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Saving the planet from climate change: competition winners announced

The twin importance of message and method in fighting climate change was brought to the fore in the two winning entries in the Geography department’s Earth Day competitions.

The competitions were held to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection.

With this year’s Earth Day theme being Climate Action, the winner of the writing competition emphasised the importance of using the right people to convey environmental messages, while the victor in the parallel photography competition emphasised the positive impact that even small steps could have.

Head of Geography Emily Parry said: “Well done to all of the boys who entered the competitions. It was impressive to see the boys engage with the enormous challenge of climate change and heartening to see their appreciation of the wonder of our planet and passion for it to be protected.”

The first task was to write in 500 words or less an answer in response to the question: How can we save our planet from climate change? The second was for boys to submit a photograph they had taken illustrating the impact, for good or ill, of humans on ecosystems, accompanied by a 100-word explanation.

Ananth Iyer, of Year 8, took the prize for the photography competition with his striking image of a bird feeder in his back garden. He explained his choice of subject: “It celebrates the positive impact that humans can have on our environment. It can provide food for birds and all sorts of other animals when they are finding it tough. Small things like these can have a huge impact.”

Congratulating Ananth, Miss Parry said: “We appreciated the simplicity of Ananth’s photograph and how it showed that it is possible for anyone to take a small action which can have a positive impact upon ecosystems.”

First prize for the writing competition went to Rahul Doshi, of Year 10, who submitted an argument that insufficient numbers of people are aware of the threat of climate change.

“Rahul creatively answered the question How can we save our planet from climate change? by recognising that it is first necessary for everyone to accept that climate change is actually a threat! He draws attention to the importance of having messengers, such as David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, to effectively communicate climate science to people of all ages and backgrounds,” said Miss Parry.

Rahul proposed the use of respected messengers to increase recognition. He wrote: “With over 46% of UK citizens believing that the threat is overstated and 10% completely denying that humans are to blame for climate change, it is clear that not enough people currently are aware of the threat climate change poses to our planet. There needs to be a big push to get messengers – people who we all relate to – to get this message across. If we do not, this planet faces a grave future.”

The competitions were launched on Earth Day on 22 April through eQE and were accompanied by tips and links to websites with suggestions for background reading material. These ranged from National Geographic’s suggestions for lightening our ecological load to an Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) article about how to build a bug house.

Picture this! Hard work and a hunt for shark teeth

Year 12 geographers on a field trip to Suffolk and Essex tested out in real life the theories they had learned in the classroom – while staying in a field centre that forms one of the most famous scenes in world art.

Despite freezing temperatures outside, the boys completed their fieldwork successfully during their stay at the historic Flatford Mill Studies Centre (FSC) at East Bergholt, Suffolk, on the River Stour, last month.

A cottage in the grounds of the mill features in John Constable’s iconic painting, The Hay Wain, which shows a farm cart crossing the river.

Deputy Head Anne Macdonald said: “I am really proud of them; they behaved impeccably and were a credit to the School. They were complimented on their positive attitudes, excellent work ethic and manners by the FSC staff and teachers from other visiting schools.”

The 14-strong group stayed in the centre’s Valley Farm, a 600-year-old Grade I-listed building.

An outing to the coastal town of Walton-on-the-Naze across the river in Essex enabled the boys to look at the different social, economic and environmental thinking behind the variety of coastal management approaches.

They also saw how coastal management affects the processes and landforms, as well as the impact of coastal erosion and mass movement on a rapidly retreating coastline.

“It was a hugely successful trip to a beautiful stretch of coastline,” added Mrs Macdonald.

“This is a very hard-working group of students who not only enjoyed the fieldwork day, but particularly the hunt for fossilised shark teeth on the beaches!”

The fieldwork completed by the boys is examined as part of the AS examination.

They were also able to acquire techniques and skills to support the completion of independent fieldwork for the non-examined assessment that they will take in Year 13.

Several fieldwork techniques were used in different exercises – cost-benefit analysis, an environmental impact assessment, beach profiles, and infiltration rate and sediment studies. Graphical, cartographic and statistical tests that had been covered in the classroom were also revised.

