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Rising legal stars soar in competition’s national final

QE pupils stormed through the early stages of the Bar Mock Trial National Final and drew praise from real-life judges and barristers for their performances.

The team reached the competition’s national final after winning their regional round. The event was held this year in the Court of Session – Scotland’s supreme civil court – in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town.

Jack Robertson, QE’s Head of Philosophy, Religion and Society, said: “The students were outstanding on the day and can be very proud of their efforts across the year. A number of judges and observing legal professionals commented on how the group’s conduct was exemplary, and that our barristers’ advocacy skills were on a par with qualified members of the bar.” Mr Robertson accompanied the team, together with Chemistry teacher Charani Dharmawardhane.

The competition, which is for 15-18 year-olds, involves competitors taking on a number of roles to simulate a real court case, including not only those of barristers, but also of witnesses, clerks, ushers and jury members. Twenty-four schools from across the UK took part in the national final.

In the first of their three rounds, the QE defence team delivered an “outstanding performance”, Mr Robertson said, winning the heat by several points. Year 12 pupil Oscar Smith’s highly rated closing speech gave him the top score of any participant in that particular trial.

QE also won their second heat, with Rivu Chowdhury, of Year 12, conducting an “incisive cross examination” of the prosecution witnesses.

In their third round, QE lost by a single point. Nevertheless, one observing legal expert applauded the skill which QE barristers Hector Cooper (Year 12) and Yuvan Vasanthakumaran (Year 11) demonstrated in their advocacy.

The QE witnesses on the day were:

  • Dharrshan Viramuthu (Year 11), who gave a “very convincing performance as a computer hacker”, Mr Robertson said
  • Leo Kucera (Year 12) as an acid attack victim with severe burning to his left arm
  • Tobi Durojaiye (Year 12), who “locked horns with the eventual winner of the Best Barrister prize in a very engaging and heated back-and-forth” according to Mr Robertson. Tobi said afterwards that the day was “a great experience and opportunity for those interested in becoming a barrister or eventually a judge”
  • Jonathan Perry (Year 12), who played a timid student accused of carrying out the acid attack.

“There were also highly professional performances from Rukshaan Selvendira, of Year 11, as the macer [an official who keeps order in a Scottish court] and Karan Patel as court clerk. Jurors Denis O’Sullivan (Year 12), Euijin Lee (Year 11), Amaan Khan (Year 11), Saifullah Shah (Year 12) and Shakshum Bhagat (Year 12) performed their duties well and were a credit to the team,” Mr Robertson added.

The trials were judged by well-known real-life judges, including Lord Leveson, currently the President of the Queen’s Bench Division and Head of Criminal Justice, who is best known for chairing a public inquiry into the culture and practices of the British press.

“Many of the barristers and judges present mentioned to Miss Dharmawardhane and me that they fully expect to see some of the boys being called to the bar one day in the future,” Mr Robertson said.

The boys took advantage of an opportunity to visit Edinburgh Castle and to walk along the Royal Mile to see statues of the philosopher David Hume and political economist Adam Smith, and buildings such as St Giles’ Cathedral, where they are pictured above.

Juror Saifullah said: “Edinburgh was a lovely city, the courthouse a stunning example of architecture, and the chance to interact and converse with students from as far afield as Glasgow and Belfast was a genuine pleasure. A remarkable experience overall.”

Winning the vote? Deft debating shakes faith of some in democracy

Sixth-formers took on Old Elizabethan opposition to debate one of the biggest questions of our era – whether there is a future for democracy.

More than 170 guests, including Old Elizabethans, Year 12 pupils and staff, attended the 54th Elizabethan Union Annual Dinner Debate. The debate is a formal event which helps sixth-formers prepare for similar occasions at university and, later, in their professional lives.

