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“For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo”: QE actors bring Shakespeare’s tragedy to life

QE’s production at this year’s Shakespeare Schools Festival was uncompromising and unflinching in its depiction of the brutal feud between the Montague and Capulet families that is at the heart of Romeo and Juliet.

Crispin Bonham-Carter, Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement), lauded the vivid depiction given by the School’s senior actors of the dark themes that pervade the perennially popular tragic tale set in the Italian city of Verona – including depression, street brawls, domestic violence, duelling and poisoning.

Yet he also praised Year 10’s Dhruv Pai (Romeo) and Year 12’s Anshul Nema (Juliet) for their “sensitive and intelligent portrayals of the ‘star-cross’d’ lovers” immortalised in the title of the play.

The 19-strong cast drawn from Years 10–13 travelled to Finchley’s Arts Depot to take part in the local performances for the national festival, run by the Coram Shakespeare Schools Foundation. In addition, the boys put on three showings in Main School Hall, giving all of Years 10 and 11 the opportunity to see the play, which is part of the GCSE English syllabus.

“Two sullen gangs facing off… faces masked… hoodies up… suddenly a knife is drawn and all hell breaks loose! That was just the start of our brilliant senior drama production of Romeo and Juliet,” said Mr Bonham-Carter.

“The surrounding cast provided a wonderful supporting ensemble of raging fathers, desperate friends and loutish thugs. It would be churlish not to mention [Year 13’s] Keiaron Joseph’s outstanding Mercutio, who delivered one of the best ‘Queen Mab’ speeches* I’ve seen. That and [Year 12’s] Saim Khan’s convincingly thuggish Capulet – complete with gold necklace – almost stole the show!

“Special praise must go to the protagonists, Anshul Nema and Dhruv Pai: it can’t be easy falling in love in front of an audience of your school mates, but it is a credit to both the cast and the audiences how convincingly this was handled.

“All in all, a fantastic experience for all.”

Saim reflected afterwards on an “amazing experience” that encompassed making new friends across year groups, sharing funny moments in rehearsals when things went wrong, and getting to see a different side of people as they fully embraced their characters.

“Getting the chance to perform in front of all our friends and family at the Arts Depot, one of the best venues in Barnet, was a unique opportunity – a truly special day for all the cast.

“On a personal level, playing the part of Lord Capulet was fascinating, since I could explore the nuances in his character, and delve deeply into how quickly he turns from a caring, but slightly overbearing, father at the start of the play, to one who raised a hand to his own daughter towards the end of it.

“It also meant that I got to wear a rather flashy costume for the performance, complete with that large (sadly fake) gold chain!”

* In his speech, Mercutio teases his friend, Romeo, about an unrequited romantic infatuation for a girl called Rosaline, telling him that the mischief-making Mab, queen of the fairies in English folklore, has been infecting his dreams. Romeo later meets, and falls in love, with Juliet.

  • Click on the thumbnail images below to scroll through photos from the production.


Look of success! QE boys’ eyes on national finals following victory in regional round of prestigious Chemistry competition

A QE team will go to the national finals of a Royal Society of Chemistry competition after beating off fierce competition to win their regional heat.

Team 38 (pictured top) scored 66 out of a maximum possible 72 – or 92% – to take first place ahead of St Benedict’s School, on 65 points, in the Chilterns and Middlesex round of the Top of the Bench competition.

In joint third place, with 64 points apiece, were three other QE teams and a team from Harrow School.

Head of Chemistry Amy Irvine said: “We are very proud of the four boys in the winning team – what an achievement!”

Describing team 38’s score as “magnificent”, Paul Tiley, from the RSC’s Chilterns and Middlesex Local Section Committee, added: “We were very impressed with their knowledge and understanding of Chemistry.”

The winning team comprised: Zayn Phoplankar, of Year 11; Vu-Lam Le-Nguyen, of Year 10; Aarush Choudhary, of Year 9, and Rishan Virmani, also of Year 9.

In addition to progressing to the national round of the competition in the spring, they win a silver shield and Amazon vouchers.

They were among a total of five teams entered by QE, all made up of boys from Years 9–11. All five finished among the top ten teams. “Their teamwork was exceptional, as they answered some very challenging Chemistry problems via Zoom,” said Dr Irvine.

The Top of the Bench competition is open to all secondary schools in the UK and has been running for more than 20 years.

Boys towards the bottom end of the School have been solving Chemistry problems of their own in the Year 7–9 Chemystery club (photos 2 & 3).

With a little help from sixth-formers, they determined the citric acid concentration in sour sweets – specifically, Swizzles Fizzers and Haribo Sour Sparks.

“The students solved this particular ‘mystery’ very well, with some excellent titration technique on display from the younger boys, supported by our brilliant Year 12 chemists,” Dr Irvine added.

Hearing from Heseltine: grandee’s insights from the heart of British politics

Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Michael Heseltine delivered a lunchtime lecture giving an insider’s view of the key characters and issues that have shaped modern British politics.

The Conservative politician, who worked directly with four Prime Ministers, spoke to a packed house drawn from all year groups in the Friends’ Recital Hall. The optional lecture, part of QE’s Flourish extra-curricular programme, was organised by Year 13 pupil Anish Kumar and the QE Politics Society.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We are keen for the boys to hear from leaders and influential thinkers in their respective fields. Lord Heseltine is a towering figure in British politics: it was an honour to welcome him to the School and we are most grateful to him for taking the time to visit and deliver such an insightful lecture drawn from a political career spanning some 50 years.”

Mr Enright thanked Anish and the Politics Society for organising the visit and paid tribute to all who had worked to ensure it passed off smoothly.

