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Home, our refuge from lockdown silence and sadness

Year 10 boy Arjun Patel has won the plaudits of his teachers for an account of life in lockdown that ends with an unexpectedly positive twist.

Arjun was ‘highly commended’ for his short story on the theme of Silence, written as a remote-learning English class task.

Head of English Robert Hyland said: “Arjun’s impressively mature writing vividly captures many of the images that have become the ‘new normal’ – the empty shops and cinemas, the rainbow symbols – but reassuringly he has structured his writing to reveal an optimistic view of tomorrow, rather than taking it in a dystopian direction, which would have been easy.”

Arjun said he drew his inspiration for the story from a walk that he took during the first lockdown last year, when he remembers having been “astounded at the lack of noise and activity.

“On coming back to my home and hearing all the noises of daily life, I thought about how even though the country is shut down, we don’t have to be alone. Even if you live by yourself, there is always a way to cut out the silence from your life – video calls are a great example.”

His class teacher, Yioda Menelaou, said: “Arjun’s writing captivated me as he displayed his ability to write so gracefully about the way the pandemic has changed people’s lives. His honest depiction of the silence which has engulfed society was elegantly explored, and his final understanding of the importance of family and staying home at such a critical time was both poignant and hopeful. A truly remarkable story, one that will, I am sure, resonate with all of us.”

The story was also technically proficient, she added, with Arjun showing plot progression within the constraints of the 400-word limit, as well as a wide range of vocabulary and a varied structure.

Arjun begins the composition by describing the “deafening stillness” of the empty streets.He observes the boarded-up “bright, pastel-coloured shops” and a deserted park, its swings covered with spiders’ webs. Arjun thinks sadly back to the fun he and his friends had had on these same streets only a few months before, when they heard “the cars rushing past, the low buzz of people walking by” – sounds that were so normal in those pre-pandemic days.

But just as the coronavirus gloom threatens to overwhelm, he comes back to his home “nestled in a cosy corner, of a cosy street, in a cosy town” and its “many sounds”. These, writes Arjun, were the “the sound of laughter. The sound of the crackling fire, and the steaming pots from the kitchen. The sound of the TV, a bad comedian doing his bit. The sound of my family chatting away.

“At that moment, I realised something – I didn’t have to put up with the silence. I had all the noise I could ever want, right here. At home.”

 

The words I love: pupils discover their teachers’ favourite poems

The English department celebrated National Poetry Day by putting together a collection of QE teachers’ favourite poems which included verse that was variously inspiring, thought-provoking and just sheer fun.

Staff from across the departments took part, showing pupils that poetry is enjoyed by teachers from all subject areas. Boy were invited to approach them during the day and ask them about their choices.

The selected poems ranged from ancient to modern, from the emphatically high-brow to some much-loved examples of nonsense verse.

The anthology included poems by two Old Elizabethan poets, George Mpanga (George the Poet, 2002–2009) and QE’s poet-in-residence, Anthony Anaxagorou (1994–1999). Anthony, who runs a weekly poetry workshop for the boys, gave his reaction to the National Poetry Day initiative: “The students of ‘QE Boys’ continue to show a great appetite and appreciation for poetry, which is so heartening to see.”

Head of English Robbie Hyland explained why he had asked colleagues to reveal their favourite lines: “Everyone has a connection with poetry at some point in their lives – we read poems as children, study them at school, and encounter them throughout everyday life. I hope that by sharing poems that resonate with us, we can spark conversations about the values, ideas, and memories that matter to us as individuals.

“The staff have nominated an incredibly wide-ranging selection, from poems that inspire, to poems that address problematic issues in the modern world. I’ve really enjoyed reading the selections which teachers have nominated.”

Boys were informed about the plans for the day during registration, when they were shown a PowerPoint presentation of the teachers’ choice of poems and led in a brief discussion. In total, some 45 poems were picked by 34 teachers.