At the start of the evening, an indicative vote on the motion, This House believes democracy has had its day, revealed that a large majority – around an 80:20 split – opposed it. However, the School team successfully shook the faith in democracy of some 15-20 people, who had swung to their side of the argument by the final vote, thus technically giving the School victory in the debate. Nevertheless, a majority – albeit now reduced to 70:30 – remained opposed to the motion.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “This was an enjoyable occasion, with some adroitly made arguments on both sides and contributions in the floor debate that were both enthusiastic and well-considered. I am grateful to the visiting alumni, including our guest speaker, Nikhil Patel.”

The School team of Chris Hall and Aryan Jain explained that democracy was failing to solve the big questions and, furthermore, was wrongly identifying what those big questions were. They gave as examples the fact that large amounts of effort were being spent in the UK on Europe and Brexit, but correspondingly less on issues such as climate change, education and welfare. The pair argued that the electorate’s greatest concerns were not always based upon real evidence – a problem they blamed on media distortion.

Instead they put forward a form of technocratic government under which the experts could get on with running the country and implementing the right policies, noting that we already entrust large and important sections of government, such as the legal system, to independent non-elected institutions – in this case, the judiciary.

“It was perhaps an idealised vision of how such a government might operate, but Chris Hall grounded it all strongly in logic,” said the Headmaster.

The motion was opposed by Ashwin Sharma (OE 2008–2015) and by Year 12 boy Alex Beard (replacing old boy Jason Thomas [OE 2010–2015], who was unable to attend).

“Ashwin and Alex worked very well together to argue a compelling case, with Alex stepping in very well to complete the opposition and contributing significantly to the very high standard of debating across all the speakers,” said the Headmaster.

They argued that democracy is the best system we have. Moreover, the rise of the internet and other new technologies are increasing democratic opportunities around the world, including in countries not typically classed as democracies. Democracy is more than just elections, they pointed out, stating that the very fact that the Elizabethan Union Dinner Debate was taking place was itself evidence of a functioning democracy.

In his after-dinner address Nikhil Patel (OE 2007–2014) recalled his own School days. He heeded the advice given on his very first day by the then-Headmaster Dr John Marincowitz to “get stuck in”,  throwing himself into School life and later becoming School Captain (in 2013), as well as playing in the First XI cricket squad, captaining the Second XV rugby team and playing the saxophone in several ensembles.

He advised the assembled sixth-formers similarly: “Always endeavour to challenge yourself, push the boundaries of what you previously thought and attempt new things, whether that be a language, a sport or an activity.”

They should pursue things about which they are “truly passionate”, he said, before espousing the power and value of friendship: “…always remember your roots and who was with you on this journey when it all started.

After leaving QE, Nikhil studied Geography and Management at Cambridge University where he was President of the India Society and captain of the Fitzwilliam College cricket team when they were twice winners of the Cuppers inter-collegiate competition. After university he took a gap year and now works as a Management Consultant for EY and an advisor to WOAW, a content marketing firm. He was accompanied by his partner, Aparna Joshi.

Nikhil finished his address with a toast to the Elizabethan Union. Current School Captain Bhiramah Rammanohar proposed a toast to ‘The Visitors’, while there were also the customary toasts to ‘Her Majesty, the Queen’ and to ‘The Pious Memory of Queen Elizabeth I’. Year 12 pupil Viraj Mehta chaired the debate.

The guests enjoyed a dinner of spicy parsnip soup followed by confit of lamb (or pulled vegetables) and chocolate cake.

Theory and practice: sixth-formers learn about the real-world importance of Economic Geography

A young Elizabethan now forging a career in private banking with a global finance giant returned to the School to lead a Sixth Form discussion on Economic Geography.

Hemang Hirani (OE 2008-15), who studied Geography and Economics at the London School of Economics and is now working for Barclays, gave a presentation to the select group of Year 12 geographers entitled The role of cities: an introduction to the field of Economic Geography.

Thanking him for his visit, Headmaster Neil Enright said: “This is an important aspect of alumni support – Old Elizabethans coming back to the School to help stretch the older boys academically by giving them an insight into, and a taste of, university-level material and discussion.”

In a lavishly illustrated talk, Hemang included: a satellite picture of Earth by night; a world map showing the growing percentage of the planet’s population in urban areas since 1950, and colour-coded maps of the USA and India depicting the importance of cities in both advanced and emerging economies.

