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Clarity from Clément helps boys understand Brexit

A Brexit specialist from UCL’s European Institute gave boys some expert insights into the current political turmoil in a lecture to Years 10 and 11.

Clément Leroy, a Research and Policy Engagement Associate at the institute, came to QE to explain the background of the recent ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament and looked at all the major issues involved.

Although he did not, of course, know how things will play out in the coming weeks, he suggested that a ‘no deal’ outcome is quite possible – and even likely – given that this is the default position if a deal is not agreed and approved by Parliament.

Mr Leroy worked on Brexit at the French Embassy in London and on EU economic policies at the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Paris prior to his appointment to the European Institute.

Nisha Mayer, Head of Academic Enrichment, thanked Mr Leroy for his visit: “He did a good job of explaining the current situation, bringing some clarity – if not solutions!.

She added: “With wall-to-wall media coverage and lots of material on social media, it is important that we help the boys sort through the ‘noise’ to understand the key facts and issues about matters as significant as the Brexit process. We seek to develop the critical thinking and questioning skills that will equip them to formulate balanced and informed viewpoints, even if they may still respectfully disagree.”

Among the topics Mr Leroy covered during the lecture were the initial referendum, the negotiations, the Irish backstop and the potential outcomes and how we might reach them. Boys also had the opportunity to ask questions.

Learning about tribes in trouble

Visiting expert Gabriella Rutherford not only helped boys understand the threats and challenges faced by tribal people around the world, but also encouraged them to reflect on lives that are different from – and sometimes surprisingly similar to – their own.

Gabriella, from Survival International, the global organisation championing tribal peoples’ rights, spoke at a Lower School lecture assembly. She focused on the challenges facing tribal people around the world and encouraged the boys to think about ‘otherness’.

She looked at how our conceptions of other people and groups are often based on the ways in which we believe they are different to us. She asked the boys to picture a tribal person in their mind. Establishing the sort of image that is often conjured up – a jungle environment, spears, feathers and bare chests – she looked into where that image comes from. She then pointed out that while such tribes do exist, there are others that look and live more like us than we might imagine, particularly among contacted tribes with whom there has been cultural and economic exchange.

Gabriella touched on the ongoing threats to tribal people from racism and prejudice, and from those who advocate taking control of their lands in the public or national interest – as, she said, President Bolsonaro is hinting at in Brazil.

Head of Academic Enrichment Nisha Mayer said: “This was an engaging assembly, which required the boys to consider and voice their own ideas.

“One aspect of our lecture programme is that, through it, we seek to encourage boys to think critically about people with different life experiences, understanding their value and the challenges they face. This assembly raised awareness of a particular set of issues and got boys engaged in the moral questions around the cultures and the treatment of tribal peoples in different parts of the world.”

Topics covered during the assembly included:

  • What tribal people need to survive. (Their own land and self-determination are key elements, Gabriella stated);
  • The dangers associated with outside contact, including the people losing control over resources and also their lack of immunity to viruses and other illnesses. Some 50–90% of tribal communities are typically wiped out following outside human contact;
  • The benefits brought by tribal people and communities. They often constitute very strong communities; and 80% of the world’s biodiversity is located in tribal land, so they are hugely important for conservation;
  • Whether there is ever justification for the outside world making contact with an uncontacted tribe.

On the final point, Survival International’s view is that there really is no such justification, since: it is impossible for us, as outsiders, to assess the harm that we might be doing; since tribal peoples have human rights, just as we do, and these should not be forfeited to some notion of the ‘public good’; and since they are equipped to deal with problems in their own ways, even if these ways are different from ours.

Gabriella encouraged boys to consider getting involved in the Survival International Youth Action Group that is being established.

Wordy winner: Richard reaches next round of public-speaking competition by praising the virtues of reading

Year 10’s Richard Bai has reached the regional round of a London-wide schools speaking competition.

