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Speaking truth to power: pupil’s climate change plea displayed on London mural as world leaders meet for COP28

Year 8 pupil’s Aaryan Prabhaker’s entry in a climate art competition run by Imperial College London has been transformed into a mural on display close to the revamped Battersea Power Station.

Colours for the Climate, Aaryan’s design for the Grantham Climate Art Prize competition, calls on people to reduce their meat and dairy intake, and to eat more plant-based foods.

This year’s COP28, the 28th annual UN climate meeting currently taking place in Dubai, has a focus on food and agriculture, amid considerable debate about the role of the livestock industry in producing greenhouse gases.

Aaryan’s is the second major QE success in the competition: Year 9 pupil Kelvin Chen, a runner-up in the 11-14 age category, saw his artwork showcased on billboards in London last month in the lead-up to COP28.

Head of Art Craig Wheatley said: “My congratulations go to Aaryan on making the most of the opportunity to enter the competition and on producing such a strong piece of work. After first impressing the judges, his artwork, with its strong message, is now grabbing attention from thousands on the streets of the capital.”

The boys were encouraged to enter the biennial competition by Art teacher Jeanne Nicodemus. Imperial’s Grantham 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.

Competition entrants were asked to seek inspiration from the institute’s Nine things you can do about climate change list: number 2 on the list is ‘eat less meat and dairy’. The competition attracted more than 1,000 entries.

Aaryan’s design in the 11-14 age group was highly commended and was selected to be a mural at Pump House Lane, Nine Elms, where there is an exhibition of the artwork of the competition winners and runners-up. With Octopus Energy sponsoring the main competition, the Grantham Institute secured separate funding for this project from property developer Ballymore.

Aaryan’s artwork, which features a range of fruit and vegetables, was painted as a mural by artists Karla Rosales Garcia and Roger Rigol.

He and his parents, Amieya Prabhaker and Shalini Varma, attended an unveiling of the mural, where they met the sponsors as well as representatives of the competition organisers.

In a note to the School, Mr Prabhaker and Dr Varma said: “We would like to express our thanks to the teachers at QE, especially Ms Nicodemus and Mr Wheatley, who have inspired the creativity amongst the boys and guided them at each step.”

  • Click on the thumbnail images below to see Aaryan’s artwork displayed in full.
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.
‘Hidden beauty’ – but talent on full display in creative magazine

Boys from across the School gave free rein to their creative side in the latest edition of the pupil-run magazine, The Arabella.

The 37-page colour publication features contributions from boys in every year group under the theme of ‘hidden beauty’.

The contents from the 26 contributors include poetry, art, creative prose writing in English, French & German, and essays on music.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “I congratulate all those whose work has been featured: it is another high-quality edition of our creative magazine, with plenty of examples of the sort of free-thinking scholarship that we seek to cultivate at Queen Elizabeth’s School.”

The most entries were for the poetry section, where the ten contributors’ poems – with titles as diverse as The Passageway (Ishan Nakadi, of Year 9) and Introspect (Akheel Kale, of Year 11) were interspersed with examples of boys’ GCSE and A-level artwork.

The section featuring writing on modern languages is prefaced by the editor-in-chief, 2023 School Captain Darren Lee, of Year 12. Addressing the pupil readership, Darren writes: “Don’t feel restricted to only writing in French or German: we would love to see entries in languages spoken at home! In the next edition, we hope to extend the languages section and include Classics submissions…”

In the music section William Joanes, of Year 10, takes a highly technical look at Hidden Science in Music, illustrated with a picture of the inner ear, while Year 12’s Tharun Dhamodharan delivers a paeon to the human voice, The Hidden Instrument.

The creative writing section is similarly varied, from final-year student Antony Yassa’s science-based examination of The Microscopic World to Year 11 pupil Shreyas Mone’s musings on Beauty in destruction – “a different kind of beauty” – where he cites examples such as volcanoes, thunderstorms and even videos of building demolition.

Six artists’ work is featured, including the front-cover illustration by Year 13’s Dylan Domb, pictured top, and pieces by Gabriel Gulliford (also Year 13), above right, and Year 12’s Pratham Bhavsar, left.

