different positions (especially the rocking chair). She said that she really enjoys the flexible seating, which helps her to focus more and not get bored. Personally, I am very pleased with flexible seating, as it encourages the pupils to think about different ways of learning and [engages] them in lessons.” Rasha, Year 4 parent  “Your classroom is an absolute delight for any Sensory Integration therapist. It offers a lot of space and movement for children who actually need it. The flexibility allows for great opportunity for self-regulation. This will only continue to impact positively on the outcomes in terms of attention and focus to tasks, as well as maintaining alertness and arousal that is absolutely necessary to access the learning environment.” Nishad, Occupational Therapist at KidsFirst  “Sometimes to get an excellent idea you have to fidget a bit and you can do that here because there are rocking chairs, bouncy balls and spinney stools.” Year 4 student  “The couch helps me learn because it is soft for my back and it is relaxing.” Year 4 student

Year 4 teacher and Maths Subject Leader Ranches Primary School 2018

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The Greenfield Griffins

It all came down the final second of a nail-biting DASSA Division 1 championship match for one Dubai Under-16s basketball team...

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verybody loves an inspirational story about a failing sports team that makes it to the finals. Who does not get goosebumps in that moment when, during 1986’s Hoosiers, in the final second of the 1952 state basketball championship final, Jimmy scores and Hickory’s team wins? If you have not seen the film (we apologise for the spoiler), then you can always re-watch this season’s DASSA Division 1 championship finals, when Dubai Under-16s basketball team, the Griffins of Greenfield Community School (GCS), surprised everyone (themselves included) by beating the opposition, going from a struggling team in Division 4 to winning the number one title this season. “We were down 14 points,” Matt Christensen, GCS Athletics Director and CAS Coordinator, reminisces. “I turned to the bench and said: ‘I’m all out of ideas, I don’t know what to do… You’ve got to pull something out of the bag’. And we won.” Rewind to a few years earlier and GCS only had a couple of playground basketball hoops that were “infamously bad”. But when Christensen left his former role as coach to England’s Under-15s national team, and joined GCS in 2014, everything began to change. Firstly, proper basketball hoops were installed in the school’s gym.

“It was a combination of hard work, enthusiasm and being aimed in the right direction”

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ABOVE Greenfield Community School’s basketball champions

“Our current Under-19s team are the ones who paved the way and got the school to support it. “I think it was just a combination of hard work, enthusiasm and being aimed in the right direction.” It was also a matter of getting the basics perfect, having high expectations, encouraging a “warrior mentality” and fostering a great degree of sportsmanship, Christensen explains. “You can have all the coaching talent and skills in the world, but if you haven’t got the talent – or at least the potential – in the kids, you’re never going to get them to achieve what they have.” Naturally, the final was a poignant moment for the team. Antonio Panev, 16, who plays guard, says: “I expected us to qualify for the Cup competition, but I didn’t think we had a chance to win it. We are a very close team and to do this together was very special.”

And while their coach may not take credit for what this team has achieved, forward and co-captain Pedro Carmona, 16, says it is all down to Christensen, who has helped each and every one of them develop individually and as a team. “Mr Christensen is very tough on us; the trainings are hard and tiring, but it all paid off.” In fact, they have done so well that this March the Griffins are off – alongside the team from Uptown School – to the Czech Republic to compete in the Easter Euro Basket tournament in Prague. “To say we are excited would be an understatement,” forward and co-captain Kamran Mustafayev, 16, admits. Beyond all the suspense and success, however, the sport and this team has really brought the school community together, and the boys themselves have become a tight-knit group of firm friends. “I can’t emphasise enough how great this bunch of kids are,” Christensen adds. “I wouldn’t trade them for anyone.” Go Griffins! 2018

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ART is (not) dead

The arts and culture subjects have wide-ranging benefits for students and they should continue to play a big role in our curricula, says the Headmaster of Dubai College MICHAEL LAMBERT

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atching the slow and steady decline in the uptake of arts and languages subjects at GCSE feels painfully inevitable. In fact, since the late 19th century, there has been a growing belief in the power and primacy of Science above all else. Consequently, it is incumbent upon today’s school leaders to impress upon their students, and also their parents and governments, the value of creative subjects. If indeed there is still value there... The growth of scientism, the rhetoric around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the instrumentalism of education, the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) in England, and global employment trends have all led to an increase in the

number of students choosing scienceand maths-related subjects over arts and languages. We have become almost obsessed with scientific data ever since the 19th century, when Scottish physicist William Thomson, otherwise known as Lord Kelvin, said: “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers,

you know something about it”. And rightly so, as their measurement and adjustment have led to medical and technological advances that have significantly reduced mortality rates in the young, and extended the life expectancy of the old. Food mountains and household appliances have drastically increased the amount of time the average adult has to dedicate to activities beyond basic subsistence, and technology has boosted the opportunities we have during this leisure time. Overall, our faith in science seems well placed; its potential to improve the material condition of humans is left in no doubt. Governments – of which the primary aim is to facilitate the conditions for an orderly and productive society – have understandably recognised that for such medical and technological advances to continue, for GDP (gross domestic product) to increase and for populations to grow

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then we need armies of STEM graduates to continue the trend. Politicians use education as the means by which to generate a sufficient number of productive citizens to grow and support their country’s economy and material comfort. While using education in this way may well be instrumentalist, it is also understandable. And so the narrative surrounding the primacy of the Sciences is further enhanced. Most recently, the former Minster for Education, Michael Gove, introduced the EBacc, a school performance measure that shows how many pupils study core academic subjects out of eight possible choices at GCSE-level in both state and independent schools in the UK. The core subjects here are English, Maths, the three Sciences, a language and Geography or History. This leaves only one spot left for another subject, which may or may not be one of the creative arts.

Many education ABOVE & LEFT commentators Dubai College have attributed students creating the final nail in the their own artworks coffin of the arts to this introduction of the EBacc. The timing of its inauguration a few years ago has indeed coincided with fewer British students wanting to take Art and Design university courses in the UK this year compared to last year. University application figures recently released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) showed that the subject group Creative Arts and Design – which includes courses in Design, Fine Art, Music and Drama – received roughly 225,000 applications this year, a 2% drop of 5,000 applications compared to 2017. The news in January that Bingley Grammar School in West Yorkshire has had to schedule GCSE

Music as a paid extra-curricular activity for the first time also follows hot on the heels of a report in September 2017 by Rebecca Johnes of the Education Policy Institute in the UK that reveals we have reached the lowest percentage of pupils in a decade with at least one arts entry for GCSE. On a subject-by-subject basis this equates to a significant drop, with The Stage newspaper reporting that the number of students entering GCSE Drama in England in 2017 declined by 8.5% compared with the previous year. So, as we sit here staring down the barrel of the seemingly inevitable decline in the study of arts and culture, and in the face of an indisputable case for the primacy of science, why should we carve out curriculum time for creative pursuits? Typically, there are two defences of the arts. The first is an impassioned call for humans to recognise the self-evident benefits 2018

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• Strong systems of care and guidance, that lead to a strong personal and social development.

• Bright stimulating classrooms that promote innovation and creativity. • Excellent sports hall, dance studio and swimming pools. • Highly trained and qualified teachers.

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of enriching the inner lives of humans through the appreciation and creation of art in all its forms, whether that is music, drama, dance, drawing, painting or the production of other material artefacts. Parietal paintings from Indonesia, Romania and France dating from as far back as 40,000BCE, coupled almost certainly with the first dramatic and musical performances to accompany the burial of the dead around the same time, suggest that the expressive arts have provided the means for us to make sense of the human condition for millennia. By failing to enable students to connect with these fundamentally human pursuits during their formative years we are also failing to invest in our children’s existential wellbeing in favour of their productive power as economic units. It is crucial that we remember before mass schooling was invented to fill the factories of the industrial revolution, education was concerned primarily with intellectual enlightenment and the pursuit of happiness. Teaching of the arts, in addition to languages and culture, is therefore the last vestige of these more humane objectives of education. Yet, this kind of poetic plea to prioritise the enrichment of the inner conditions (as opposed to material conditions) of our children’s existence only appeals to those already persuaded of the merits of the arts, and who see value in exploring the territory of the mind, as well as the resource-rich countries of the world. Unfortunately, the need for education to be as humanist as it is instrumentalist does not always add up for the bean counters of Whitehall or parents keen for their offspring to be financially independent so that they can retire.

ABOVE Therefore, the The Dubai College second defence art room of the arts must BELOW provide quantifiable Design and Technology students at work data that can be measured and adjusted and, thereby, as Lord Kelvin noted, allow us “to know something about it”. One organisation whose raison d’etre is to produce such data is The Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF) in the UK. As Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the EEF, notes: “We start with the evidence of what we already know about teaching and learning in order to find out how... we can best improve educational outcomes for children and young people from low-income backgrounds.” Evidence from the EEF suggests that learning to play an instrument has “shown some potential impact on a range of outcomes: creativity, spatial-temporal ability, IQ scores, and reading and language. In primary schools, integration of music in the classroom and playing an instrument has favourable effects on young children’s learning outcomes, in particular cognitive abilities and, to some extent, self-esteem and social behaviour.” It is perhaps an understanding of the fact

that self-esteem can be enhanced through the arts that serves as the most compelling reason for their inclusion in a broad and balanced school curriculum. That study of the arts enhances cognitive abilities and can enable students to make up to two additional months’ worth of academic progress per year (again, according to the EEF) should also assuage the concerns of even the most tight-fisted. American-Austrian physicist Fritjof Capra remarks in his book, The Hidden Connections: “…the ability to express a vision in metaphors… is an essential quality of leadership” and Albert Einstein recognised “logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” So, for the sake of our youngsters’ self-esteem, for their cognitive development, for their academic progress, for their leadership of tomorrow and for their ability to imagine a better world for us, we all must argue for the continued study of the arts in every school curriculum the world over.

