Lent Term – Academic Roundup

Pictured: Remove Germanists welcome German pupils from our partner school Gute Änger Realschule Freising near Munich

Last Wednesday, Marrium Khan from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, visited College to speak to a number of our Sixth Form. It was an excellent talk, full of the intricacies of UCAS application, personal statements, and so on. However, the over-arching message was very simple: to take advantage of opportunities beyond the classroom. She advised pupils to keep an academic diary – a reflective record of talks attended, books read, interesting ideas, and much more.

So if we looked through the pupils’ academic diaries for Lent Term 2019, what could we expect to find?

Mention of Oxbridge, certainly. Fifteen Marlburians received offers (eleven from Oxford, four from Cambridge). The full range of courses was represented: Biomedical Sciences, Russian, History of Art, to name three. The following Upper Sixth deserve mention: Annabel Chessher (LI), Gabriel Coleman (SU), Violet Elworthy (MO), Nadia Hassan (LI), Claire Irwin (PR), Evelyn McVeigh (MM), Hope Nicholson (MM), Claudia Vyvyan (MO) and Oliver Wilson (SU).

It was a record-breaking year; the number of Oxbridge offers was the highest since 2015, and the conversion rate was the highest since 2013. Excellent news from the US arrived soon after: Zac Place (CO) and Oliver Ordish (PR 2013-18) secured early admission places to study Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and Music Production at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Later in term, a further 20 US universities offered places to our pupils – including Harriet Place (NC U6), who received two Ivy League offers (University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University with a prestigious John Jay Scholarship), and Jamie Hayeem (TU U6), who received an offer from his top choice, Syracuse University, to study Industrial Interaction and Design.

We could expect to find plenty of Science and Maths: the Physics Department visited the local fusion reactor in Culham (a warm-up to the main event happening later in the month – a trip to CERN in Switzerland), the Psychology Department attended an Animal Behaviour Conference at Marwell Zoo, the Chemistry Department visited Bristol University, the DT Department visited the Numatic factory in Camberley, and the nine Engineering Education Scheme participants had a stay-over at Bath University to work on their two projects (the first, in partnership with Praxair Surface Technologies, to improve the efficiency of a turbine blade coating technique, and the second, in partnership with On Semiconductors, to develop a smart bin that automatically sorts recycling).

There have been a number of in-house Maths and Science opportunities, including a varied programme of talks: Dr Roberts on Stephen Hawking (and Bart Simpson), Olivia Jeans (MM 1996-2001) on the Symmetry of Surfaces, and this term’s Medawar Lecture given by Professor Phil Charles FRAS (Emeritus Professor of Astronomy Southampton University) on Astronomy in Africa.

But what of Astronomy in Marlborough? Charles Barclay organised two events: participation in an international project to recreate Eratosthenes’ 250BC experiment to determine the circumference of Earth, and an all-night Messier Marathon (a challenge to spot as many of the 110 nebulae in the Messier Catalogue in a single night), in which fifteen pupils, from Remove to Upper Sixth, took part. The final total? A very impressive 68.

Competitions, Olympiads and challenges have bristled this term: the Intermediate Maths Challenge (special mention to Charlie Wright (C2 Hu), Allegra Hannan (NC Sh) and Natasha Newington (MM Re)), the Pink Kangaroo (which matures into the Grey Kangaroo), the Chemistry Olympiad (Gold for Zac Place (CO U6) and Gleb Trotsenko (C1 U6), Silver for Sophie Hall-Smith (NC U6), Toby Hargrove (LI U6), Christopher Oh (PR U6) and Ben Place (C1 L6)), the Physics AS Challenge (Silver for Ben Place (C1 L6), James Ruddell (C3 L6) and Elizabeth Tan (CO L6)), the GCSE Physics Challenge (Gold for Jonte Catton (C2 Hu), Silver for Charlie Wright (C2 Hu)).