Here is a selection:

  • Grounded, by Anthony Anaxagorou: chosen by Headmaster Neil Enright
  • Poem 85 (ōdi et amō), by Catullus: chosen by Mr Hyland
  • The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost: chosen by Technology teacher Sean Kelly
  • Home by Warsan Shire: chosen by Deputy Head (Academic) Anne Macdonald
  • First They Came, by Martin Niemöller: chosen by History teacher Akhil Gohil
  • Errinerung an die Marie A., by Bertolt Brecht: chosen by Languages teacher Rebecca Grundy
  • Ozymandias, by Shelley: chosen by Head of Library Services Surya Bowyer
  • He is blessed as a god by Sappho: chosen by Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter

The top photos show Year 8’s Pranav Challa and William Fawcett asking History teacher Simon Walker and Geography teacher Helen Davies about their choices of poem – T S Eliot’s Macavity: the Mystery Cat and Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky respectively – with Mr Hyland also joining them for the chat.

The full selection of the teachers’ chosen poems has been added to the School’s eQE digital learning platform, where there is also a National Poetry Day resource to encourage further exploration of poetry.

Surya’s pandemic poem wins place in new book

A poem by QE pupil Surya Senthilkumar is being published this month in a special anthology created to raise spirits during the coronavirus crisis.

Year 8 boy Surya’s poem, The Pathway to Triumph!, was selected to feature in an international collection of writing from the Young Writers organisation entitled Write To Unite – Together We Stand.

Young Writers Editorial Manager Jenni Harrison said the anthology aimed to “spread positivity, give thanks, share stories, purge worries and record [contributors’] thoughts during lockdown.

“It’s history in the making and will make an incredible keepsake of an unprecedented time,” she said, adding that more than 4,000 adults, children and families had been involved in the project, contributing writing in various genres.

Surya’s 10-line poem, which is set out below, includes a call for unity – “Only as one will we overcome this disaster” – and a paean to front-line workers battling the virus – “Let us praise the NHS staff at toil”.

Asked for his reaction to his success, he adapted the last line of his poem, saying: “Endeavour from the beginning, and you shall succeed till the end!”

Surya’s triumph comes as GCSE poetry workshops led by QE’s poet-in-residence Anthony Anaxagorou get under way at the School again, helping to develop boys’ creative thinking and writing skills ahead of their English GCSE. Old Elizabethan Anthony (1994–1999) made headlines last month when he spoke out against a Government announcement that poetry was to become optional in next year’s GCSE English examination.

For every copy of the book sold by Young Writers, £1 will be donated to NHS Charities Together. Young Writers is an organisation that has been promoting poetry and creative writing within schools and through poetry competitions for the past 29 years.


 

The Pathway to Triumph

For the nation, we have loved for years,
Our faith and effort shall polish away the tears,
Thy actions must roar wiseness and care,
Avoiding the faces of sorrow and despair,
Only as one will we overcome this disaster,
By being resolute we can prevent the spread faster,
Let us praise the NHS staff at toil,
Valiant and loving, holding our nation up like soil,
So, let us conquer this misfortune together,
By being wise and cooperative, we continue to endeavour!

 

Keeping poetry in its rightful place at the heart of education

Old boy and QE poet-in-residence Anthony Anaxagorou has spoken out against this week’s Government announcement that poetry will become optional in next year’s GCSE English examinations.

Anthony was quoted by the BBC in its report on reaction to the announcement from examinations watchdog Ofqual, while his fellow Old Elizabethan, George the Poet (George Mpanga 2002–2009), was also pictured and mentioned in the article.

And Headmaster Neil Enright said today: “Poetry is, and will remain, core to the curriculum at QE. Throughout last term’s remote learning, staff ensured that poetry kept its important place in lessons delivered through our eQE virtual learning platform.

“We also found that encouraging boys to compose their own poems was a very stimulating, creative activity for the lockdown. And prior to the pandemic, Anthony’s workshops were always a popular draw for the boys.”

