I’m looking out on green grass, warm sunshine and two members of games staff in shorts and tee-shirts. We’ve had some lovely weather this term – none lovelier than for the Y8 residential in Anglesey. We were treated to clear blue skies as we tried our hand (and foot) at so many challenging and fun activities: climbing, raft building, sailing, abseiling, canoeing, kayaking, high ropes, low ropes. There were a couple of new ones – paddleboarding, mountain biking and via ferrata. I’m a complete convert to paddleboarding, which must be the most inefficient method of water-borne propulsion yet invented – wonderful if you don’t care where or when you arrive.
That’s just one of this term’s residential trips; in the last term, we’ve had the Robotics Competition (not that exotic – Birmingham), the Y10 Battlefields Trip, the two trips to Germany (one to an engineering forum in Frankfurt, where our Y10’s deliver a paper, mainly in English; and one for our Y11’s to go on work experience placements, also in and around Frankfurt) and the rock climbing trip to the Pembrokeshire coast. Still to come is the summer holiday trip to the Czech Republic.
I’m just flicking through some of the notices I’ve been given to read out in assemblies this term. 13 gold medals in the Royal Society of Chemistry Olympiad competition in the previous term, including Tom Else’s triumph in coming top in the country. Music grade exams, including two grade 8 distinctions (Fazal Shah on flute, Andrew Elliot on drums). Our Y8 chemistry team came 3rd in the Salters Chemistry Challenge at Birmingham University. More chemistry: we won the national final of the Royal Society of Chemistry Top of the Bench competition; well done to Paul Gardner, John Hayton, Alex Lee and Ibrahim Ezzeldin on achieving what we have never achieved before. Oh, here’s an important one – the staff v boys football match. The staff tactic proved successful this year: 1. Strengthen the team with three boys. 2. Pack the defense – it saves on energy running up and down the pitch. 3. Score the only goal of the game via a teacher’s knee and a boy’s shot. It must have been so infuriating for the 1st XI; all the more credit to them for never losing their sense of humour or sportsmanship. Not more chemistry! In July we achieved another first for the school: two boys – Nathan McClelland and Muhammed Ubaid Khan – won Roentgenium awards for coming in the top 0.7% of the country; their reward is a visit to St Catherine’s College Cambridge for a three day Chemistry Camp (I’m guessing not remedial chemistry); 16 golds in the same competition was also a school record. I promise this is the last chemistry highlight: we won the West Midlands chemistry competition for Years 10 and 11, beating King Edward’s School into second place.
In April we welcomed the Lord Mayor of Birmingham to the school to present the winners of the Lord Mayor’s 6th Form Mega Quiz with their trophy; our two teams came first and second. The quiz has existed for three years; we have won it twice, losing out to King Edward’s School last year.
Mr (history) Hill looks after not only our quizzers, but also our Historical Association Great Debaters. Well done to Vikram Patel, whose speech on ‘What Does the Magna Carta Mean to Me?’ was the regional winner; he went to Royal Holloway for the national final.
Mr Hill also managed the school’s mock election. I was delighted, proud and – I’ll be honest – surprised at the quality of the event. I knew the boys would include plenty of humour in their campaigns; I had not expected such a rich blend of wit and serious content. Congratulations to Carl Lawrence whose humour was no surprise to us all, but whose sensible research and knowledgeable discourse perhaps was; he won for Respect. Well done also to Primo Agnello (Greens), Nathan McClelland (Labour), Siddarth Rao (Lib Dem), Faaris Zaki (Conservative) and Matty Blaney (UKIP).
Every time you blink these days there’s a children’s author visiting, talking to our boys or a mixture of our boys and some primary school visitors. Nick Arnold (Horrible Science) was the most recent; we’ve also enjoyed Sally Gardner, David Massey and Erin Lange. Thank you to Aine Garvey, our librarian, for organising these.
I always love the Y8 Media Day, and this year’s was up there with the best: great newspaper, website, video reports, radio report, television report. Thank you Mrs Parmar for organizing it so brilliantly, and thank yous are also owed to the outside experts she ropes in and who give so generously of their knowledge and time.