And away from Science and Maths, the Linguistics Olympiads – which, this year, included Welsh, Mongolian, Pitjantjatjara (an Australian Aboriginal language) and the Cippus Abellanus (a document carved into stone from the 2nd century BCE). In the Intermediate category, Max Woodford (SU Sh) achieved Gold (outstanding for a pupil in Shell) and Minty Corbett (DA Hu) achieved Bronze. In the Advanced category, Lena Barton (MM L6) achieved Gold and Lissy Thomas (NC U6) achieved Bronze.

Other highlights from the Modern Foreign Languages department include the French Debating Competition (Joutes Oratoires) – in which our team of Nadia Hassan (LI U6) and Annabel Chessher (LI U6) were just held from the top spot by Cheltenham College (a tit-for-tat final, debating “la technologie est notre amie”), and the Schnitzeljagd (scavenger hunt) for our Shell Germanists.

Plus, of course, myriad exchanges and foreign visits: the German Department trip to Munich, the Russian Department trip to St Petersburg, the Upper School exchange with students from Santiago de Compostella, two exchanges with pupils from France – one for the Upper School and one for the Removes. And last but not least, Lydia Bennett (IH L6), who spent the first half of the term studying at Lycée Vauban in Luxembourg – an immersive and wonderful experience for a talented Sixth Form linguist.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Languages Department occasions regular opportunities for pupils to speak/perform in front of their peers – last term’s Translation Duel, this term’s Joutes Oratoires, Der Junge Goethe Club (topic presentations given by the Upper Sixth), and, with text set to music and translated by our own pupils, Der Liederabend (in collaboration with the Music Department). But these opportunities aren’t confined to the Languages Centre.

The term has been delightfully dominated by pupil presentations and public-speaking from all departments: the Salisbury Classical Reading Competition (involving Kiyomi Hanson (DA L6), Violette de Sausmarez (DA Sh) and Cecily Warburton (DA Sh)), the Buchanan Reading Prize (involving all Lower Sixth pupils studying English, and won by Tate Oliphant (MO)), the Shell OM Reading Prize (performances of original poems inspired by Old Marlburian literary figures, and won by Amelia Surtees (MO Sh)), the History Department’s Medley of Senior Historians (academic presentations on a variety of non-curricular topics), the EPQ presentations (totalling over eight hours of floor time), and, of course, the week in week out presentations given by pupils during lessons and meetings of societies and scholarship groups.

The highlight was the TED Competition, with three heats leading to a gala final: Harmony Allen (NC L6) on Cult vs Culture, Jess Reeve (NC L6) on Nudge Theory, Theo Dixon (BH L6) on Computer Games: Art or Science? and Lena Barton (MM L6) on Fake News. It was an evening of poise, passion and polish. The judges (led by recent leaver, Mr Jaideep Barot) sent Harmony and Lena through to the international stage of the competition. All involved (including Nathan Stratford from Swindon Academy) should be resolutely proud.

The home for the TED Talks was The Garnett Room – the magnificent Grade II listed library and lecture hall at the heart of Museum Block. It has been kept busy this term, by, amongst others, the Politics Society and the History and the Arts Society: Robert McNeil (former UN Forensic Technician) talked on the exhumation and identification of bodies in Srebrenica, Professor Michael Broers (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford) talked on Napolean, and Professor John Bew (King’s College, London) talked on Clement Attlee. Undeterred by the busy term, the Politics Society (ten pupils plus Mr Gow and Miss Woods) are currently on a visit to Bosnia, and the History and the Arts Society (thirteen pupils plus Mr Moule and Miss Gallagher) are currently on a visit to China.

Finding the hours in the working day to convene meetings for societies can be a challenge. HATA’s solution: themed conversational breakfasts in the Norwood Hall. There were two this term – the first to discuss the history of the Drang nach Osten and the second to discuss the Reconquista (of particular interest to those joining the Sixth Form Scholars’ trip to Spain in October). They were enjoyed by all who attended; nutritious food supported nutritious conversation.