Ofqual originally proposed that there would be no changes to the English literature GCSE examination in 2021, but, following a consultation in which some respondents argued that it was hard for pupils “to get to grips with complex literary texts remotely”, the organisation has now said schools can focus on a smaller number of texts.

All pupils will have to write about a Shakespeare play, but they can choose two out of the three remaining content areas: poetry; the 19th-century novel and post-1914 British fiction and drama.

In response, Anthony (OE 1994–1999) said: “Poetry shouldn’t be regarded as an analytical exercise, a response to memory, a means of introducing literary device. Poems do so much more, getting into spaces [and] subjects other modes of language can’t.

“Presenting it as an ‘option’ does nothing but reduce its cultural value more.”

During the Summer Term, School departments including English and Modern Languages ran a number of poetry competitions, and boys’ poems were published in The Arabella – a magazine featuring the work of pupils which is published by the boys.

Teachers found ways to teach poetry remotely, with, for example, the English department making extensive use of pre-recorded video with Year 12 classes, particularly for challenging passages in Shakespeare, Chaucer and the poetry of Wilfred Owen.

‘Collaborative independence and isolated community’: competition winners announced from QE in lockdown

A wealth of creative talent is showcased in this month’s special competition edition of The Arabella – a magazine produced by QE boys featuring the work of the pupils.

Under the theme, Brave New World, the Art and English departments launched Art and poetry competitions which attracted a high level and standard of entry, many of which are celebrated in the special release.

Head of English Robert Hyland said: “As a School community, we are getting used to a ‘new normal’, containing paradoxes of collaborative independence and isolated community, and where we are increasingly working in a ‘brave new world’.

“Boys from all year groups were invited to submit original and creative poems and art works exploring this theme – entries could be witty and humorous, contemplative and reflective, or anything in between, as long as they engaged with the theme.

“We were overwhelmed with the response – and thrilled to see such creativity and artistic flair from our boys. We are proud to see that this extraordinary new chapter is bringing out the best in our boys.”

For the Art competition, Head of Department Stephen Buckeridge first showed the boys some book illustrations as examples.

He ranked their entries on whether the image produced captured the spirit of the Brave New World title and on how it might work as a book jacket design. There were more than 60 entries, covering all the year groups.

“I have chosen eight that I felt illustrated the theme best – reflecting a kind of dystopian vision,” said Mr Buckeridge.

The overall winners​ of the Art competition were Haipei Jiang, of Year 10, whose work is pictured top. Next was Alex Aliev, of Year 12, followed by Kovid Gothi, of Year 8, in third place.

“I felt Haipei’s drawing captured the essence of 1950-60s book jacket design and it reminded me of nostalgic times spent in second-hand bookstores as a teenager,” said Mr Buckeridge.

“Alex’s was a strong, imaginative drawing, suggestive of Amazing Stories magazines from the 1950s.

“And Kovid’s collage captured the spirit of our current times.”

In addition to the three main winners, five boys’ contributions were highly commended:

Anik Singh, Year 7
Manthan Thakkar, Year 8
Anubhav Rathore, Year 10
Abhiraj Singh, Year 10
Pierre Mougin, Year 12

Overall winner Haipei said: “It feels incredible to have won an art competition with so many great entries.​ There is much anxiety worldwide regarding the recent outbreak of COVID-19. However, if we look through another’s eyes, we can see the essence of hope for the future.” ​

Alex, who was placed second, added: “I wanted to combine the past, present and future within one drawing. I chose to use a traditional, well-known, scene of a cowboy [pictured above right] overlooking a typical western setting of a desert, but replace it with a futuristic, almost dystopian, element with tall trees and an unknown distant city of skyscrapers. The large viruses that hang above the cowboy are obvious references to the current situation we live in.”