Lord Heseltine, who is 90, began his career as a property developer, before becoming one of the founders of the Haymarket publishing house. He served as a Conservative Member of Parliament from 1966 to 2001, when he was created a life peer.

Having previously served Ted Heath, he entered the Cabinet in 1979 under Margaret Thatcher as Secretary of State for the Environment. He served as Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State within John Major’s  administration. Later, he fulfilled advisory roles when David Cameron was Prime Minister.

Lord Heseltine began his lecture after a welcome from Anish – who introduced him as “one of [his] political heroes” ­– and warm applause from the boys.

In his lecture, he covered topics ranging from industrial strategy (a particular interest and area of expertise of his) and the revitalisation of the city of Liverpool (with which he has a special, and perhaps unique, relationship as a Conservative politician), to devolution.  Famously a supporter of the European Union and opponent of Eurosceptics, he expressed his desire to see the UK return to the EU fold in the future.

In a Q & A session chaired by Anish, pupils then posed their own questions.

  • On the future of the Conservative Party, he opined that it will find power from the centre-ground – an answer that was especially topical, given the recent Government reshuffle and the return to government of David, now Lord, Cameron;
  • On the nature of a life in politics, Lord Heseltine said it was a privilege, but one that inescapably involved making unpopular decisions, often on “50:50” issues in which the side you support will think you reasonable and “a good, sensible bloke”, while those whose expectations are dashed will believe you don’t listen, don’t care and are in politics only for yourself!
  • When asked about his proudest moment, he referenced his 1981 party conference speech;
  • On whether he regrets not quite becoming Prime Minister, he answered in the affirmative and furthermore set out the approach he would take to transform the nation’s governance and economic strategy if he were in 10 Downing Street today.


Actively anti-racist: celebrating achievement, engaging with the issues

Pupils throughout the School celebrated Black History Month, participating in art and essay competitions, and learning together in student-led House assemblies.

Members of the club run by the School’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Ambassadors have been working on updating the EDI-related Perspective pages on the eQE portal (open to pupils and parents), as well as more generally building student leadership in areas such as combatting racism.

And Black History Month (BHM), with its theme of Saluting our Sisters, was also the focus of the latest edition of the Econobethan magazine.

Reflecting on how the last month had gone at QE, Assistant Head (Pupil Destinations) James Kane said: “I have been very pleased to see students from all year groups engaging positively with Black History Month, sharing their thoughts both during and after the House assemblies, and producing some excellent entries in our two competitions.”

Teams comprising House Captains and Form Representatives planned and delivered the six assemblies, which took Celebrating Black History Month as their theme.

“They spoke about what we can learn from the ways in which African, Asian and Caribbean people, and especially women, have overcome structural racism to achieve great things in different fields, linking these messages to anti-racism at QE and how we as a school, and as individuals, can be actively anti-racist and help to combat structural racism,” said Mr Kane.

For the art competition, pupils were asked to submit BHM-related designs of a suitable size and shape for display as ‘wallpaper’ on computer monitors. The winner, chosen by Mr Kane and Lead Enrichment Tutor Kanak Shah, was Vinuga Perera, of Stapylton’s Year 9 form. His entry was displayed on all computers across QE during the month.

His design, described by Mr Kane as “strikingly bold” uses the colours of BHM – black, yellow, red and green – with black representing resilience; yellow, optimism and justice; red, blood, and green, Africa’s rich greenery and other natural resources.

Vinuga said: “I chose to put a person of colour in the foreground because I believe that BHM is recognising all the amazing achievements that black people have accomplished. The poster’s just really about representation of culture and people.”

More than 20 boys from Years 7 to 13 submitted essays for the competition, which was judged by a panel consisting of senior EDI Ambassadors including Vice Captains Arjun Patel and Indrajit Datta, as well as Riann Mehta and Roshan Arora.

The Upper School winner was Anish Kumar, of Year 13, with an essay entitled The Civil Rights Movement: Why it never ended, and why the 50s and 60s matter. The judges’ panel described it as “a very comprehensive analysis of civil rights movements; very sensitive to issues and appropriately expressed”.

Rishabh Satsangi, from Year 7, penned the Lower School’s winning entry, its title simply Subnormal. The judges’ notes appraised it as “beautifully written. A nice structure – thorough analysis of historical racism. The author has a clear vision of the future of more positive racial treatment within society.”

  • Scroll down to read both essays.

The Civil Rights Movement: Why it never ended, and why the 50s and 60s matter
Anish Kumar

The plight of African-Americans in America is one that has become so ingrained in the cultural fabric of the nation that it is almost taken for granted how much of a disparity still exists not only in life outcomes but in the ability to exercise fundamental liberal rights that we may take for granted in the UK. Even in this country, to claim that society is now “post-racial” is to delude oneself into believing that a Britain where race and ethnicity still matter could ever truly be egalitarian. To understand the everyday inequalities faced by the Black community across the Atlantic, it is important to understand the social hierarchy built, first directly, and now indirectly upon racism. This essay will examine the experiences of African-Americans in America firstly through slavery and inferiority, followed by the century of Jim Crow and both de facto and de jure segregation, and then the Civil Rights Movement which reached its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, but never truly ended.

