Viewing archives for Academic enrichment

Young Enterprise team wins award for their eco product

QE’s Young Enterprise team won an Innovation Award after impressing judges at a trade fair with their eco-friendly phone cases.

Adjudicators at the Young Enterprise Trade Fair at Old Spitalfields Market praised the InDex Young Enterprise company for their creative approach and for the salesmanship they showed there.

The Year 10 team also won plaudits from an Old Elizabethan attending the fair. Ninety-two year-old Elliot Page spoke highly of the phone cases, commenting specifically on the quality of the fit.

QE’s YE Co-ordinator, Academic Enrichment Tutor Alex Czirok-Carman, said: “The boys have worked very hard on this project and, despite the interruptions inevitably caused by the pandemic over the year, they have produced an excellent product and, most impressively, have grown as a team. The judges’ comments show how successful they have been.”

The judges were from Mastercard UK, the London Stock Exchange Group and bandwidth infrastructure provider euNetworks.

At the fair, the team sold their phone cases to the general public as well as answering questions from the judges about their product. The cases are biodegradable and have sustainable packaging.

In addition to these initial products, the boys have also been researching and designing cases with attachments to make them more user-friendly for people with difficulties in gripping. These are not yet on sale, although work on the production process for them is under way. The team’s InDex name is derived from ‘Inclusive Dexterity’.

“Our team impressed the judges massively,” said Mr Czirok-Carman. “They were extremely active – and very successful – in finding sales, and the judges therefore commented both on the creativity of the product and on their excellent sales techniques.

“The fair gave the team the chance to see a different side of business, and they learnt a great deal about how to interact with customers,” said Mr Czirok-Carman. “It was a great chance to learn about how to effectively run a business. The boys spent time interacting with teams from other schools who were there and swapped some of their products.

“This was a great way to round off an interrupted, but productive year for the YE team, who plan to continue to sell their products.”

The boys who attended the fair were: Kyan Bakhda; Abhinay Kannan; Ugan Pretheshan; Anban Senthilprabu; Sai Sivakumar and Varun Srirambhatla.

Let the playing commence!

Scores of the School’s young musicians battle it out today in a competitive Pianoathon Challenge being held to raise money to buy pianos for the new Music School.

Each of the School’s Houses has been challenged to provide an hour of sound, with small teams of musicians and soloists playing for up to three minutes each: the result should be six hours of non-stop music in the Main School Hall.

The event has been arranged as one of the special events taking place to celebrate tomorrow’s Founder’s Day.

Director of Music Ruth Partington said: “This is part of our last big push to ensure that our brilliant new Music School is equipped to the highest standards when it opens in the autumn. Thanks to the generosity of the School’s Foundation Trustees, we have already secured the purchase of a superb grand piano for our new recital hall, but that still leaves seven new practice rooms all needing a high-quality piano – and that is what we are raising money for today.

“If you haven’t already donated, please give now, sponsoring your House, or your son’s House, via our dedicated eQE Pianoathon page. This is a real first for QE and promises to be a thrilling event: let the playing commence!”

Parents and friends can watch the musical action unfold live in a special YouTube broadcast (above), which can also be viewed on the eQE page and via the Music department’s YouTube page.

Each House has entered small teams comprising up to five musicians – including at least one pianist – to play music of their choice. There is a visiting guest adjudicator, Mr Huw Jones, Director of Music at The John Lyon School in Harrow, who will be helping to pick the winners in the various categories, which cover team and solo performances (both for each year group and overall), also including a prize for the Best House Overall. Houses that raise large amounts of money will also have the opportunity to have one of the new pianos named after them.

Today’s musical menu chosen by the boys includes a rich range of genres and styles, and features instruments ranging from violins to electric guitars, and from oboes to tablas. Here is a small selection of the repertoire to be heard, House by House:

  • Broughton: Canon in D, Pachelbel; Étude op 10 no. 12 ‘Revolutionary’, Chopin; Peppa Pig theme
  • Harrisons’: Es war einmal, Grieg; Downton Abbey theme, John Lunn; Samba Nights, Proudler
  • Leicester: Attack on Titan Opening Theme 1, Sawato; Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, arr. Sakamoto; I See Fire, Ed Sheeran
  • Pearce: Sonatina in C major, Kuhlau; Opening Night Jazz, Martha Mier; Sonata No. 3, Prokofiev
  • Stapylton: Romanze Op. 28, Schumann; Sonatina Movement 1, Dušek; Toccata in G minor
  • Underne: Pink Lady, Pam Wedgwood; Prelude in C-sharp minor, Rachmaninoff; Your Song, Elton John.