Leading lights of the charging brigade

Two QE boys are among the prizewinners in a national competition aimed at finding better designs for electric vehicle charging points.

Year 8’s Tharsan Nimalan won a prize in the seven–14 category, while Ashwin Sridhar, of Year 10, achieved success in the 14-–19 age group in the Eco-Innovators Competition run by the Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).

Their success came as the Government announced that a ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars in the UK would be brought forward from 2040 to 2035 at the latest. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the announcement as the country plans to host the annual United Nations climate change summit, COP 26, which is being held in Glasgow in the autumn.

The brief for the competition was to create a design for on-street electric vehicle (EV) charging points that were innovative, iconic and beautiful. At QE, entries were handled jointly by the Geography and Technology departments.

Geography teacher Nilisha Shah said: “I congratulate Tharsan and Ashwin on their success. As the Government’s announcement shows, universal use of electric vehicles is an idea whose time has clearly come, yet there is still much work to be done in making our cities ready. Innovative, creative thinking such as Tharsan’s and Ashwin’s is likely to prove essential if the UK is to get the infrastructure right.”

Tharsan went through a number of design ideas and drafts before settling on his submitted design, which was based upon a large tree. The trunk had a spiral staircase which users could walk up to reach lounge-style leisure facilities – perhaps a restaurant – at the top of the “tree”.

The intention behind this, he explained, was to help EV users pass the time whilst their vehicle charged and even make the charging point a desirable destination – thus overcoming the perceived drawback of electric vehicles that users would have nothing to do while re-charging. Tharsan wanted, in fact to make non-electric car users “jealous of the experience they could be having”.

His design involved the use of lightweight, more sustainable and recyclable metals and other materials, with green planting on the roof. Vehicles would be parked around the base for charging, with cables pulled down from the trunk and plugged in wherever the connection point is on a vehicle.

Ashwin designed a charging station with a “contemporary aesthetic” and a “self-maintaining garden to absorb pollution”. He envisaged a vertical garden some 3 metres high which would collect rainwater and self-irrigate, featuring green plants and mosses that are good at capturing carbon.

Ashwin envisaged targeting high-pollution areas in terms of locations for his charging station, which would also be designed to provide easy access.

Even before learning about the competition, Ashwin had already been thinking about charging point designs, having seen existing ones around London and thought that they could be made better. “They should be more than charging points,” he said, pointing out that ones created according to his designs would not only help “green” the urban landscape, but could usefully act as a source of information, for tourists, for example. Since so many charging points were going to be needed, it was important to get more functionality out of the space.

Live streaming in Epping Forest

Sixty-six Year 11 GCSE geographers enjoyed the chance to get their hands dirty on a field trip to Epping Forest.

During the Physical Geography trip, the boys were tasked with investigating the question How do river characteristics change with distance downstream along Loughton Brook?

The exercise involved going to three sites and measuring the brook’s width, depth, velocity, sediment size and sediment roundness at each.

Head of Geography Emily Parry said: “This was a successful trip and we were very lucky to have dry weather.

“It fulfilled the second element of the AQA examination board’s GCSE requirement that fieldwork is carried out to explore both Human and Physical Geography: the Human Geography field trip was a visit in June to the Olympic Park in Stratford.”

The field trip was spread over two days, with half of the cohort going each day, accompanied by four teachers.

The fieldwork was led by tutors from the Field Studies Council’s Epping Forest base. It is situated in the heart of the forest, an area of 2,400 hectares stretching from Manor Park in East London to just north of Epping in Essex.

Two-thirds of the forest has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The purpose-built centre there has six classrooms and is only a few minutes from the M25 and Loughton Tube Station.

‘Spit’ and sulphur, ‘icky’ mud and pizza – stimulating the senses on Geography trip

From enjoying spectacular views near the summit of Mount Etna to learning how to make their own pizzas, QE’s younger pupils sampled Sicily’s best on a Geography tour.

Forty-one boys from Years 7, 8 and 9 took part in the five-day trip led by Geography teacher Helen Davies, who was accompanied by four other members of staff.