The historical oppression of an entire race within the US, while not unique globally, is the most significant of its kind within the developed world. An entire people with a near-universal shared common experience of the evils of slavery creates both a solidarity but a polarisation along racial lines unlike anywhere else, with the country displaying true heterogeneity. Racial division expresses itself in the United States not only politically (which alone is alarmingly stark), but also culturally and in the places where Americans live and work. Slavery was, for centuries, the “peculiar institution” that drove the Southern economy. The agrarian region largely lacked the North’s cities, industrial base and middle class, and remained dominated by the slave-owning planter class. It is clear here that African-Americans were brought across the Atlantic, against their will, to a nation where their economic destiny was preordained by a strict hierarchical system in which they were placed at the bottom not as workers but as property, dehumanised by not only society but by politics and the economy. The US Constitution, as written at the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787, was fundamentally enshrined as a racist document, defining slaves as 3/5 of a person as a “political compromise” between the north and south. African-Americans are dehumanised firstly in their economic status, but then again as bargaining chips. Indeed, the pre-Civil War court case Dred Scott v Sandford determined that African-Americans could not even be citizens in the country that was founded upon the liberal philosophies of life, liberty, and property, and the cruel reality is that within these three principles, only Whites and that too those of a particular class were seen as enjoying them in earnest and enslaved African-Americans were seen as only an economic tool, something to be fought for not as an identity but as a possession. The experiences of American African-Americans in the mid-19th century can be summarised by the Cornerstone Speech by Confederate Vice-President, Alexander H. Stephens:

We have settled, and, I trust, settled forever, the great question which was the prime cause of our separation from the United States: I mean the question of African Slavery.

The old [American] Constitution set out with a wrong idea on this subject; it was based upon an erroneous principle; it was founded upon the idea that African Slavery is wrong, and it looked forward to the ultimate extinction of that institution. But time has proved the error, and we have corrected it in the new Constitution.

We have based ours upon principle of the inequality of races, and the principle is spreading — it is becoming appreciated and better understood; and though there are many, even in the South, who are still in the shell upon this subject, yet the day is not far distant when it will be generally understood and appreciated…

[Our Government’s] foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world, based on this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth

The fundamental message here, that of the “inequality of the races”, is one that explains the plight of the pre-Civil War southern Black person. But this inferiority did not only apply to the enslaved Southern population, but also to the free people of the North. Racism was not a controversial belief system among 19th century American Whites, and it was Lincoln, who we see as a great emancipator today, who supported the American Colonisation Society’s efforts to resettle free African-Americans to a newly established colony rather than accept their integration into society. The active racism that has been experienced by the African-Americans in this era is a collective cultural trauma that still holds true today, and must always be kept in mind when arguments about “moving on” from the era are made. We can never truly move past such a deep scar on the collective imagination of an entire group, and the nature of race relations in the US is that we cannot move on from a system of oppression when the system is built on the foundation of racism.

The fight that the “redeemer” Whites of the South took to newly won Black freedoms after the Civil War and won is another in the long list of collective traumas that define modern heterogenous America. The Radical Republicans had in their ranks numerous elected, politically active African-Americans, popularly elected under the laws of the nation and under the principles that their people had never yet been able to enjoy the benefits of. There were no Black senators in the United States between 1881 (shortly after the end of Reconstruction) and 1967, and there were no Southern Black senators for 132 years after the Compromise of 1877 saw African-Americans once again sacrificed by Whites who sought to preserve their power. Throughout this era, and arguably even today, an entire group in society are routinely thrown under the bus for the political benefit of a class that, while no longer dehumanising them through a view of them as property, continues to do so by reducing them to statistics and acceptable “collateral damage” in power tussles.

Between the end of Reconstruction and the 1950s, it can hardly be said that the position of African-Americans improved to a dramatic degree, and the fact that race relations reached their nadir in the early 20th century teaches us the importance of civil rights today. The end of the military occupation of the South by Union troops meant that the Southern Democrats were able to establish control through violence and insurgency; groups like the KKK may seem a joke today but in their first iteration the Klan was a real threat to African-American suffrage, and in its second peak in the 1920s had significant influence, not only in the South but in northern states like Indiana. The black community in the United States experienced for a hundred years the injustices of Jim Crow: segregation, discrimination, disenfranchisement systematically by White Democrats who established a one-party state in the South. The near absence of any Republican politics meant that the real election was the selection of the Democratic nominee in the primary, which was limited only to Whites who could pass the local voting restriction laws, and therefore the interests of African-Americans were entirely excluded from government. While racism in early-to-mid 20th century America may have formed in the cultural imagination through southern legal segregation, the north remained de facto segregated, and in fact the Great Migration led in northern cities to racial tensions that were of a similar kind as seen in the South. Millions of African-Americans moved to escape the legally enforced inferiority they had assumed within the South, and found themselves in the industrial northern cities like Chicago and New York City. The continual theme of race relations in the time period covered here is that the white population has always resisted the progress of its African-American peers, and this manifested itself in the racial zoning laws of Chicago and Detroit, and the 1919 Chicago Race Riot which saw such destruction and brutality that it encouraged both groups to seek greater separation, even if it was not always strictly defined in law. The theme here, whether legally enforced or not, is that wherever those of darker complexion existed, their life was made poorer than it should have been by the conscious effort of white leaderships, whether that was for the reason of politics or prejudice. It was George Wallace who infamously said that when he tried to campaign on the issues of “roads and schools” hardly anyone listened, but when he began talking about “N——”, “the people] stamped the floor”.  It was not a leadership acting on its own to suppress the black people while the whites watched on, rather it was a concerted effort by a broad white majority to suppress the rights of a minority, which has shaped the attitudes towards race relations held today, on both sides of the divide.