The £3.5m-plus Music School, which is currently in the final stages of construction, received the go-ahead in 2019 after the Department for Education accepted the School’s £2.2m bid, which consisted of a £1.2m grant and £1m loan.

Like all major improvements at the School over the past two decades, the project is relying on the generous financial support of the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s and other benefactors. Pride of place in the building will go to the Yamaha CF6 grand piano in the recital hall, which was chosen by the Music Department after a week-long audition process. Valued at just under £75,000, it is being paid for by the School’s Foundation Trustees.

For those without an eQE account, donations can be made to each House’s total by clicking on the relevant name: Broughton; Harrisons’; Leicester; Pearce; Stapylton; and Underne.


Our rich heritage open to all: proudly presenting QE Collections

Eighty-nine people joined a special Zoom event held to present QE Collections – Queen Elizabeth’s School’s new fully digitised online set of archives relating to the School and the Barnet area.

Guests at the public evening ‘town hall’ event, including Old Elizabethans and others with an interest in local history, were given a virtual guided tour and shown how to get the best out of the extensive high-quality online assets spanning more than four centuries.

Headmaster Neil Enright and QE’s Curator of Collections Surya Bowyer (OE 2007–2014) explained that the School held a variety of historic material and was keen to make it accessible to everyone. QE Collections is therefore offered online free-of-charge for all to enjoy.

In his address to the guests, Mr Enright pointed out that QE has been part of the Barnet community ever since its foundation by royal charter in 1573. “QE Collections therefore includes three different sorts of histories, nevertheless intertwined. These are the history of the School itself; the history of the local area, as viewed through the lens of the School; and the shared social histories that connect us.

“I am very excited that we are now able to share QE Collections with a wider audience.”

He paid tribute to the key role played by the late Richard Newton (OE 1956–1964), who promoted digitising the School’s archives and making them freely available to all, and also provided generous funding.

“It is certain that without his support, we would not have been able to launch this project – one that will be part of his legacy to the Elizabethan community,” Mr Enright said.

Mr Bowyer, who has played a central role in developing the platform and curating the material uploaded so far, pointed the guests towards a number of current highlights of QE Collections:

“We are constantly putting new material online, so the highlights would be different if I did this event in a few months’ time, or even next month,” Mr Bowyer added.

The event included tips and tricks for getting the best out of QE Collections, together with an explanation of how the various collections are organised, with ‘access points’ provided for the digitised objects – for example: People & Organisations; Subjects; Places.

All printed text in digitised objects is almost invariably fully searchable. Anyone wishing to search for a full name or phrase should put it in double speech marks in the search box, Mr Bowyer said.

Work continues on making archival material online. “Among several exciting projects that are currently mid-digitisation are the QE Governors’ minute books going all the way back to the earliest we have in 1587. The first is available now, with more coming soon.

“There is also our 20th Century History Project, which recreates life at the School during the last century through photographs, written records and ephemera. Lots of material from the 1940s to 1980s is already available and, again, more is coming soon.”

QE Collections was given a ‘soft launch’ three months ago. Since then, there have been more than 1,300 users from over 35 countries, with the Group Photographs and Everyday Life (Photographs) collections proving the most popular so far.

QE Collections uses professional digitisers to ensure its digitised files are of very high quality and has employed an industry-standard digital preservation system to ensure long-term availability for these digitised files, Mr Bowyer said, adding that while digital files are excellent for improving access, they are harder to preserve than physical objects, as digital storage media can become obsolete and data can become corrupted.

“All this work takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money. If you like the work we are doing and are in a position where you can consider supporting this work, please consider contributing to our Digital Fund, which supports QE Collections.”