I am starting to get carried away remembering so many highlights for the term: please read the details of these and so many others in the newsletter. I will allow myself just one more: thank you Mr Southworth, Mr Palmer and several other members of staff; thank you boys and girls, for the fascinating production ‘The Hollow Crown’. Wonderful music – especially the recorder of Fazal Shah – superb presentation and a memorable diatribe on the evils of tobacco from Oliver Garrett Evans will remain with me as fond memories of yet another great drama show.
Congratulations to next year’s Head Boy and Deputies:
• Muhammed Ubaid Khan is Head Boy.
• Wesley Blackhurst,
• Alex Lane and
• Joe Malt are his Deputies.
We say goodbye to a number of members of staff, some to pastures new, some just out to pasture:
• Charlotte Whitehouse spent the last year with us training on the School Direct programme to be a Computer Science teacher. We wish her every success at Colmer’s next year.
• Martin Campos joined us last year to cover Katie Schofield’s maternity leave from the chemistry department. As well as teaching chemistry to our boys, Mr Campos has also offered enrichment classes in geology – his specialist interest – to primary school children as part of our Widening Access programme. Our best wishes go with him as he moves on to Edgbaston High School for Girls.
• Sarah Shelton has been with us for less than a year, but has already made such an impact as a history teacher that we will sorely miss her calm and competent manner when she leaves to go with her husband to Qatar, where her husband will start his role as Head of the secondary school at the Doha British School. Mrs Shelton has already been given a job as a history teacher at the school. We wish her luck as she takes responsibility for the Y13 history component of the International Baccalaureate – something she has never taught!
• Sophie Hull leaves us after two years teaching biology and, in the last year, physics. In addition, Miss Hull has been a Form Tutor, most recently in Y7, and a games teacher. She has taught rugby and cricket. Outside school she is a club footballer, an ability she has brought into school by helping to coach the school footballers and by taking part in two staff v boys football matches. At school level, she played for Warwickshire throughout her secondary school days. She has supported many school trips, including the Y8 residential, where she has taken charge of the biology aspect of the week. We wish her all the very best as she goes to Highclare School as a biology teacher; not surprisingly, she will also be teaching games, with particular responsibility for Key Stage 3 girls’ football.
• Hayley Norris leaves us after three years to teach humanities at the Bluecoats Academies Trust in Nottingham. She has gained a reputation for great planning and imaginative use of resources that have been part of the striking growth of the Religious Studies Department during her time at Camp Hill. She founded the Philosophy Through Film Club for Years 10-13 and has taken on the Philosophy Club for younger pupils. She has been a great supporter of school trips and visits, such as RS trips to Neasden Mandir, to Oxford for RS lectures, to the Soho Gurdwara; she is a stalwart of the Y8 residential trip; she has helped on trips to the theatre with the English Department, to Kenilworth Castle with Y7, to Paris, also with Y7. She has helped with costumes, sets, make-up and hairdressing for school productions; she co-directed a junior drama production. She has also supported staff as an active Union Rep. All the best to her in her new role.
• Tom Southall joined the school three years ago. He had particular responsibility to run a team throughout the year, as well as his general role as a PE and games teacher. He has responded to that responsibility with enthusiasm, energy, commitment and ability. He has run the Under 15 rugby team for three years, the Under 13 cricket team for three years, the Uner 13 basketball team for three years, the Under 14 basketball team for three years; he has helped with the Under 12 rugby team and the Under 12 cricket team, with the athletics team (taking particular responsibility for the Under 13’s); he initiated the Sports Leaders programme and has run that for two years; he has been on three Y8 residential trips, two trips to the Czech Republic, a Y7 Paris trip and a ski trip; he is helping on this year’s incoming Y7 summer camp; he has supported two senior rugby tours and three junior rugby tours. He has been Beaufort’s Housemaster for two years – leading them to victory in the House Championship in his first year. At the same time he has been studying for his Masters in Psychology and Education, playing rugby for Bournville and occasionally cricket for Harborne. Extraordinary dedication. We congratulate him on his engagement to Matilda Davis, whom he met when she was teaching art here; and we congratulate him on his exciting job in Abu Dhabi, at Brighton College.