The Civil Rights Movement itself, while easy to view from across the Atlantic as having succeeded, was one settled not by politics, but rather by time. It is easy to forget that the end of Jim Crow was followed by the 1968 three-way election where the key theme was race and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F Kennedy. The Civil Rights Act 1964 was passed not along party lines, but along regional lines, and the vast majority of Senators and Representatives from the South, almost entirely Democrats, voted against the bill in both houses of Congress. The emancipation of African Americans in the South on legal lines was not immediate either, and the white elite, represented by the likes of Byrd, Thurmond (who had switched parties but not ideology), Wallace, Maddox and Faubus, remained firmly committed to their “Massive Resistance” campaign that had been the attitude towards integration throughout the Civil Rights Movement. A more romantic history of the time may be more inclined to look at the marches of King and the simple acts of defiance of Parks as the defining features of the campaign for rights, but it is, unfortunately, the case that the landmark Acts of the 1960s did not end racism, and, as with many “seminal” moments, only served to give the leadership an excuse to turn on the people they had just emancipated. Nixon and Wallace won 57% of the vote combined in 1968, campaigning implicitly and explicitly, respectively, appealing to the grievances of the White south. Humphrey, an old liberal, lost the election that went on to define the next five, with Nixon sweeping the South in 1972 on a Republican ticket that would have been consigned to single digit vote share just a few decades earlier, and the realignment of southern whites to the Republican party was one that took place on racial lines. The Civil Rights Acts and Voting Rights Act have spent the last five decades being chipped away by courts, and today southern states are strongly racially gerrymandered to the extent that when conservative Democrat John Bel Edwards won the Louisiana governor race in 2019, he won a majority of votes but won in only one congressional district out of the six. Civil Rights is portrayed by the education system as one of tension and resistance culminating in the acceptance of the three branches of government that change must finally come. This is true, to some degree: the judiciary passed the Brown decision unanimously, the legislature passed the Acts that ended legal Jim Crow laws entirely, and it was Kennedy and LBJ who pushed presidential support for desegregation. This would only ignore, however, the context of each of these decisions. Landmark moments were not so for their transformative effect on the status of African-Americans, but in how they catalysed resistance and support, often in equal measure, and despite obvious progress caused by the sacrifices that we focus on in our romanticised view of history, there is still so much to be done today.

In this sense, the Civil Rights movement never truly ended, or even begun. Shelby v Holder in 2013 struck down sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which has led to African-American disenfranchisement, while not on the same scale as the early 20th century, of the same political motivation. The Republican white Southern leadership is only following the inspiration of their Democratic predecessors, and the poll station closures and voter ID mandates in states like Texas and Georgia have had an unfortunate impact on the ease of voting for minorities, who heavily vote Democratic, especially in the South, and once again the white-majority governments have sacrificed the rights of black people for their own political objectives. The south is now so racially polarised that states in the South that do not contain large cities with enough liberal whites to swing elections (such as Georgia) can largely be electorally predicted along demographic lines. Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, are all states that have electoral margins close enough that split-ticket voting like that seen in the north prior to the 2010s would make their down-ballot races competitive, and yet the only one of the three that has elected a Democratic governor, senator or presidential candidate since Obama is Alabama, where Doug Jones won by less than 2% against a Republican candidate embroiled in allegations of improper sexual conduct with underage girls. America remains racially polarised, divided and often in active conflict, and the white grievance politics that carried the deep South for Wallace and Nixon in the 60s and 70s is not dissimilar from that which saw Southern and Appalachian whites finally abandon the Democrats after the election of the country’s first African-American president. Obama’s election was not the culmination of the Civil Rights movement, it was the reminder that racism never left and was merely buried by a leadership who felt they had “done enough”. The dog-whistle disparaging of those on “welfare” and those who “disturb law and order” is just the same attack on African-Americans as those made by the politicians of the last century, but disguised behind nicer terminology. Lee Atwater summed it up well in a 1981 interview:

Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry Dent and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [Reagan] doesn’t have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he’s campaigned on since 1964 […] and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster…

Y’all don’t quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying, “N—–, N—–, N—–.” By 1968 you can’t say “n—–“—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N—–, N—–.”

The emotional wedge issue of race that boiled to the surface with the Riots of the early 20th century during the time of Wilson and the 1950s and 60s in the era of King, were just the same as those which prompted the riots in Minneapolis after the police murder of George Floyd. Alabamian African-Americans have only this year been returned a second congressional district to elect a candidate of their choice, having been gerrymandered to just 14% of representation in the House while comprising 27% of the population. The 50s and 60s matter, but not because they represented the ushering in of a new, equal society, but because they remind us that the prejudiced majority in power continue to seek to restrict the liberties of the embattled minority. Black History Month may seem an afterthought, especially to those of us on this side of the Atlantic, but the average African-American has a lower life expectancy, educational outcome, and political representation when compared to their white peers, as we approach 2 months from the 60th anniversary of Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act. The neat period of history we call the “Civil Rights Movement” is better thought of as a particularly aggrieved era of the entire struggle for recognition and respect that the African-American minority has endured since they were first brought onto the shores of America against their will centuries ago. We must remember that the tyranny of the majority does not end, just because the majority concedes some of its unfairly gained power, and though events like the election of Obama in 2008 showed every black child that they can, and should, dream of anything and everything, the resistance that this incited reminds us that there is still so much progress to be achieved.

King once told us that he had a dream, one where his “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”. He told us that even after a Civil War, “a hundred years on, the Negro is still not free”. Sixty years on, they still are not free. Much like the parable of the Wise and Foolish Brothers, race relations in the United States are built on sand, and when the rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon it, great is its fall and descent into a chaos to which we have only responded by building upon those same shaky foundations. The Rights that have been violated for so long must be rebuilt, not by ignoring the foundational history of racism, but on the solid rock of the principle of equality that should guide us every day of our lives.