Cherishing our traditions: QE’s youngest pupils find out about Founder’s Day in special event

With pandemic restrictions forcing the School’s Founder’s Day activities to move online for the second consecutive year, QE’s Year 7 learned about the day’s rich history and traditions in a specially tailored afternoon.

The School’s youngest pupils would normally be at the very heart of Founder’s Day, with all joining the morning service at Chipping Barnet Parish Church and then taking part in other formal elements – such as the Roll Call and the Reading of the School Chronicle – before enjoying the fun of the afternoon fete.

Head of Year 7 Thomas Harrison began by explaining to the year group ‘bubble’ why Founder’s Day – taking place virtually this year on Saturday 19th June – is such an important fixture in the School calendar.

“On Founder’s Day, we remember and celebrate the foundation of our School – now some 448 years ago – and the long and winding history that has led us to where we are today,” Mr Harrison said.

“We are thankful to all those who have worked to build and re-shape our School – those who have laid the foundations for the education and workplace that we enjoy today.

“Those who held steadfast in difficult times, as we’ve all had to do over the past year, and those who made bold decisions in the long-term interests of our Elizabethan community.”

The event that followed borrowed elements of the service of thanksgiving, beginning with the playing of a traditional Founder’s Day hymn, For All the Saints, which had been pre-recorded in the church by the specially formed Founder’s Day Chamber Choir.

The afternoon featured contributions from no fewer than three School Captains.

  • 2020 School Captain Ivin Jose, of Year 13, gave a Bible reading from the Book of Proverbs
  • The current holder of the office, Siddhant Kansal, of Year 12, read Charlotte Bronte’s poem, Life
  • The 2008 School Captain, Matthew Rose (OE 2002–2009), who now works at his alma mater as Executive Assistant to the Headmaster and Head of Project Support Services, was the guest speaker.

Introducing Mr Rose, Mr Harrison told the boys that he was reprising his role as the youngest-ever Founder’s Day guest speaker in 2011.

In his speech, Mr Rose reflected on the varying effect of the pandemic on his audience – “Some in this room may have lost people close to them.” He spoke of the impact of a bereavement he suffered while at the School and how the experience of surmounting that “hurdle” had shaped him.

The boys had faced the challenge of joining QE – “arguably the best school in the country” – during a pandemic, but they had a responsibility to press ahead. “So, keep going, keep learning from your experiences and keep hurdling,” he concluded.

The afternoon included a musical interlude from Year 12’s Raphael Herberg, Aadarsh Khimasia and Alex Woodcock performing Trois Aquarelles II by Gaubert.

Year 7 Aniston Lakshman read the Founder’s Day prayer, while Year 7 form tutor Andrew Collins read the School Prayer, with its petition of “Inspire us, O Lord, so to do our work today, that, even as we are being helped by the remembrance of the loyal lives of those who came before us, so our faithfulness may aid those who shall take our places.”

Headmaster Neil Enright then fulfilled another time-honoured Founder’s Day practice: the reading of the School Chronicle. This charts QE’s history, starting in 1568, when one of the School’s early promoters, Edward Underne, became rector of Chipping Barnet.

The Chronicle has been brought up to date with a new stanza beginning: “And be it known that during the Covid-19 pandemic, which twice caused all the schools in the land to close their doors to most pupils, the challenges were faced with ingenuity and resolve.”

After the Chamber Choir’s recorded rendition of the National Anthem, the boys processed in silence to the Stapylton Field for the Roll Call, which they had practised before half-term. It was read by the School Captain, with each House Captain replying: “Ad sumus” (“Here we are.”)


From phantoms to whimsy – Rishi “beats QE’s poetic drum” in national competition

When the School put Rishi Watsalya forward for a national poetry recitation competition, he set out both to put smiles on the faces of his audience – and to send shivers down their spine.

And according to the Poetry By Heart competition judges, Rishi, who had previously impressed his teachers in an internal QE poetry memorisation and recitation contest, managed to do just that.

A Year 7 pupil, he received a Highly Commended certificate for his performance of Walter de la Mare’s mysterious, supernatural The Listeners, published in 1912, and of James Reeves’s 1964 whimsical nonsense poem, Mr Kartoffel.