Kovid meanwhile was excited by the opportunity to participate: “Despite the fact that there are a lot of brave key workers risking their lives to keep our community and economy running, I was most inspired by the front-line NHS staff who, with limited PPE supply, kept on fighting against the coronavirus and were undeterred by the possibility of losing their own lives. This is my tribute to their bravery and dedication to put themselves in harm’s way to save the rest of the world; Brave New World indeed.” His collage is pictured above left.

There was also a high level of interest in the poetry competition. Mr Hyland chose a winner from each year group:

​Year 7 – Keon Robert
Year 8 – Rajanan Shanmugabalan
Year 9 – Akshaj Pawar
Year 10 – Nivain Goonasekera
Year 11 – Ethan Solanki
Year 12 – Tristan Lolay
Year 13 – Matt Salomone

Keon used the word ‘change’ as the basis for his poem. “I wanted my readers to think about what they can do to make an impact on the world. When I found out I was my year group winner I was shocked. I had been able to see some of the other poems through the School’s forums. I’m very proud of my achievement.”

The sensation of feeling trapped was the starting point for Rajanan’s entry, especially having to stay indoors along with finding the courage to get through. “I hope the people that read the poem take away the fact that they aren’t alone, although they may feel like it. We are feeling alone together! To conclude, my reaction to being a year group winner is – amazing! It means the world to me!”

Mr Hyland was impressed to see such a diverse range of approaches to the theme. “They ranged from the natural to the historical to the contemporary. The competition was particularly noteworthy for its technical skill in form and structure, and for the vividness of the imagery.”

The full range of poems can be seen in The Arabella, but two of the winning poems are reproduced below, with some explanatory notes from the authors:

Into a Butterfly
By Akshaj Pawar

How does it feel, the caterpillar? Half of its legs are gone.
It used to like to walk but now –
Now its wings must fly it on.
How does it feel, the caterpillar? Its teeth and jaws are dead.
It cannot crunch on the stalks and stems,
A change has changed its head.
How does it feel, the caterpillar? It can’t hide anymore.
How can it stay safe from the ants?
The ants would kill it for sure.
What can it do in this brave new world without teeth or stealth or legs?
It will drink, it will flee, it will fly.
It will play, it will laugh, it will cry.
In a brave new world, we cannot not know if it will survive.
But the once-caterpillar, it will try.
We all must try.

“This triumph is a great personal victory,” said Akshaj. “I’m honestly mainly glad people like it. While making it, I struggled with rhythm, although I suppose I managed to sort it out in the end. I wanted to make the change in the poem seem striking, and I realised the most striking change possible is being given an entirely different body. Hence the use of a caterpillar’s metamorphosis as a metaphor for a changing world. I realised that the caterpillar’s ability to so easily transition from one form to another and keep going was quite poetic. If you were to take a lesson from Into a Butterfly, it should probably be: don’t let change daunt you, and keep on moving forward.”

Brave New World
By Ethan Solanki

The champions of yore stood arrayed on the field,
And their arrows flew true but were blocked by the shields
And their foes would roar out and then level their spears
And those heroes together laid siege to their fears.
For the sound of the drums was the beat in their chests,
And after the clash each would count themselves blessed,
And the flames of the fallen continued to blaze
As they were embraced by Death’s cold, endless haze
For each soul lived with passion eternal and strong;
And their names in the annals of history belong,
And the deeds of these men changed the world’s warp and weft
And in a glorious state was this brave new world left.
The champions of now stand there tall but alone
As this new war is waged from the confines of home,
As tactics devolve into words on a screen
And the fears of the people are shown by their miens.
For the safety of all is being ripped apart,
As tension and peace conflict within the heart;
As love and wealth come to invisible blows,
As we see to ourselves all the danger we pose.
For whilst Death himself runs rampant on a wild spree
And the flames of the fallen are numbers to be seen,
A lone soul should simply this dark void embrace:
For only as one can we this brave new world face.

