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Scope…for free-thinking scholarship at QE

Two-and-a-half years after he founded it, sixth-former Ryan Ratnam’s website and online journal has stood the test of time as a platform for young people to write about what really interests them.

Many QE boys and pupils from other leading schools have taken the opportunity to express themselves through the Scope Project. And, with no word limits imposed and considerable editorial freedom allowed, the range of topics explored is eclectic indeed, from Venezuelan hyperinflation to Was Thomas Hardy really a feminist, from Are we living in reality? to Facebook’s currency, Libra.

Ryan was inspired to start Scope when he was part of a joint academic symposium with North London Collegiate School (NLCS) in Year 10, where he and his friends relished the experience of sharing ideas. He wanted to create a channel through which young people could share their interests and make topics digestible to others: “news for young people, by young people”, as he says.

The scope of Scope has now broadened, as Ryan also runs an affiliated society – Microscope – for QE boys in Years 7 & 8. The society allows them to investigate the topics that interest them, to share their perspectives on news and issues and to gain writing experience. Ryan meets with them fortnightly, when they discuss the news (in different sectors) and work on writing techniques. The boys then produce pieces each half-term for a dedicated section of the website.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “My congratulations go to Ryan for his leadership in creating the Scope Project and for the persistence and hard work he and his team have shown to ensure its success over time.

“What he has done coheres very well with our aim as a School of nurturing free-thinking scholarship among the boys, encouraging them to go beyond the confines of their classroom syllabus, pursuing their own genuine academic interests.”

Ryan, who is Chief Editor, received some help early on from his then-Head of Year, Kimberly Jackson (now an Assistant Head at The Henrietta Barnett School (HBS)) and Nisha Mayer, QE’s Head of Academic Enrichment, who helped him set up the project and promote it through the eQE portal.

The project was developed collaboratively, with pupils from NLCS, HBS and Westminster School all involved alongside QE boys with taking the concept of the symposium and translating that to an online editorial platform.

The website covers a broad range of areas. The designated menu areas are: current affairs; entertainment; history; literature; languages; philosophy/psychology; sport; science and technology. The ‘languages’ tab features writing in foreign languages including, to date, French, German and Spanish.

The main goal is for people to write about what really interests them personally. Ryan, for example, has written on Japanese history – “Something I would be unlikely to talk about in the playground!

“For me, free-thinking scholarship is about being open to new ideas and perspectives, going beyond the curriculum”.

The articles and features are looking to test opinion and challenge it, he says, citing as an example a piece on feminism, accompanied by a survey to interrogate young people’s knowledge an perceptions of this subject. “Opinions shape your character; figuring out what you think is part of maturing.”

Scope gives young people the opportunity to learn about new things and a place to share their ideas, slightly removed from the pressures of social media. “Lots of people get their news from social media, with the flashy headlines and fear-mongering.” Scope seeks to avoid the dangers of ‘sound-bite’ journalism through its long-read format for the main articles, although there are also bite-sized snippets in monthly digests on the website too, as a shorter snappier way in for some new readers.

Where social media does come in is through its use to broaden the reach of the Scope project website, with accounts currently being set up to help drive traffic. Scope’s readership has grown largely through ‘word-of-mouth’ and it is now being read in countries across the world, according to the analytics.

Ryan noted the editorial challenges around how subjective articles should be, particularly regarding politics. The editorial team, which includes a number of senior QE boys, look for some balance to arguments, but do not require impartiality, and many articles are, in fact, comment pieces.

However, he stresses that using evidence is crucial: “It is really important to ground your arguments in evidence – this is the only way someone can make what they say valid.” This is emphasised to the younger boys involved in Microscope, ensuring that the principles of scholarship are maintained.

Here is a small sample of Scope articles contributed by QE boys, all of whom are currently in Year 13:

  • How the sun set on the British Empire – Chris Hall
  • The cultural and historical significance of historical epidemics – Sparsh Sutariya
  • The Tunguska Event – Senan Karunadhara
  • Captain Marvel review – Josh Osman
  • Buy an army for just $285bn – Alistair Law
  • How should central banks take the quantity of money into account when determining policy changes? – Rishi Shah
  • Crisis of the European Centre-Left – Alex Beard
  • Thomas More’s Utopia – Ryan Ratnam
  • Macron sous pression – Oscar Smith
  • Do humans understand infinity? – Nikhil Handa
  • The distribution of money in cricket – Adam Hassan
  • Medical ethics – a guide – Deniz Kaya
  • Strides in HIV research – Vithusan Kuganathan.