In her judgment, the Director of the competition, Julie Blake, said that for his first poem, Rishi gave “a well-paced recitation which created the right atmosphere of mystery and suspense”. Regarding Mr Kartoffel, she added: “We loved the way you engaged with your poem and we enjoyed the spirited way in which you approached it. You brought out the humour in the poem very well.”

Poetry By Heart was founded in 2012 by educator Dr Blake and by Andrew Motion, UK Poet Laureate 1999-2009. In addition to the annual competition, there is a website with teaching and learning resources for all ages.

QE English teacher Panayiota Menelaou explained how Rishi came to be selected to take part in the national event. “Initially, we ran an internal competition within the School in which all Year 7 pupils were required to learn by heart and perform a poem of their choice. We held classroom-based heats and then an internal final, and Rishi was chosen as the overall winner.”

For Poetry By Heart, Rishi had to learn two poems, a pre-1914 and a post-1914 poem, which were recorded and submitted to the judges.

“Rishi recited the poems with confidence, and I was very impressed with his use of voice intonation, body movements and hand gestures which helped bring the poem to life and give the words meaning, said Mrs Menelaou, who oversaw QE’s participation in the event.

Head of English Robert Hyland congratulated Rishi on his success: “He has shown an outstanding effort here, to be able to perform two poems with the confidence and understanding shown by Rishi is highly impressive.

“There are few better ways to get to understand a poem than being able to perform it – each decision made by the reader about tone, pace, rhythm and emphasis has to be based on an understanding of what the poem and the poet are trying to communicate,” he added.

Rishi himself said he that participating in the event was “extremely fun!” He chose The Listeners because “it was quite mysterious and chilling,” and give him plenty of opportunity to stir up the emotions “For contrast, my second poem, Mr Kartoffel, was quite funny and wacky, and when I first read it, it definitely put a smile on my face.”

Rishi explained the secret to his success: “When learning my poems, I discovered that it was much easier to learn small sections at a time, rather than trying to do it all in one go. When I was performing, I really meant what I was saying and ‘became’ my character, so I really enjoyed it! My aim was to make my audience feel engaged and drawn in to my poems.”

Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter said: “Poetry should be celebrated loudly! Its ideas, sounds and rhythms should resonate around a school – especially a school founded by Shakespeare’s generation. Well done, Rishi Watsalya for continuing to beat our poetic drum and well done to all who took part.”

The Listeners

By Walter de la Mare

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,

Knocking on the moonlit door;

And his horse in the silence champed the grasses

Of the forest’s ferny floor:

And a bird flew up out of the turret,

Above the Traveller’s head:

And he smote upon the door again a second time;

‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.

But no one descended to the Traveller;

No head from the leaf-fringed sill

Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,

Where he stood perplexed and still.

But only a host of phantom listeners

That dwelt in the lone house then

Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight

To that voice from the world of men:

Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,

That goes down to the empty hall,

Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken

By the lonely Traveller’s call.

And he felt in his heart their strangeness,

Their stillness answering his cry,

While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,

’Neath the starred and leafy sky;

For he suddenly smote on the door, even

Louder, and lifted his head:—

‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,

That I kept my word,’ he said.

Never the least stir made the listeners,

Though every word he spake

Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house

From the one man left awake:

Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,

And the sound of iron on stone,

And how the silence surged softly backward,

When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Mr Kartoffel

By James Reeves

Mr Kartoffel’s a whimsical man;

He drinks his beer from a watering-can,

And for no good reason that I can see

He fills his pockets with china tea.

He parts his hair with a knife and fork

And takes his ducks on a Sunday walk.

Says he, “If my wife and I should choose

To wear our stockings outside our shoes,

Plant tulip bulbs in the baby’s pram

And eat tobacco instead of jam,

And fill the bath with cauliflowers,

That’s nobody’s business at all but ours.”

Says Mrs. K., “I may choose to travel

With a sack of grass or a sack of gravel,

Or paint my toes, one black, one white,

Or sit on a bird’s nest half the night –

But whatever I do that is rum or rare,

I rather think that is my affair.

So fill up your pockets with stamps and string,

And let us be ready for anything!”