He considered an influential academic paper on the topic, taking the boys through theoretical aspects such as labour market pooling, input-output linkages and knowledge spill-overs, as well as examining complex equations used by economic geographers.

The event was organised by Geography teacher Anne Macdonald, who said Hemang also answered questions about university, including the experience of studying at LSE and the benefits of studying Geography and Economics as a combination. “Indeed, he explained that his new employers – Barclays Private Banking – indicated that one of the things that persuaded them to offer Hemang the job was the broad perspective he was able to offer as a results of having studied Economic Geography.”

In his own time in the Sixth Form at QE, Hemang was a Senior Vice Captain. He has previously been involved in helping QE’s sixth-formers apply for Geography places at university.

In addition, during his time at LSE, Hemang was a Widening Participation Mentor, undertaking weekly visits to state secondary schools in the City of London area to help underachieving groups of Year 12 pupils with university applications.

He has been involved in volunteering ventures ranging from mentoring pupils at under-performing London schools to supporting poor cancer patients in Mumbai.

After graduating, he undertook a number of internships, including three months with Swiss investment bank and financial services company UBS as a Summer Analyst. He joined Barclays Private Bank in a similar role in June last year.

“I enjoyed my internship within the Real Estate Finance team and was offered a role to bridge the gap between the internship and the graduate programme starting this July,” Hemang said. “In the current role, we work closely with hedge fund and private equity professionals from a wealth management perspective.”

Child Genius Rahul inspires and informs hundreds of primary school children

QE pupil and Channel Four’s reigning Child Genius Rahul Doshi ‘blew away’ both children and staff when he spoke at a literacy festival run by two local primary schools.

In an inspirational message, Rahul, who won the most recent series of the TV competition in 2017, told boys and girls at Edgware’s The Orion and Goldbeaters primary schools that academic success was “something to be proud of”, urging them to work towards it.

Rachel Shear, Co-Headteacher of The Orion Primary School, paid tribute to Rahul when she wrote to QE to thank the School for allowing him to visit. “Rahul gave an absolutely wonderful talk at both of our schools and truly blew the children and staff away with his accomplishments.

“He is a true role model for hard work, commitment, diligence and the opportunities that being smart can bring you. He spoke flawlessly and with lots of humour in front of a group of 480 children at The Orion and about 30 staff, which is a remarkable achievement.”

In reply, QE Headmaster Neil Enright wrote back: “I am delighted that Rahul was so positively received and that the children benefited from the occasion. He is indeed an impressive young man.”

Mr Enright also said: “We are keen to further expand our outreach and partnership work with local schools, and I am delighted that Rahul served as a successful ambassador for both his own talents and the School on these visits.”

Orion and Goldbeaters, which are only half-a-mile apart, are part of the same federation and jointly hold an eight-week Word Up Festival. Rahul was invited by the schools after he was heard answering questions on Capital London’s breakfast show, where he has become a regular guest.

Rahul’s speech was primarily about Child Genius and the learning techniques he employs, such as memorisation through creating ‘memory palaces’ and building stories personal to you in which to place the information you need to remember, or by finding connections between what you are learning to make it more interesting.

In addition, he spoke about some of his key values, including always giving your best and being resilient.

Having had his confidence boosted by his involvement with Child Genius, Rahul said he no longer finds speaking in public to be a daunting prospect, even to such large audiences. He said afterwards that he would be keen to deliver this message similarly in other schools.

Rahul reflected on his appearance on a Child Genius Christmas special broadcast in December 2018 alongside comedians Jimmy Carr and Shazia Mirza, TV presenter Rick Edwards and newsreader Charlotte Hawkins. He commented that the celebrities were “quite clever” and that he was surprised by how much they knew.

Ms Shear has made a donation to Great Ormond Street Hospital in Rahul’s name as a gesture of thanks.

“It was the best!”: Year 8 have fun at Maths Circus, helped out by sixth-formers

Year 8 House teams pitted their wits against each other in QE’s very own Maths Circus.