As the foreword explains, the magazine is named after Arabella Stuart, a descendant of Henry VII and sixth in line to the crown, who fell foul of King James I when in 1610 she secretly married another potential heir to the throne, William Seymore. While her husband was sent to the Tower of London, 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 a Governor of the School, Thomas Conyers, while her spiritual needs were attended to by another Governor, Rev Matthias Milward, who was also subsequently appointed Master (Headmaster) of the School.

Darren led an editorial team of 21 boys. Staff assistance and support came from: Assistant Head (Pupil Destinations) James Kane; Head of English Robert Hyland; Curator of QE Collections and Head of Library Services Jenni Blackford; Library Services Assistant Corinna Illingworth, and from teachers in the Languages department.

Submissions are now being invited for the next issue, which will be issue 8 and is on the theme of ‘The Lure of Power’.

“Supporting music in our community”: QE plays pioneering partnership role in Barnet festival

QE played a central role in the High Barnet Chamber Music Festival, with the School’s new Friends’ Recital Hall serving as the main venue and its own musicians performing in a special charity concert there.

Pupils and staff performed to support victims of the war in Ukraine, with donations going to UNICEF and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.

Joshua Ballance, artistic director of the festival, which is now in its second year, told interviewer Nick Jones, of The Barnet Society, that QE had blazed a trail for others to follow. “It is a real breakthrough for the festival to stage a showcase concert by a school orchestra and jazz band, and we hope other schools will join us next year.

“To demonstrate our involvement with local schools, we shall be running master classes at Queen Elizabeth’s with some of the professional musicians who have performed at the festival, ” said Mr Ballance. “We want to extend our reach-out programme and offer master classes at other schools. Our link with Queen Elizabeth’s demonstrates the partnership we would like to create.”

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “QE is very much a part of Barnet, so it was splendid to support this new festival bringing professional music to our community. I was also pleased that our own musicians were involved and that we were able to showcase our new facilities to music-lovers beyond our immediate Elizabethan family. I look forward to many similar events in the future.”

During the charity concert, QE’s Director of Music, Ruth Partington, joined Year 12 pupil Jao-Yong Tsai and the School’s accompanist, Tadashi Imai, in a performance of Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio, for clarinet, viola and piano.

There was a performance of Brahms’ Clarinet Trio, Op. 114, i. Allegro & ii. Adagio. The Jazz Band and QE’s junior jazz group, conducted by Music teacher Caroline Grint, performed a medley for the concert’s finale that included Rock Around the Clock, Georgia on My Mind, and Bandstand Boogie.

Following the charity concert, audiences returned to the 230-seat recital hall – part of the School’s new Music complex officially opened in May – for the festival’s final two events.

First the Mad Song ensemble of young musicians, directed by Mr Ballance, performed a range of music by modern composers Missy Mazzoli, Kaija Saariaho, Joan Tower, Richard Causton, Barbara Monk Feldman, and Steve Reich. The evening was acclaimed by Bernard Hughes, reviewer for specialist website as an “ambitious and intriguing concert”.

More familiar musical fare came in the final concert held in The Friends’ Recital Hall, when cellist Ben Tarlton and pianist Robin Green played Beethoven’s Sonata in F for Cello and Piano, Nadia Boulanger’s Three Pieces for Cello and Piano and Rachmaninoff’s Sonata for Cello and Piano.

Drawing inspiration: boys view work of artist Phyllida Barlow on Tate Modern visit

Twenty Year 10 GCSE Art students seized the opportunity to study at first-hand the work of leading British artist Dame Phyllida Barlow – a key figure in their current lessons.

The boys, who have spent the term using her Bad Copies series as a starting point to develop their painting and drawing skills, headed straight to the rooms in Tate Modern’s Materials and Objects collection dedicated to her work.

Head of Art Craig Wheatley explained why her paintings and drawings are so influential: “Barlow’s drawings are often derived from her environment, but never drawn from life; they range from swift biro and pencil sketches in notebooks and diaries to more heavily worked acrylic drawings and oil paintings, which experiment with surface textures as well as colours, forms and arrangements.”

The boys also enjoyed finding out about aspects of her oeuvre that were less familiar to them: “After responding to Barlow’s paintings and drawings, the natural progression was to explore and respond to her three-dimensional work.”