MICHAEL LAMBERT Headmaster Dubai College 2018

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FUTURE ARTISTS

The Director of JESS, Dubai argues why secondary schools need Art departments that push boundaries, particularly when it comes to using new technologies… MARK S. STEED

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chool Art departments always have a special atmosphere. This may be because school rules usually do not apply there – uniform rules are relaxed, pupils wander around the studio in search of materials, and teachers rarely stand in front of the class – or it may simply be because the whole environment is so visually stimulating. They are busy places where creativity and self-expression are the driving forces. It is these departments that are the epitome of a teaching philosophy that allows students to discover universal truths through exploration of their own ideas. The very best examples are testimony to what might described as “ordered anarchy”. School Art has come a long way. When I was at school, some thirty years ago, it was the preserve of a minority who were gifted enough to be able to draw. Today, while those fine art skills are still highly valued, schools are also embracing modern art and thus democratising art by allowing the Jackson Pollock in us all to find its voice. Art is, by its very nature, challenging. It makes us view the world differently. Art also provides an important outlet for the artist and that is why it is so important in schools. It is not surprising that Art chimes with teenagers. Creativity seems to come easily at that age, when fostered in the right

A great example of this process in action was the outstanding IB portfolio produced by Zena Ezz Eidin, a Syrian pupil at JESS, Dubai. Some of her work highlighted the plight of Syrian refugees, by reworking classical masterpieces for a relevant, 21st-century context. Zena’s work took a new direction when, having secured a place to study Fine Art at Columbia University in New York City, she was initially refused a visa under the terms of President Trump’s travel ban. Her final IB pieces were an outpouring of satirical work by way of protest against the visa restrictions imposed on her and her

“When I was at school art was the preserve of a minority who were gifted enough to be able to draw” environment. Furthermore, as they progress through the formative years of adolescence, they need ways to express themselves as part of the process of testing out their understanding of the world around them.

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compatriots. She demonstrated her passion and disappointment with the plight of the Syrian refugees through art – and art enabled her to tell her story to ABOVE the world. The artwork of JESS, Dubai It just goes to show that student, Zena Ezz Eidin a strong and dynamic RIGHT Art Department allows The school’s art space is a students to express their riot of colour and activity feelings and ideas in a way LEFT that is not always possible JESS IB student, Year 12 student using Google’s Tilt Brush in other subjects because of Hannah Demeyere, was the constraints of examination the first person in the syllabuses today. world to submit a piece of With that idea of innovation in mind, at VR Art as part of her IB portfolio, JESS, Dubai, our IB Diploma and specialist recreating one of her physical sculptures BTEC Art students have also been at the in Google’s Tilt Brush. Other students forefront of exploring the new art form have designed dresses within the VR – Virtual Reality (VR) Art. This allows environment here. students to paint in 3D, thus combining Ultimately, educators have a duty to aspects of both two- and three-dimensional prepare students for their futures. Those art. In VR, the rules of gravity do not apply, futures will include jobs that we haven’t and it is possible for the artist to move even considered yet and it is more than around within the painting. likely that those careers will require the

creative skills that students learn and develop within their school’s Art classes. Brainstorming techniques, creative reasoning, visualisation of problems and integration of technology are inherent within the design process itself. It is these core skills that are vital for our 21st-century learners to ensure they are #FutureReady.

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SCHOOL’S IN / TECHNOLOGY

TAP INTO TECH Teaching children to become creative coders is just as important as teaching them to read and write M I L LY M I L L S

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hen you think of coding or robotics, creativity is probably not the first word that springs to mind. We instantly associate certain activities with inspiring creativity: music, theatre, writing and painting, to name a few. Coding, however, is usually viewed as mathematical, computational and even boring, but it does have a creative side. Coding gives us the capacity and freedom to build anything we can imagine. What could be more empowering than that? Coding has brought us smartphones, tablets and smart-home devices – all of which someone had to imagine, create and build. Coding also underpins many of our basic daily routines – checking emails, using a computer or even running a washing machine. It is part of our everyday lives.

structures, information security, cloud storage and emails. We then build on this fundamental knowledge with advanced graphics, animation, web design, advanced spreadsheets, word processing and relational databases. This provides children with an excellent set of tools that are a fantastic foundation for any career. For a practical introduction to the world of coding, Scratch is a simple but powerful block-based coding language that enables children to intuitively design and create programs in a fun and accessible way. Without needing to type a child can integrate as much creativity as they like by arranging and connecting blocks, using them to tell animated stories and create games: their imagination really is the limit. For children who really love being creative and finding solutions to problems, LEGO Robotics challenges them to build their own robot and use it to solve problems and challenges. This enables children to have fun, while learning the fundamental concepts of programming. They can modify their robot’s design to better tackle A B OV E

Making robots at FunTech

“We don’t want them to be consumers of games but the creators of games they’d like to play” Children are growing up with technology that is at their fingertips and has never previously been available, so, at FunTech UK, where we run a range of Holiday Camps, we believe that teaching digital skills is just as important as teaching literacy and numeracy. While not every child may want to be a programmer or computer scientist, one thing is for sure: your child will be using technology in whatever career they choose. And given the emphasis the UK government is putting on coding skills in the curriculum, it is clearly here to stay. That is why we agree that children should also learn other essential computing skills, such as folder

various challenges, learning more advanced concepts as they progress. Through coding they’ll learn to program their robot to navigate mazes, overcome obstacles and even battle other robots. We encourage children to explore what they can achieve by combining creativity and experimentation. In our safe, stimulating environment they can question their assumptions and, most importantly, make mistakes and learn from them. This ultimately provides them with a platform to not just be consumers, but the creators, of games they’d love to play. Being able to code allows children to build just about anything they can imagine. What better gift to give in our increasingly technological world?

M I L LY M I L L S Manager FunTech Coding

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THE SOUND OF MUSIC In the desire to top league tables, the sounds of music provision are in danger of being silenced in classrooms, says one melody-loving Principal F I O N A C O T TA M

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s a child, I was fortunate that my parents were passionate about music. Music was both a joy and an important feature of life, and my childhood – and that of my sisters’ – was filled with lessons in a variety of instruments and voice, alongside the constancy of singing and laughter around the piano. Memories of speed-races with my father as we played Chopsticks make me smile to this day. My own school days fuelled my passion further, where hours of practise and improvisation ensued. All subjects had equal importance; Music and Maths went hand in hand, as did Sport and Science or English and Economics. So it is perhaps not too surprising, then, that I pursued a degree in Classical Music and a career in teaching. Excellence in schools is sadly often judged in society solely by the academic

“Memories of speed-races with my father as we played Chopsticks make me smile to this day”

outcomes and external benchmarking data achieved. It is all too easy to argue the need to replace the Music room with a Science lab or the Drama studio with another space to practise maths, but it takes greater courage to argue for their sustained existence and importance. Holding on to the provision of the arts, and specifically music, in our schools has never been more important in my view, and this is a view shared by many. That is why The Guardian newspaper columnist, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, recently wrote: “Music, art and drama, often perceived as options for less academically minded students, are being squeezed out or underfunded” in UK schools. But that general perception – that creative pursuits are less academic – is fundamentally flawed. There is nothing easy about these options, they just require a different skill, a different talent, a different form of study and practise. The writing of a Bach chorale or a string quartet is potentially as taxing as an extended higher-level Maths problem. The creation of a contemporary song in a Music lesson, which will harness the imagination, is no less intricate than the writing of poetry or prose in an English A-Level class. Should there be a further reason to embrace music in our schools, there is a substantial body of research on the impact of learning it in the overall development of children. Professor Susan Hallam MBE,

of the UCL Institute of Education is a renowned academic who advocates strongly for the teaching of music in schools. She says that “overall, the evidence is overwhelming that actively making music plays a major role in developing aural perceptual processing systems” and also states in her research of 2015 that “there is compelling evidence for the benefits of music education on a wide range of skills, including: listening skills, which support the development of language skills, awareness of phonics and enhanced literacy; spatial reasoning, which supports the development of some mathematical skills”. Great schools do and will continue to celebrate all subjects and Music will be no exception to their diverse approach to education. Despite pressures that place greater emphasis on a group of core subjects, exceptional schools do not marginalise the arts and are even more significant because of their balanced and broad approach to curriculum design; a

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SCHOOL'S IN / MUSIC

A L L I M AG E S

Hartland International School has partnered with the Center for Musical Arts, enabling provision in a wide range of instruments

curriculum design that is applauded in inspection reports. There is an apt quote, which some people attribute to Plato, and although the authenticity of the source is uncertain, the impact of the message is not: “Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything.” These words resonate with me and bring back memories of a musically rich childhood. And so, it is incumbent on me, as a school leader, to deliver in my school’s curriculum the same opportunity that was afforded to me, and to share somehow the love of music that I cherish. Let us hope there will always be a place for music in schools so we might inspire another generation of performers, composers and intrepid Chopsticks players!