• Alison Higgins is retiring from her role as Administration Assistant in the Careers Department, a job she has done so well for eleven years under both Terry Law and, latterly, Debbie White. She is looking forward to seeing more of her young grandchild in Chester.
• Anne James has been with the school for 28 years. She had a part time role for the first six years; she had responsibility to introduce economics to the school, while also teaching history. She was so successful in introducing economics that she was needed to teach that full time. She also introduced business studies to the curriculum. The economics department has been extraordinarily successful under her guidance. Many boys who took economics as an AS, intending to drop it after a year, ended up loving the subject and not only completed the full A Level but then went on to study the subject at university. Mrs James has an outstanding record of producing economists of the highest ability who have proceeded to highly selective universities, such as Oxbridge and the London School of Economics, to study economics.
Mrs James has been a quite extraordinarily valued 6th Form Tutor. Generations of boys have benefitted from her kind and generous concern, her wise advice, her patient authority, and her superb knowledge of the admissions process and its vagaries. Her role was formalised as Assistant Head of 6th Form ten years ago.
Mrs James will also be missed because of her work in relation to the school’s dramatic productions. Starting as Front of House for West Side Story in 1988, she was soon drawn into responsibility for costumes (starting with Oh! What a Lovely War) – a time-consuming task indeed. John Dinham then recruited her to his make-up team, where she learnt that trade so well that she now passes on her knowledge to the next generation of make-up artists, generally girls from next door.
Mrs James has also been on the Concert Committee, which takes a coordinating role across all performances, from school productions to musical concerts via carol services.
Boys will be unaware of just how much she will be missed by staff, too, in her role on the Common Room Committee. A founder member of that committee, she has been a treasured source of wise counsel, a listening ear and an encouraging tongue.
Anne goes with the very best of wishes from us all; she and her husband are free now to tow that caravan through the roads of France in every season and weather. She starts by symbolically doing so in September – the first time for 38 years that she will have been able to do that. I know that she is also looking forward to more travel with her children as well.
• We’ve said proper goodbyes to them before, but I need to acknowledge them once more: after retirement, Phil Carman and Bill Tranter have continued with regular games afternoon commitments for us. Their work, based on many years of experience, has been a tremendous resource for the school. They sever their last formal ties with us with an enormous expression of thanks from us all.
Similarly, Pat May, Terry Law, David MacDonald and Stuart Davenall have all been persuaded out of retirement at various points during this year. Thank you! (We’ve still got your numbers.)
Somewhere amongst all this, some boys have been doing external exams. We wish them a wonderful rest now; may they get the results they deserve or long for (whichever is the better). To them, in particular, and to all members of the Camp Hill family in general, I wish a very restful and refreshing summer break.
E-NEWSLETTER - JULY 2015 CHESS Not much chess this term, as is usual in the summer. Indeed, there was even less than usual for the summer term: I didn’t have much time to run Chess Club, for which apologies. Our two tutors, Bob Walker and Alex Holowczak, continued their sessions for a few weeks at the beginning of term, and I would like to thank them for all they have done. They’ll both be back next year: there are even signs of life in the girls’ school, so we may be able to run a few joint sessions.
The regional Megafinal took place in Worcester one Sunday in May. Nine Camp Hill players took part: the day’s excitement included dealing with extremely uncooperative car-park pay machines! Ajay John finished as Worcestershire U14 Supremo, while in the Under 15 section, Camp Hill took four of the top five places, with John Hayton finishing on 5.5/6 and the U15 Supremo, and Vamsi Pratapa, Chris Marshall and Shammas Tabraiz, along with Ajay, all qualifying for the Northern Gigafinal at Wright Robinson College, Manchester, on 12 July. At this tournament Chris and Ajay did exceptionally well, each scoring 3.5/6 in exalted company and qualifying for the national Plate competition.
Have a good summer and don’t forget that the horse moves in an L-shape!
ENGLISH In English this term we have celebrated the success of our debaters Tom Mehan and Sulaiman Rahim at the regional heat of the Oxford Debating Competition at Sheldon Heath School. In the face of strong opposition, the boys fought the good fight and were unlucky not to go through to the next round.