Says Mr. K. to his whimsical wife,

“How can we face the storms of life,

Unless we are ready for anything?

So if you’ve provided the stamps and the string,

Let us pump up the saddle and harness the horse

And fill him with carrots and custard and sauce,

Let us leap on him lightly and give him a shove

And it’s over the sea and away, my love!”


Musical genius – or merely the right man, in the right place at the right time?

The portentous ‘dun dun dun duuun’ opening notes of his 5th Symphony are recognised everywhere, but just what is it that accounts for the enduring popularity of Ludwig van Beethoven?

That is the question which Surya Bowyer, QE’s Head of Library Services, examines in the latest episode of The Queen’s Library Roundness podcast.

He drafted in some local expert help – Ruth Partington, the School’s Director of Music, and Caroline Grint, Music teacher – in his exploration of the significance of the iconic German pianist and composer in the musical canon.

“2020 marked the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in Bonn,” says Mr Bowyer. “Around the world – from London to Melbourne and Shanghai to Sao Paolo – events which had been planned over many months, and, indeed, years, in concert halls and music venues to celebrate his works, in that symbolic year, had to be cancelled.”

Apart from the Nokia ringtone, (Gran Vals by Francisco Tárrega) those opening four notes of ‘Beethoven’s 5th’ – which form the title of the podcast – are probably the best known musical “motif” of all among the general public. And this is attributable, not to concert-going necessarily, but to their ubiquitous use in advertising and films. Yet would this suffice to explain the exceptionally high regard in which Beethoven is still held?

Miss Partington and Miss Grint discuss Beethoven’s acknowledged legacy as the composer whose composition spanned the transition from the classical period to the romantic era, and question whether he was truly ground-breaking in the way he is often presented.

The podcast covers the difference expectations held of composers such as Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who were court composers, and Beethoven who, while receiving a stipend, had more freedom. They explore the effect this had in a number of ways, including the duration of his symphonies.

The discussion ranges over whether Beethoven was a musical genius, or a talented musician and composer who happened to be about at the right time, with a rising middle-class who could afford to attend music concerts and the emergence of music critics. It also touches on whether Beethoven would recognise his own work as it is played now on modern instruments.

“The way in which Beethoven and his music are written about leads us to listening to him using the terms that are ascribed to him,” says Miss Grint. “Because we expect universality, we find it, we read the meaning into it. Instrumental music is seen as having universality because it doesn’t tell a story using words, it’s more metaphysical.”

Miss Partington believes Beethoven’s continuing popularity lies in the powerful emotions he evokes. “I’m not a fan of working-out meaning,” she says. She believes there is a mystical element to music, and that it should not be pigeon-holed.

But whether a genius, or a man in the right place at the right time, there seems little doubt his legacy will endure, from the ‘low brow’ – car advertisements, for example – to the distinctly ‘high brow’, such as performances at top music venues, the three concluded.

  • The Dun, dun, dun, duun episode of the Roundness podcast is available from the Library pages of the eQE online platform and from normal podcast providers, including Acast, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Running away with it: Pearce triumph in translation competition

QE’s youngest linguists put their newly acquired skills to the test in a high-speed House competition.

Teams from QE’s six Houses competed to translate five sentences into French and then five into German both quickly and accurately.

Each Year 7 form put forward a team made up of three or four boys. First place went to Pearce, with team members Ameen Elamin, Kyle Goldband, Tuhin Mitra and Nittant Moudgil scoring an emphatic victory.

Languages teacher and Head of Extra-Curricular Enrichment Rebecca Grundy said: “The competition was a ‘running translation’ which means that there is a text to translate, but split into sentences.

“They all got the first sentence at the same time and, as soon as they had translated it, they brought it to the teacher. If it was perfect, they got the next sentence, but if not, they had to go back and try again. The first team to finish the entire text was the winner –and that was Pearce, who won by quite a margin!

“They were allowed to use their text books to help, as the ‘vocab’ we used was taken from the Year 7 course, but the sentences were pitched to be extra-challenging, particularly in terms of grammatical structures.”