During the visit, the boys took time to analyse and record their observations in the form of written annotation and observational drawing. Guided by teaching staff, they were challenged to contemplate the meaning of the works on display and the artist’s intention, giving both objective analysis and subjective opinion.

There was also time for them to explore the gallery space independently, so that they could make comparisons between different genres.

“It was a productive day: starting at St Paul’s Cathedral, we walked across the Millennium Bridge photographing the ever-evolving landscape, before enjoying a great time at Tate Modern – the first visit for a majority of the boys,” said Mr Wheatley.

“They enjoyed the opportunity to see artwork first-hand and to be inspired. Having their appreciation and understanding challenged is significant in ensuring that pupils’ own work continues to develop and become more sophisticated.

“Furthermore, the visit developed their ability in out-of-classroom research and in generating independent ideas. Those are transferrable skills that the boys will be able to apply across their current and future curriculum.”

Born in 1944, Barlow taught for 40 years and in 2004 was appointed Professor of Fine Art and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Slade School of Art before retiring from teaching in 2009.

Her break as an artist came late: it was in 2010 when she was shown at the Serpentine Galleries. Solo exhibitions around the world followed, and in 2017 she represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale.

She has had an important influence on younger artists, including Rachel Whiteread and Angela de la Cruz, who were among her students at the Slade.

Exploring the lingering legacy of Japan’s worst modern disaster

Old Elizabethan Makoto Takahashi, a global expert on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan, gave a group of current sixth-formers a special invitation to an exhibition he has curated.

Featuring photography and a number of essays, the exhibition, which marks the tenth anniversary of the nuclear disaster and the earthquake and tsunami that precipitated it, is being held at the Royal Geographical Society in London. The earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,000 and triggered a triple meltdown at the power station, forcing 200,000 people from their homes.

Makoto (OE 2003-2010) treated the 13 Art & Design and Geography A-level students to a lecture and a personal tour.

Head of Art Craig Wheatley said: “The exhibition explores the lingering legacy of the 2011 disaster. There is a sophisticated and diverse range of photography that challenged the boys’ appreciation of both the aesthetic and conceptual. Having Makoto’s insight was invaluable; his willingness to explain and unpack the work was matched by the boys’ enthusiasm and desire to learn more.”

“In his QE days, Makoto was himself a talented A-level artist and geographer,” Mr Wheatley said.

He is a lecturer at the Technical University of Munich and will be returning to the Harvard Kennedy School of Governance as a Fulbright-Lloyd’s Fellow in early 2022.

He began work on the Fukushima Daiichi disaster ten years ago, soon after it happened. He received his BA, MPhil and PhD from Cambridge University and was a visiting fellow at Waseda University in Tokyo.

His thesis, which examined how claims to expert authority are made in conditions of low public trust, received the American Association of Geographers’ Jacques May Thesis Prize.

The exhibition, entitled Picturing the Invisible, sees his research interests coming together with his longstanding engagement with the London art scene: while in the Sixth Form at QE, he took part in in the Royal Academy’s attRAct programme and in the Louis Vuitton Young Arts Program; he has also been an Event Manager at the OPEN Ealing community art gallery.

Expressing his gratitude to Makoto, Mr Wheatley added: “As a cross curricular trip between the Art and Geography departments, this was a fabulous opportunity for learning.  It combined detailed analysis of visual language with geological narrative of the ‘worst crisis Japan has faced since World War II’.”

The exhibition is on until 23rd December.

Dig deeper, look closer, think bigger: Black History Month at QE

Queen Elizabeth’s School marked Black History Month with a diverse range of special activities both inside and outside of the classroom that drew lessons from the past, while also saluting those building a path today towards a better future.

One undoubted highlight was the online assembly given to the Sixth Form by Roni Savage ­(pictured above) – engineering geologist, founder of a multi-million pound construction industry consultancy, multiple award-winner…and a QE mum.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We sought to provide lots of different opportunities during Black History Month to ensure that our boys could, in the words of a BHM slogan, ‘dig deeper, look closer, think bigger’, coming up with an array of innovative ideas. These ranged from our Lower School History Raiders group researching ancient Black kingdoms and civilisations, to Year 7 PE lessons promoting sports in which athletes have either faced racism or have changed the world due to their participation, such as basketball, boxercise and indoor athletics.