Microscope articles include:

  • Brexit – An opinion – Ameesh Doobaree (Year 8)
  • E-books – the future of reading? – Ady Tiwari (Year 8)
  • Usain Bolt and football – Kiaron Lad (Year 8).

The next edition, which is due out imminently, will be the fifth edition of Microscope and the tenth of Scope overall.

The editorial team also includes Alex Beard, Vithusan Kuganathan, Rishi Shah and Alistair Law.

QE poet-in-residence up for top prize

QE’s poet-in-residence, Anthony Anaxagorou, has been shortlisted for the prestigious TS Eliot prize for poetry.

After the Formalities, a collection of poems by Old Elizabethan Anthony (1994–1999) was selected by the judges among the nominees for the £25,000 prize, the UK’s most valuable poetry award.

The work, which is also a Poetry Society recommendation, features poems in which the threat of violence is never far away, looking at episodes including the pulling of a knife, racial abuse of an Uber driver, a father bathing his son in ice water and a schoolboy driving a pin into a map of the world.

The title poem is a meditation on racism and ‘race science’ that draws on the Cypriot heritage of British-born Anthony.

A poet, fiction-writer, essayist and poetry educator whose work has appeared on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky, Anthony won the Groucho Maverick Award in 2015 and this year he was made an honorary fellow of the University of Roehampton. He has toured extensively in Europe and Australia.

At QE, Anthony is a contributor to the School’s academic enrichment programme, leading workshops and other events promoting and developing creative writing among the boys.

As reported by the Guardian, the chairman of the judges, John Burnside, has paid tribute to all the shortlisted writers, whom he describes as “some of the finest and most fearless poets working today”.

“In an excellent year for poetry, the judges read over 150 collections from every corner of these islands, and beyond,” said Mr Burnside. “Each had its own vital energy, its own argument to make, its own celebration or requiem to offer, and we knew that settling upon ten from so many fine books would be difficult. Nevertheless, as our deliberations progressed, the same titles kept coming to the fore.”

Guardian reviewer Jade Cuttle wrote: “Anthony Anaxagorou’s After the Formalities is a novel response to anxieties surrounding the growth of the immigrant-descended population, informed by his British and Cypriot heritage. […] The poet speaks out ‘against darkness’ to a divided nation and seeks the solace of home, whether assigned or adopted.”

Published by Penned in the Margins – a company producing new work live, in print and online – the anthology has also been praised by rapper, poet and political activist Akala as a work by “a poet at the peak of his powers”.

Anthony dedicates the collection to the memory of “my beloved grandmother who passed away during the writing of this book”. In a note of thanks at the start of the book, he also addresses his son, Tabari: “I hope when I’m old you’ll read these poems with the same fondness I discovered when writing them.”

  • Previous winners of the TS Eliot prize include Carol Ann Duffy, Ted Hughes and Alice Oswald. The winner will be announced on 13th January 2020.
Robotics morning, noon and night!

QE’s new robotics suite is already proving a major hit with the boys, after being opened at the start of term.

The dedicated facility in the Technology corridor has been created in a large former changing room and fully equipped to help young roboteers develop their skills.

It is expected that QE will field a record number of robotics teams – possibly as many as ten – in the 2019-2020 season, so the room is constantly busy before and after school, as well as at breaktimes and lunch.

This will be only the fourth year in which QE has been involved in the VEX robotics competitions, yet the School has very quickly made its mark on the world stage. In 2017, two teams won places at the international finals in Kentucky at the first attempt; in 2018, QE became the first-ever UK school to win a world title, and last academic year a record four junior VEX IQ) and one senior (VEX EDR) teams picked up a string of awards in the US, with one becoming the first UK team ever to reach the competition’s Teamwork Challenge finals.

QE’s Head of Technology teacher Michael Noonan said: “Enthusiasm for robotics here is extremely strong, so we are delighted to be able to offer the boys a dedicated facility, which includes the School’s first permanent EDR field as well as two raised permanent IQ fields.