Richard, who spoke about the power of reading, won the QE round, which was contested after Year 10 boys had learned some public-speaking skills during a Jack Petchey “Speak Out” Challenge! workshop run at the School led by a visiting speaker.

The other finalists were: Sarvesh Sabale, speaking about allergies and how to support those with them; Dillan Shah, speaking about video game addiction, and Om Deshpande, who spoke about practice versus procrastination.

Richard goes on to the Barnet Regional Final at Copthall School. After that, the semi-final takes place at the Speakers Trust’s offices in central London on 20th May, before the grand final at the Cambridge Theatre in London’s West End on 1st July 2019.

The challenge, which is a programme run by Speakers Trust and funded by the Jack Petchey Foundation, aims to give people the skills, confidence and desire to speak in public. It is open to schools across London and Essex. Speakers Trust is the UK’s leading public speaking and communication skills training charity, while the foundation was set up by businessman and philanthropist Sir Jack Petchey, who is still working at the age of 93.

The workshop at the School centred on how to be an effective public speaker. In the subsequent competition, the boys spoke on a subject close to their heart.

Supervising the workshop were Head of Year 10 Simon Walker and Extra-curricular Enrichment Tutor Keith Bugler, both of whom said they were delighted by how well the boys had risen to the challenge.

Trio of Year 13 mathematicians’ Olympiad success

Three sixth-formers have qualified for the next stage of the élite British Mathematical Olympiad after strong performances in the first round.

Bashmy Basheer, Nico Puthu and Niam Vaishnav, all of Year 13, were among nine boys to reach Round 1 of the Olympiad, which is itself one of the follow-on rounds of the UK Mathematics Trust’s Senior Maths Challenge. They won a certificate of distinction and a bronze medal, with Nico scoring 40 out of 60 and both Bashmy and Niam scoring 37.

They now progress to Round 2, where success results in an invitation to participate in training to represent the country in the International Mathematical Olympiad.

Assistant Head of Mathematics Wendy Fung congratulated the three on their achievement in the first round and wished them success in Round 2.

Their fellow Year 13 pupils, Kiran Aberdeen, Kishan Patel and Robert Sarkar, also achieved a certificate of distinction. The remaining three sixth-formers all achieved a certificate of qualification in Round 1, which consisted of six long, extended questions to be completed in three-and-a-half hours.

A further 29 sixth-formers took part in the Senior Maths Challenge’s other follow-on round, the Senior Kangaroo, which represents an increase on the 2017 total of 25 and the 2016 figure of ten.

Thirteen boys were each awarded a merit certificate for scores of 35 and above. Saruthan Seelan (pictured above right) in fact achieved double this total, with his score of 70 out of 100 making him the best in Year 12.

Sehj Khanna (left) was the highest scorer in Year 13 with 50/100.

The Senior Kangaroo is a one-hour paper, with all the questions requiring three-digit. Certificates of merit are awarded to the top 25%.



“More than just Trump’s wall” – sixth-formers hear about the growing role of barriers in world politics

Best-selling author Tim Marshall told A-level Politics and Geography students about the worldwide renewed rise of nationalism and identity politics in a talk on his latest book.

The former diplomatic editor and foreign affairs editor for Sky News was visiting South Hampstead High School, which invited QE to send along boys with an interest in the subject.

In an early-evening event, he spoke for 45 minutes on Divided: Why we’re living in an age of walls to an audience that included 11 QE boys, as well as QE’s Head of Geography, Emily Parry, Head of Politics, Liam Hargadon and Geography teachers Helen Davies and Nilisha Shah.

Miss Parry said: “In his talk, Tim discussed how we feel more divided than ever and how nationalism and identity politics are on the rise once more. Thousands of miles of fences and barriers have been erected in the past ten years, and they are redefining our political landscape.

“He highlighted how the proposed wall between Mexico and the USA isn’t the only wall which should have our attention, but how many walls and other physical divisions exist throughout the world, such as the wall between Israel and the West Bank and the fence separating India from Bangladesh.