F I O N A COT TA M Principal Hartland International School

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Inclusion

WE ROCK THE SPECTRUM KIDS’ GYM, DUBAI

ARBOR SCHOOL P . 55 ART THERAPY P . 56 FITNESS FOR ALL P . 58

ROCK OUT

Dr Nashila Farrah Jaffer recently opened We Rock the Spectrum, Dubai, a kids’ gym for children of all abilities. We learn all about its fun approach to fitness, from page 58.

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INCLUSION / DEFINITION

Full Potential A school must recognise that every student has their own learning style, says the Founding Principal of the Arbor School

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C H A R L E S G R AY H U R S T

nclusion is often misunderstood to mean solely the provision for students of determination and those who are gifted and talented. Although this is true, it is only part of what it means. At its fullest, inclusion is the recognition that every student in a school has their own potential and learning style. In a truly inclusive environment, every student is helped to realise their potential by careful attention to the unique ways in which they access knowledge. This is what we refer to as “personalised learning” at the Arbor School. Every student at our school will have an awareness of how they learn best and be able to identify his or her strengths and weaknesses in a positive, A B OV E Through the adoption of projectinquisitive and purposeful way. regularly achieves B scores might be The Arbor School, based and experiential techniques, This ability to self-reflect – known capable of more if he or she received due to open in and the provision of a variety of as meta-cognition – is embedded more attention. September 2018 learning environments – from within our school mission and Both our Director of Inclusion and flexible classroom arrangements the “Arbor 8” values we adhere Director of Personalised Learning are and break-out spaces to internal gardens to. Students are guided to understand the dedicated to ensuring every student will and climate-controlled biodomes – we will differences in how they and others learn. benefit from a customised learning plan, maximise our students’ freedom to explore The physical diversity of our campus and drawn up in conjunction with teachers, the world and acquire knowledge in ways facilities will allow everyone to work on parents and the students themselves. they find meaningful and fulfilling. exciting, topic-based activities that help all These plans will be holistic, focusing not Personalised learning and inclusion does students to understand not only the natural only on academic performance but also on not simply address the needs of students world but also how they enjoy learning and all aspects of a student’s wellbeing. This of determination and those that this can take place in many different gives opportunities for all who are gifted and talented. physical environments. pupils to meet with a team Students who fall outside of dedicated staff who focus those categories also have on planning and monitoring unique needs that can be goals, the development addressed to give them the of meta-cognition and best chance of success. supporting students where Students often produce they have need. This is all work that is acceptable, but while stretching students to go not representative of what CHARLES GRAYHURST beyond standard expectations, Founding Principal they can really achieve. For so that every child achieves Arbor School instance, a student who their full potential in life.

“A student who regularly achieves B scores might be capable of more if he or she received more attention”

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The Power of Self Expression Creativity can be a dynamic tool to help children of all abilities to reach their full potential. Absolutely Education Emirates visits the UAE’s only dedicated art therapy centre to find out more… K AT Y G I L L E T T

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rt therapy can be used for many things. Whether you are trying to unlock your child’s creative potential, ease the stress of expatriate life, battle anxiety or depression, and even address issues of interrupted development, this expressive form of psychotherapy is a “non-threatening way to address behavioural and emotional challenges,” explains Sara Powell, the co-founder of Art Therapy International Centre (ATIC), Dubai. “As a clinician, we ask: how do I help on an emotional or behavioural level, or help them achieve their academic potential?”

“We use art as a way to understand your inner world” Powell adds. “So we use art as a way to understand [a client’s] inner world to support them.” These days, in the UK, US and across Asia, art therapy – which is a relatively young therapeutic discipline – is common, but in the Middle East it is not yet well known. In fact, ATIC, which opened its doors in 2015, is the only dedicated art

therapy centre in the UAE. “The challenge is people here don’t really understand what art therapy is,” Powell admits. “They think we’re just art teachers. But we’re trained as psychotherapists – the only difference is we bring in art.” Powell, who hails from the UK, initially did not know what it was, either. But, while working as a special needs teacher, she saw a change in her students’ attention span after a session with a play therapist. “I saw a difference in how they could retain information and they were happier,” she says. This realisation led her to do a Master’s Degree in Art Psychotherapy. She then moved to Singapore, where she co-founded ATIC, and worked with the government and schools, helping terminally

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INCLUSION / A RT THER A PY

ill children, addicts and gifted university students, to name a few. After six years, she returned to the UAE – where she grew up – and opened a branch here. “Basically, we are a group of art therapists who have come together and who share the same values, mission and vision – to familiarise the community about art psychotherapy, and to provide a service. It’s not about one [form of therapy] being better than the other, but it’s an option.” The services ATIC offers are wideranging, and the team works with individuals – predominantly children – one-on-one or in groups, offering therapies that incorporate movement, music, play and visual arts. They also collaborate with the government and schools, including Kings’ Al Barsha and GEMS Education, working with children with typical or interrupted development and supporting students in the inclusion process, too. They also offer training to teachers and an introductory foundation course to art therapy. “It’s a non-threatening way to engage. For children, they may not have the language skills to be able to fully express how they’re

In a nutshell A brief introduction to what art therapy is all about, according to the British Association of Art Therapists

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rt therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of expression and communication. Within this context, art is not used as [a] diagnostic tool but as a medium to address emotional issues which may be confusing and distressing. “Art therapists work with children, younger people, adults and the elderly. Clients may have a wide range of difficulties, disabilities or diagnoses. These include emotional, behavioural, or mental health problems, learning or physical disabilities, life-limited conditions, neurological conditions and physical illnesses. “Art therapy is provided in groups or individually, depending on clients’ needs. It is not a recreational activity or an art lesson, although the sessions can be enjoyable. Clients do not need to have any previous experience or expertise in art. “Although influenced by psychoanalysis, art therapists have been inspired by theories such as attachment-based psychotherapy and have developed a broad range of client-centred approaches such as psycho-educational, mindfulness and mentalisation-based treatments, compassion-focused and cognitive analytic therapies, and socially engaged practice… Importantly, art therapy practice has evolved to reflect the cultural and social diversity of the people who engage in it.” For more information, visit baat.org

LEFT & BELOW The colourful and friendly facilities at the Art Therapy International Centre, which is based in Safa 1, Dubai

“Art therapy is a non-threatening way to address behavioural and emotional challenges” feeling. We can now use the artwork to gain further information. “Art is a very natural way for them to communicate and, at the same time, you don’t have to be an artist. It’s not about the aesthetic; it’s about the process.” When it comes to play, the team has myriad media and materials to utilise. This includes dress-up and fantasy. “Children who may have some medical trauma due to a physical illness, for example, like to become the doctor and gain a sense of control. This is not forced – it’s something they choose and we support them.” ATIC also runs creative parenting workshop, art psychotherapist Mariam El Halawani tells us. “We support the parents and offer alternative ways to communicate with their children to address certain behavioural difficulties.” There are also sessions for parents and children to work together with the therapist. Powell explains: “This fosters better communication, bonding and understanding, especially if there is a speech deficit or if there is a child who may have separation anxiety

challenges... We also work a lot with siblings of children with special needs.” Most commonly, ATIC therapists see children struggling with anxiety. “There are a lot of adjustment difficulties in the expat community,” says Powell. “And children are growing up faster due to the fact that they are exposed to a lot more now at a younger age, and they don’t have the life experiences or the emotional maturity to be able to balance that out.” Back in schools, Powell admits that while many offer great provision, it is not always easy for them to have all the resources necessary in order to support every child. And, often, it is the students with mild learning difficulties that fall through the cracks. “And there is a lot of misdiagnosis. “Sometimes families have been to three or four centres, spent Dhs20,000-30,000 on assessments, and still the child has no treatment. There is amazing support here, but I think there is still room for growth.” In the meantime, art therapy can make a big difference.

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Play with

PURPOSE Absolutely Education Emirates meets the owner of We Rock The Spectrum Dubai, the city’s first kids’ gym for children of all abilities B Y K AT Y G I L L E T T

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ust a few months ago, near Jumeirah Beach Park, a new kind of gym opened to the public. It is called We Rock the Spectrum (WRTS) Dubai, and it is entirely for kids of all abilities to play and grow together. The equipment used is specifically designed to aid children with sensory processing disorders, but any child can also enjoy it. Immediately after opening, the response was overwhelmingly positive, says owner Dr Nashila Farrah Jaffer. “So many mums have said they had been waiting for a facility like this for kids,” she tells Absolutely Education Emirates. “Because the children get a good workout while having fun!” Dr Nashila, who is also a chiropractor, was inspired when she visited WRTS in America with her two young daughters, and they loved it. Right then, she knew she had to bring the idea to the UAE, too...

or playing in the garden, were the norm. Nowadays, children go to school from such an early age and have regular routines when really they should be actively learning and playing through movement. Movement is essential in the development of children’s neurological system. In fact, 90% of stimulation to the brain comes from movement of the spine. So this lack of movement I feel has significantly affected the growth and development of children today. Being a mother myself, I have seen how important it is for my children to do something active every single day and in Dubai it is not easy during the hot summer months. So, when I came across We Rock the Spectrum while searching online, I thought this would be perfect in Dubai as an indoor playground for children to fulfil their sensory and motor development needs while having fun. I call it “play with a purpose”.