Ethan said: “From the way people were talking about the coronavirus, it was made out to be the second coming of the Black Death. So I thought it was important to consider the past and all of the things that occurred to bring us to where we are today. I drew inspiration largely from Lord Byron’s The Destruction of Sennacherib, which to date remains my favourite poem. I hope that people will take away not only the importance of the past, but also that in this time of crisis we don’t abandon one another, but remain in contact over social media, through text, or through Facetime. When I found out that I had won the competition in my year group, I was both surprised and honoured.”

The special edition of The Arabella can be read here.

Quiz brings out ruthless, competitive streak…and that’s just the teachers

Underne emerged as victors in the close-fought inter-House World Book Day quiz, defeating the boys from Stapylton on a tie-break question.

And the competition was equally ferocious among the staff teams, with some (not entirely serious) dark mutterings being heard from teachers when their own result was announced!

Simi Bloom, of Year 7, Hamza Mohamed, of Year 8, along with Year 9’s Aryan Patel and Year 10’s Amin Mohamed, formed the winning team, with Hamza first off the mark for the all-important tie-break question: Who was the poet Laureate before Simon Armitage? (Answer: Carol Ann Duffy).

The questions covered a gamut of authors from Charles Dickens to Ruta Sepetys, and from Chaucer to J K Rowling, with a special Shakespeare round included for good measure.

The House teams were joined by five staff teams and one Sixth Form team in the event held in the Main School Hall, which was organised by English teacher Panayiota Menelaou.

QE’s Head of Library Services, Surya Bowyer, paid tribute to her work and reflected on the event as a whole: “What struck me was how universal the event was. There were boys from Years 7 through to 11 in the House teams, along with teams comprising sixth-formers, teachers and non-teaching staff. It was brilliant to see how literature can be such an effective unifier. The universality of the event was reflected also in Ms Menelaou’s careful curation of the questions, which produced a real mix of niche versus populist, and ensured that every participant knew at least one answer.”

When the winning staff team of Dr Corinna Illingworth, Mr Robert Hyland, Ms Audrey Poppy and Mr Jonathan Brooke was announced, there were rumblings from other competitors. Helen MacGregor, Head of History, said: “The History department was robbed of victory! We are already in training for next year…” while Mr Bowyer added: “With Mr Hyland’s team claiming victory, there is some chatter among the staff body that perhaps the contest was fixed….” Ms Menelaou countered she had distributed the English department staff and two librarians as evenly and fairly as possible among the staff teams!

Below is a selection of the questions and answers:

  1. Which two cities provide the setting for Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities?
  2. Which book by Ruta Sepetys won the 2017 Carnegie book award?
  3. How many Canterbury Tales were written by Chaucer?
  4. Who split his soul into horcruxes?
  5. Which Shakespearean play features the characters of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia?
  6. Which two Shakespeare plays are translated into Klingon?

Answers

  1. London and Paris
  2. Salt to the Sea
  3.  24
  4. Voldemort
  5. King Lear
  6. Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing
Hot-seating and sword-fighting as a troupe calls

Boys gained an invaluable fresh insight into their GCSE set English texts when a visiting theatre company staged two plays, along with innovative interactive workshops.

The Say Two Productions company performed Romeo and Juliet – a set text for Year 11 pupils – and J B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, which Year 10 are currently studying.

Head of English Robert Hyland said: “The majority of time in class has been spent looking closely at the linguistic and thematic features of the texts in a purely literary context. It is really important for the boys to be able to appreciate how the literary foundation of the classroom translates into the dramatic sphere of performance if they are to maximize their understanding of the texts.”

In addition to performing the plays, the accompanying workshop programme involved hot-seating – where a character in a play is questioned about his or her background, behaviour and motivation.

“Ordinarily in a performance, the audience and actors are kept separate. On this occasion the workshops led by Say Two were innovative in the way the company really encouraged students to engage in the process of understanding how the page translated to the stage, and the theatrical purpose of Priestley’s and Shakespeare’s writing,” Mr Hyland added.

Jeshvin Jesudas, of Year 10, praised the interactive way in which An Inspector Calls was shown and the hot-seating, which, he said, “helped us to understand how the characters actually felt and gave us a greater and wider understanding of the play”.