“He argues that understanding what has divided us, past and present, is essential to understanding much of what’s going on in the world today.”

Miss Parry added that he also told a few Geography-themed jokes, including: ‘Where do all pens come from? Answer: Pennsylvania!”

In the Q&A session following the talk, there was a discussion about topics such as whether the rise of nationalism means we are seeing an end to some forms of globalisation. Mr Marshall was also asked whether, in the context of the mass migration movements seen around the world, open borders should exist: he felt that they should not.

At the end of the event, he signed copies of his books, including his 2015 best-seller, Prisoners of Geography.

Much to their profit: boys end up in the black while learning from policy-makers at top-flight Economics conference

A team of five Year 12 QE economists was the only one to turn a profit in an auction at a prestigious conference attended by over 200 delegates from a number of leading schools.

More than 30 QE boys attended the Economics Conference at Woodhouse College in North Finchley, which aimed to offer pupils a unique opportunity to hear directly from academics, researchers and policymakers.

The event was jointly organised by the college and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR); it was supported by supported by blue-chip organisations including The Bank of England, The Royal Economics Society, The Government Economics Service and several top universities.

QE’s Head of Economics Shamendra Uduwawala said: “This type of event not only allows our boys to hear directly from both leading academics and those who shape policy, but it also enables them to mix with their peers from other schools. There is no doubt that a conference such as this exposes boys to high-level thinking while reinforcing what they have been learning in the classroom.”

Professor Jagjit Chadha, the Director of NIESR and a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, delivered a truncated version of his recent Brexit talk to the Commons Select Committee on Brexit.

QE pupil Rishi Shah, one of the joint Presidents of the School’s Economics Society said: “For me, this talk was the highlight of the day; it was about forecasting and the role it plays in predicting the outcomes of Brexit. Professor Chadha used the metaphor of rolling a dice to show how forecasts can be rational, accurate yet wrong. He gave an insight into the work that NIESR conducts in forecasting and mapping out the likely outcomes of Brexit and the rationale behind the effects of business uncertainty.”

In her lecture, Financial Stability: a fine balancing act, Dr Rhiannon Sowerbutts described her role at the Bank of England as a Senior Economist and advisor to the Financial Policy Committee. She spoke about the importance of identifying potential risks to financial stability, such as household debt rising faster than incomes.

Dr Babak Somekh, from the University of Bristol. led an auction activity in the afternoon, involving food items. The delegates were split into teams of five. Year 12 pupil Hanif Gofur, who is the other joint President of QE’s Economics Society said: “We didn’t know in advance which food item would be auctioned next, so all the teams were kept on their toes. The atmosphere became electrified and chaotic as bids between schools intensified – often beyond the bounds of rationality.” Hanif and his QE teammates held their nerve and turned a healthy £250 profit on their £2,500 budget – the only team to make a profit.

Sarah Billingham, an Assistant Economist at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, promoted a new Degree Apprenticeship offered by the Government Economics Service in her lecture, How can economists influence policy? She suggested to delegates that this programme could be a good option for aspiring economists aiming for a higher education qualification who wished to avoid student debt and the loss of three to four years of potential earnings.

The day was concluded by Dr Lea Samek, of Kings College London, and Dr Michela Vecchi, of the University of Middlesex, who respectively looked at the UK’s productivity performance since the financial crash of 2008 and the impact of automation on the UK labour market.
Rishi said: “Overall, it was a phenomenal experience to hear from many different renowned speakers and it most definitely piqued my interest in Economics.”

In addition to delegates from QE and the hosts, Woodhouse College, there were pupils from Dame Alice Owen’s School, Highgate Wood School, The Camden School for Girls and Fortismere.

Two through! QE teams qualify for national robotics final

Two senior QE teams have qualified for the national finals of the VEX EDR robotics competition after convincing performances in the regional rounds.

The teams are aiming to build on the School’s success last year, when QE junior boys competing in the parallel VEX IQ competition not only reached the World Championships in the USA but were crowned the UK’s first-ever world champions. A VEX EDR team from QE also qualified for the World Championships, where they achieved the best-ever result for a UK team.

