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Fighting for trans fat-free fast food: team take their case to Whitehall as they hit the campaign trail

A group of Year 8 boys are on a mission to get national backing for a campaign to regulate the use of trans fats in takeaway food.

They were inspired to launch their campaign following a presentation by Yinka Thomas, a nutritionist from Barnet Public Health, about the dangers of sugar and trans fats in the modern diet. The boys were so shocked by what they learned that they decided to take action to raise awareness.

And their campaign is fast gaining attention in high places: six of the 12 campaigning boys were invited to Whitehall to put their case to the Head of the Government’s Obesity Policy Unit, Richard Sangster.

After seeing their presentation, Mr Sangster told them: “That was the best presentation I’ve heard in a long time and was better than many I’ve heard here at the Department of Health. You showed the dangers of trans fats better than in any public health presentation I’ve seen.” He also commented on the boys’ nuanced arguments, confidence and ability to work together as a team.

The 12 boys began their campaign by writing letters to a number of public bodies, including the British Heart Foundation, the NCD Alliance, the World Heart Federation and the Faculty of Public Health. They then pulled their research together and approached the Department of Health asking for an opportunity to present their findings, and were duly invited in.

They put together a presentation stating the existing health risks of trans fats, which are usually found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and the benefits already seen in countries such as Denmark, which have banned or restricted their use. The Food Without Trans Fat! (Food WTF) team are calling for a mandatory use of healthier alternatives, such as rapeseed oil, for cooking in fast food and takeaway restaurants.

One of the group, Avy Batra, said: “We had not realised that one portion of chips fried in AVR60 – the best-selling partially hydrogenated oil – contains 10g of trans fat. Hundreds of thousands of young people, especially secondary students, are consuming these on a regular basis, either on the way back from school or when they go out with friends, putting themselves at risk of developing heart disease and other serious illnesses in the future.”

Head of Year 8, Rosie Hall, who accompanied the group to the Department of Health, along with Ms Thomas, said: “The boys delivered an engaging and convincing argument about the dangers of trans fats, particularly AVR60 in fast foods. They took props to show how much fat was going into a person’s body if they ate two bags of chips every week, something which many school pupils and young people do.”

Mr Sangster, who was the lead author of the Government Childhood Obesity Policy published last year, discussed with the boys the paucity of data on the consumption of trans fats. While he was unable to offer any funding for their campaign, he was happy to back the campaign’s message.

Mr Sangster also mentioned the National Food Strategy (NFS) being put together by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The boys’ next step will be to try to arrange a meeting with Henry Dimbleby, who is leading the NFS as the lead non-executive board member of DEFRA.

Ms Thomas, who met with the team several times to give them additional information and advice, said: “I was so impressed with the boys’ presentation. They should be so proud of their achievement – and hopefully energised going forward.”

The six boys who presented their findings to Mr Sangster were Avy Batra, Giuseppe Cipponeri ,Tharun Dhamodharan, Ugan Pretheshan, Krishna Shrivastava and Khapilash Sritharan. The remaining team members are Theo Abraham, Rayan Choudhury, Omar Siddick, Siddharth Sridhar, Kevin Sureshkumar and Dharun Thambiayah.

QE boys are aiming to repeat previous successes in a competition run by the Baha’i Faith Community in Barnet. The competition looks at how people can work together to solve the world’s problems, such as environmental crises, poverty and racism.

The focus of this year’s contest is on tackling anti-social behaviour – a topic with links to both Citizenship and R&S. Entries may be the form of a poster, an essay or a poem. The prizes will be presented by the Mayor of Barnet.

The School’s R&S department has done well in this competition in the past, with pupils having taken first, second and third places in individual and group categories of the competition over the past two years.

This year’s competition is sponsored by Department for Communities and Local Government. It is open to everyone in Years 7-9, with all Year 7 boys composing potential entries as R&S homework. Three winners will be selected from each R&S class and entered in the competition.

Boys are encouraged to enter and should see teacher Sarah Gibbons for further details.

QE’s innovative Thursday lunchtime Maths Club for Years 7 and 8 gives keen young mathematicians the opportunity to tackle puzzles set by Sixth-Formers, including proving that 2=1! Prizes are on offer.

Also on Thursday lunchtime is Maths Clinic. Space is currently available at the clinic, which provides individual help and attention for any pupil finding it hard to understand a recent topic. “Those who attend find that it is time well spent and much progress is made,” said teacher Christopher Murray.

Year 7 geographers had their first experience of fieldwork when they looked into land use in Barnet.

Pupils explored the town to find out whether land use patterns were similar to the Burgess model they had studied in class. They walked from the School to Barnet High Street, mapping the use of the ground floor of buildings by assigning classifications such as residential, commercial or entertainment.

“Fieldwork is an essential part of learning in Geography, giving pupils the opportunity to put what they learn in the classroom into practice in the outside world,” said Head of Geography Anne Flook. “All enjoyed the experience and are looking forward to more fieldwork later in school.”

