Inset Abroad - Doha

Doha and Back Again

My experience doing inset abroad

On a grey, wintery day, I was asked, “Would you be interested in some inset abroad in Doha?” I love to travel and see new places, but having taught in international schools myself, I am also interested in working with the particular needs of these schools to develop learning based on the UK curriculum. I remember very well how easy it was to feel quite isolated and constantly search out changes and developments from the UK.

So, arrangements were made to deliver a day’s training for two schools and flights were booked. Initially, there was a great deal of email correspondence to understand each school’s starting point and what they had identified as the focus of the day. This was followed by several Skype conversations – what did we do before Skype? The needs of the two schools were different, so I developed two different INSET days bespoke to each school’s context.

On my way

On 13th May, I found myself at Heathrow airport, ready to fly with a suitcase half-full of books thanks to Qatar Airways' generous baggage allowance! My first impressions of Doha were the heat and the wonderful customer service. A taxi ride to the hotel gave a glimpse of a distinctive skyline of modern high-rise buildings, wide roads, dry, dusty land and many building sites.

The daily routine is different: while break times here are disrupted by rain, in Doha, it is the heat! School finishes early simply because it is too hot. The sun is intense and relentless, and air conditioning is essential. The school hall was cool, bordering on cold, and it was bizarre to see staff putting on jumpers and even wrapping themselves in blankets when the outside temperature was 45 degrees!

International school consultancy

 After a short lunch break (a wonderful feast of Middle Eastern mezze), we continued looking at a sequence in practice and the thorny issue of assessment! Although there is still much to do to get assessment right in the UK, where we had an advantage, I shared the journey we have undertaken so far and the absolute necessity of basing planning for progress on formative assessment and how to secure and deepen learning.

I left everyone thinking about the texts that could be used and re-thinking writing.

 The second school – Awfaz Global – was different again. The school is situated in an enormous villa in another area of Doha. Classrooms are not purpose-built, but have been adapted to make effective learning environments. The school has classes from Nursery to Year 9 and has many EAL learners. Another early start – 6.45 a.m. this time! The brief here was to introduce the 2014 curriculum. Again, it is such an advantage to be implementing this with the two years’ experience in the UK to draw on. We looked at the new year group expectations and examples of work in English and maths. Many thanks to all the schools that have allowed me to photograph work.

The difference in standards caused much discussion, which led to ensuring understanding of the shift towards mastering and deepening learning and the role of formative assessment. Leaders were concerned about tracking progress, so possible systems and processes were shared and considered. All staff were anxious to approach the implementation with as much knowledge as possible.

International school consultancy

A fascinating international school consultancy

All told, it was such a fascinating and exciting experience. I also managed a boat trip in a dhow around the bay and evening visits to Souq Waqif – one of the original parts of the city – to have some delicious meals. A bit of the culture, too! Schools are schools wherever you go, and all face challenges of one kind or another. I feel privileged to have been invited to work with both schools that welcomed me so warmly and have broadened my knowledge too.

inset abroad

Read more information on our international services. You can also find Ros on Twitter @FocusRos, or get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818. If you are an international school and you would like a consultant to support you in your development of the English curriculum, please head to our International Consultancy page.

Resources by Ros Ferrara


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