In this year’s competition, Team Hybrid (pictured top), comprising boys from Year 10 and 11, stormed through to the national finals after being crowned Teamwork Champions and losing only one of their nine matches when they competed at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire.

Cobra, a new team comprising Year 12 boys competing in their first-ever VEX EDR event, have also qualified for the nationals, which take place in Telford in March. They performed strongly throughout the round held at St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington, where they finished third in the Skills Challenge. And in the next round, at The Henrietta Barnett School, they successfully reached both the knockout stage and the final, where they lost by a mere three points.

A third QE team, Apex, all from Year 10, still holds hope of qualifying for the national finals in the coming weeks. In the tournament at St Olave’s, Apex won the Judges’ Award for the design and construction of their robot and reached the semi-finals, where they lost out to the team which went on to win the round. Apex also performed strongly at HBS: like Cobra, they reached the knockout stages, where once again they were eliminated by the eventual overall winners.

The boys were accompanied at the tournaments by Technology teachers Alexander Vaughan and Charlie-Maud Munro. Mr Vaughan said: “My congratulations go to all the boys for their accomplishment. Hybrid and Cobra and are now looking forward to the national finals, with the latter team’s feat in reaching them particularly impressive, given their inexperience in VEX.”

The VEX EDR system has elements designed to fit each other easily, thus enabling seamless integration. The competitions typically feature a series of games in which teams’ robots are given points for accomplishing tasks such as stacking items, scoring goals and parking successfully. Teams are required to collaborate, as well as compete against others.

Several regional events are held, with the qualifying teams then going through to national finals and, ultimately, the World Championship, where the very best from almost 8,500 teams worldwide battle it out. There is a variety of prizes at each level, including awards for design, teamwork and all-round excellence.

This year’s QE VEX EDR teams are:
Team Apex: Swattik Das, Nirmay Jadhav, Ansh Jaiswal, Lucas Lu, Siddh Patel and George Sewell, all of Year 10
Team Cobra: Akram Ahmad, Mahdi Dhirani, Jimmy Ou and Leo Yang, all of Year 12
Team Hybrid: Dillan Shah and Alex Woodcock both of Year 10; Deshraam Ganeshamoorthy, Devin Karia, Daniel Radzik-Rahman and James Tan all of Year 11.

Alphabetti Spaghetti and Humble Pi: talks serve up inspiration for QE’s mathematicians

A QE boy’s correct answer to an outlandish numerical and scientific challenge won him a prize during a show aimed at inspiring young mathematicians.

Aryan Shrivastava correctly calculated that 7.5 million tins of Alphabetti Spaghetti would be needed to list the entire human genome, netting him a signed copy of Helen Pilcher’s book, Bring Back the King, which looks at the science that makes the resurrection of extinct animals a real possibility.

Helen, a scientist, comedian and writer for the science magazine, Nature, was the host for The Maths Inspiration Show at London’s Piccadilly Theatre, which was attended by around 60 Year 11 boys from QE.

She explored the distribution of letters found in a tin of Alphabetti Spaghetti. Her hypothesis was that there should be a strong correlation between the letters found in a tin and the occurrence of letters in the English language. In fact, the scatter graph she produced showed no correlation, nor did others for different languages, reported Mathematics teacher Phillip Brady.

Mr Brady said that Hugh Hunt, who is a lecturer at Cambridge University “put us all in a spin discussing the motion of balls, wheels and tops. He demonstrated how the gyroscopic effect can be used to rotate spacecraft and described why boomerangs come back (as well as demonstrating his boomerang-throwing skills).”

And he added that added that another speaker, Ben Sparks, who visited QE last year to speak to Year 10, took inspiration from Sting’s song, Shape of my Heart (about a poker player) to discuss some probability “whilst warning us of the perils of gambling. He was safe in his bet that in a random selection of 60 of the audience of 15 to 17 year-olds: there was at least one pair who shared a birthday.”