The fight continues to hold true the great foundational declaration of the world’s first liberal democracy:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

It is the duty of all that we never halt the Movement that will secure for all, at last, the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness that brings us the joys of humanity.

Subnormal – A government scandal that rocked the nation
Rishabh Satsangi

In 1948, the historic Empire Windrush arrived on British coasts, with hundreds of hopeful black Caribbean adults aboard in euphoria, entering – what they thought – was the mother nation. A couple of decades after this occurrence, the new generation created by these hard-working individuals trying to keep the nation afloat after WWII are facing severe discrimination despite the new laws introduced in 1948 British Nationality Act.

One of the main issues was the education they were receiving. West Indian parents saw education and schooling as a route to social mobility; they came here not for the financial benefits, but to ensure that the succeeding generations would prosper. During the 1960s, the Department of Education saw more and more black children entering schools, while more and more white parents began complaining about this. They suggested the arrival of them would hold back the future and potential of the current white generation – and the government agreed. The corrupt government of the time suggested that a meagre 30% of pupils should come from an immigrant background, taking them out of their own neighbourhood so they could be evenly distributed among schools. This example of institutional racism would wound the reputation of Britain as a welcoming country perpetually. Shortly after, scientific racism arose.

Many leading psychologists such as the German Hans Eysenck, falsely hypothesised that the average white child was born with more intelligence than an immigrant’s one. The influence of these people made the belief and racial discrimination spread like wildfire. So, the government created new educationally subnormal schools that were suited especially for students with learning difficulties and low academic ability. Majority of the time, the racist psychologists would create a test used to decipher who would need to go to an ESN school that required no such general knowledge. The average score was between 90 and 110; however, a survey showed that newly arrived West Indian children were scoring 70 on average. The government immediately seized the opportunity, bypassing any good logic. It was deduced that the immigrants were scoring low because of the cultural differences and traditions in the two places, but after they were accustomed to the British ways, they were scoring on a similar level to others.

However, all was not lost. Some adults were starting to believe that black children were being placed in these schools for no legitimate reason – one of them was a youth worker called Bernard Coard. Coard was not blind to this blatant racism, but he had no proof to directly accuse the government of this atrocious deed. An investigation began, starting at the Institute of Education of London University. It was there he uncovered the evidence that revealed a scandal that shocked the nation. He managed to carefully locate a report conducted by the Inner London Education Authority that explicitly revealed that “it is of considerable significance that heads thought 28% of their immigrant pupils wrongly placed compared with 7% of non-immigrant pupils”. Furthermore, it also explicitly stated that “the IQ distribution of the West Indian group is roughly the same as that of non-immigrants”. This was the undeniable confirmation that the fears many black parents were subject to was true. With a substantial amount of research, he published an influential book named, “How the West Indian child is made educationally sub-normal in the British school system”. Bernard’s book exposed the misgivings of the British school system and undermined the rumour that black children were born with less intelligence than white children. It was mainly addressed to the Caribbean community, pointing out that those in authority were not just doing something scandalously wrong, but more importantly, they knew it, and even more importantly, they were not providing any action on it.

The publishing of this book in May 1971 provided support for other debatable events, such as the New Cross house uprising in 1981 and others. Bernard’s book and this unfortunate debacle would have a major impact, for both the education of the developing black generation (the government decided to provide the book in teacher-training colleges shortly after) and the strenuous fight for equality in today’s modern society.


How did we get here? The Arabella magazine explores 450th anniversary theme

QE’s pupil-run arts magazine, The Arabella, looks both to the past and the future in a special edition for the School’s 450th anniversary year.

The 44-page publication features 26 pieces of poetry, prose, and art, many of them inspired by its anniversary-related theme, How did we get here? The approach, looking both backward and forward, mirrors that of the School’s anniversary celebrations on Founder’s Day which included a display of the School’s 1573 Royal Charter alongside the burying of a time capsule intended for the pupils of 2073, when QE will mark its 500th anniversary. Work on the magazine began last academic year, but it has only now been published.

Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter said: “The ninth edition of The Arabella has been worth the wait: with its expanded contents and an eclectic mix of topics and styles, it is a great demonstration of the fruits of free-thinking scholarship and academic curiosity.”

The magazine includes contributions from boys throughout the School, although boys from the current Years 8 and 9 feature especially heavily.

In his introduction, one of the editors, Chanakya Seetharam, of Year 12, addresses his fellow QE pupils: “Just as the [450th anniversary thanksgiving] service at Westminster Abbey in the Spring Term so well captured, this is as much cause to look back with an inquisitive eye into the past as to look forward to the future. It is this spirit of investigation that is the kernel of this edition, and which was so well taken up by you….

“You are what keeps The Arabella alive. This is a magazine by you and for you. We hope you will find all of the work here thoroughly insightful, interesting, and enjoyable, and here’s to a great next edition!”

The poetry section is highly varied, with contributions ranging from Year 9 boy Yingqiao Zhao’s piece about the moon – which is in the shape of a crescent and has key words picked out in different colours – to the nine-stanza rhyming French poem, La Mort de L’Ancien, composed by Year 13’s Aayush Backory. The poetry section closes with Nikhil Francine, of Year 9, addressing the anniversary directly with a poem entitled Thriving from Ancient Roots – the School’s slogan for the anniversary year.

The creative writing pages included Year 9 pupil Raaghav Dhanasekaran predicting a dystopian future amid huge hurricanes caused by climate change.

The music writing section on the other hand looks mostly to the past, from Nikhil Francine’s essay on A brief history of song to Moneshan Rathaparan and Eshwara Masina, both of Year 8, jointly exploring The Enduring Influence of Classical and Baroque Music on Contemporary Culture.