Here are a few examples of the challenges the boys faced:

  • Translate: ‘He has long hair and blue eyes’. This tested boys’ knowledge of French adjective endings (‘Il a les cheveux longs et les yeux bleus.’)
  • Translate: ‘In my free time, I read, but on Saturdays my brother does judo.’ Testing positioning of German verbs (‘In meiner Freizeit lese ich…’)
  • Translate: ‘My brother is called Max and he has a computer.’ Testing the German accusative case (‘…er hat einen Computer.’)

Harrisons’ took the runner-up spot in the competition, which was organised by the Languages department, while Broughton and Underne shared third place.

“All the boys showed fantastic enthusiasm – but remained very well behaved – and so will receive a merit each,” said Miss Grundy.

Construction industry awards: could QE team clean up again with their dust-removing invention?

QE’s Year 12 Engineering Education Scheme team have been nominated for the Innovation prize in this year’s Constructing Excellence Awards after their design for a machine to reduce dust on construction sites impressed judges.

The four boys overcame the challenge of having to work through lockdown – depriving them of access to tools and of the opportunity to do a live construction site visit – to put together a fully-illustrated 66-page project report.

They will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of several successful QE teams of the past. In 2020, the QE entrants, working with office design company Morgan Lovell, won not only the Innovation category in the Constructing Excellence SEBCE Awards, but also the People’s Choice Award – a prize that this year’s team is eligible for, too.

Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “These awards are competed for by adults working full-time in the construction industry, so our four Product Design students have done very well indeed to be nominated. They worked extremely hard and used their engineering, design and research skills to good effect in putting together a comprehensive and well-thought out report, which they then presented well.

“I commend them on their success and thank their sponsors, Morgan Lovell, for all their mentoring and support throughout the project.”

The team comprised leader Lucas Lu, lead designer Ben Pang, lead researcher Rohan Sira and Jayden Savage, who led on the project planning and organised the tasks to be done. Technology teacher Tony Green facilitated the boys’ involvement in the scheme.

Morgan Lovell’s Health, Safety & Wellbeing Manager, Alex Wood, set them the challenge of tackling the large amount of harmful dust found on construction sites.

Workers normally guard against inhaling dust either by wearing face masks or by using square-shaped dust-reduction devices, such as the one made under the tradename, DustCube.

The boys had the option of either improving on the ‘DustCube’-type device – they actually stripped one down to investigate how it worked – or of designing an entirely new product.

Having identified a number of drawbacks with the existing machine, including the high cost of replacing their HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters, they chose the latter route.

After exploring no fewer than 13 concept ideas and producing more detailed analyses of around half of these, the team eventually devised a product that they dubbed the ‘Dust Cylinder’– since it was cylindrical, not cube-shaped.

Ben says: “It makes use of a water filtration system: essentially, the dirty air is passed through a tank of water, all of the dirt is trapped and suspended within the water tank, and all of the clean air is released back into the room.”

It has, he says, a number of advantages over machines currently on the market:

  • The ease with which operator will be able to tell when the water needs to be changed.
  • Minimal maintenance costs
  • The high volume of air it can filter
  • Its ability to filter particles smaller than those removed by HEPA filters.

“All of this was done either in school, or at home (during the lockdown). Doing the work at home meant that we we were unable to manufacture the actual product due to a lack of tools. We faced many issues ranging from poor internet connection to glitches with the conferencing software.”

With coronavirus restrictions ruling out a physical visit to a site, Mr Wood instead arranged for them to make a virtual site visit to 80 Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia, London, where the interior was being renovated by Morgan Lovell.

After delivering their presentation online, the team were exhilarated to find out that they had reached the finals of the Innovation category, says Ben.

“We were never expecting to make it this far, especially considering the fact that almost all of the other teams consist of people who do this kind of thing for a living – to to be pitted against them is a huge honour.”

The Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards virtual ceremony will take place on 1st July. Online voting for the People’s Choice Award is expected to open early next month.

Vineeth wins competition with his video on the amazing, complex story of retroflexes – the sounds that bind together the Indian sub-continent

Sixth-former Vineeth Rajan’s presentation on Indian linguistics has been announced as the winner in a national video essay competition run by the Cambridge Language Collective.