The trip to see Death of Salesman performed in Stratford in the Spring was a great opportunity for Year 10 to experience one of the 20th Century’s most important plays in the spiritual home of British theatre, even if the subject matter was a little heavy for a sunny day in Stratford. There will be more theatre trips in the new academic year, with Lord of the Flies providing the new Year 10 boys with a dramatic insight into one of their new GCSE texts, and something wicked this way coming a bit later on…
More recently, the school has celebrated its own dramatic successes, with Smike and The Hollow Crown(the junior and senior productions respectively) both being very well received.
As always, Year 8 Media Day was impeccably organised by Mrs Parmar, with assistance of teachers from around the school and outside professionals. The products of the day were excellent and testament to the hard work of the boys.
Warwick Castle Trip 2 July 2015 As a break from the old routine, and due to increased numbers of students, the decision was made to move the annual castle trip for Year 7 ten miles from Kenilworth to Warwick. Was this a case of the History Department dumbing down and caving into to commercialism or a welcome opportunity to refresh and revitalise a staple part of the Middle Ages curriculum? The visit proved to be a marked success with all four classes able to explore aspects of castle design and development for defence and comfort over the centuries with the assistance of pencil, clipboard and worksheet. We were helped by the weather which constantly threatened rain but failed to deliver any more than a few spots. Highlights of the tour of the castle included the spectacular rampart walk – from which the panoramas show just how useful a spot Warwick Castle is on, commanding the locality through shock and awe. The Kingmaker and Time Tower exhibits were also able to further our knowledge of the practice of medieval warfare, siegecraft and castle design. A bonus to the day was the archery display next to the river, with gory details not for the feint-hearted and the Horrible Histories “Wicked Warwick” production which kept the troops tickled while chomping on their lunch. There was some disappointment that the trebuchet was not firing, however we did see the evidence of its capability with the burnt-out shell of the Victorian boathouse, victim of a rogue fireball launched some weeks earlier. Parents will be pleased to know that access to the overpriced souvenir outlets was limited, in most part by their failure to put on enough staff at the tills. Apologies for any families who still ended up with a couple of bits of wood tied together and called a sword cluttering up their house for the price of a king’s ransom. Students have followed up their visit with project work on castles which has included some model making and minecraft simulations – hopefully to be on display in September.
VDI After waking up at a time far earlier than any ordinary school day, nine Year 10 GCSE German students wearily made their way to Birmingham International Airport, on a chilly Thursday morning. As everyone started to gather near the Lufthansa check-in gates, we were all rather confused as Mr Jackson seemed to be 'missing'. This was the same Mr Jackson who, the day before, had told us he would be there to wave at us if WE were lost. Parents said their goodbyes, though there seemed to be a mix of happiness and tension in their faces, as they were leaving us for a four day visit in Germany…………....on our own. By now, even Mrs Thomson was slightly alarmed at Mr Jackson's absence, but we began the process of checking-in. Mr Jackson then arrived, albeit half an hour late due to some mysterious delays - but as the good saying goes, "better late than never". As we made our way to the plane, we were intrigued by Jas' remarkable stories as to what ‘dangerous substances’ to take on a plane you could create using just what was available in Duty Free……....rather alarming, if you ask me. Anyway, boarding went according to schedule and, before we knew it, we were in the air at around 10am (on an Airbus A319 as Hassan 'expertly' guessed).
After a seemingly quick flight, we landed at Europe's third busiest airport, Frankfurt International, and we were amazed as to the size and efficiency of the airport (in true German fashion). Mr Jackson and Mrs Thomson guided us in to the crowded underground system of S-Bahn and U-Bahn, which served as the quick transit from the airport to the region of Enkheim, where our host families were waiting for us. Most of us were taken directly to our host families' houses to wind down after the travel, yet Sam was stuck doing PE with his partner, so he joined in, though we never quite managed to find out if he enjoyed or hated this! The evening was mostly a relaxed affair spent with our families, with some being lucky enough to have a massive BBQ party or paid a visit to the local ice cream parlour, where they had a delightful 'Spaghetti-Eis', which is a special ice cream which looks like spaghetti – a bit quirky!