Year 12 student Akheel Kale, from the editorial team, praises the quality of Year 13 pupil Ashish Yeruva’s essay on Justice for Ukraine: How to Put Russian Leaders on Trial Using International Law. Ashish’s contribution had inspired the team to open a current affairs section in the magazine and to invite further such submissions in the future, Akheel says.

Similarly, the magazine has a new section on Science, featuring Year 10 boy Zain Syed’s submission of an extensive flow chart setting out A Natural History of the Earth.

Interspersed throughout The Arabella are artworks exploring themes including Expressive Heads, Distortion and Identity; Dystopian Landscape; and Art Inspired by Music. Shown in this news story, from top to bottom, are:

  • Expressive Heads, Distortion and Identity, by Sushan Naresh, Year 10 (main image)
  • Dystopian Landscape, by Krishav Sundar Rajan, Year 9
  • Art Inspired by Music, by Galinghan Balamurugan, Year 8
  • Expressive Heads, Distortion and Identity, by Ayush Saha, Year 10

The magazine is named after Arabella Stuart, a descendant of Henry VII and sixth in line to the throne, who fell foul of King James I when in 1610 she secretly married another potential heir to the throne, William Seymore. Her husband was sent to the Tower of London, while Arabella was committed to the care of the Bishop of Durham, but fell ill in Barnet en route. She stayed for some months at the home of QE Governor Thomas Conyers, her spiritual needs attended to by another Governor, Rev Matthias Milward, who was subsequently appointed Master (Headmaster) of the School.

  • For anyone with access to the School’s eQE portal, The Arabella is available to read here.
Sixth-formers’ “thrilling” visit to cutting-edge company helping to create a circular economy

Year 12’s Technology students saw for themselves how start-up Batch.Works is using 3D printing as a true manufacturing technology by focusing on specialist design techniques and by automating its array of printers.

They learned how the company is pioneering a truly sustainable approach by recycling already-recycled materials to produce the plastic filament used by the printers.

And the 17-strong group had the chance to present their own design projects to Batch.Works’s Chief Industrial Designer, Liam Hwang.

Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “This visit provided the Year 12 cohort with unique and exciting insights into a company that is at the leading edge of sustainable design and manufacture, using heavily recycled materials to help its customers reduce their carbon footprint, and thus making the circular economy a reality.”

Now operating out of London Fields, Hackney, and from Amsterdam (and with plans to open a base in Rotterdam soon), Batch.Works was founded by designer Milo Mcloughlin-Greening and digital fabrication specialist Julien Vaissieres.

It first made waves in its sector during the pandemic when producing PPE for East London hospitals from its then-home in Bethnal Green.

Recently awarded an innovation grant of £1.8m to create a network of manufacturing hubs that will use local recycled materials, Batch.Works is now investigating ‘urban mining’, the notion of turning waste streams into new products. It launched an equity crowdfunding campaign in September.

“Our students were absolutely thrilled to be told about the history, current works and future plans for the company by Dean Pankhurst, Design Co-ordinator at Batch Works,” said Mr Noonan.

“The company engages in specialist design for 3D printing, using the skills of industrial designers and project managers to enable a faster design-to-print lead time than most companies. Liam spoke about optimisation in design – how they alter designs to use ‘vase design’ principles so that no unnecessary bodies are created. As a result, unlike in other companies, at Batch.Works 3D printing can be used as a manufacturing technique, rather than only for making prototypes.

“Most impressive of all was that the company have themselves closed the loop of all the PLA filament they use, using recycling techniques on already recycled plastic: they are proud to use only 100% recycled materials in their work.”

During a tour, the boys first visited the company’s co-working room, where they saw technologies, collaborative techniques and methodologies similar to those which they use in their own product design work.

“Next, they were shown into the wildly impressive plant room by Dean and Liam,” said Mr Noonan. “The room contained 40 3D printers, some of which could print items as large as 1 metre square. Many of these were stacked on server cabinets, and the designers had impressively ‘hacked’ the G code [the most commonly used 3D-printing programming language] which drives the printers to turn them into automated 3D printing machines that could work around the clock. This means the rate at which the designers can prototype and manufacture is unrivalled.”

The boys were given an overview of the company’s projects and clients, from commercial giants such as M&S, to smaller medical companies and furniture businesses seeking sustainable design solutions. They were able to peruse prototypes that Batch.Works had created, including medical devices, personal hygiene products and headphones.

“It was at this point that the students began to ready themselves for their own presentations, as Liam had kindly agreed to take in the students’ presentations on their own recent vacuum cleaner projects. These, in fact, utilised many of the prototyping techniques with which he was familiar from his own studies in Product Design at the RCA and Central St Martins.”

Each pupil had five minutes to present, followed by two or three minutes of questions and direct feedback from Liam on their designs.

During the presentations, all other students were linked into a scoresheet via MS Teams and could score their peers using a system of comparative assessment. Liam and Mr Noonan had casting votes.  “Aniththan Kugathasan, Kiaron Lad and Aadish Praveen were crowned champions, earning a hearty round of applause for their superb presentation and an especially well-finished prototype.”

Liam told Mr Noonan: “The skills these students have in terms of presentation and CAD certification is very impressive – much closer to what we see from interns and graduates than from A-level students.”

“Saluting our sisters”: QE magazine spotlights high achievers in Black History Month

In its first edition of the academic year, the Econobethan celebrates four remarkable Black women – an astronaut, economist, businesswoman and MP – while also looking at the legacy of slavery in the US.

The special section devoted to Black History Month is followed by articles on Economics – including a look at the economic impact of AI – and Politics – where pupils express some forthright views on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent easing of green commitments.