In 2017, a group of Marlburians with an interest in archaeology (led by Tony Roberts of Archeoscan and Mr Blossom) attempted to uncover the foundations of the walls of a Norman Castle adjacent to the Marlborough Mound. An article written by Evie McVeigh (MM U6) last year concluded: “Unfortunately, the dig revealed little more than Victorian pottery; determined not to be defeated another dig is arranged – in a site several yards further south”. The pupils’ determination was rewarded: the medieval structure was revealed earlier in the term, and it is hoped that it will remain on public view.

Miranda Aldhouse-Green (Professor Emerita at Cardiff University) provided more archaeological interest with a talk on Druids & Boudica, including how archaeological evidence is used to learn about Celtic society. Other opportunities for our classicists included a trip to Bath, and a trip to London to attend the World of Hero lectures.

Which brings us to Art and Literature; and it gets no more arty and literary than the Harry Potter Book Night, which featured Head Librarian James Burton dressed as Hagrid, a trivia quiz, transfiguration classes, a scavenger hunt, and themed food and drink (Butterbeer, Golden Snitches, and much more). World Book Day was celebrated with similar calorific verve, with a World Book Day Buffet in partnership with the Languages Department: a fiendish quiz, won by Kate Aspbury (MO L6), accompanied by borscht, strudel, falafel, and a giant croque-en-bouche tower of profiteroles.

Those studying Art and Art History have been treated to a wonderful range of trips and talks this term. Visiting speakers included Dr Luke Skrebowski (from Manchester University) on Pop Art and Modernism, Dr Jamie Edwards (from Birmingham University) on Flemish Still Life, and, as part of Visual Arts Week, illustrator Katyuli Lloyd (MO 1998-2003) on illustrating Virginia Woolf’s novel Flush and Professor Anita Taylor (from Bath School of Art & Design) on the importance of drawing. Art trips included the National Gallery and British Museum, the museums of Oxford, and the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing prize at Drawing Projects UK in Trowbridge.

I’d like to finish by mentioning two careers events organised by the Guidance Department and fuelled by the generosity of Old Marlburians and parents: a Careers Fair for the Lower Sixth, and Careers Speed-Dating for the Hundred. We are indebted to the following for giving up their valuable time for these events: James Astor, Hugo Bailey (SU 2002-07), Catherine Brumwell (NC 1991-96), Dr Tim Cooke, Ben Cooper (TU 1995-2000), Tom Durant-Pritchard (TU 2001-06), Tom Geddes (TU 2004-09), Jonathan Hall (C1 1974-79), Quentin Hicks (C2 1995-2000), Dr Joanna Iddon (SU 1987-89), David Keown (LI 1984-89), Katyuli Lloyd (MO 1998-03), Dr Miriam Manook (EL 1997-99), Miranda Michaelis, Peter Michaelis, Philip Mostyn (CO 1992-96), Jane Nicholson, Melanie Pomeroy-Kellinger, Oliver Randall (PR 1993-98), Polly Rathbone-Ward (EL/NC 1989-93), Matthew Reeve, Caroline Rowland (MO 1992-96), Hannah Scott, Holly Scott-Donaldson (MO 1989-91), Rory Shaw (BH 1995-2000), Richard Threlfall (TU 1984-89) and Mark Tidmarsh (B3 1983-87).

It is a joy to look back over the past term’s various and varied opportunities for enrichment and extension – the pupils should be proud of all they have squeezed into just a few months. I hope, too, that when the Upper Sixth and Hundred return for the start of the Summer term they will be proud of all they have achieved over the Easter; for those with public exams, the break should be regarded as a working holiday (with a heavy emphasis on the “working”). To you all: Start the day early. Be systematic. And, as I said in my recent assembly, stay positive.

Ed Tolputt
Deputy Head (Academic)
Twitter: @MCol_Academic

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