Q Why did you decide to bring WRTS to Dubai now? A I have been practicing as a chiropractor for 17 years now and, over the years, I have seen more and more cases of children having developmental delays, such as gross motor weakness, postural weakness and back pain at very young ages. I believe the reason for this is the sedentary lifestyle we are all leading compared to 15 years ago, when iPads and phones were not available. In the past, children led more active lifestyles because gadgets were not readily available like they are today, so kicking a football around or roller skating outside,

Q What kind of services and classes do you offer? A We have Open Play whereby you can come with your child at any time of day, just like a regular gym, so you don’t need to pre-book in advance. We encourage parents to play with their child inside the gym, but we also have a Drop ‘n’ Shop option where we can supervise your child for an hour or two. We have kids fitness classes, dance and drama sessions, a Maths enrichment programme, birthday parties, a coffee shop and free Wi-Fi, too. We also work very closely with Pure Child Health, a centre that offers occupational therapy and speech

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and language therapy, and we run parent workshops at the gym to help educate parents about child development. The gym is fully inclusive as we encourage children of all abilities to learn, play and grow together in a safe environment. We do not differentiate children into separate groups, as the whole purpose and vision is to provide an inclusive environment for all kids to play together. Our staff members are fully trained on the specialised equipment and we have a Calming Room for children who may need a break from the excitement of the gym. Q What age should parents think about taking their kids to the gym? A From birth to age five, a child’s brain develops more rapidly than at any other time in life. Scientific research has made clear that the quality of a child’s experiences in the first few years of life helps shape how their brain develops. Therefore, in my opinion, I would encourage movement and activity as early as possible. We accommodate children as young as age one. There are fun swings to help with spatial awareness and movement, as well as soft play toys, role-play activities and arts and crafts to encourage fine motor skills. Kids also learn social skills when interacting with other children. Q What specific benefits can kids gain from the exercises you offer? A There are ten pieces of equipment that will be found in every We Rock the

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INCLUSION / FITNESS

LEFT ABOVE We Rock the Spectrum LEFT BELOW Owner, Dr Nashila RIGHT Specialist equipment

“I have seen how important it is for my children to do something active every single day” enhance the ability to integrate and tolerate movement, plus give self-confidence as children challenge themselves to hold on. The best part about it is that children are having fun while enjoying a full workout without realising it!

Spectrum Kids’ Gym. These specialised pieces of equipment are all designed to stimulate your neurological system. For example, the climbing apparatus enhances body awareness, body scheme, motor planning and bilateral coordination. The child’s body weight, combined with gravity, provides additional proprioceptive feedback to the joints, helping the child to coordinate their movement. The bolster swing provides a swinging side-to-side motion that is a great motor-planning and -sequencing activity. The trampoline builds lower body strength, helps to teach balance and provides a full body workout. The zip line – by far the most popular piece of equipment in the gym – is a great way to build upper extremity strength, muscle endurance,

Q How do your services and classes cater to children with autism spectrum disorder? A The equipment found at all We Rock The Spectrum Kids’ Gyms are the same pieces of equipment used in occupational therapy offices to help regulate children on the spectrum who experience sensory processing difficulties. In fact, statistics show that as many as one in six children experience sensory symptoms that could affect their everyday lives. We encourage parents with children on the spectrum to come and play with their child in an inclusive environment with kids of all abilities. This encourages parent-child bonding and social interaction. In addition, there are long waiting lists for some occupational therapy clinics and it can also be unaffordable for some families.

What’s included? A brief breakdown of the equipment you will find at WRTS, Dubai • Suspended equipment with swings for balance and vestibular treatment. • Crash mats and pillows for fun, motorplanning and strength. • Zip line for stress release, and joint and body relaxation. • Trampoline for building leg and core strength. • Indoor play structure for climbing and increasing playground skills. • Sensory-based toys for improved auditory processing and fine motor skills. • Fine Motor and Arts and Crafts Area for improved hand-eye coordination.

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Being a parent ART FOR WELLBEING P . 63 POWERFUL POETRY P . 64 SLEEPOVER POLITICS P . 67

IMAGE: SHUTTERSTOCK

AT H O M E

Juan Korkie, a clinical psychologist from LightHouse Arabia, shares his top tips on how you can encourage creativity in your kids at home, from page 63.

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BEING A PA R EN T / W ELLBEING

THE HUM A N FACTOR Being creative has nothing to do with artistic expression, says one clinical psychologist… J UA N KO R K I E

JUAN KORKIE’S TOP TIPS Six ways to encourage creativity in your child 1. LESS TOYS, LESS DETAIL To stimulate creativity in children they need to become more reliant on imagination and less on external stimuli. To support this means buying fewer toys, and also buying more basic toys. The child will naturally add the detail from his or her own internal creativity. 2. LESS ELECTRONIC, MORE TACTILE As much as we cannot move away from using electronic devices, we also need to provide a balance. Creativity is stimulated by using all of the senses, which includes the sense of touch, smell, and so forth. For this reason, physical toys and board games should be available.

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reativity is about accessing parts of ourselves that cannot be expressed in words or language, and does not follow the rules of being logical or rational. It provides an integral balance to the pressures and demands of day-to-day living, and should not be confused with art, artistic expression or art projects. Actually, creativity has nothing to do with being artistic or being able to draw well. Fostering creativity is about more than giving someone a set of pencils or crayons and a piece of paper. It starts much earlier... It starts with slowing down and opening our eyes, becoming more aware beyond tasks, duties and expectations. Through creativity we are able to process, “digest” and make sense of our life and experiences. We are able to express it in a way that is more natural, and, in doing so, create a sense of release. For the same reason being creative enables us to access, experience and express emotions, dreams and ideas without attempting to constrain them, it fosters a tolerance for the grey areas of being human. It therefore becomes therapeutic because

it enables expression, which also allows a greater connection to the full range of human emotions and experience. There are many ways to become more creative, but to do so requires a clear separation from a focus on achievement, performance and accomplishment. The focus is on the journey, not the destination. Parents themselves must learn to connect with their own creativity, before they can pass it on to their own children. They need to create the space and time for it to unfold, but, at the same time, they need to model doing so themselves. This modelling is critical and enables the child to have the courage to approach his or her own experience, feelings and thoughts, without constant fear of not being good enough, not being pretty, or being reprimanded. Overall, creativity allows a greater connection between our social and internal selves, and supports the development of emotional resilience, flexible thinking and problem solving.

J UA N KO R K I E

3. TELL YOUR CHILD A STORY Tell, not read. Read it yourself until you know the story. Then, using your voice, movement, gestures and emotions tell it as if it is true. The child’s imagination is stimulated through being fully present in the story, which allows greater emotional and imaginative participation. 4. PAINT WITH YOUR HANDS Roll out a large piece of paper on the floor, get into old clothes, and together cover every bit of the paper with colour and patterns. Colour is directly related to the emotions, and engaging so directly with colour also allows engagement and expression of emotion. Don’t restrict it! 5. PLAY WITH CLAY Real clay, not the synthetic stuff. Use it to express how you are feeling, to make different geometric shapes, your favourite animal, and draw on the imagination and shaping, and then again letting it go. 6. FOCUS ON THE PROCESS The focus should not be on how beautiful or pretty the outcome is, because that inhibits creativity.

Clinical Psychologist LightHouse Arabia 2018

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Healing Words A writer and mental health campaigner on how reading poetry can give hope to stressed teenagers R A C H E L K E L LY

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hen I published a memoir three years ago about how poetry helped me overcome depression, I never imagined that it would lead to invitations from schools and universities to talk to pupils and students about my experience. The need to do so has only become more pressing in a world in which three children in every classroom has a mental health condition. My first trip a few years ago was to an academy school close to my home in west London, England to talk to a Year 9 class. The English teacher explained that she wished her pupils on the cusp of adolescence to understand that poetry was not just about the drudgery of rote learning or what assonance or alliteration meant. Actually, poetry could be their friend in times of need, just as it had been for me when afflicted by what Winston Churchill famously called the Black Dog. I chose to talk about how the cadences and evocation of quiet in W. B. Yeats’ poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree had helped me get to sleep during anxious nights; of how, trapped in my bedroom when unwell, I imagined the “bee-loud glade” and the “lake water lapping” evoked in the poem, and something of my desperation evaporated. Next time they felt anxious, I said, why not stop and learn a poem? They might find it a wonderful stress-reliever, too – and more appropriate than medication

with all its side-effects. Doctors are no longer recommending antidepressants for teenagers after a report in January 2016 found that the drugs were linked to suicide and aggression among young people. Since that first visit, I have developed a Healing Words workshop in which I explain why poetry can help our mental health and share the six or seven poems that I have found can be most helpful to teenagers. As one teacher said to me, poetry’s soothing balm has never been more needed with the spike in teenage mental health problems and the emphasis on exams and academic ABOVE RIGHT success rather than Writer and campaigner, emotional wellbeing. Rachel Kelly I am far from the first to recognise poetry’s RIGHT healing power: Apollo was Kelly also wrote a book of recipes that make us happy the God of poetry as well of medicine in Greek and Roman mythology. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin founded the first American hospital where reading and creative writing were among the treatments prescribed for mental illness. Freud, Adler, Jung and others recognised the healing power of words, and this led to the 1969 founding of the Association of the neuroscience department of Liverpool Poetry Therapy. University discovered that readers of There is even some scientific evidence Shakespeare, when they came across that poetry changes the way we think. an unusual but totally comprehensible The arrangement of poetry, even the grammatical construction, would show a clearest, has different conventions to spike in neural activity. continuous prose. This presents enough Even though the readers understood of a challenge to get our brains working what was being said, their brains were differently. Research by Philip Davis and shocked into activity. The requirement to