The fieldwork is being used to prepare an A3 presentation board of the findings, which is a National Curriculum Assessment in Geography.

The Elizabethan Union – QE’s formal debating society – presented the 43rd Annual Dinner Debate. Year 12 pupils Promit Anwar and Richard Alam proposed the motion: “This House believes that the United Kingdom should withdraw from the European Union”.

They were opposed by Old Elizabethans Christos Karaolis, who left the School in 2002 to read Law at Trinity College, Oxford, and Simon Taghioff, who also left in 2002, to read PPE at the University of York.

The chairman at the debate, which was held in the School Hall, was Nicholas Marsh, of Year 12.

During the evening, toasts were made to: “Her Majesty, the Queen”; “The Pious Memory of Queen Elizabeth I”; “the visitors” (proposed by Matthew Rose, of Year 12) and “The Elizabethan Union” (proposed by Old Elizabethan Alan King).

A day of interactive lectures at Imperial College, London, broadened the mathematical horizons of QE students.

Fifty Year 10 boys attended the lectures, which included discussions of practical applications of Mathematics and opportunities to tackle puzzles and problems.

QE students particularly enjoyed the Puzzles, Riddles and Brainteasers lecture given by Dr Simon Singh, writer, broadcaster and author of a number of popular books, including Fermat’s Last Theorem.

“The day opened their eyes to Mathematics beyond the curriculum and allowed them to see some of the many applications of Mathematics,” said Head of Mathematics Fauziah Scarisbrick. “It was an enjoyable and informative event, and we hope it will encourage many of our GCSE boys to study Mathematics at A level and beyond.”

More than 85% of QE entries in this year’s UK Intermediate Maths Challenge gained a certificate.

All boys in the top five sets in Years 9 and 10 took part in the competition – a total of 256 entries. Of these, 61 boys (24%) achieved a gold certificate, with 81(32%) earning a certificate at silver level and 76 (30%) at bronze. Yew Hone Cheung received the Best-in-School certificate.

The Intermediate Challenge is aimed at the top 35% of pupils nationally and is organised by the United Kingdom Mathematics Trust. Students who perform exceptionally well are then invited by the Trust to take part in the follow-on rounds, the Intermediate Mathematical Olympiad and the Kangaroo (IMOK) suite of papers.

Following the Challenge, held in February 2008, 13 QE boys qualified for the Olympiad, which took place on 13 March. This was a two-hour, problem-solving paper. Twenty-four boys qualified for the European Kangaroo which will take place on 24 April and is a one-hour, multiple-choice paper.

Head of Mathematics Fauziah Scarisbrick congratulated the boys on their achievement and wished those in the follow-on rounds luck.

Fifty Year 12 boys attended an entertaining and informative Mathematics day at the Institute of Education in London.

The day comprised five lectures on Mathematics away from the A Level syllabus, which looked at:

  • How Mathematics is used to help protect people from avalanches, explaining how avalanches are formed and how they move once they start.
  • The way in which airlines set ticket prices for flights, focusing on the balance struck between economy and business passengers in order to maximise profit. The secret of getting cheap tickets was also revealed.
  • Infinity and proof. By common consent, Dr David Acheson of Jesus College, Oxford, gave the best of the lecture of the day: an off-beat look at both Pure and Applied Mathematics, the highlight of which was a superb “proof by chocolate”.
  • Lateral thinking – a presentation with an array of problems and puzzles, which kept everyone thoroughly entertained and amused.
  • The mysteries of prime numbers. The day’s main speaker Professor Marcus du Sautoy, of Oxford University, examined the fundamental importance of primes and highlighted the prizes awaiting anyone who can solve the biggest problem in Mathematics.

“It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and the Sixth-Formers who attended got an excellent insight into Mathematics beyond the classroom,” said QE teacher Timothy Dalton.

The 32nd Queen Elizabeth’s Sevens tournament proved to be a highly successful day, with 64 teams coming from as far afield as Blackpool, Gloucestershire, Wales and The Wirral.

For the first time in three years, the state of the Barnet RFC pitches permitted both the U14 and U16 tournaments to be held.

"It was a very enjoyable day, with an excellent standard of rugby, all played within the spirit of the game,” said Head of Games Mark Peplow. “The outstanding highlight was the QE U16 team winning through to the main final, where they lost to Tonbridge 26-15 in a tight contest.”

The U14 main tournament was won by The Judd School, from Tonbridge, Kent. Mr Peplow paid tribute to the large number of staff who volunteered to help and also to the QE ‘tea mums’ who not only served but also raised money for a local charity.

Both of the School’s Young Enterprise teams, QuEst led by Miss Bavishi and Envisage led by Mr Seeburrun, are through to the North London Finals, to be held on Wednesday, 30th April at the Pentland Hotel, Finchley.

Their stands will be judged in the late afternoon followed by their presentations in the evening. Parents of the boys involved are invited to attend the evening event.