“We’re all looking forward to another great year of competition nationally and, hopefully, internationally,” added Mr Noonan, who won the Teacher of the Year Award at last year’s UK VEX robotics finals in Telford.

In addition to the new IQ and EDR fields, the suite features:

  • A new smartboard for displaying real-time game information;
  • Six desktop computers for CAD and Design applications
  • A breakout space with two whiteboards, to spur creative discussions
  • A library of books, resources and past designs
  • Ample storage space
  • Wireless internet
  • And a display area for QE’s rapidly growing collection of trophies!
Aeroball, Arromanches, animals and ‘animateurs’: a varied programme in Normandy as boys throw themselves into learning French

Boys from both ends of the School were plunged into intensive language-learning during a week at a château in Normandy.

Forty of last year’s Year 7 pupils enjoyed a range of fun activities at the Château de la Baudonnière, near Avranches, with all the instructions for these – and for mealtimes – given in French.

Ten Year 12s also made the summer trip, during which they completed work experience placements designed to boost their language skills, such as working in a restaurant, where they were expected to take the orders and converse with customers. In addition, they helped the château’s ‘animateurs’ (activity leaders).

Languages teacher Rebecca Grundy said: “We aim for a completely immersive experience to give the boys some intensive help with their language-learning, while making sure they learn something of the culture and history of Normandy and France.”

The activities at the château site enjoyed by the Year 7 boys included raft-building, tackling an assault course, practising archery, playing aeroball and climbing. They spent time feeding animals at a farm, tried some traditional delicacies, including snails, and learned about making cider, or ‘cidre’, a popular drink in the region.

On a day out, the younger boys visited two Norman cities of historical importance, Arromanches and Bayeux.

At Bayeux, they saw the famous tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

And in Arromanches, they went to a 360-degree cinema to learn about the importance of World War II’s D-Day to the region, also walking the beaches that were the sites of the D-Day landings on 6th June 1944.

More by judgment than luck: boys try their hand at making money on the markets

Budding traders had the chance to try their hand at playing the markets in a special challenge run by the Economics department.

Around 155 boys studying Economics in Year 11 enjoyed a morning trying to increase their £15,000 starting fund by trading in shares and foreign exchange as part of an Economics enrichment day.

After lunch, they gained insights into the role of the Bank of England given by a visiting speaker from the bank.

Economics teacher Krishna Shah said: “This was a great alternative to normal Economics lessons, and the boys appreciated getting away from ‘boring’ essay-writing! The morning gave them an opportunity to experience the pressure of a real trading floor and apply their understanding of supply and demand to a real-life situation. Not only did they gain an insight into the atmosphere of a real trading floor, but they also developed skills such as teamwork, analytical thinking, leadership, decision-making and risk management.

“In the afternoon, as well as learning about careers with the Bank of England, our economists also received an introduction to monetary policy, which is useful as they enter Year 11.”

The event was run over two days, with half the boys attending on each day. The first group heard from Anu Ralhan, who is a Senior Actuary with the bank’s Prudential Regulation Authority. On the following day, it was Marisa Camastral, who is an analyst in the bank’s Monetary Analysis Directorate.

For the trading floor simulation – dubbed the ‘stock market challenge’ – the teams were tasked with maximising the value of their fund in sterling, US dollars and shares after starting with a notional £15,000.

The boys could buy and sell shares in nine companies and also buy the dollar. They had to make decisions about which companies would increase in market value and which would lose out, based on media reports from newspaper, radio and TV briefings.

“Most teams increased on their initial £15,000 significantly,” said Mrs Shah. “They all had to take risks on which stocks to invest in, and some were more successful than others. Luck played a part, but they also needed to be quick-acting and to communicate well as a team, so that they made sound investment decisions.”

The afternoon speaker offered the boys the chance to win £500 by taking part in a quiz after his talk. But this ‘promise’ wasn’t quite as solid as the Bank of England’s famous promise on banknotes ‘to pay the bearer on demand’: the £500 actually comprised old, shredded £20 notes – as the boys found out only at the end!

Beach boys win architectural modelling competition

A contemporary take on a beach house took first prize in a Year 10 competition overseen by Cambridge Architecture student Danny Martin.

Old Elizabethan Danny, who has completed his second year at King’s College, helped out over the two days of the architectural modelling competition and judged the entries at the end of each day.