The boys were also encouraged to speak out the dialogue from various scenes and to consider the relationship between the characters and how the characters perceived themselves.

For Romeo and Juliet, an interactive staging in costume of the Capulet Ball (Act 1, Scene 5) and of the sword fight between Romeo, Mercutio and Tybalt (Act 3, Scene 1) helped show Romeo’s progression through the text, proving popular with the boys.

Sajeev Karunakaran, of Year 11, said: “It was a very enjoyable performance that expanded my knowledge of the play. I enjoyed the open discussion on the key themes of the play, and the best parts were the interactive activities like the sword-fighting.”

The staging of both plays sought to engender greater insight into the key themes. “The aim was to aid students in their understanding of the set texts as dramatic texts, in addition to simply being academic texts to be studied as literature. Students can hugely benefit in their understanding of the plays if they understand the stagecraft and can anticipate the audience reaction,” added Mr Hyland.

Afterwards, several of the boys gave their views on Say Two’s visit:

  • Jai Patel, one of the Year 10 pupils who participated in the workshop for An Inspector Calls: “It was a very detailed insight into the actions and morals of the characters, showing text character development as the play progresses.”
  • Umer Saad Rahman, of Year 10: “It clearly showed the development of the characters and helped to improve my understanding. It was very interesting and interactive.”
  • Chakshu Chopra, of Year 10: “The performance was extremely engaging, and it portrayed many themes that we learned in class. Watching the performance helped me understand more and really brought the ideas and theories we learned to life.”
  • Dylan Domb, of Year 10, enjoyed seeing the twists and turns of the narrative happening right in front of him.
  • Jao-Yong Tsai, of Year 10, felt the production helped to show the recurring themes more clearly and to illustrate the deep ironies and contradicting views in the play.
  • Ansh Jassra, of Year 10: “I was able to achieve a greater understanding of the interactions between the characters, which, in turn, aided deeper analysis of the stage directions.”
  • Daniel Rodrigues, of Year 11, thought that the actors helped the audience further understand the plot and he enjoyed a very “immersive experience”.
  • Athiyan Chandramohan, of Year 11, felt the occasion was informative, helping him understand the themes of the play much better.
Vaibhav’s winning way with words

Year 8 pupil Vaibhav Gaddi is winning plaudits beyond QE with his creative writing: he has won a certificate from national competition judges and has had a short story published in an anthology.

Having discovered the competitions run by the long-established Young Writers organisation, Vaibhav quickly got to work on an entry for a competition open to secondary school pupils that challenged entrants to explore the aftermath of a global catastrophe in just 100 words.

Although competing against pupils much older than him, Vaibhav won the admiration of the judges with a short piece about biological warfare gone wrong that ended in pessimistic tones with the line: “Homo sapiens, the species which outsmarted its own…”

In another competition piece, based on the stimulus of ‘If I…’, he wrote from the perspective of a puppet “held by the strings which hold my life”. He explores the puppet’s feelings of jealousy experienced as a new puppet is made by the puppeteer, “my creator and inevitable destroyer”.

Head of English Robbie Hyland said: “I congratulate Vaibhav on his success in being published and in being awarded a certificate of merit. Creative writing, which is now a very popular pursuit at QE, brings many benefits and, of course, it can also be great fun.”

Vaibhav’s short story, entitled If I Were A Puppet, won him  a page in the Young Writers’ If I…Flights of Wonder anthology. Again, he finishes in fateful fashion: “I want to be noticed. I want to be free. And my greatest wish of all – I want to be known. Then the scissors came. That was the last thoughts of the old puppet.”

Vaibhav has had an interest in writing from a very young age and searches for competitions to give him topics to write about.

There are, he says, many benefits to creative writing: “I can express my emotions. If I’m upset, I can forget about the day [through writing].”

