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SchoolsCompared Top Schools Awards Advisory Board and Judges

Since 2017 The Top Schools Awards Advisory Panel has welcomed leading educationalists and experts in education from across the world to advise and judge the UAE’s definitive Awards in Education. Current and historical members of the Advisory Board include:

Aimon Sabawi

Photograph of Aimon Sabawi, member of the Advisory Board and Judge of the Top Schools Awards

Aimon Sabawi is currently employed by the Emirates Schools Establishment with the federal government, heading a number of initiatives to improve public school education across the United Arab Emirates. Mr Sabawi’s particular expertise is in well-being. Mr Sabawi is a qualified teacher, holding both a Master’s in Education  (MED) and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), and is in the process of self-publishing his first bi-lingual children’s picture book.

Mr Sabawi began his career in academic retail management with Follett Higher Education Group in the United States. He went on to relocate to the UAE in 2008, joining as one of the first operations team members of the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB). From this posting he transitioned into private education, assuming the role of Director of Admissions for a group of high-profile British curricula schools. Mr Sabawi ended his K-12 career as a teacher of Business & Economics, providing him both administrative and academic experience to the UAE education industry. He has published and presented studies in the field of ‘Sociolinguistics’ at various international refereed conferences. Mr Sabawi’s primary research interests are vocational studies, Emirati culture, and educational technology. 


Apollo Perelini

Photograph of Apollo Perelini, member of the Advisory Board and Judge of the Top Schools Awards in Dubai

Apollo Perelini is a former Samoan dual code international and professional rugby player.

Apollo’s rugby career has seen him play for championship-winning St Helens Rugby League and Sale Sharks Rugby Union in the United Kingdom, Auckland and North Harbour Rugby in New Zealand, and internationally for the Manu Samoa Rugby Union and Samoa Rugby League teams, playing in World Cups for both codes.

Mr Perelini arrived in Dubai in 2009 to take up the role of Director of Sports at Repton School Dubai. Following this, Mr Perelini was appointed the High Performance Director for UAE Rugby Federation.

Mr Pereleni is the owner of Apollo Sporting Academy LLC – the leading specialist rugby training school focused on transforming the rugby futures of players and coaches. The school works with young people between the age of five years and eighteen years both independently, and within schools across the UAE.


Brendan Law, Director General, Misk Schools, Riyadh

Photograph of Brandan Law, member of the Advisory Board and Judge of the Top Schools Awards in Dubai.

Working with the Misk Schools Board, Brendan has responsibility for providing leadership in all aspects of the school. He brings over 35 years of international educational experience and is using it to shape and guide his team so that together, they can deliver the school’s ambitious vision for a new paradigm in Saudi education, as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Misk Foundation and KSA’s Vision 2030.

Brendan joined Misk Schools in August 2019 from GEMS Education in Dubai, where he had responsibility for a portfolio of 14 British Premium schools across the UAE and Africa.

Prior to his role at GEMS, Brendan was Director of Education at The Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) in Abu Dhabi, and Founding Headmaster of its flagship school, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, which he launched in 2014.

Under his vision and direction, Cranleigh became a multi award-winning school, securing New British International School of the Year 2017 as well as a number of other accolades in recognition of the school’s creative curriculum and outreach programmes. Prior to his time with TDIC, Brendan established and led Brighton College Abu Dhabi as Founding Headmaster. Based on the significance of his work in Abu Dhabi, he was listed as a UAE Education Influencer 2017 by

Brendan began his career in 1985 in South Africa from where he moved to Sweden as Private Tutor to the President of SAAB’s children. His next career step was to the UK and into the independent boarding school sector. He joined Bedford School in 1995 to teach English and Sports, where he also held the roles of Senior Boarding Housemaster and Acting Registrar. In 2003, he was appointed Headmaster at Westbourne House School where, during his eight-year tenure, the school grew by 33% and achieved record results.

A graduate of the Universities of Port Elizabeth (now Nelson Mandela University) and Cape Town, Brendan has specialisms in English and Psychology, holds a Bachelor of Arts and a postgraduate BA Honors in Psychology, as well as a Higher Diploma of Education.

Mr Law says:

“I’m at my best when I am building teams and galvanizing them behind a shared and inspiring vision.

Misk Schools has a bold, forward thinking set of goals. It is both a pleasure and a privilege to lead a team that is already delivering innovation in the classroom and to know that together, we are on an extraordinary journey to break new ground in K-12 education.”