All 180 members of Year 10 were involved in the competition, which was held by the Art department as part of QE’s Enrichment Week.

Afterwards, Danny said: “The ingenuity and creativity from all groups was fantastic. I’m inspired and encouraged by the quality of all the outcomes over the two days.”

The boys were divided into teams of six and given the task of constructing 3D architectural models using only card, paper, tracing paper, pins and paper clips.

The competition rules stipulated that the constructions:

  • Were to be of a contemporary design, playing with the idea of abstract shapes, negative space, light and line
  • Should be structurally sound (free-standing)
  • Should be no bigger than 60 cm in height, depth or width
  • Could take the form of wearable architecture.

Each group was expected to work as a team and to appoint a designer and project manager, as well as assigning specific tasks, such as origami-making.

Pupils were encouraged to be innovative, creative and visionary, while also setting out the function or purpose of their model and the reason they had for creating it.

The entries created over the two days included models of museums, airports and mosques.

The overall winners came from Harrisons’ House. The team comprised: Vishruth Dhamodharan; Alan Gatehouse; Raheel Kapasi; Yuvraj Manral; Aiden Smith and Yuto Watanabe. They were commended for the design and construction of their model.

Head of Art Stephen Buckeridge said: “It conveyed the idea of a contemporary beach house and courtyard, utilising light and space in an innovative and creative way. The group worked exceptionally well as a team; they were calm and methodical, and had a clear vision for the outcome. The project management and construction displayed a range of skills, including paper-weaving, origami and nets constructed with mathematical precision.”

Body blows: Year 7 practise percussion without instruments

The whole of Year 7 found out more about the amazing musical potential of the human body in a pair of percussion workshops.

During the events, organised by the Music department as part of QE’s Enrichment Week, the boys had ample opportunity to try out for themselves techniques used to make music without any instruments.

Acting Director of Music Jennifer Brown said: “These activities were not only great fun, but they also really stretched the boys. Using the voice and/or body to make music as part of a group enhances pupils’ musicianship by providing strategies to help them achieve a collective sense of pulse and to memorise different rhythms, therefore allowing them to fully engage with musical material.”

In a two-hour Body Percussion workshop led by experts from music and dance organisation Inspire-works, pupils were shown how to produce exciting rhythms and sounds by stamping their feet on the floor, patting thighs with open palms, clicking fingers, clapping hands and patting or knocking their chest.

Mrs Brown said: “The morning culminated in a complicated dance routine that was challenging and exhilarating.”

The other workshop was on beatboxing (a musical style based on the vocal imitation of percussion sounds) and was led by QE Music teacher Hannah Morgan. Pupils explored a variety of vocal patterns and sounds that went well beyond the familiar ‘boots and cats’ sound typically learned by beatboxing beginners.

“For years, scientists have struggled to identify and classify the intricate sounds that emanate from a beatboxer’s mouth. Year 7 had lots of fun in this workshop, but as they discovered, beatboxing is definitely harder to do well than you might imagine,” added Mrs Brown.

Fair shares: Pearce take main prize while Broughton win poster award in Year 7 Mathematics competition

QE’s youngest boys had to combine individual talent and good teamwork to succeed in the inter-House Year 7 Maths Fair at the end of the summer term.

Inspired by the UK Mathematics Trust’s Team Maths Challenge events, the Mathematics department’s annual morning of activities pits the six Houses against each other.

The boys take part in a carousel of mathematical challenges, some of which are more familiar problem-solving (such as the round entitled A Question of Maths), while others major on the practical (such as tangrams, which involve putting together seven flat shapes to create a specified shape).

One highlight of the event is the relay round, which combines speed in movement around the room with mental speed in solving a mathematical problem.

Assistant Head of Mathematics Wendy Fung said: “The idea is to show boys that mathematical problems come in many different formats as well as to help them to develop team-working skills.”

The overall winners were Pearce, with 767 points; second was Broughton, with 740, and third, Underne, with 688. Pearce were subsequently presented with a trophy – the Scarisbrick Shield – in assembly.

“From electricity to football, Maths is all around us. Winning the Maths Fair is an unforgettable achievement,” said Haris Shahid from Pearce.