By writing outside of School, he finds that his English studies at QE benefit – “Our last test included creative writing” – while his lessons with English teacher Yioda Menelaou are, in turn, helping him develop the writing he does in his own time for fun. “Mrs Menelaou introduced me to travel writing, which has added a new style to my writing arsenal,” he says.

Vaibhav would like to write novels in the future, although he does not yet have a firm idea in place for this. He is planning to join QE’s creative writing workshops, which are based in The Queen’s Library.

His other activities include playing the violin (he has achieved grade 4) and cricket; he was Vice-Captain of the Year 7 team last term.

Busy as bees! Visiting primary pupils enjoy words and numbers challenge

From spelling and writing poetry to solving number and logic puzzles, more than 50 visiting Year 5 pupils faced a busy schedule when they took part in QE’s Primary Challenge Day.

Now in its fifth year, the event attracted entrants from a record-equalling 14 local schools, who each sent a team of four competitors.

The challenge is organised to offer local pupils the opportunity to compete in an enjoyable and stimulating setting; it involves activities focusing on English and Mathematics. Each round of the competition brought a fresh, often interactive, challenge.

Teachers Philip Brady and Marco Saccardi, of the Mathematics Department, and Sarah Snowdon and Panayiota Menelaou, of the English department, helped throughout the morning by running one of the rounds each and chatting to the participants. In addition, all the teams were allocated a Year 7 QE pupil to help them feel at home and support them.

The overall winners were Woodridge Primary School. Trent CE Primary School won the Limerick round, while the Shuttle round went to Underhill School. Foulds triumphed in the Spelling Bee and the Crossnumber round was won by Colindale Primary School.

Assistant Head of Mathematics Wendy Fung said: “The visiting teams clearly thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I have to thank all the staff and QE boys who worked tirelessly to make the event such a success and make our visitors feel welcome. A number of our Year 7 boys also acted as runners on the day. It’s a less glamorous job but was vital, nonetheless, in ensuring the day ran smoothly and that our guests were well looked after.”

The event was started by Assistant Head Michael Feven, who stressed to the Year 5 pupils that the main aim of the challenge was for them to have fun and enjoy themselves. At the end, Headmaster Neil Enright congratulated all the participants and presented the winners with their certificates.

From Verona to ‘Brumley’: theatre company brings two contrasting plays to life for GCSE students

Actions speak louder than mere words on a page – as a theatre group proved when they visited QE to perform two plays from the GCSE English syllabus and lead workshops on them.

The company, Say Two Productions, performed Romeo and Juliet for Year 11, before putting on J B Priestley’s early 20th-century classic, An Inspector Calls, for the whole of Year 10.

In each case they first set the context of the play, then performed it using the respective playwright’s original language.

Head of English Robert Hyland said: “The workshops served as revision sessions, with these plays being key course texts. Our visitors’ fun and engaging delivery refreshed minds about both the plot and the key issues of the plays.”

Say Two Productions design a bespoke experience based on the School’s requirements.

After performing Romeo and Juliet themselves, they engaged the boys in some acting, getting them involved in the action, characterisation and themes of the play. Shakespeare set Romeo and Juliet in northern Italy, and mainly the city of Verona, during the Renaissance.

Following the performance of An Inspector Calls, Say Two Productions conducted a ‘hot-seat’ question-&-answer session – that is, answering the boys’ questions whilst still in character. This helped the boys understand the viewpoint and motivations of the different characters in the three-act play, which was first performed in 1945, but is set in 1912 in Brumley, a fictional English manufacturing town.

At the heart of An Inspector Calls is Priestley’s exposure of the hypocrisies of Edwardian English society and his highlighting of class injustice. Shakespeare’s tragedy centres on two young “star-cross’d lovers” whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families.

“With Shakespeare, sometimes seeing and hearing the text delivered helps to contextualise it and highlight how relevant the play remains thematically today. It was a good opportunity for some of the boys to immerse themselves in the play by participating in the action,” Mr Hyland added.