After the first evening spent ten-pin bowling, the first full day brought a coach trip to Mount Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano. The guide-led tour included travel, first in a cable car and then in jeeps, to reach a height of 2,900m, where the strong winds brought heavy windchill that was felt even through multiple layers of clothing.

Nivain Goonasekera, of Year 9, said: “Whilst the whole trip was incredible, my favourite part was probably reaching the summit of Mount Etna: we were all taken aback by the photogenic, breath-taking views, which totally compensated for it being -5C!”

After returning to lower altitudes and warmer temperatures, they visited the nearby Alcantara Gorge – a basalt formation created by Mount Etna’s volcanic activity.

On the following day, after getting up at 5:30am, the boys set off for a full-day visit to the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago visible from Sicily.

A short boat ride took them from Milazzo to Lipari, the largest of the islands, which boasts deep caverns, steep cliffs and attractive views. Then, on the island of Vulcano, the group sampled the mud baths, where a pool of brackish water and mud clay is continuously agitated by sulphurous bubbles, the olfactory effects of which are known to linger, as Nikhil Mark, of Year 7, discovered: “It was a bit ‘icky’, but the mud was warm. We were all stinking like rotten eggs when we got back.”

On day four, the group visited the Straits of Messina and Tindari Lakes, where they saw the linguetta di sabbia, a sandbank stretching 1.5km into the Tyrrhenian Sea. “It is an extraordinary sight, for which the correct geographical term is a ‘spit’,” said Miss Davies.

One evening activity popular with the boys was the visit to a restaurant, the Café Sikelia. There they not only learned about the history of the pizza and the different types available, but also had the chance to try their hand at making one themselves, before tucking into a pizza dinner.

On the final day, they headed for the amphitheatre at Taormina, which was built by the Greeks in the third century BC and expanded by the Romans. Robert Hyland, Head of English, was able to give the boys plenty of information about the history of the amphitheatre.

Theory and practice: sixth-formers learn about the real-world importance of Economic Geography

A young Elizabethan now forging a career in private banking with a global finance giant returned to the School to lead a Sixth Form discussion on Economic Geography.

Hemang Hirani (OE 2008-15), who studied Geography and Economics at the London School of Economics and is now working for Barclays, gave a presentation to the select group of Year 12 geographers entitled The role of cities: an introduction to the field of Economic Geography.

Thanking him for his visit, Headmaster Neil Enright said: “This is an important aspect of alumni support – Old Elizabethans coming back to the School to help stretch the older boys academically by giving them an insight into, and a taste of, university-level material and discussion.”

In a lavishly illustrated talk, Hemang included: a satellite picture of Earth by night; a world map showing the growing percentage of the planet’s population in urban areas since 1950, and colour-coded maps of the USA and India depicting the importance of cities in both advanced and emerging economies.

He considered an influential academic paper on the topic, taking the boys through theoretical aspects such as labour market pooling, input-output linkages and knowledge spill-overs, as well as examining complex equations used by economic geographers.

The event was organised by Geography teacher Anne Macdonald, who said Hemang also answered questions about university, including the experience of studying at LSE and the benefits of studying Geography and Economics as a combination. “Indeed, he explained that his new employers – Barclays Private Banking – indicated that one of the things that persuaded them to offer Hemang the job was the broad perspective he was able to offer as a results of having studied Economic Geography.”

In his own time in the Sixth Form at QE, Hemang was a Senior Vice Captain. He has previously been involved in helping QE’s sixth-formers apply for Geography places at university.

In addition, during his time at LSE, Hemang was a Widening Participation Mentor, undertaking weekly visits to state secondary schools in the City of London area to help underachieving groups of Year 12 pupils with university applications.

He has been involved in volunteering ventures ranging from mentoring pupils at under-performing London schools to supporting poor cancer patients in Mumbai.

After graduating, he undertook a number of internships, including three months with Swiss investment bank and financial services company UBS as a Summer Analyst. He joined Barclays Private Bank in a similar role in June last year.

“I enjoyed my internship within the Real Estate Finance team and was offered a role to bridge the gap between the internship and the graduate programme starting this July,” Hemang said. “In the current role, we work closely with hedge fund and private equity professionals from a wealth management perspective.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wicket-keeper and Scrum Master: Charlie Scutt does what he enjoys

After graduating from Cambridge in 2013, Charlie Scutt has gone on to build a successful career with a company dedicated to meeting the needs of economic migrants worldwide.