Ebtisam Al-Beiti

Photograph of Abitsan-Al-Belti, member of the Advisory Board and Judge of the Top Schools Awards

Ebtisam Al-Beiti is a published Children’s Author and Early Years Professional. She has had a passion for education since her high school years, where she used to volunteer to read stories to preschool children. She has over nine years experience in Early Years managerial and teaching roles. Writing a children’s book has always been on her bucket list, until it became a reality in March 2020.

Earning a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of Sunderland and working directly with children inspired her to write a book with a meaningful educational message for young readers. ‘Can I Go Out Now? is her first children’s book which aims to teach young children about current environmental and health issues in a fun, playful, and interactive way.

Can I Go Out Now?’ made its official debut in February 2021 at the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature. The first edition of ‘Can I Go Out Now? featured in The Reading for Pleasure Project, a government reading program introduced by The Emirates Literature Foundation and the UAE Ministry of Education. It has since gained a lot of interest in the region and has featured in a number of school readings, children’s events, and workshops in the UAE.

Ebtisam is also a member of the Global Council and is involved in working towards achieving selected Sustainable Development Goals within her council.

She is currently working on her second book and is sure it will have little readers laughing as they experience a very friendly, yet unusual character.

Being an advocate for education, Ebtisam has strived to be a contributor to the education of young children and has also volunteered in special needs schools in her free time. Ebtisam lives with her family in Dubai and is not to be confused with her identical twin sister!”


Graeme Scott

Graeme Scott is a member of the Advisory Board of The Top Schools Awards

Graeme Scott has 37 years of experience in education, with 25 of these working internationally in Hong Kong, Dubai, The Hague and Bangkok.  He is an experienced international school leader and educational consultant.  Previously Head of a UK state school rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, Mr Scott has also worked as Principal at the International School of The Hague, in the Netherlands for seven years, followed by six years as Deputy Superintendent of the International School Bangkok.  His most recent role was as Founding Director of Fairgreen International School in Dubai.  Mr Scott is now Executive Chairperson of MARIO Education, an organisation that helps schools measure and improve wellbeing and learning, and he serves as Trustee of a Multi-Academy Trust with around 20 schools in South West England.


Isobel Abulhoul OBE

Isobel Abulhoul OBE is the CEO & Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation. Mrs Abulhoul came to Dubai in 1968 and co-founded the Al Ittehad Private School in 1974; a new model of education, with children receiving a bi-lingual education, and learning   through   an   integrated   day.     That   was   followed   soon   after   with   Isobel   co-founding Magrudy’s, a bookshop chain, in 1975.


In 2008  Mrs Abulhoul  founded, and directed, the Emirates Airline  Festival of Literature, the Middle East’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word. In 2013, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and also the Festival patron, issued a Decree forming the Emirates Literature Foundation, naming Isobel as one of the trustees on the Board. In addition, Isobel also holds the position of CEO of the Foundation. She is also a Trustee of the International   Prize   for   Arabic   Fiction Board, Secretary General of the Kalimat Foundation and Director of the Board for the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library.

Isobel Abulhoul OBE has received several awards and accolades over the years including Cultural Personality of the Year from  Dr. HH Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah in 2010, and an OBE award by HM Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain in 2012, Cultural Icon of UAE Award at the 3rd Petrochem GR8! Women Awards – Middle East 2013.  Mrs  Abulhoul was also selected  as  one  of  the  Most Influential Brits and the Most Inspirational  Woman  living in the UAE  in May 2013. 

Isobel Abulhoul OBE received the  Special Cultural Award from the Al Owais Creativity Awards 2013, ‘Imprint of Thought’ award at the Watani Emarat  Humanitarian Work Award   ceremony  2013.  She received the Outstanding Contribution Award at the TimeOut Kids Awards, Femina Unstoppable Woman Award 2015.

Isobel Abulhoul OBE is currently busy with the Foundation and its year-round activities.


John Martin St Valery

Photograph of John Martin St Valery, member of the Advisory Board and Judge of the Top Schools Awards

John Martin St Valery is Chairman & CEO of the British Business Group Dubai & Northern Emirates – and Chairs the Education sector focus group. John also sits on/advises the bilateral trade body between UAE and UK focused on the importance and impacts of SMEs.