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SCHOOL’S OUT / POETRY

concentrate in the moment helps us stop regretting the past and fearing the future in the negative mental spiral characteristic of depression. In this way, poetry can work in a similar way to mindfulness, forcing us into the present. Robert Frost, demonstrating my point perfectly, put it far better when he said a poem can be a “momentary stay against confusion” – and few are more confused and distracted than today’s school children whose attention span and ability to concentrate has been diminished by the rise of social media and the internet. My poem choices move in an arc from dark to light, reflecting my own recovery

from two serious depressive episodes, but also the poems that I’ve found resonate most with young people. Asking pupils to read the poems aloud can be a also confidence-booster, and literally help people find a voice. One popular poem is The Guest House by Jalal al-Din Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic. Audiences are astounded to discover that the poem was written over 700 years ago, as it feels very modern in its sentiment of acceptance. The poem says we must welcome whatever befalls us. We are like a guesthouse and we must “treat each guest honourably”, even if we are greeted by a “crowd of sorrows”. The most seemingly unprepossessing guest “may be clearing you out for some new delight”. Being worried about the future is pointless. What will happen will happen and we need to embrace that uncertainty. A second popular poem among teenagers is George Herbert’s Love (III) . Herbert brilliantly describes what depression can feel like. It makes one feel “guilty of dust and sin” with a soul that is “drawing back”. But in the poem Herbert also gives us a second compassionate voice, that of love. Yes: our souls can draw back. Yes: we all need love to bid us welcome. The poem pinpoints a sense of guilt that we can still at times feel low while also blessed with a loving home, youth and seemingly every blessing. Herbert’s words provide a different, gentler and more compassionate narrative – that we need to learn to love and forgive ourselves, and, ultimately, “sit and eat”. Pupils tell me his words make them feel loved and less alone. A third favourite poem is Say not the Struggle Naught Availeth by Arthur Hugh Clough, one of Churchill’s favourite poets, who he was fond of quoting in the war. It is a powerful message of hope for any teenager feeling desperate. The land will once again be bright. Of course, believing in your own ability to recover in turn makes it more likely. Finally, there are poems to deal with devastating loss. I never forget one workshop soon after the case of the death of a much-loved 17-year-old pupil, known for being kind, loyal, fun and spirited, who had died suddenly in hospital.

We shared Ben Jonson’s poem, It is Not Growing like a Tree. It is not growing like a tree In bulk doth make Man better be; Or standing long an oak, three hundred year, To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere: A lily of a day Is fairer far in May, Although it fall and die that night— It was the plant and flower of light. In small proportions we just beauties see; And in short measures life may perfect be. I felt profoundly moved when pupils said it had given them solace in the face of tragedy and comfort when they had been speechless. At a time when children are struggling with their mental health, poetry can be a valuable tool in their mental health toolbox. Tough times require tough and beautiful language and that is exactly what poetry can deliver. Rachel Kelly’s memoir, Black Rainbow: How words healed me – my journey through depression, is available for AED51 on amazon.co.uk.

ROBERT FROST SAID A POEM CAN BE A “MOMENTARY STAY AGAINST CONFUSION” – AND FEW ARE MORE CONFUSED AND DISTRACTED THAN TODAY’S SCHOOL CHILDREN 2018 | E D U C AT I O N E M I R AT E S | 65

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www.gabbitas.ae NURSERY & SCHOOL SEARCH UNIVERSITY, HIGHER EDUCATION & CAREERS ADVICE STUDENT SUPPORT SERVICES & GUARDIANSHIP +971 445 16933 | admin@gabbitas.ae Gabbitas Educational Consultants is registered in England No. 2920466. Part of The Prospects Group. GABBITAS.indd 1

19/01/2017 14:30


BEING A PARENT / ADVICE

SLEEPOVER POLITICS The very thought of a sleepover will strike fear into the heart of the most robust parents but, in best Scout tradition, be prepared and it can be survived without disaster or broken friendships LIBBY NORMAN

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3. PIZZA RULES

oved by children, the sleepover is a rite of passage. To offspring, it’s a license to stay up all night, eat junk food, scream a lot and then relive the memories for days afterwards. But hosts plan a militarystyle campaign with the sole objective of getting everyone tucked up safely in the land of nod as soon as possible. Guests’ parents, meanwhile, cross their fingers and hope their child won’t be the worst behaved. Here are five rules for happy slumber parties.

Your home may be an organic temple for 364 days of the year, but on this night the lords and ladies of misrule are in charge. Sleepover law dictates pizza, popcorn, crisps and other salty and sugary party fare, and you risk your child losing face in perpetuity if you forget that fact. All hosts are expected to slip in healthier options, but don’t expect that quinoa salad or spiralized courgette surprise to get eaten. It is the responsibility of parents of children with dietary requirements to let hosts know and, if necessary, deliver safe food with the child.

1. RIGHT TIME Your child may desperately yearn for a sleepover and there’s no “right age”, so take the clue from their behaviour at parties and group events. Restrict the first sleepover to two or – better still – one friend to test the water. Sleepovers should never happen on a school night or everyone will feel the pain. Fridays are the safest bet; Thursdays can also be good as the children are likely to be tired out from school, ensuring an earlier collapse into slumber.

2. STAY CLOSE The ideal sleepover is within walking distance or a short drive away, just in case you have to collect or deliver a homesick child. Be prepared for this, and don’t see it as a failure on anyone’s part. Plan for all eventualities – that means swapping numbers and being contactable throughout. Sleepovers are not babysitting

and there is simply no excuse for child-free parents to abandon all responsibility and slip out for a night on the town. If you’re wondering how your child is getting on, it’s fine to check in with the sleepover hosts once, but after that trust them to call you if there’s a problem.

“The host’s aim is to get them tucked up as soon as possible”

4. PARTY PLAN The host goal is to wear them down quickly. Lay on a lively activity, then put on their film choice, dim the lights and bring in the “midnight feast” in the hopes their eyes will soon become heavy. Make sure you have night-lights, in case there’s a late-night fridge raid or a child needs to find you.

5. SLEEPIQUETTE Guests are normally expected to return the invitation, but if the slumber buddies fought all night or your child was an abominable houseguest, apologise and retreat. As host, there can be no public shaming about whatever disaster befell your home – be it mashed pizza, smashed bed or whiskerless cat. After all, this happened on your watch. 2018

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Taaleem schools. Inspiring the learners of today to become the leaders of tomorrow.

At Taaleem we pride ourselves in preparing our students for a future even they cannot yet imagine and to become compassionate and lifelong learners. We are passionate about offering our students the very best of learning environments in which to flourish. The International Baccalaureate (IB), New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and Council of International Schools (CIS) accredit our schools and our students are accepted into Oxbridge and Ivy League universities. Find out more about the Taaleem family of schools: www.taaleem.ae

The Taaleem family of schools: Multi-lingual Pre-schools Dubai The Children’s Garden Green Community/DIP 2 years to 6 years T +971 (0)4 885 3484 www.childrensgarden.ae The Children’s Garden Al Barsha 2 2 years to 6 years T +971 (0)4 399 0160 www.childrensgarden.ae

IB World Schools Abu Dhabi Raha International School Khalifa City, EY 1 to G 12 T +971 (0)2 556 1567 www.ris.ae

The National Curriculum for England Dubai Dubai British Foundation Jumeirah Islands, FS 1 and 2 T +971 (0)4 558 7308 www.dubaibritishfs.ae

Dubai Greenfield Community School Dubai Investments Park KG 1 to G 12 T +971 (0)4 885 6600 www.gcschool.ae

Dubai British School Jumeirah Park Jumeirah Park, Yr 1 to 13 T +971 (0)4 552 0247 www.dubaibritishschooljp.ae

Jumeira Baccalaureate School Jumeira 1, Pre-KG to G 12 T +971 (0)4 344 6931 www.jbschool.ae Uptown School Mirdif, Pre-KG to G12 T +971 (0)4 251 5001 www.uptownschool.ae

Dubai British School The Springs, FS 1 to Yr 13 T +971 (0)4 361 9361 www.dubaibritishschool.ae American Curriculum Dubai Al-Mizhar American Academy Mirdif Area, Mizhar, Pre-KG to G 12 T +971 (0)4 288 7250 www.americanacademy.ae

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22/01/2018 15:31


School’s Out

ART DUBAI MODERN PREVIEW 2017. COURTESY OF PHOTO SOLUTIONS

CREATIVE CAMPS P . 70 JACQUELINE WILSON P . 72 BOOKS FOR KIDS P . 74

ART DUBAI

Do not miss the Sheikha Manal Little Artists Programme, which runs as part of this year’s huge line-up of creative events at Art Week, March 17-24. artweek.ae

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CRE ATIVE

CAMPS Ten top summer schools where children can get artistic FIONA MCKENZIE

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ummer schools and camps are a fantastic way for your child to have fun, learn new skills and make like-minded friends. But, with the number of courses constantly increasing, it can be difficult for parents to make the right choice. Fiona McKenzie, Director at Gabbitas Middle East, is an expert in finding the right summer school for your child, no matter their age. From thousands on the market, she is able to discover exactly what it is you are looking for and offer a choice of courses that best suit your – and your child’s – needs. So, for the creative crop among us, these are her top ten picks for the summer of 2018…