Matt Parker, who describes himself as a “stand-up mathematician”, related some of the mathematical errors set out in his book, Humble Pi. Some, he said, were simply amusing or embarrassing, such as McDonalds miscounting the combinations of meal deals and Pepsi underestimating the value of a fighter plane. However, he pointed out that some other mistakes he had come across could have more serious consequences, such as an aeroplane running out of fuel because the wrong units had been used to fill the tanks.

Afterwards, the pupils reflected on their favourite speakers of the day. Priyan Solanki said: “Hugh Hunt’s demonstration of the gyroscopic precession was very interesting.” (Precession is a change in the orientation of the rotational axis of a rotating body.) Harrishan Kangatheepan enjoyed Matt Parker’s explanation of how our minds can deceive us, especially with enormous numbers such as a trillion, while Ridwan Khan’s interest was piqued by Ben Sparks, from whom he learned aspects of probability that were new to him.

Mixing business and pleasure: Young Enterprise team’s market research at the Christmas fair

QE’s Young Enterprise group combined fun competitions and festive sales with some serious market research when they took part in Barnet Christmas Fayre.

The Year 10 boys participated in the popular seasonal event as part of the Barnet Teenage Market – a new attraction at the fair this year. Teenage Market is a national initiative that aims to give young people a free platform to showcase their creative talents.

Team member Shounak Pal said: “Throughout the day we were able to sell to visitors and gain invaluable experience.”

The Year 10 Reflex team sold Christmas essentials such as tinsel, wrapping paper and Christmas tree decorations. They also ran three competitions, showing visitors containers and challenging them to guess the number of candy canes and wine gums in their respective jars, as well as the weight of a tin of biscuits.

Academic Enrichment Tutor Lucy Riseborough said: “The competitions were very popular, generating a good profit for the team. They also managed to sell most of their Christmas stock on the day.”

During the event, Reflex also conducted market research into their current physical product, which is a vocabulary flashcard game complementing their educational app.

Among the other stallholders were a Young Enterprise team from The Henrietta Barnett School.
Shilacshan Lingakumar, of the QE team, said: “We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and found it a great opportunity to sell, and to check out the opposition!”

  • The team can be followed on Twitter and Instagram: search for ye_reflex
Potential high-flier wins sought-after scholarship

Sixth-former Dylan Vekaria has been awarded a prestigious engineering scholarship with the RAF after successfully negotiating a rigorous selection progress.

Year 12’s Dylan received his Arkwright Engineering Scholarship, which is funded by the RAF Charitable Trust, from Group Captain Tony Keeling at a special ceremony at the Institute of Engineering and Technology, based in central London.

The Arkwright Scholarship Trust is a charity which aims to identify talented, potential top engineers, and to encourage them to pursue the subject at university. The scholarships themselves are awarded to high-ability students to support them through their Sixth Form studies. Every scholarship is sponsored by a commercial company, trade association, university, professional institution, armed service, government organisation or charitable trust.

Under the scheme, the pupil is awarded £600 while a further £400 goes to the School:  QE will spend it on resources and equipment. The scholarship runs over two years and is reviewed at the end of the first year.

Dylan, who is pictured with RAF Charitable Trust Director Justine Morton, can now benefit from hands-on work experience and support for curriculum projects, as well as the opportunity to be linked to a personal mentor.

Technology teacher Tony Green, who accompanied Dylan to the ceremony, said: “Dylan has done very well to secure this scholarship and the certificate rightly recognises his ‘outstanding potential as a future leader in Engineering’.”

Applicants are required to take a rigorous online aptitude test, lasting for two hours. After passing this Dylan had to attend a 20-minute interview before being matched with a sponsoring organisation – in his case the RAF.

The Arkwright Scholarships were established in 1991. The charity was named after the 18th Century engineer, Sir Richard Arkwright (1732–1792), who perfected the water frame and who is widely regarded as the father of the modern factory system.