Charlie (OE 2003–2010) works for London-based Lebara, where he relishes his “funky” role as a Scrum Master & Delivery Manager. The company is known principally as a telecommunications company, although Charlie’s work has mainly been in its money transfer business.

While at university, he was Girton College Cricket Club First XI captain. He has continued playing since, and three years ago made the move from his childhood club, Potters Bar CC, to the thriving Old Elizabethans CC, where he is a wicketkeeper. He is pictured here (back row, far right) with the current Old Elizabethans First XI. The vice captain (Front Row, Second from the right) is OE Paul Lissowski, who was in the year above Charlie.

“I left QE in 2010 to study Geography at Cambridge, and without the support and guidance from the School – in particular Mr Enright [now Headmaster Neil Enright] and Mrs Macdonald [now Assistant Head Anne Macdonald] – that certainly wouldn’t have been possible,” says Charlie. “The reason I chose to do Geography was quite simply it was the subject I enjoyed the most.

“I like the fact that Geography covers a very diverse range of areas and have always seen myself as somewhat of a ‘generalist’. Choosing it for my degree made perfect sense as it gave me the flexibility to continue learning about a breadth of topics. I certainly didn’t have my future career in mind at this point and by no means had my future planned out (or even do to this day if I’m totally honest!). My goal has always been to try to do what I enjoy, but make sure I do it to the best of my ability!

“My three years in Cambridge were brilliant and I particularly enjoyed the college system whereby your college acts almost as your family away from home. Whilst the academic side of Cambridge was undoubtedly tough it was hugely rewarding, and it wasn’t all work.

“There was more than enough time to have a great social life and play a lot of sport. I played football (badly!) for my college and also played cricket for the university in my second and third years, mainly for the university Second XI although I did manage one appearance for the Cambridge University Blues (First XI) in my final year.”

Charlie is pictured here, fourth from left, with a group of OEs who went to Cambridge with him. They arranged this reunion dinner in 2013, when he was in his third year.

“After leaving Cambridge I was none-the-wiser on where I wanted to go career-wise, so spent the summer trying to navigate the baffling world of graduate jobs!” After receiving offers from a number of companies, he eventually decided to join Lebara on a six-month internship, choosing the company because it offered a broad role which suited his generalist mindset. “It turned out to be quite a good decision as I’m still there five years later!”

Throughout that time he has fulfilled a number of roles for the telecoms company. “Alongside the ability to call home, one of the next most significant needs of, in particular, economic migrants is the ability to send money home. From this idea, Lebara Money was born. Working as part of the Lebara Money team was a great experience as, whilst Lebara is a large established company, the Money team always acted as a semi-autonomous business unit; a ‘start-up’ within a larger organisation and, in my opinion, the best of both worlds.

“The goal was to provide an easy and secure way to send money home online, via web or mobile app. I worked on this product for four-and-a-half years, starting off in Operations Management (helping to manage customer services, fraud prevention, minor maintenance updates to the website etc) before transitioning into Project Management.

“I have increasingly focused on the technology aspects of the business though Delivery Management and (the funkily named) Scrum Mastering. This latest role essentially involves managing the end-to-end delivery of all ‘technology’ elements of the business. Having not come from a typical ‘tech’ background, this was an interesting challenge, but one I thoroughly enjoyed.

“I particularly enjoy the ‘Scrum Master’ element, which essentially means managing your team in a manner whereby, rather than planning all the details of a project months or years in advance, you break everything down into small iterations and focus solely on what needs to be done over the next week or two. At the end of each iteration (referred to as a ‘sprint’) you then review what you have built and your original goals, then adapt your goals for the next ‘sprint’ based on what you have learned from the previous one. This ensures continuous learning, greater ability to adapt to change and ultimately a more agile team than you would have using traditional long-term project management methodologies where the end goal – perhaps a year or more down the line – is defined on day 1.