Animation Summer School

 For budding animators, this course at Nottingham Trent University will provide your child with an introduction to digital animation using Adobe Animate CC and Wacom Cintiq tablets. Students learn how to create their own characters and build their own animation. DURATION: 1 week WHEN: 30 July-3 August WHERE: Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK AGES: 15-17 ACCOMMODATION: Yes (extra cost) FEES: £460 (AED2,360) onlinestore.ntu.ac.uk/short-courses

Art and Architecture Summer School

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Point Blank’s Music Production Summer School

 This unique project by Store brings young people together to design and construct ambitious and experimental design and construction projects. It culminates in large-scale installations and inspiring public events where they can showcase what they have achieved. DURATION: 2 weeks WHEN: 23 July-4 August WHERE: Dalston, London, UK AGES: 15-25 ACCOMMODATION: No FEES: £512 (AED2,626) storeprojects.org/school/summerschools-2018/

Art and Design Workshops

 This art and design workshop course, run by London’s Central Saint Martins,

has been created with teenagers looking to get the full experience of art school in mind. They will explore various mediums from still life and sculpture to typography, and start to build their portfolio for future study. DURATION: 2 weeks WHEN: Session 1: 8 July-21 July; Session 2: 22 July-4 August WHERE: Licensed Victuallers’ School, Ascot, Berkshire, UK AGES: 13-16 ACCOMMODATION: Yes FEES: £3,295 (AED16,893) arts.ac.uk/csm/courses

Digital Photography and Photoshop

 Is your child passionate about photography? This course by Fire Tech will help them get the most out of their camera, build their Photoshop skills and create stunning, interesting and imaginative images. DURATION: 1 week WHEN: Weekly throughout July 2018 WHERE: Wycombe Abbey, Buckinghamshire, UK AGES: 12-17 ACCOMMODATION: Yes FEES: £1,300 (AED6,669) firetechcamp.com/courses

Music Production Summer School

 Kids can learn how to create tracks to a high standard using either Logic Pro X or Ableton Live 9 from studio experts who have worked with artists including La Roux, Lily Allen and P Diddy.

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SCHOOL’S OUT / SHORT COUR SES

DURATION: 1 week WHEN: 24-29 July (Ableton Live); 31 July-4 August (Ableton Live); 14-19 August (Logic Pro X) WHERE: Point Blank Music School, Shoreditch, London, UK AGES: 14-19 ACCOMMODATION: No FEES: £395 (AED2,027) pointblankmusicschool.com/courses/ london/summer-school-courses

Performing Arts Summer School

 Guildhall School of Music & Drama, in association with The Barbican, organises this short summer course for young artists, from a range of music and theatre backgrounds, who want to develop their performance skills. Your children will explore the three core art forms of music, theatre and poetry and leave with lots of new ideas. DURATION: 1 week WHEN: 23-26 July WHERE: Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London, UK AGES: 15-18 ACCOMMODATION: Yes FEES: Course fee: £575 (AED2,949); Course fee + bed and breakfast: £812 (AED4,165); Course fee + bed, breakfast and evening meal: £866 (AED4,441) gsmd.ac.uk/youth_adult_learning/ short_courses

Teen Cooks

 Teen Cooks by Midge Shirley run this practical, hands-on course where your child can learn to cook in the heart of the French countryside with a maximum group of four students. It promises to be a foodie week to remember. DURATION: 1 week WHEN: Weekly between 22 July-1 September WHERE: Charente Maritime, France (around 60km inland from La Rochelle) AGES: 15-18 ACCOMMODATION: Yes FEES: £525 per week (AED2,694) teencooks.co.uk

A B OV E R I G H T

RADA’s Young Actors’ Summer School RIGHT

Art and Design workshops by Central Saint Martins BELOW RIGHT

Young Actors’ Summer School

Store’s Art and Architecture project

 This is a unique opportunity to experience learning with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), a leading British drama school for young people who are considering applying or simply have an interest in theatre. DURATION: 1 or 2 weeks WHEN: 24-28 July (Exploring Shakespeare or Stagecraft); 30 July-3 August (Contemporary Text, Devising Theatre or Stagecraft) WHERE: RADA, London, UK AGES: 16-18 ACCOMMODATION: Yes FEES: One week, £895 (AED4,592); Two weeks, £1,790 (AED9,185) rada.ac.uk/courses/short-courses

Young Filmmakers’ Camp

Vogue Teen Weekend

This weekend course organised by media giant, Condé Nast, offers a unique view of the fashion industry via the lens of British Vogue. Young fashion-lovers learn how trends develop, what happens behind the scenes of a photo shoot and what working in the industry is really like.

 Is your child looking to build a future in the screen industries? MetFilm School is the perfect place to turn their passion into practice. This course is suitable for complete beginners, and allows young filmmakers to get involved in a variety of roles – from directing to editing and lighting – and learn about the fundamentals of story development.

DURATION: 2 days WHEN: 30 June-1 July WHERE: Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design, London, UK AGES: 16-17 ACCOMMODATION: No FEES: £534 (AED2,739) condenastcollege.ac.uk/courses

DURATION: 2 weeks WHEN: 22 July-4 August WHERE: Rugby School, Warwickshire, UK AGES: 14-17 ACCOMMODATION: Yes FEES: £2,750 (AED14,106) metfilmschool.ac.uk/courses/metfilmmaking-camp-residential

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The GREATEST Gift Ahead of her arrival in Dubai, we speak to Dame Jacqueline Wilson about how parents and teachers can help spread the joys of reading K AT Y G I L L E T T

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hen prolific children’s writer Dame Jacqueline Wilson was a child, naturally, she loved to read. But she remembers her mother always telling her to “get your head out of that book and go and do something useful”, she laughs, reminiscing as we talk to her on the phone ahead of her arrival in Dubai for the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature. “Times have changed so much.” Wilson’s voice is calm and soothing. Her love of literature and way with words clearly comes across and she uses words such as “beguiling”, while, when speaking about children, evoking a sense of mischief, which has often been a staple personality trait of her most famous characters, like Hetty Feather and Tracy Beaker. Through her stories and work with educational institutions around the world, Wilson has already made big strides in helping to foster a love of literature among children, which is why, in 2008, she was named a Dame. But she has plenty of great ideas on how we – the parents and teachers – can do so, too…

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having fun, you can make really keen readers for life. I think it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give children. Reading is entertainment, it stimulates the imagination, it helps create empathy for other people. If reading isn’t something you can do fluently you are really hindered in life. There are just so many reasons why reading is the best thing ever to learn.

A B OV E

Q Why do you believe reading is so important for children today? A I’m not anti social media and looking at YouTube or the television at all, but I think reading is the greatest joy for anybody. Certainly, for me, it’s the thing I like to do most. When I pack for Dubai I shall have several outfits, but I’ll also have at least five books with me. I’m not a Kindle person, I prefer actual, real books, and I think with children – even a child who thinks reading is boring – you can only find the right book for them. And if you bring up a child so that you read aloud to them at bedtime and they associate reading with cuddling up and

Jacqueline Wilson is well known for her novels on kids who are the odd ones out

Q What tips do you have for parents looking to encourage their kids to read for pleasure? A I think parents should treat books like a treat, as if they were giving out bags of sweets. I think if you thrust a book onto a child and say, “Here, read this, it’s good for you” [laughs] they’re going to feel a bit resistant. Also, sometimes parents nag their children about reading and actually don’t often read themselves. If a parent is just forever on their favourite social media site, or hooked on television, and never read, it doesn’t actually send a message to a child that reading is a lovely thing to do. Children learn by example.

What else can be done in schools? I don’t know what the curriculum is like in schools in Dubai, but I know in Britain our teachers are hard-pressed to get everything covered, and so they can’t Q

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SCHOOL’S OUT / R E A DING

A L L I M AG E S

When we ask Jacqueline Wilson how many books she has written, she admits she has lost count. She guesses it is around 108! Q What message are you ultimately trying to put across in your stories? A The overwhelming message in most of my books is to show that if somebody seems a bit different don’t automatically assume they’re weird. I specialise in characters that are the odd ones out. It’s comforting for children. Then they read on and this child who doesn’t have much going for them actually wins out at the end. I don’t have fairytale endings, but I try to make them as happy and satisfying as I can.

just whip a book out and say “let’s have a 10-minute read”. So that’s a bit difficult. I think sometimes children associate reading passages with those tedious questions like “Why did so and so do this?” and “What genre do you think this book is?” or “What do you think of the language?”. I mean, that sort of questioning kills a story dead. If I have my way, I would have all children at any type of school they’re in have at least one lesson where a teacher simply reads a chapter of a book that’s as accessible as possible – often a funny one works well – and just have that teacher have the joy of suddenly seeing even the naughtiest child sitting still, eyes wide. We should generally encourage children to see books have a charm all of their own. They could act the book out, have little discussion sessions on what they think about it; not necessarily analysing it, but talking about the characters as if they’re real. And just liven things up a bit [laughs].

How was it, being named a Dame? I was absolutely delighted. Also particularly when it was for services to literature, and I felt that it wasn’t really just an honour for me, but it was for all the children’s writers that go around schools and libraries and festivals and give lots of talks to try and pass on the joys of reading. I’m very proud to be a Dame, but I certainly don’t insist on it as a title. I’m just plain Jacqueline Wilson – that’ll do me! Q

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Q You started out writing novels for adult books, but prefer writing children’s books. Why is that? A My first novels to be published were all adult novels, but they did have children in them. I was absolutely thrilled when I had my first children’s book published. I really haven’t looked back since. I much prefer writing for children because you can, as long as you’re careful, cover any number of different topics, and I just find it a joy.

