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Dr Arlene Henderson-Holmes and colleagues in Dubai

Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient History, recently visited Dubai to conduct research as part of her British Academy Innovation Fellowship.

Dr Holmes-Henderson travelled to Dubai with Beccy Earnshaw, CEO of national oracy charity Voice 21, as part of her British Academy Innovation Fellowship, ‘Levelling up through talk; how do oracy skills contribute to social mobility and employability?’.

They observed lessons in primary and secondary schools to better understand how teachers in the UAE create a culture of effective spoken communication and active listening within, and beyond, the classroom. They also took part in a School Leadership summit hosted at Dubai College and attended by teachers and school leaders from across the UAE. 

Dr Holmes-Henderson said, “Working in partnership with a UK national charity and schools in the UAE has given me fresh perspectives on my research.”

“The Dubai Oracy hub is an international centre of excellence for oracy education and I am so delighted to have visited and participated in a range of primary and secondary school lessons. My personal favourites were those which centred on rhetoric and Scotland, two topics close to my heart!”

British Academy Innovation Fellowships enable researchers in the humanities and social sciences to partner with organisations and businesses to address challenges that require innovative approaches and solutions.

High level oracy skills are fundamental to accessing opportunities, such as employment, apprenticeships and university places.

About Dr Holmes-Henderson

Dr Holmes-Henderson joined Durham University in October 2022 and is based in our Department of Classics and Ancient History. She is a leading expert in Classics education research and has undertaken extensive work to inform education policy in the UK.

Her British Academy Innovation Fellowship (2022-2024), ‘Levelling-up through talk’, investigates the importance of effective speech, communication and active listening, or ‘oracy’, to the life chances of young people.

Dr Holmes-Henderson argues that oracy is a crucial life skill but one that is currently not taught in all schools, so a child’s skills in this area are often determined by family background or the type of school they attend.

She has proposed solutions including introducing rhetoric and oracy lessons in schools, based on the skills and teachings of classical studies, to help broaden the opportunities available to all students.

Classics and Ancient History at Durham

Our Classics and Ancient History Department is one of the largest in the UK. It ranks 13th in the 2022 QS World University Rankings by subject, with score of 85 for employer reputation. Its graduates have gone on to careers in computing, civil service, gold dealing, insurance, journalism, law, accountancy, public relations and the theatre.

We are part of the The Durham, Newcastle and North East Classics Network, founded in 2019 by Durham University and Classics for All, and joined in 2020 by the University of Newcastle. The Network uses the research expertise of its universities’ Classics Departments and conducts outreach projects to support local state schools in the North East of England to introduce classical subjects on the curriculum.

Visit our Classics and Ancient History webpages for more information about our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

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