Learn from the world leaders in play

Headshot of speaker Kulvarn Atwal

Kulvarn Atwal

Creating school cultures of learning
"I am really excited about the opportunity to work with colleagues within an international thinking school community that empowers staff teams to think critically and creativity."

I was born and educated in East London and have been Head Teacher for nine years of Highlands Primary School, the school I attended as a child. Highlands has been awarded The Mayor of London's Schools for Success Award for four consecutive years. I am currently Executive Head Teacher of two large primary schools and my title is Head Learning Leader.

I am an international speaker on teacher professional learning and the development of structures and cultures in schools that maximise formal and informal teacher learning opportunities. My doctoral thesis, completed in 2016, examined the factors that influence teacher learning in schools. My research draws on theories of workplace learning to provide a practical model for schools. This model is designed to develop teacher learning activities that impact directly on pupil outcomes. The model has been used to shape leadership practice across the UK and Europe and can be applied to any school context. In 2019, my research was published in my first book, 'The Thinking School - Developing a Dynamic Learning Community'.

I am really excited about the opportunity to work with colleagues within an international thinking school community that empowers staff teams to think critically and creativity. It is not difficult to lead a thinking school of empowered, critical, creative, reflective independent thinkers. I'm looking forward to see how we can a develop a similar community internationally.

Headshot of international speaker Kath Murdock

Kath Murdoch

Inquiry through play
"Play extends beyond engagement with materials, it is also about playing with possibilities and ideas - allowing the kind of intellectual dexterity and agility that leads to profound meaning-making."

I am an experienced teacher, author, university lecturer and consultant in the field of inquiry-based learning in which I have taught, written and researched for over 30 years. Based in Australia, I work in schools throughout the world to support teachers and children in using contemporary approaches to teaching and learning. Never losing sight of the privilege of working with children, I remain most at home in the classroom.  I am fiercely committed to working ‘on the ground’ with children and educators as I explore the delights and complexities of bringing an inquiry stance to education. I am the author of over 15 books for teachers most recently publishing the ‘Power of Inquiry’, and the inquiry coaching cards ‘The Art of Inquiry Teaching’ and my children’s book “The Wonder of Winsome.”

I have always regarded play as the purest form of inquiry.  From my earliest teaching days, providing opportunities to children to explore, experiment and engage with open-ended materials as well as inquiring in the outdoors has been an important part of my practice. For me, play extends beyond engagement with materials, it is also about playing with possibilities and ideas - allowing the kind of intellectual dexterity and agility that leads to profound meaning-making. I love bringing a playfulness to my work with teachers and children. I believe a light-touch can uncover depth in uncanny ways.  The act of inquiry-teaching itself is a kind of ‘play' in that it is responsive, creative and risk, challenge and delight in equal measure.

Headshot of international speaker

Liz Pemberton

Inclusive and anti-racist practice in play
"Supporting and building upon children’s play that they bring from their homes and communities is key to my work, as is helping schools and settings to see how they can ensure anti-racist, inclusive practice through the play opportunities they provide."

With 16 years in the education sector, my roles have included Secondary School Drama Teacher, public speaker and up until recently, Nursery Manager. I am the Director of The Black Nursery Manager Ltd - a training & consultancy company which focuses on anti-racist practice within education and childcare.My mission is to promote inclusive practice in the education sector, with a particular focus on how race, culture and ethnicity should be considered in this practice. During my career, I’ve developed a fantastic network of like-minded practitioners and professionals, creating content on my Instagram page, delivering webinars, working closely with Local Authorities to consult on developing anti-racist strategy and collaborating with national organisations to promote this important and urgent work that we all need to do.

Supporting and building upon children’s play that they bring from their homes and communities is key to my work, as is helping schools and settings to see how they can ensure anti-racist, inclusive practice through the play opportunities they provide.


Headshot of international speaker Julie Fisher

Julie Fisher

Play and playful approaches throughout primary school
"Play skills are life skills, and schools that do not embrace a play-based approach are not preparing children adequately for their lives in the 21st century."

I am an experienced consultant, conference speaker, trainer and author. As well as working with schools and local authorities, I am Visiting Professor of Early Childhood Education at Oxford Brookes University and have received a lifetime achievement award for my contribution to the early years sector.

I have observed, spoken and written about the power of play for many years. Not only for children in their earliest years but for those moving through the primary school too, where I believe children benefit just as much from play and playful approaches.
For me, the adult taught curriculum only introduces and develops certain skills and knowledge in children. Important though these are, they are not sufficient. Play provides countless opportunities for more rounded learners who can think for themselves, regulate and manage their actions and activity and use their creative and imaginative selves to engage in a whole range of learning situations. Play skills are life skills, and schools that do not embrace a play-based approach are not preparing children adequately for their lives in the 21st century.

Headshot of speaker Bill Lucas

Bill Lucas

Creative assessment solutions

I am an expert on learning, creativity and leadership. In pre-Covid times I would travel the world to present keynotes. I am an award-winning write and have authored and co-authored over forty books and chapters and many peer-reviewed papers.

In 2017 I was appointed by the OECD as co-chair of the strategic advisory group for the 2021 PISA test of Creative Thinking. In 2018 I was invited to join the Durham Commission on Creativity in Education as an academic adviser and was subsequently co-author of its first report in 2019. I am currently curating a new online platform, Creativity Exchange, for Arts Council England. I am an international adviser to the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority in Australia, to Vinnvard in Sweden and to the OECD/CERI research into critical and creative thinking in France.

Most recently, I co-lead "Rethinking Assessment" which is researching creative ways to reimagine assessment.


Headshot of international speaker Anne van dam

Anne van Dam

Enabling environments and documenting learning
"I believe teams benefit from developing a shared pedagogy that centres around play, relationships, engaging learning spaces and different ways that we can document learning."

I have worked as a teacher, coordinator, head of school and vice-principal at international schools in China, Singapore and Switzerland. I have been working on the IB PYP review focusing on learner agency, early years, inquiry and several aspects of 'the learning community'. I still work as an IB workshop leader and collaborate with international schools as an independent educational consultant. I also work alongside 4,5 and 6 year olds  at an inner city, local PYP school in my home town The Hague.

Play has been my passion for more than 30 years. I feel very grateful for the many opportunities I have had across the world to talk about the pivotal role of play in young children’s lives. These conversations often start with thinking about the identity we give to children and their learning. I believe teams benefit from developing a shared pedagogy that centres around play, relationships, engaging learning spaces and different ways that we can document learning.

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