What are you working on now? I recently finished another Victorian book called Rose Rivers, which will be out later in the spring. I’ve also started writing about a popular character of mine [again], and now I’ve decided to write about her when she’s grown up. Q

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Can you tell us which character it is? I’m not supposed to say! So I’ll keep quiet and keep people on tenterhooks [laughs]. Q

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for Spring From everyday experiments for young boffins to art inspiration and picture books, here are our picks for spring

LITTLE CREATURES MICE IN THE CITY: LONDON by Ami Shin

All across London, mice dressed in top hats and smart overcoats are making their way across town to work. Award-winning South Korean illustrator Ami Shin’s work is a cross between Where’s Wally? and Angelina Ballerina. Every page is teeming with surprises and young children will have something new to spot every time they open the pages. And if they like this one, introduce them to Mice in the City: New York next. AED66.5 thameshudson.co.uk

BRIGHT EYE F I R E F LY H O M E

by Jane Clarke & Britta Teckentrump

This stylish picture book features vibrant neon throughout as it invites readers to help a little lost firefly find her way home. The fun interactive text brings Florence Firefly to life. AED62 nosycrow.com

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M U ST READ

Body Art WE ' R E ALL WO R KS O F ART by Mark Sperring

This striking book celebrates and normalises human diversity by highlighting the many examples of humans as seen in art styles and movements around the world. The lyrical text works well read aloud and the vibrant illustrations are mini-masterpieces in themselves. AED62 pavilionbooks.com

BOFFINS BLOOM OUTDOOR MAKER LAB

PAGE TURNER MY WO RST BOO K EVE R! by Allan Ahlberg

This clever story is about the making of a book and all the things that can go wrong. Allan’s idea features a crocodile, but the publishers want a dinosaur and the illustrator’s keen on a hippo... and further problems arrive at the printer. AED56 thameshudson.co.uk

SWAP FEAT

I S WA P P E D M Y B R O T H E R ON THE INTERNET by Jo Simmons

Finding an improved older brother turns out not to be quite the breeze that Jonny expected, with the ghost of Henry VIII among matches chosen by SiblingSwap. com. Be careful what you wish for is the moral of Jo Simmons’ comic tale, brilliantly illustrated by Nathan Reed. AED31 bloomsbury.com

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ut one of the UK’s most engaging scientists and educators (Professor Robert Winston) together with one of our most colourful and accessible publishers (Dorling Kindersley, now known as DK) and the formula is bound to work. Winston has devised experiments that enable young boffins to have a go at science in their everyday surroundings, and with a range of ideas to appeal to different interests and abilities. Children can build a wormery to watch worms tunnelling, extract DNA from strawberries to get an introduction to genetics or create a diamond kite to see aerodynamics at work. There’s even an experiment to model tectonic plates and understand why earthquakes happen. The focus is around STEM learning, and with lots of brilliant visuals and facts to keep even younger readers in the loop. The age range is eight to 12, although younger readers should also enjoy the experiments with a bit of help from an adult or older sibling. Published 1 March. AED67 dk.com

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SCHOOL’S OUT / R E A DING

Beetle QUEEN Meet M. G. Leonard, the children’s writer who overcame her fear of insects in order to write what are now bestselling books... K AT Y G I L L E T T

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ust a few years ago, Brighton-based children’s author Maya Gabrielle (pen name M. G. Leonard) was terrified of insects, but now she loves them and even looks after two Rainbow Stag Beetles called Motty and Hector. Her first book, Beetle Boy, came out in 2016 and it quickly became a bestseller in the UK, winning numerous awards and nominations along the way. Beetle Queen, the second part of the trilogy, came out last year, while the final book in the series was published this February. Much of what she does emphasises to children why it is so important for us to take the time to notice the world around us. So, as she prepares to fly to Dubai for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, she tells us more about what creative projects she – and her kids – are working on.

“I’m immensely proud of myself now when I go into schools and help children to handle my beetles” Q Why did you decide to write about insects when you were afraid of them? A When I was afraid of insects, I never took the time to look at them in detail or learn about them. I was too busy running away. When I began studying them, I was astonished by their beauty and infinite variety. You could never be bored spending time with beetles, and I haven’t been.

Do you think it is important to face your fears? A It is liberating to overcome a fear, and I’m immensely proud of myself now when I go into schools and help children to handle my beetles. It has made me feel that, perhaps, I’m capable of doing other things. It has made me bold. Q

M.G. Leonard looks after two beetles called Motty and Hector

Q What projects are you working on at the moment? A I have a non-fiction book called The Beetle Collector’s Handbook coming out at the end of the year and I’d like to produce a small book of poems for children about beetles, too. I’m [also] currently writing a contemporary fairy story about climate change called December’s Children.

Where do you find your inspiration for your new work? A It’s a collision of thoughts, observations Q

and something that is troubling me. I want to bring into the world books that have the capacity to create the desire for societal change in the young. I felt that the way we portray invertebrates in our cultures belies the environmental importance and good that the creatures do, so I wrote the Beetle Boy books. I also believe that climate change is an important topic that’s difficult for us to talk about with our children, so I want to write a story that enables that. As someone who has worked in numerous creative industries, how do you stimulate creativity in your own children? A I don’t think you need to do much to encourage creativity in children. You just need to give them the space, time, tools and attention. In our dining room we have a cupboard of paints and paper. My youngest will often go to it and pull out his pens and start drawing. We visit a book shop or the library every weekend. There is a constant flow of reading material through our house and if the boys don’t enjoy a book, I don’t make them finish it. Our favourite family toy is Lego and in the holidays we do challenges – build a giant castle that our cat can fit in, for example. When I’m writing, my boys will often come and work beside me on homework (the oldest) or make their own books (the youngest), which can make it hard to write, but it is delightful. And my husband is musical so we try and make musical noise together when possible. None of it is scheduled or enforced. Creativity just happens, because children naturally want to do it. Q

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R E A DING COR NER The Director of Gabbitas Education Middle East shares six simple ways to set up a children’s book club FIONA MCKENZIE

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o you ever get that bursting feeling when you have just finished a book and you just want to send copies to all your friends and discuss it with someone? Well, a book club is a great way of doing just that. They’re hugely popular among adults, but also a great forum for children to share that feeling, and a fun way for them to be sociable, mix a play date with a spot of learning, while also giving them an opportunity to read more widely, learn to reflect and instill in them that lifelong love of reading. Here is how to do it...

STEP 1: FIND YOUR READERS

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alk to other families from your child’s school or local area. You will need to think about the age group you are including – do not make it too broad a span. It is also important that the children all have a similar reading level and genuinely enjoy books. Around 12 children is a good starting number, as inevitably not everyone will make every session. A good way of making it work is to have a monthly meeting and for it to be hosted in a different child’s home on a rotating basis. Talk to the other parents and explain that they will need to buy the book and encourage the children to read it before each meeting.

“Make sure you draw on the children’s interests to help make the reading fun and enjoyable”

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SCHOOL’S OUT / BOOK CLUBS

STEP 2: SELECT YOUR THEME AND BOOK

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theme is a great way to bring together all the different aspects of the meeting. For the first session we suggest that you pick the theme and book in consultation with your child, but after that let them get creative! Get the children to suggest themes and then do your research on what books might work. Themes can be anything from outer space to animals, and adventure to pirates. Make sure you draw on the children’s interests to help make the reading fun and enjoyable.

STEP 3: DECIDE WHERE TO MEET

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he most obvious spot for the first meeting would probably be your home. But try to keep the atmosphere informal. A circle of chairs can work well, as can beanbags and something a bit more relaxed. You will know what works best for your child and their friends. Also, don’t forget the snacks! Discussing books is hungry work, after all.

STEP 4: ESTABLISH YOUR BOOK CLUB RULES

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t the first meeting we would recommend getting the children to discuss and agree the “book club rules” as a group. For example, these could include: not talking over people, raising your hand if you would like to speak, being respectful, and having fun! It’s a great idea to have these written on a large piece of paper or flipchart and then visible at every meeting.

THE VENUE Try hosting your book club meeting in a friendly café such as Dubai’s BookMunch

Ten questions to get the discussion going… Would you give this book a thumbs up, down, or to the side? — Who was your favourite character in the book? Why? — What would you do if you were in [name of character]’s shoes? — What characters were good? Why? — What characters were bad? Why? — How did the story make you feel? — Are there any characters in the book that reminded you of anyone or anything? — What do you think happened after the book ended? — Would you read another book by the same author? Why (not)? — Now we’ve talked about the book, would you still give it the same thumbs up, down, or to the side?

STEP 4: HAVE YOUR DISCUSSION QUESTIONS READY

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arents should also read the nominated book, both so they can share the fun but also so they can help out with the discussions. It’s a good idea to talk through the book with your child beforehand and come up with a few open-ended questions to help kick start the discussion (see above suggestions). These starter questions

“A book club for your children is a great way to mix a play date with a spot of learning” should get them chatting, but it is important not to force the conversation and to let the children take the lead. Get them to give it the thumbs up or down, or write a few words on a Post-it note to stick on the wall so they don’t feel shy about voicing their opinions.

STEP 5: BUILD IN AN ACTIVITY

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ook club shouldn’t feel like more work – this is not school. A great way to avoid this is to build in an activity. Keep this in the theme and related to the book, but give them an opportunity to get a bit creative. This could be acting out a scene from the book or creating a comic strip of their favourite part, or whatever else you think they would enjoy most. A good balance is 20 minutes discussion, 20 minutes activity and then 20 minutes for the snack and deciding the next book.