“I am especially grateful to Mrs Savage, who, as a Black woman working at a high level as an entrepreneur in construction, is a true pioneer in her industry, with an impressive list of achievements and accolades to her name. She has certainly proved people wrong who doubted her because of her race, gender and age.

“And she inspired our sixth-formers with her injunction to ‘stand up, stand out, stand tall’ and her insistence that ‘there are no limits to what you can achieve’ with hard work and talent.”

Mrs Savage, whose son, Jayden, is in Year 13, is the founder of Jomas Associates, a large engineering and environmental consultancy, and Policy Chair for Construction within the Federation of Small Businesses. She is a Fellow of both the Royal British Institute of Architects and the Institute of Civil Engineering, and is on the current UK Powerlist of Britain’s most influential people of African/Caribbean heritage.

Her message was that diversity is vital to the capacity, capability and sustainability of all sectors, but that to achieve it, the status quo, with its harmful stereotypes, must be challenged.

Here is a selection of the many activities and initiatives that took place at the School as part of this year’s Black History Month:

  • A discussion in MedSoc (Medical Society) of the work of Malone Mukwende, who as a second-year medical student at St George’s, University of London, developed a book to help doctors diagnose skin rashes and diseases on black and brown skin, addressing decades of racial bias in medical education;
  • The Year 9 Shakespeare Film Club watching Othello and discussing the racial issues in the play, as raised in a British Library article;
  • Publication of a special Black History Month (and COP26) issue of the Economics department’s magazine, Econobethan;
  • Cancellation of all Music rehearsals one lunchtime, with the pupil team from the Music Enrichment Society instead giving a presentation about Black musicians. Pictured, above, are boys giving a special performance ahead of the talk;
  • Year 9 had a special Depicting Jesus Philosophy, Religion & Society (PRS) lesson, which focused on different representations of Jesus, including those from the Ethiopian Church and Rastafari traditions, and on the use of images of white Jesus for imperialist ends;
  • Year 8 geographers started a new, permanent unit on Migration towards the end of October, with a first homework task linked to Black History Month.
Out of the ordinary

Boys from Years 7–10 relished the opportunities offered to them during Enrichment Week 2021, when all four year groups were given a day off from their normal lesson timetables.

From the cerebral and scientific challenge of cryptography to the literary, emotional and rhetorical attractions of Shakespeare, the week featured a very diverse range of activities designed to be both stimulating and fun.

For Year 10, the brief was to work in groups to design and construct ‘wearable architecture’, using 6mm paper tubes.

Assistant Head (Pupil Progress) Sarah Westcott said: “The boys were asked to give consideration to form and structure. Many of the groups demonstrated good team-working skills, with some of them even managing to include moving parts.”

Year 10 were also involved in drama workshops that included performances of a heavily abridged version of Romeo and Juliet.

Year 7 enjoyed the chance to apply a little lateral thinking in an RAF cyber security challenge.  This STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) activity involved tackling a series of cryptography and coding tasks and helping a company retrieve its stolen data from cyber criminals. Working in teams of six, the boys competed against each other and against the clock, battling to be the first to unlock the stolen data.

The task helped inform them about ‘phishing’ and other techniques used by criminals to compromise their targets’ data.

Originally the day was to be led in person by RAF personnel, but because of Covid restrictions, the School managed it virtually, starting the day with a live stream through YouTube in which the boys were given an outline of their tasks and an overview of the importance of cyber security. Funded by the RAF, the event was run in collaboration with the Smallpeice Trust, an educational charity promoting careers in science and engineering to young people.

“We wanted to raise awareness of digital careers, whilst developing students’ problem-solving and research skills,” said Dr Westcott. “Students found it challenging to work to time and benefitted from the need to think creatively to solve problems whilst coordinating their team’s efforts.

“The event was intended to give an insight into the types of skills required for careers in cyber-forensics. The boys discovered that it isn’t all about coding – you must be a collaborative member of a team and keep a cool head under time pressure, too.”

In addition, Year 7 flexed their vocal cords in a singing workshop, while Years 8 and 9 took to the countryside on their respective sponsored walks.



Let the playing commence!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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