With more than two decades experience in Middle East trade, industry and governmental affairs, he has a unique and unrivalled insight into the commercial opportunities available in the emirates and broader MNE.

Previously he held senior management roles with Citibank and Kodak which were preceded by an eight-year period with the Metropolitan Police in London. Today John advises many group companies at board level, particularly in the areas of entrepreneurship,  corporate governance and business development.

John is also the former Chairman of Equiom Middle East and the Chairman of the British Business Group, Dubai & Northern Emirates.

John is a Partner of JacksonMSV Ltd and an award-winning foreign investment specialist.

With over 24 years in the Middle East region he founded, built and sold the region’s leading company formation and restructuring specialist firm, Links Group. Having founded Links Group in 2002, John has been instrumental in helping hundreds of foreign companies to grow in the UAE.

The business is now part of a global professional services firm.

Today John Martin St Valery works with both Government and Private Sector entities to assist in shaping Macro-Economic growth through foreign investment and job creation. At the heart of his work, John Martin St Valery believes that Education must be front and centre stage in the evolution of the emirates and its business and industry sectors.


Jonathan Hughes D’Aeth

Jonathan Hughes D’Aeth is a member of the Advisory Board of the Top Schools Awards UAE

Jonathan Hughes D’Aeth has over 23 years’ experience of leading schools in the UK and the UAE. In his last role as Chief Education Officer of Evolvence Knowledge Investments (EKI) based in Dubai, he was responsible for the line management of the UAE Repton UK-branded schools and the associated chains of nurseries spread over seven different sites. In addition, he was involved in the planning of the expansion of the Repton brand into other GCC countries.

Jonathan first moved to the region when he was appointed as Headmaster (Principal) of Repton School Dubai in 2010. During his time as Head it grew to over 2,300 pupils from 70 different nationalities, encompassing EYFS to Year 13 in a mix of English curriculum and IB diploma programmes. He learnt much about working in the ‘for-profit sector’ and how to manage schools to be both academically and financially successful.

Prior to his role at Repton, Jonathan was Headmaster of Milton Abbey School in Dorset for more than 15 years. A strong advocate of boarding, Jonathan also played an active role as a committee member of the Boarding Schools Association (including a year as Chairman).

Educated at Haileybury College before studying Geography at Liverpool University, and Queens’ College Cambridge, Jonathan began his career teaching at Rugby School for 16 years and spent five of those years as a Housemaster. In his spare time, he served as a reserve Infantry Officer in the Territorial Army for 23 years.

He has been a Governor of an IAPS School and continues to serve as a member of the Education committee of an HMC School. Still living and working in Dubai, Jonathan advises on school establishment and inspection training and preparation projects.

Jonathan Hughes D’Aeth is currently a Board Member of South View School Dubai where he serves as its Academic Lead.


Kathy Brennan

Kathy Brennan is part of the Advisory Boarrd and Judging Panel for the Top Schools Awards in the UAE - the landmark regional education awards for schools and Educators across the emirates including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Kathy Brennan is Global Partnerships Manager for Queen’s University Belfast. Over more than two decades, Miss Brennan has played key roles in education-related businesses including managing relationships with Heads of Schools and Education Media as part of her work as General Manager of the British Business Group Dubai & Northern Emirates. Miss Brennan led the award-winning children’s edutainment Miniversity operation in Dubai, focused on a portfolio of computer-based learning platforms providing STEAM-based after School Programmes and Holiday Camps for primary school children. In the UK Miss Brennan played a leading role working for CES, a not-for-profit organisation connecting research, policy and practice to improve outcomes for communities, children and young people. For six years Miss Brennan worked as Operations Manager for Access Skills Ireland a Third Sector leader in training providing support, education/training and facilities throughout all regions of Ireland. Miss Brennan is a keen support of CSR in business and throughout her career has sought to leverage links between leading organisations and investment in schools and children.


Kevin Simpson

Kevin Simpson is part of the Advisory Panel for the Top Schools Awards UAE

Kevin Simpson launch KDSL Global in 2016 in both the USA and in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Mr Simpson and his team have served thousands of schools, organizations, educators, and leaders worldwide in over 25 countries.

The majority of his work in education has centred on American curriculum schools. Since 2008, Mr Simpson has been focused on education in the MENA region, assisted numerous schools with accreditation, training, development, and served as a thought partner to investors on school start-up projects.