STEP 6: INTRODUCE THE NEXT BOOK

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ave the next host (agree this in advance) to introduce the theme and what they’re reading for the following month and hand out the books. This is also a good opportunity to ask the children for ideas for future themes and for more recommendations of books they want to read!

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Q&A

MAJESTIC MASJID

UAE-based artist Jessica Watson-Thorp shares the inspirations behind her latest exhibition and how she manages to foster a love of art among her four kids

All Artwork: Jessica Watson-Thorp, courtesy of Mestaria

K AT Y G I L L E T T

and it’s the older parts of Dubai and the desert that draw me in. I love strolling in Satwa where you’re close to the people. One of my daughters and I escape the main roads and meander among the old houses in the laneways. I just love the feel there. Peeling paint and decorated doors in wood or steel. The old Fahidi District also fascinates me, not only the restored parts or souqs, but the whole area. It’s teeming with life and you can find real gems there like the old Post Office and the Iranian Mosque. If I need time for quiet contemplation I head to the desert to sit in the red sand and feel the peace and bliss this wide-open space encapsulates.

F A M I LY T I E S

Jessica WatsonThorp gives her kids free rein to create

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s a painter, printmaker and parent of four children, UAEbased artist Jessica WatsonThorp tries hard to find that worklife balance. Here she tells Absolutely Education how she manages, just as she prepares for her new exhibition, Masjid, which takes place from 17-26 March at The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.

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What inspires you in your work? My inspiration comes from two main sources: human experiences – mainly the experiences of women and emotive experiences of the human character – and the environment that surrounds me. I have an eye for detail and I appreciate every curve and unique element of a place. In any new surrounding I lean in and like to sit and feel it, and get a sense for what it means. Q

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Q Where do you go to in the UAE when you’re looking for inspiration? A I find inspiration in everyday situations,

Q How do you find juggling work and motherhood? A Not easy. I don’t keep the working hours of most people, but this is part of the joy of working for myself. I’m usually in the Studio by 7.30am until mid-afternoon, and then race around on school runs, to sporting events and sit with the children while they do their homework. After their various pick-ups, dinner and bed, I pick up my work again. Weekends usually involve work in one capacity or another. Q What do you do to encourage your children to be creative and to love art? A I give them free rein to create and never stop them because “it’s too messy”. We recycle in our house, so there is always an endless supply of cardboard to be devoured. I keep the Arabian upstairs kitchen as their art room, kitted out with paints and markers, a big roll of paper, canvases, scissors and everything else they might

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SCHOOL’ S OUT / SIK K A A RT FA IR

perspective and to acknowledge that this is okay, and even beneficial, is something I’d like to aim for. This is part of my rationale for collaborating with the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. They promote diverse thinking and acceptance. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world were a more peaceful place, all because of the decision to nurture creative thinking and creativity among our children? Q What Art Dubai events will you make sure you and your children attend this year? A Art Dubai is always a whirlwind! For the kids just a visit to the main exhibition hall and some time spent at SIKKA is enough. Kids love it here! Live music, food trucks, and a riot of art from many genres, with some fun and quirky creations to explore. I will definitely take them to see the Masjid show and along on one of the educational mosque tours. I try not to over-saturate my kids, as I don’t want to turn them off what is my passion. After all, what is my passion may not be theirs.

LEFT

Red Sky at Night 1, 2015, 36x48 cm

jessicawatsonthorp.com

RIGHT

Umm Suqeim Mosque – UAE Flag 4, 2015, 45x76 cm

need. They know they are free to grab an art shirt from my Studio (I keep a batch for my women’s workshops) and get creative any time. For big jobs I encourage them to work outdoors under the shade of the garage and will move the cars out. For smaller things they create in the casual living room, although I will admit that the furniture is getting slightly paint-speckled!

Q What museums or galleries in the UAE do you take your children to? A Now that the Louvre Abu Dhabi has opened I love to take them there. They are too old now to be interested in the Children’s Museum at ages 15, 12 and twins who are nine. It’s more about the exposure to the architectural space, the indoor/outdoor feel and the sense of art as important and magnificent. It’s only in these big institutions that humans feel the level of the importance of art and we are lucky to finally have one in the UAE. The collections are manageable for children and teens, not so large that they become overwhelming

with the viewer feeling saturated. The other place I frequently visit is the old Dubai Museum. I love the old Middle Eastern feel here and the fact that nothing has changed since its inception. It’s wonderful to be able to set foot inside the Fort that once housed our royals and dignitaries. It’s a very special space indeed. Q Why do you think learning how to be creative is important for children today? A The world at large is becoming increasingly linear in its thinking. There is “one way” and things are considered “right or wrong”, which leads to huge skirmishes not only between individuals but also between nations. The encouragement of creativity means providing scope for lateral thinking and therefore acceptance. The ability to see things from a different or varied

“IT’S ONLY IN THESE BIG INSTITUTIONS THAT HUMANS FEEL OF THE LEVEL OF THE IMPORTANCE OF ART”

The Exhibition Jessica Watson-Thorp’s latest work can be seen at SIKKA Art Fair...

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asjid, Watson-Thorp’s latest exhibition, takes place from 17-26 March at The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), nestled amid the historic, labyrinthine alleyways of the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, as part of SIKKA Art Fair (artweek.ae). The distinctive series of ink mono-prints is inspired by the architecture of Dubai, where she lives and works, and in particular the beauty of the mosque as a building and its symbol of a place for spiritual healing and inner reflection. The hand-made paper and its inconsistencies, combined with the hand-drawn images, make each piece unique and portray the way the sun and elements can affect the way we all experience architecture. “Ever since I arrived in the Middle East 15 years ago the architecture of the region has fascinated me,” WatsonThorp tells us. “I still see it with fresh eyes. “I’m in love with the curves and arches… the repeating patterns and shapes. I feel the need to capture this and to work with these visual qualities.” The SMCCU will run guided tours weekdays from 17-26 March, 7pm-8pm for AED25 per person. Register at the house in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, Bur Dubai, or by phone: 04 353 6666.

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60

L A ST WOR D

seconds with

Mike Wilson

Ahead of his arrival in the UAE, we speak to Cranleigh Abu Dhabi’s new Headmaster about what schools need more of in the 21st century What are you most looking forward to when starting at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi? A I am most looking forward to being on the ground and being part of the community on a day-to-day basis. I have been closely involved in the Cranleigh Abu Dhabi project since its inception in 2011, particularly with the design of the buildings, preparation of the curriculum and the laying down of the ethos. I then became a Trustee and Chair of the Education sub-committee when the school opened, so I have spent a lot of time there and have enjoyed playing a role in its evolution. My new position feels very natural and logical.

What is your preferred leadership style? A Collaborative, energetic and full-on! We don’t have the luxury in our profession to take our foot off the pedal, as it affects someone’s child’s education. I was brought up in Africa, so I have always looked ahead at the consequences of my decisions and actions – it was too dangerous not to. I have played professional sport, so I have seen the power of working as a team. I have become more patient, which is something I can probably attribute to 16 years of Headship.

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Q Within the UAE, what policies do you find most interesting and exciting? A I am a strong believer that children are born with an abundance of tolerance, empathy, fairness and kindness. They have an acceptance that people have different views, beliefs, colour and creed, and they adapt accordingly. They learn many of their habits from us, the adults. The UAE is a young country without many of the built up prejudices you see elsewhere. It is also multicultural, so children have the opportunity to learn about each other’s cultures, differences and beliefs, but more importantly find out that we are all pretty similar inside. In the context of this, I am inspired by the UAE’s focus on tolerance, kindness and youth alongside its determination to continue to evolve its education system so that it is among the best in the world.

What changes or improvements, if any, do you hope to make when you start your new role? A I have been at Cranleigh in the UK for four different “stints” over the last 30-plus years. The school has a distinct ethos that is centred around the school motto decided more than 150 years ago – “Ex Cultu Robur”, “From Culture Comes Strength”. The Abu Dhabi school has taken this motto and proven just how well it works beyond British shores in a truly Q

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A B OV E

global environment. Culture can be defined in different ways, from heritage and tradition to arts and music, and from shared beliefs to tolerance. I believe that sophisticated, cultured communities are what the world needs these days. I admire and value the strength of culture I see in the Cranleigh Abu Dhabi community and am very much looking forward to ensuring this continues to develop and grow. Mike Wilson will be Headmaster from September

“Educators need to ensure the teaching and learning styles they use encourage collaboration, problem-solving and creativity”

Q With regards to the future of education in general, what do you think it is most important to focus on now? A The most important thing for any educator in the 21st century to recognise is that what worked for us when we were at school has largely changed. There needs to be more focus on character and skills development and less on learning for learning’s sake. There needs to be a seamless, smart integration of technology across all learning. Contrary to some predictions, effective human interaction will be more – not less – important in a highly automated world, so educators need to ensure the teaching and learning styles they use encourage collaboration, problemsolving and creativity. More and more research is indicating that the current generation of children is feeling under pressure and mental health issues among the young are on the rise, so schools and parents need to focus on strategies to mitigate this. The pressure produced by the pace of life needs to be balanced by high quality downtime and our children will need to get much better than we are at switching from one to the other. Most importantly, we need to ensure children rediscover and value the fact that “we” is more important than “me”.

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Absolutely Education Emirates Issue 5 - 2018  
Absolutely Education Emirates Issue 5 - 2018