Inspired by the UK Mathematics Trust’s Maths Challenge events, the circus includes a number of rounds that involve both mathematical problem-solving and practical challenges.

Each team was supervised by a Year 12 or 13 Further Mathematics A-level student, while sixth-formers also helped with the logistics of running the overall event.

Assistant Head of Mathematics Wendy Fung said: “Now in its second year, the Year 8 Maths Circus follows on from the Year 7 Maths Fair, with the idea being to show boys that mathematical problems come in many different formats, as well as to help them to develop team-working skills.

“The event could not have been run without the help of the sixth-formers and it was a great opportunity for the older boys to interact with Year 8: the Maths department is always grateful for the support they provide so cheerfully and reliably.”

The morning of activities first involved a carousel of activities such as Crossnumber (a mathematical version of a crossword) and Origami. All teams then took part in the Relay, for which they had to combine speed of movement around the room with speed in solving a mathematical problem.

The overall winners of the Maths Circus were Pearce with 569 points, beating second-placed Harrisons’ by just one point. Third place went to Broughton, on 549. Pearce were later presented with their certificate and the Robinson-Leong Shield in assembly. The shield is named after Oliver Robinson (a 2018 leaver) and current Year 13 pupil Samuel Leong, who both donated prizes they had won through the Jack Petchey Foundation to the Mathematics department.

In a related challenge, all six Houses were also required to construct a hanging mobile. There were teams within each House, all of which were required to create part of the mobile, having been asked to prepare in advance by coordinating the different sections so that their mobile would encompass their ideas about the many facets of Mathematics.

The prize for best mobile went to Leicester. This was also presented in assembly.

Afterwards, pairs of boys from the winning Year 8 teams were asked to sum up their feelings. Maxwell Johnson and Sthujan Jeyasingarajah said: “We are proud to have led Pearce to victory this year. We owe it to the exceptional effort made by everyone.” For Leicester, Divyesh Bansal and Aarav Thakur said: ‘We really enjoyed the entire day and it was a great opportunity to do Maths whilst also being creative and fun. It was the best!”

Rising to the Intermediate Maths Challenge

QE has continued its record of ever-improving performance in the Intermediate Maths Challenge, as the number of boys going through tops 170.

After sitting the Intermediate Maths Challenge (IMC), which is run by the UK Mathematics Trust, 30 boys from Years 9–11 join a national élite of young mathematicians going on to participate in the Intermediate Maths Olympiad – up from 27 boys last year and 19 the year before. Across the whole country, only around 500 high-scorers in each year group are invited to join the Olympiad.

A further 143 QE boys have qualified for the challenge’s other follow-on round, the Intermediate European Kangaroo. With 140 qualifying last year and 133 in 2017, this reflects another rising trend. Nationally, a total of 5,500 pupils across all three year groups are invited to sit the Kangaroo test papers.

Assistant Head of Mathematics Wendy Fung said: “We are delighted with how well the boys have done and extremely pleased with the continued increase in the proportion of them reaching the follow-on rounds. As the new 9-1 GCSE has a strong focus on problem-solving, success in the IMC will stand the boys in good stead for the new-style exams.”

A total of 319 boys at the School took part in this year’s IMC. Of these, 172 were awarded gold certificates, 91 took silver and 39 bronze. The top 40 per cent of students nationally receive a gold, silver or bronze certificate in the ratio 1:2:3.

Each school or college also receives a Best in School certificate. James Tan, of Year 11, was this year’s winner, with a score of 127 out of 135. He said that he had particularly relished the geometry questions. Next in Year 11 was Gurman Saini, with 122: “I enjoyed getting my head around the riddles,” he said. He was closely followed by Hari Gajendran, on 121.

The Best in Year 10 accolade went to Dan Suciu, with 125, followed by Abhinav Santhiramohan, with 115. Best in Year 9 was Ansh Jassra, scoring 119 – “I like the blend of complex, challenging Maths and fun, creative problem-solving,” he said – and second place went to Arnie Sahi, on 116.