This was the second year in which Year 12 pupils have supported the event. Each Year 7 team was supervised by one of the sixth-formers, who also provided essential logistical support for the fair.

Paying tribute to the Year 12 boys for their contribution and noting that they had themselves taken part in a similar Year 7 Maths Fair back in 2014, Miss Fung said: “The event would not have been able to run without their help. The sixth-formers certainly enjoyed issuing red cards to any Year 7 boys who did not follow the relay ‘no-running’ policy!”

All six Houses were also required to create a poster entitled What is Mathematics? Each of the multiple teams within each house had to create a part of the poster. They were asked to prepare in advance by coordinating the different sections so that their poster would encompass the many facets of Mathematics.

Having been chosen as the winning poster, Broughton’s entry was displayed in the Mathematics department.

Firing up the dragons at STEM day

Year 8 boys combined Mathematics and Science with some exciting new materials to come up with creative solutions to everyday problems.

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) enrichment day involved pupils working in teams, with each allocated a different business role.

After first designing and building a prototype, they then pitched it to a team of ‘dragons’ – expert assessors modelled on those seen on TV’s Dragons’ Den.

The day was run by Simon Kettle, Executive Director of STEMworks, a not-for-profit company dedicated to promoting STEM.

He gave the boys a design brief, encouraging them to think about possible applications for materials such as D3o – a substance discovered at the University of Hertfordshire in 1999 that is soft and flexible when worn, but impact-resistant in a collision. The pupils also considered how the design of mobile apps might be used to help disabled people.

The boys worked in their teams in roles covering graphic design, marketing and product manufacture, and as the managing director.

The winners chosen by the dragons included a prototype for luggage that could be used to charge a phone whilst a passenger waited in an airport and a wristwatch to help those suffering with dementia remember to take their medication.

The day was supported by STEM ambassadors from German multinational Siemens and the London-based engineering consultancy, Waterman Group, who spoke to the boys about careers in engineering.

Stagecraft and witchcraft as boys get to grips with Macbeth

Year 9 pupils took a trip back in time to the dark days of Shakespeare’s Macbeth at a special Enrichment Day that offered them the chance to engage dramatically and creatively with the ‘Scottish play’.

Featuring a series of interactive workshops, the day brought to life Shakespeare’s brooding and exciting tragedy, which most of Year 9 had studied – from a purely textual point of view – earlier in the year.

Head of English Robert Hyland said: “Shakespeare was not written to be studied, but to be performed; therefore, an engagement with Macbeth would be incomplete without some understanding of the stagecraft and dramatic opportunities that this approach to the text provides, away from the minutiae of language analysis.”

Pupil Mahmudur Rahman enjoyed the day and said it helped him understand the play better: “The thing I like about drama is that you can play another person’s life – it’s a distraction from normal life and you can live in another person’s shoes. You can explore any dimension in history, going back centuries before, which I find fascinating.”

Mahmudur’s fellow Underne House member, Varun Maheswaran, said: “It was a fun day. When we played out the Macbeth scenes, it was enjoyable to explore the play in an interactive way.”

Organised by Mr Hyland, the all-day event took place in a classroom and the Main Hall. It was led by experienced drama professionals Gavin Malloy and Lauren Steadman, from RM Drama, QE’s external drama partner.

The workshops focused on:

  • Key characters – such as the relationship between Macbeth himself and Lady Macbeth
  • Key scenes – looking at the opening with the three witches
  • Key themes – including ambition, guilt, the supernatural and violence.

The techniques explored included the deployment of ‘freeze-frame’ tableaux, the use of dialogue and improvisation, and the development of soundscapes (where atmosphere is created by the use of collective sound).

With drama not being part of the normal classroom curriculum at QE, the day was especially significant for those Year 9 pupils who were not involved in the School Play, Lord of the Flies, at Easter nor in QE’s contribution to the Shakespeare Schools Festival in the autumn, Mr Hyland said. “While a good number of students have been involved in school productions, many other will not have had exposure to such an innovative approach to a Shakespearean text. It was really refreshing to watch boys perform so ably and creatively, and engage with Shakespeare in a completely different way. For many, this was an opportunity to demonstrate a set of talents that might have gone unnoticed in the classroom.

“The team from RM Drama did a fantastic job at getting our students active and involved – there was a real sense of energy and purpose as the day developed.”