“Methodologies such as ‘scrum’, which focus on making a team more agile, have now become the go-to way of managing software development teams across most industries, with everyone from banks to video game developers looking to roll it out (with varying degrees of success!).

“I would never have expected my career to have evolved in the way it has and it certainly shows you don’t need to do Computer Science, Software Engineering or another ‘tech’-focused degree to end up working in the technology sector.”

Outside of work, his decision to switch to Old Elizabethans CC has, he says, proved to be a fruitful one, as “two promotions in three years see the First XI playing the highest level of cricket in the club’s history”. Charlie is pictured here, back row centre, in his Year 7 cricket photo at QE.

“The club also runs highly successful Second, Third and Sunday XIs, alongside a flourishing Colts setup for kids aged 11-17, which means there are opportunities regardless of your age or ability. I’d encourage any cricketers at QE to consider joining Old Elizabethans CC as it offers a perfect opportunity for students to supplement the coaching they receive at School. It also provides the chance to continue playing regular cricket after the School season finishes each year in early July and then even into their adult life once they have left QE.”

Geography at QE “extremely strong”: department receives national award

QE’s Geography department has received a prestigious award in recognition of the excellence of teaching and learning in the subject at the School.

The Geographical Association announced that QE is among a select group of schools from across the country to receive the Secondary Geography Quality Mark (SGQM) for 2018–21.

QE previously won the award in 2015 and had recently submitted detailed evidence in the hope of having it renewed. In response, the association’s Moderator Justin Woolliscroft and the National Moderation Team gave QE’s Geography team a glowing report: “Your students are very fortunate to have access to a rich and varied curriculum allied with such a committed teaching team. It is clear that you are very proactive in a wide range of areas spreading good practice through your activities.

“Geography provision is clearly extremely strong and we are delighted to confirm the SGQM award for a further three years.”

The award recognises quality and progress in Geography leadership, curriculum development and learning and teaching in schools.

QE’s Head of Geography Emily Parry said: “The department are proud to have received this award in recognition of the high-quality geographical education delivered here. We strive to provide an engaging and topical curriculum.”

Rebecca Kitchen, GA Curriculum Manager, said: “The SGQM enables schools to focus critically on what they are doing and why, in order to provide their young people with the knowledge and understanding they need to live in the modern world.”

The moderators’ report singled out a number of areas for special praise: “The need for refreshed and revised curricula for both KS4 [Key Stage 4] and KS5 have understandably been an important focus for the department, and it is good to read that these have been accepted very positively by the students and that the new schemes are now influencing what is offered at Key Stage 3. We like the challenge offered through the extended homework essays which clearly support the students in becoming more independent, so helping them with the demands placed upon them at GCSE and beyond.”

The report also lauded the department’s:

  • “Continuing collaborative work” with the University of Hertfordshire and the Prince’s Teaching Institute
  • “Important role” in hosting the World Wise quiz for local schools – an annual Geography competition
  • Fieldwork, which “remains a strength, with numerous exciting opportunities offered to your students”.
Hammering home the importance of technology: apps and mobile videos on field trip that included visit to West Ham’s ground

GCSE geographers measured noise levels and annotated photos using ‘apps’ on their smartphones during a field trip to East London.

The Year 10 boys’ main objective was to investigate the question: How socially sustainable is East Village in the Olympic Park, Stratford? However, their day also included a tour of the London Stadium, currently rented by West Ham United FC, where technology was again to the fore, as the boys were each given a small device to watch videos about the facility.

The visit was split into two groups over two days, with each half of the large AQA Geography GCSE cohort spending a full day conducting fieldwork. The boys applied four fieldwork techniques in East Village, a new residential district which was the athletes’ village in the 2012 Olympic Games:

  • Environmental Quality Surveys (EQS), which included the recording of decibel levels
  • Questionnaires
  • Land-use mapping
  • Photographs, duly annotated using the Skitch app.

In the afternoon, they had a part-guided, part-multi-media tour of the 60,000-capacity London Stadium (the former Olympic Stadium). The tour looked both at the development of the stadium and at the history of the football club.

Highlights included the panoramic views across the stadium from the stands, exploring the home changing room, visiting the indoor running track and walking down the players’ tunnel.