The names of the Intermediate Mathematical Olympiad papers are: Cayley, Hamilton and Maclaurin for Years 9, 10 and 11 respectively. The Kangaroo papers, which are sat by pupils from more than 30 countries, last one hour and feature 25 multiple-choice questions.

  • Here is one of the questions from this year’s IMC:

A 24-hour digital clock shows the time in hours and minutes. How many times in one day will it display all four digits 2, 0, 1 and 9 in some order?
A 6
B 10
C 12
D 18
E 24

Dame Helen throws down the gauntlet to sixth-formers on social action

Dame Helen Hyde, former headmistress and now a leading social justice campaigner, encouraged QE pupils at the Year 12 Luncheon to say no to hatred in all its forms and to make a positive difference by taking action.

Dame Helen was the guest speaker at the annual meal, which is arranged to give sixth-formers experience of the sort of formal social occasions they will experience at university and in their careers beyond.

A recognised national education leader who mentored other heads and school leadership teams, she left Watford Grammar School for Girls, where she had been Headmistress for 29 years, in 2016, because, as her own website puts it, “she felt she could no longer be a bystander”.

She was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) for her services to national state education and Holocaust Education in 2013. Dame Helen was appointed to the Holocaust Commission established by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2013-14. Last year, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hertfordshire.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “The boys and the teachers present greatly appreciated her thought-provoking contribution, which was perfectly pitched for the occasion. The boys always value the opportunity to hear from those eminent in their respective fields and to be able to put their questions to them.”

And Mr Enright told Dame Helen: “Your message about each individual being able to make a positive difference to the lives of others resonates very strongly with what we try to convey to the boys, both directly and with the support of our guest speakers. Your inspiring work in Rwanda provides evidence of what can be achieved.”

The luncheon, a three-course meal, was supported by Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s volunteers and Year 9 helpers. As is customary, a number of toasts were made prior to Dame Helen’s address. School Captain Bhiramah Rammanohar compèred the event, while Senior Vice-Captain Fozy Ahmed delivered the vote of thanks.

In her presentation, Dame Helen explored aspects of the Holocaust, in which members of her own family were murdered. She considered its unprecedented nature, the events that led up to it in Nazi Germany, the widespread complicity of many in Germany and occupied lands across Europe, and the reasons why the world powers failed to intervene.

Her family were originally from Germany, but some managed to escape abroad. Her father went to South Africa in 1936, where she was later born. She emigrated to Britain in 1970.

Her presentation also looked at South Africa’s history of Apartheid, as well as at genocides from that of the Armenians in the early 20th century through to recent events in Darfur in the Sudan and among the Rohingya from Myanmar.

She spoke about the work of Refugees to Recovery (R to R), which she set up with Tony Rindl, Vicar of St Mary’s Church, Watford. R to R works with other organisations to collect items badly needed by refugees.

Her work with Holocaust survivors led to Dame Helen’s interest in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, when 1 million people died in 100 days. She is an active patron and co-director of the Rwandan Sisterhood, which brings together Rwandan women uprooted by the genocide and raises funds to provide ‘Mama packs’ to expectant women in Rwanda and other African countries.

She finished her presentation to the boys with a challenge, calling on them to consider “your decisions, your words and your actions” and to “be an upstander”, taking action to help with the campaigns and charities she had outlined.

QE sixth-formers take broad approach after reaching national final of prestigious Economics competition

A QE team won praise from the judges for their multi-faceted presentation at the final of an Economics competition run by one of the country’s oldest thinktanks.

The team of four sixth-formers, including the co-presidents of QE’s Economics Society, were shortlisted among the final 12 teams for the final of the Budget Challenge run by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).

Praising the boys on their contribution, QE’s Head of Economics Shamendra Uduwawala said: “Many of the finalists decided to concentrate on single policies whereas the QE boys decided to focus on multiple policies tackling different issues.”

Although the team were not among the eventual winners, Dr Stephen Davies, Head of Education at the IEA, praised their work as “very detailed and well worked-out”, saying: “I liked the presentation and [it was] very strong on an individual level.”