The Econobethan is a pupil-run magazine from the Economics department. This fifteenth edition is the swansong for Year 13 editors Aditya Kute, Nishanth Bhasuru, Aston Daniel and Avinash Srivastava.

Economics teacher Celia Wallace said: “My thanks go to Aditya and his team for a strong edition and an excellent year.”

In their introductory editors’ note, the four-strong team write: “A topic that remains a staple within our publication is the contribution of people of colour to economics. Therefore, in commemoration of the 36th Black History Month, we have allocated a dedicated section to enhance comprehension of black history as a whole.”

In the first article, entitled Black History Month 2023 — Saluting Our Sisters, Aditya profiles three women:

  • Jessica Watkins, who in April 2022 became the first Black woman to complete a long-term mission on the International Space Station
  • Rosalind Brewer, who was appointed as CEO of US pharmacy store chain Walgreens in March 2021, thus becoming only the third Black woman ever to lead a Fortune 500 company on a non-interim basis
  • Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, who entered politics after a high-flying career in the technology and telecommunications sector.

Nishanth’s article on Sadie T M Alexander, a pioneering 20th-century African American economist and civil rights activist, is followed by Aston’s exploration of How Slavery’s Economic Echo Shapes America Today and Avinash’s look at contemporary Black economist William Darity.

The Economics section featured Year 13 pupil Soumil Sahjpall’s consideration of cryptocurrencies and whether they are being manipulated. He urged that investors should exercise caution and diversify their portfolios, stating that “whether in cryptocurrencies or traditional investments, the game is the same…The house may not always win, but it possesses significant advantages.”

The section featured two articles on AI – Year 12 boy Akheel Kale’s exploration of whether it will reshape the labour market, and Zaki Mustafa and his fellow Year 12 pupil Uday Dash’s examination of the economic impacts of adopting AI.

Akheel also delved into Economics theory, along with Year 12 pupil Shreyaas Sandeep. Shreyaas explored Game Theory and the Nash Equilibrium, while Akheel’s topic was Neuroeconomics: Better than Behavioural Economics? Tejas Banal, of Year 12, asked Are the High Wages for Top-Tier Sportspeople Justified?

In the Politics section – described by the editors as “robust” – Saim Khan, of Year 12,  thought through the question Would Democracies be Better Off Without Political Parties? and concluded with a resounding negative.

The final three articles all had environmental matters in mind. Shyam Jayabal, of Year 13, asked whether the Bank of England’s remit should be updated to address climate change challenges. Saim had the Prime Minister in his sights with his piece entitled Rishi’s Reckless Reversal on Green Commitments. And Year 12’s Dheeraj Karnati homed in on a specific item of Government policy – the recent delaying of the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035 – with his piece, An In-Depth Analysis of the UK’s Trade Policies in the EV [Electric Vehicle] Market, in which he outlined the “worrying” situation in which “the Government unintentionally forced domestic car manufacturers to essentially subsidise their Chinese competitors whilst these competitors turn their attention to the UK and flood the market with their cheaper cars”.


Close to home: play about Gandhi’s assassin stirs up family memories

Boys on a Sixth-Form theatre trip explored one of the seminal moments in modern Indian history – the 1948 assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

Twenty-two Year 12 boys and their teachers went on the History department trip to the National Theatre to see The Father and the Assassin.

It tells the story of Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse, who went from being a loyal follower of Gandhi and his non-violent methods to becoming his killer.

History teacher John Haswell said: “The play explores the conflicting narratives and complex desires of those involved in India’s struggle for freedom, and how Gandhi’s vision of an integrated nation of Hindus and Muslims clashed with the vision of others, including that of his assassin, who saw Gandhi’s integrationist ideals as a betrayal to his Hindu nationalist vision of a free India.

“For some of our students, the characters and individuals on stage were familiar through their own engagement with Indian history. Indeed, for some, the play was a portrayal of a more personal history, as family members may have experienced both the fight for independence and the horrors of partition.”

Regardless of their background, the visit enhanced all the boys’ understanding of Indian independence, showing how competing visions of a post-colonial India clashed, Mr Haswell added. They also appreciated the unique power of theatre to bring such ideas to life.

“The play also echoes beyond India, and speaks to conflicts elsewhere in the world where seemingly irreconcilable world-views collide.”

Written by Indian playwright Anupama Chandrasekhar, The Father and the Assassin premiered at the National last year. It completes its second run there this month.

After the visit, the boys, all A-level History students, gave their reactions. Joel Kidangan Justine said: “This was my first time to the theatre, and I’m amazed by how well they are able to capture the story of Indian independence in such a clever and interesting way.”

Kyshaan Ravikumar described the play as “an enticing reimagination of the struggle for Indian independence”, while Vaibhav Gaddi praised “a captivating story that sheds light on the story of Nathuram Vinayak Godse”.

Pupil’s plea for a greener world impresses judges in Imperial art competition

Year 9’s Kelvin Chen will see his work displayed on billboards in London ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28) starting next month after achieving success in a national art competition.

His colourful depiction of young people taking action to create a greener planet – entitled Friends of the Earth – took third place in the Climate Art Prize contest organised by Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute.

As well as the billboard display and £250 in cash, Kelvin’s prize will include seeing his piece alongside a mural in Nine Elms, close to the newly revamped Battersea Power station, that will also include the institute’s 9 things you can do about climate change.

Head of Art Craig Wheatley said: “My congratulations go to Kelvin, who followed the suggestion of my colleague, Jeanne Nicodemus, to enter and was then one of only nine winners and runners-up out of more than 1,000 entries.”