Mr Simpson is co-founder of the UAE Learning Network and leads the GCC ASCD Connected Community. In addition, he has co-authored papers on American curriculum in the MENA region with a focus on Common Core State Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards, social studies, the arts, and the history of American Education in the UAE.

Mr Simpson is the founder of the Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education and a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University (USA).


Lyn Soppelsa

Photograph of Lyn Soppelsa, member of the Advisory Board and Judge of the Top Schools Awards

Lyn Soppelsa joined Which Media as its first full-time team member back in 2013 (and celebrates her ninth year with organisation in 2022).  Initially, Lyn was the public face of, visiting schools around the UAE to get to know them better and to introduce the new brand.

Over the years, Lyn has worked in both Commercial and Editorial roles for UAE and in support editorially of International and with the team at

Lyn’s background includes both Parent Relations and Registrar roles in mainstream education, and marketing for a SEN centre, in Dubai. Prior to joining Which Media, Lyn spent a number of years working with international families relocating to the UAE, visiting numerous schools as part of this role. This gave her a critical understanding of the processes and requirements from both a school and parental perspective.

All three of Lyn’s children attended schools in Dubai, each completing their education in the UAE prior to moving on to universities in Australia and the UK.

Lyn is currently Reviews and Community Editor for and a (highly valued) special consultant and advisor for


Ruth Roberts

Photograph of Ruth Roberts, Member of the Advisry Board and Judge of The Top Schools Awards recognising excellence in education across the United Arab Emirates

Ruth Roberts has been an educationalist for twenty-five years. Currently Education Liaison Officer at the University of Warwick, Mrs Roberts advises international students seeking entrance to a university ranked 9th by both The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 and Guardian University Guide 2024 in their lists of the UK’s top universities. Warwick is ranked 67th in the world, in the UK top-10 and within Europe’s top 20 universities by QS World University Rankings 2024. A Psychology and Sociology major by original training, Mrs Roberts worked for more than two decades in schools, including as Head of Sixth Form, Head of Social Sciences, Safeguarding Lead, Strategic Lead for Health and Well-being, and Deputy Head of School. She is a passionate about the importance of well-being and child happiness in education as the foundations for delivering an outstanding education for students, believes that the independent school sector must do much more to build links with and support the public school system and broader community, and is an outspoken proponent of schools offering the broadest subject and qualification pathways to ensure no child is left behind. She is a supporter of the Blair government’s pledge to make teachers “the most prestigious profession in the country” and for 70% of young people to go on to Higher Education, both to improve productivity and to remove structural inequality.


Dr. Sarah Rogers

Dr Sarah Rogers is a member of the Advisory Panel for

Dr. Sarah Rogers is the Founder and CEO of Early Years Educational Services and Quest Direct.  Dr. Rogers is an expert in Early Years education and one of her aims is to raise the level of professionalism in early years practice across the Middle East. Dr. Rogers aims to increase awareness of the importance of high-quality practice in the early years to a child’s life and life chances. Dr. Rogers was educated and taught in the United Kingdom before relocating to the UAE where she has been based for  27 years.

Established in 2028, Early Years Educational Services (EYES) was merged with Quest Direct (established in 2014) in 2019. The Group provides training and support for early years professionals.

EYES was the first NCFE/CACHE Centre in the Middle East and Quest remains the largest centre and the market leader in the UAE. Dr Rogers has been recognised by our sister site, WhichSchoolAdvisor, as one of the most influential educators in the UAE.

Today Dr. Rogers divided her time between the UK, UAE and Far East working on best practice in Early Years education.


Shaun Robison

Photograph of Shawn Robison, member of the Advisory Board and Judge of the Top Schools Awards

Shaun Robison is an entrepreneurial, education leader who has worked extensively across the GCC education sector. Mr Robison has worked with investors, school operators, teachers and government regulators for the last 13 years, and been at the forefront of K-12 development in the region.

In his role of CEO of BBD Education, he has recently delivered projects in Jakarta, Ahmedabad and the UAE. He has also has extensive experience of teaching training, and has recently published his PhD in Education with Newcastle University.

“Working with and alongside teachers has been my constant passion since completing my PGCE and M.Ed and at my core, is everything I learnt at Newcastle

As educators, we should not underestimate lived experience. The international sector is awash with opportunities that may offer a glimpse into another world that may change your worldview on education.”

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About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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