The QE team chosen from Year 12 by Mr Uduwawala consisted of Economics Society co-presidents Rishi Shah and Hanif Gofur, together with Neel Shah and Rushil Shah. They were competing against schools including Harrow, Repton and North London Collegiate School.

For the challenge, each team had to prepare a budget for the UK in the coming financial year, with taxation and spending policy, as well as more briefly analysing the macroeconomic conditions and setting out a broad policy and strategy in response to these.

Rishi said: “We prepared a 5,000-word budget and constructed new policies to address Brexit uncertainty, the UK’s ageing population, the global growth slowdown and Industry 4.0 revolution. Our policies included; eNHS (a centralised online platform for the National Health Service), Project Unicorn (a technology start-up accelerator programme to scale-up new firms into market giants) and a reduction in stamp duty to name a few.”

The final, which was held at the IEA’s Westminster base, began with an introduction from Dr Davies, who recently delivered a lecture at QE on game theory. He discussed the history of the IEA, which was founded in 1955 based on a vision from economist Friedrich Hayek and now reports on economic affairs.

Then the competition began, with each of the 12 teams being asked to give a ten-minute presentation on their budget, followed by a ten-minute cross-examination by the judges. Soon after lunch – a ‘grand buffet’ – came the presentation for the QE team.

“We delivered our vision for the future of the economy and outlined our main policies,” said Rishi. “The judges then questioned our polices in detail and posed questions such as: ‘Why not scrap stamp duty instead of just reducing it?’ to which I answered that the long-term goal is to reduce stamp duty over time and eventually bring in an annual land value-based tax. They also questioned the potential ‘cyber security threat to the eNHS’, to which we replied that blockchain technology would be used to prevent data breaches.”

During lunch, the competitors listened to a talk from Rebecca Lowe, who is the Director of FREER – a major new initiative from the IEA promoting a freer economy and a freer society. She tackled the question ‘Is democracy worth it?’

She argued that democracy isn’t the realisation of an ideal society; instead it is more of a process. She then moved onto the relationship between democracy, the rule of law and the judicial system.

After all the presentations, there was a talk from Dr Kristian Niemietz, the IEA’s Head of Political Economy, who explained some of the key phrases frequently heard in the EU debate. He noted that the implications of Brexit will be on trade, immigration and regulation, as leaving the customs unions and the European single market would end the free movement of people. He used the analogy that the EU is not like being a Netflix subscriber, where either one is, or is not, subscribed. Instead, the EU is a great deal more complex, with many different parts and subsections, and one can be in each of them without being in all of them.

Game theory: from football to Economics… and Brexit!

A visiting historian and economist set out how game theory applies across a very wide range of human activity in a lecture to senior boys – while also giving his own views and predictions about Brexit.

Dr Steve Davies is Head of Education at the Institute of Economic Affairs and has previously held academic roles in both the UK and US. He has authored several books, including Empiricism and History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) and was co-editor with Nigel Ashford of The Dictionary of Conservative and Libertarian Thought (Routledge, 1991).

In his lecture to senior boys, he illustrated applications of game theory in football, TV game shows and in oligopolies (where a market or industry is dominated by a small number of large sellers). Game theory is the study of mathematical models of strategic interaction between rational decision-makers.

Shamendra Uduwawala, Head of Economics, expressed his gratitude to Dr Davies for his visit, saying: “Game theory is a fascinating area of study, and he contributed significantly to our boys’ understanding of it by using such diverse and interesting examples. It was also good to have his own, well-informed perspective on Brexit, which complemented the lecture given here recently by Clément Leroy, a Research and Policy Engagement Associate from UCL’s European Institute.”

Himself a keen Manchester City fan, Dr Davies chose the penalty shoot-out at the end of the 2008 Champions League final between City’s local rivals Manchester United and Chelsea to illustrate game theory in the sport. United won the match after the team’s goalkeeper Van der Sar first pointed to his left, but then dived to his right, correctly guessing that Chelsea’s Nicolas Anelka would shoot that way. Van der Sar saved and United duly won European football’s top prize.