On the morning of the Friday, everyone gathered early at the Enkheim U-Bahn station, fuelled for the big day by the seemingly universal German breakfast of toasted Nutella sandwiches. Mr Jackson had learned his lesson from the day before, and, with Mrs Thomson's beady eye upon him, hustled us onto the U-Bahn where final preparations for the day were made. The group of Firnaaz, Muhammad and Nick were frantically crossing out large portions of their script, Jas was practising unpronounceable Polish words and Ihsaam was frantically guarding his headphones from a bored Liam. After about an hour, we arrived early (!) at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, where we were greeted by the Principal, Dr Bernhard Kup and told where and when we were presenting. Hassan, Ihsaam and Liam's group seemed to have drawn the shortest of straws, as they were not only presenting first, but also had to perform thrice, once more than the other groups. This, however, proved fortunate as their first presentation was an unqualified disaster! Despite Hassan having bragged about having his video in 'three different file formats', he was left awkwardly standing next to a black screen of shame as various technical underlings strove to remedy the issue. With true Camp Hill spirit, he then proceeded undaunted to deafen the entire audience by shouting into the hypersensitive microphone! Luckily, these glitches were sorted out for their other two presentations, so all was well. The other groups, having learned from this shambles, gave sterling performances, especially in the second presentations. Jas, Vish and Ihsaam's group delivered a polished, professional-looking presentation and impressed the audience with their frequent German intermissions. Firnaaz was engaging and informative, Nick's German summary sounded almost native while Muhammad was ruthless in the judges’ Q&A session. After a free lunch consisting of fish and chips (or an entire family size pizza in Liam's case), we were then ‘treated’ to a German 'mixed-media' event, which was a little confusing to say the least. Despite our three years of learning the German language, we found the presentations of the prizes to be almost completely unintelligible, and were about to doze off when we were rudely awakened by some unwelcome news. We were not allowed to win prizes as our flights had been paid for by the university!! We were not left entirely unrewarded however, as we came away with certificates, notebooks and copies of 'Inflight Science' by Brian Clegg.
Overall, the day was a superb experience, but everyone had to have an early night due to the extreme exhaustion caused by multiple presentations!
The next day, it was safe to say that all of us were still recovering from the day before, so most of us just slept in during the morning. For the remainder of the day, most of the families decided to take us out to the Frankfurt inner City, where a plethora of events awaited us. The Main Tower was a popular attraction, as the towering observation deck 57 storeys high was a nice area to take panoramic photos of the brilliant Frankfurt skyline. From the top, we could see many buildings including the offices of banks such as UBS and Deutsche Bank, and even the airport on the other side of Frankfurt. It definitely wasn't a place for those scared of heights! Others were also fortunate enough to go inside the 'Zeil Shopping Centre' which featured some massive shops and amazing architectural features, like a glass tunnel running down the entirety of the building. Even though we all did different activities, we all had an amazing time and the perfect way to settle down, we agreed, was a great dinner at our host families' houses.
Sunday was the day, however, to say goodbye to our families, who had so kindly offered us an amazing time in the brilliant city that is Frankfurt. The morning was spent socialising with them and talking to them about our past few days, but at noon it was time for them to drop us off at the U-Bahn station to begin the return journey to Birmingham. Getting to the airport was far quicker than we expected, as the journey took less than half an hour, yet again proving just how efficient the public transport system was. But the irony was that we found ourselves waiting an hour before we could board our flight, as some logistical problems meant the A320 plane could not be loaded on time (this time, Firnaaz being spot on with the plane spotting). Nevertheless, we kept ourselves occupied by watching movies with Ihsaam, and, most importantly for Mr Jackson and Mrs Thomson, by listening to Muhammad tell us intriguing stories of his escapades with airports and security officers alike. Soon, we were on the plane and at 7pm, we landed back at Birmingham to be greeted by our parents, or, in Firnaaz’s case, be held up for an hour due to his not owning an EU passport!
I think it's safe to say that it was sad to leave Germany behind, and four days was far too short a time to explore the great country. On behalf of us all, we'd like to thank the German, Chemistry, and DT departments for making this possible, as without their help we would have never been able to prepare our presentations effectively, and would not have been able to go on the trip in the first place. Special thanks should also go to Mrs Thomson and Mr Jackson, who shepherded us through various hurdles and shared many laughs with us on the way.