The collective – a collaborative blog written and produced by Cambridge University linguists – awarded Vineeth joint first prize in the senior individual category for his closely argued seven-minute film entitled Retroflexes: The linguistics of South Asia.

Danylo Gutsulyak, of Year 10, was awarded joint-second place in the junior individual category for his entry entitled Das Lagerfeuer, while two other QE boys – Year 10’s Darren Lee and Tejas Bansal, of Year 9 – were also shortlisted.

QE’s Head of Languages, Nora Schlatte, said: “My congratulations go to all our successful entrants and especially to Vineeth on his submission, which was not only impeccably researched, but also very attractively presented.”

Vineeth, of Year 12, put the video together over the first half of the Easter holidays, articulating his argument throughout with his hand-drawn illustrations, and making extensive use of time-lapse photography.

He described it as a “deep dive” into the history, phonology and sociolinguistics of retroflexes, which are the distinctive sounds that are formed by curling the tongue back behind the upper jaw’s alveolar ridge. It is, he says, a topic that has long fascinated him.

Vineeth explored the various academic theories about the origins of these sounds and how they developed. He looked at why retroflexes are common across hundreds of different languages throughout the Indian sub-continent, yet are relatively rare in other parts of the world.

He acknowledged that anyone seeking to track the origin and development of sounds faced a harder challenge than linguists tracking the written language, pointing out that all the theories he was explaining about retroflexes were necessarily speculative: “Although words can be securely etymologised to one source over another, phonological influence is often harder to trace back.”

After setting out the history, he took a look at the present-day situation, mentioning the “characteristic Indian English sound that Apu [from TV’s The Simpsons] is perhaps notorious for today” and how people have adjusted the way they speak to “try and elevate themselves from this lowly regarded pronunciation”.

Vineesh concluded: “This is what is amazing about retroflexes: the profound impact that they have on the complex sociology of south Asia, spreading across the tongues of people from a diversity of cultures, religions and backgrounds in a way that nothing else possibly could….Retroflexes seem to bind all of south Asia together. Despite making us seem homogenous and often risible to the western world, [their] history can give us a glimpse into the complex interactions between diverse cultures thousands of years ago.”

Vineeth, who aspires to be a biochemist and geneticist, published the video on his own YouTube channel, Genespeak, which focuses on both biochemistry and linguistics.


Arnav named among Britain’s best young biologists

Sixth-former Arnav Sharma is among an élite handful of young scientists selected to compete for a place in the UK national team after his success in the British Biology Olympiad.

Arnav, who was one of eight QE A-level students to win gold medals in last month’s British Biology Olympiad (BBO), will soon be taking part in a virtual selection process to decide who will represent the country in this year’s 32nd International Biology Olympiad (IBO).

Congratulating him, Biology teacher Andrew Collins said: “Arnav’s success stems from his curiosity to delve into topics of Biology to unravel the precise mechanisms behind concepts. He is motivated by interests which range across a number of topics from the Kreb’s cycle* to the behaviour of ants in a colony, for example. He carries out experiments with care and is able to use his background knowledge to interpret data effectively.”

The national team selection process that he is taking part in is being hosted online by Warwick University’s School of Life Sciences and involves practical and theoretical training and assessments.

Dr Collins added that Arnav’s prowess as a biologist also benefits his classmates: “His enthusiasm sparks lively discussions in lessons and helps stimulate others to read beyond what is covered in the course and make unexpected connections between ideas.”

If he is successful in the national team selection, Arnav will join some of the top pre-university Biology students in the world, undertaking both theory and practical tests alongside young people from more than 60 countries.

Along with Arnav and his fellow gold-medal winners, a further nine boys received silver medals and three took bronze. Thus, 20 of QE’s 21 entrants won medals, while nationally only 25% of the 8,476 competitors were medal-winners. All the QE contestants were from Year 13 and volunteered to take part, competing online from home. They completed two multiple-choice sessions of 45 minutes each.

Biology teacher Mev Armon, who supervised boys on  Zoom, said: “We value the BBO because it gives our students the opportunity to go further than their A-level syllabus, offering them a new level of challenge.”

* The Kreb’s cycle, also known as the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) or citric acid cycle, is the main source of energy for cells and an important part of aerobic respiration.