Dr Davies also looked at game theory in the game show, Golden Balls, and at the dilemma faced by two suspects interrogated for crimes, where they must choose whether the best thing for themselves is to confess, stay silent or betray the other prisoner.

Turning to oligopolistic markets, he examined the issue of such markets involving just two firms. Both firms could benefit from both having high prices, but one will always try to undercut the other firm by lowering prices, he pointed out. This problem could be overcome by collusion, although that is illegal.

Dr Davies also digressed to talk about Brexit. Stating that there was an impression of widespread panic about it within business, he blamed the media because he said they were predicting – incorrectly, in his view – that desperate shortages are inevitable. In terms of companies stockpiling, this is usual in any time of uncertainty and is not uniquely or solely about Brexit.

Alluding to the current febrile political atmosphere, with much plotting going on in Westminster pubs, he noted the similarity to the 1885 general election, the first to be held after an extension of the franchise which meant that for the first time, a majority of adult males could vote.

There would be, he predicted, no second referendum, since a majority of Parliament is against it. A cross-party deal will form – to secure outcomes such as ‘Norway plus’ or continuing membership of the customs union – but he forecast that major splits will continue to happen as the March 29th Brexit deadline approaches.

Boys learn about the burning issue of feminism from Everyday Sexism founder

Leading activist and writer Laura Bates impressed QE sixth-formers with a wide-ranging lecture on modern feminism.

The founder of the Everyday Sexism Project covered topics including definitions of feminism, transgender matters, the approach feminists should adopt to cultures elsewhere and the advice that should be given to young men in relationships with women. She also discussed her new Young Adult fiction book, The Burning.

After an invitation from hosts St Albans High School for Girls, a dozen Year 12 A-level Politics students attended the lecture, accompanied by Head of Year 12 and History & Politics teacher Lottie Coleman and Head of Politics Liam Hargadon. The School has selected feminism as an option within the A-Level Politics core syllabus.

“It was a really excellent talk,” said Miss Coleman. “She was so articulate and informed on the subject of feminism without being dogmatic, making her an incredibly impressive speaker.”

One of the QE sixth-formers, Rushil Shah, praised Ms Bates’ “well-articulated and convincing talk…which was not repetitive or droning at all,” adding that he had been impressed by her use of statistics. His classmate, Leo Kucera, praised her for addressing male stereotypes in society and for “confidently and accurately answering questions”.

Ms Bates started the Everyday Sexism Project website in 2012, five years after graduating from Cambridge with a degree in English Literature. The aim of the site is to document examples of sexism from around the world.

She spoke initially of her own experiences of sexism, including a Cambridge don who wore a black armband on the anniversary of women’s first admission to the university.

To illustrate her claim of the inequality facing women, she cited the fact that there are more men called John leading FTSE100 companies than women!

She stressed the need to discuss sexism and feminism with young men in relationships, saying that the suggestion sometimes made that this is a ‘minefield’ area is actually insulting to young men.

Regarding trans matters and how feminism applies in this area, she pointed out that women are not an homogenous group anyway, so the variety of experience seen among trans people should not be an issue.

Ms Bates felt that it is not the job of western feminists to impose their ideals in other parts of the world; they should instead concentrate on giving feminists from other cultures a platform.

Issues raised in a question-and-answer session after the lecture included:

  • Discrimination against women in careers – Ms Bates said that the fact that women have children is not sufficient to explain this away
  • Why women and men tend to choose certain careers – her view was that this is due to nurture, such as children being given ‘gendered’ toys
  • Workplace gender quotas – the current situation is not a true meritocracy, so quotas are not inherently unfair, she said. They might speed up the process of attaining equality as a short-term step, alongside other measures.

Besides Leo and Rushil, the QE attendees were: Alex Beard; Chris Hall; Senan Karunadhara; Tohgo Kimura; Mehdi Reza Lilani; Aditya Mukopadhyay; Josh Osman; Ryan Ratnam; Oscar Robinson and Teg Singh.