For the biennial competition, the institute, which is a research centre for climate change and the environment, challenged entrants aged 11-25 to create bold designs for outdoor public murals focused on the solutions needed to tackle the climate crisis.

For inspiration, they could look to the institute’s Climate Action Hub’s suggestions for positive actions everyone can take to reduce their impact on the planet, including reducing energy use and bills, green travel, protecting nature and eating less meat and dairy. Young people were asked to interpret these themes and focus on at least one of them when depicting their visions of a greener, cleaner, cooler future world.

The winning entries in each category will become public murals across the UK – in Glasgow, Coventry and West Norwood in London – painted by professional artists.

In his submission, Kelvin, whose third place was in the 11–14 age category, said that his piece of art has “a deep meaning behind it symbolising the actions of many people who have a passion for protecting and nurturing the planet.

“Some of the actions are shown in this drawing,” he wrote. “The left person is painting the world green, showing afforestation and protecting the world’s green spaces; the person in the middle, placing some wind turbines into the Earth, a form of renewable energy; and the person on the right is taking some of the rubbish thrown into the ocean out of the Earth’s waters.”

Speaking about his motivation to participate in the competition, Kelvin said: “I have a passion for tackling climate change and my drawing aims to inspire people to act. I think the environment should be a higher priority for the government, but there are also things we can all do to help the world.

“I’m also always up for a competition. I was excited when I received the email to say I had been chosen in third place.”

Kelvin is pictured receiving a prize at July’s QE Junior Awards ceremony from guest of honour Sunil Tailor (OE 1999–2006). As for the £250 prize money… “I’ve given it to my parents” he said.

From Kabul to Cambridge: former refugee, who is now a doctor and leader of two medical charities, urges boys to remember to give back

Former Afghan refugee Waheed Arian told Year 9 boys the remarkable story of his life, from arriving near-penniless in the UK aged 15 to becoming a doctor and the leader of medical charities that support both refugees in the UK and patients in conflict zones around the world.

Over the past 24 years, he has studied at Cambridge, Imperial and Harvard, qualified as a doctor, been recognised as a World Health Organisation digital health expert and won numerous awards.

Dr Arian recounted his astonishing life and career in his lecture – yet he concluded by instead focusing on the importance of community and of giving back.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We are very grateful to Dr Arian for coming in to talk to Year 9.  His lecture was inspirational and it very much chimed with our mission to produce responsible young men who seek to change their world for the better.”

The assembly was led by Chris Butler, Head of Geography, who said: “His story is an important one: not only did Dr Arian highlight the need to be resilient and have ambition; he also outlined the importance of being kind to one another in our everyday lives and the strength that lies in community action and collaboration – values that the School holds dear. The refugee situation across Europe is increasingly becoming politicised, and it is important that QE boys have the opportunity to listen to those who have experienced life as a refugee and wish to re-tell their experience of the process.”

Dr Arian started his talk by outlining his own early years as a child fleeing from war. He was separated from his father and told Year 9 how he, his mother and his sisters would often cross Afghanistan to see his father in clandestine visits, explaining that this was necessary as his father had fled the army after being pressed into conscription.

Later, Dr Arian and his family fled to Pakistan to be together, with a journey that saw them having to avoid air strikes from Soviet forces who had mistaken the refugee column for Mujahideen rebels. Whilst safe in Pakistan, they were living in unimaginable poverty inside refugee camps and informal housing blocks. For most of the time they lived ten to a room, without basic sanitation or access to education. He largely taught himself, from textbooks bought from street-sellers, and learned English from the BBC World Service.

Reflecting on these experiences during the lecture, he emphasised the importance of compassion and empathy, revealing how it was often only the kindness of fellow refugees that allowed him and his family to get by. One example was when a local volunteer doctor treated his bout of tuberculosis – it was then that he determined to devote his life to healing others.

Arian’s family returned to Kabul following the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, but when the ensuing civil war intensified a decade later, his parents, wanting him to have better prospects in life, sent him to the UK.

The focus of the next portion of the talk was hope: alone, in a foreign country, and with just £60 – his parents’ meagre savings – in his pocket, he could have easily given up in despair at the dire hand life had dealt him. Yet instead he persevered. Working through anxiety and PTSD, he supported himself by taking jobs in shops and – disregarding the advice of those who suggested he set his sights on becoming a taxi driver – going to night school. After taking his A-levels, he was accepted into Trinity Hall, Cambridge, later finishing his clinical studies at Imperial.

He impressed upon the Year 9s the value of always holding on to hope, even in the toughest of times, explaining how his dream of becoming a doctor fuelled him during his studies, which culminated in him eventually getting a scholarship at Harvard Medical School. He now works as a Accident and Emergency doctor in North West England.

In the last part of the talk, Dr Arian focused on the importance of giving back to the community. He highlighted how his own experiences shaped his desire to start the charity, Arian Teleheal, in 2015. It links doctors in conflict zones such as Afghanistan with colleagues in the UK, helping to ensure that people living there can have a decent standard of healthcare, not least so that disease does not hold them back in their lives.

Dr Arian has risen to become one of the most influential medics in the NHS. In addition to working as an NHS doctor and running Arian Teleheal, in 2020 he also founded Arian Wellbeing, which aims to link psychologists, licensed therapists, personal trainers and nutritionists to offer unique, personalised holistic care for refugee trauma and PTSD patients.

He discussed his work with the two charities and took questions from the boys, declaring himself later to have been impressed with their eloquence and their understanding of the migration process.

Dr Arian was introduced to the Year 9 audience in the Friends’ Recital Hall by Saim Khan, a Year 12 geographer, who said afterwards: “It was an inspiring and insightful talk, and one which created much food for thought.”