Thursday, 17th April 2014

The World War I centenary year has captured public interest and received widespread coverage on TV, radio and in the press. Consequently, the first few months of 2014 have proved to be particularly busy for historian, and former Shiplake teacher Jon Cooksey. Jon left Shiplake at the end of the 2013 Autumn Term, in order to dedicate himself to increasing work commitments associated with the impending centenary year. Judging by his endeavours since then, this look to be a wise decision!

In March, Jon featured in television documentary 'Hidden Histories – WW1's Forgotten Photographs', screened on BBC4. In the programme, Jon told the story of Harry Colver, a soldier who took his camera into the trenches in 1915, and captured some marvellous images. The programme proved to be popular as it was ‘pick of the day’ in the Radio Times and the story was featured in several Sunday papers.

On another recent trip, Jon took black professional footballer and ex PFA Chairman Clarke Carlisle to France as part of BBC Radio 4's World War One at Home programme. With an IQ of over 150, Clarke is regarded as Britain’s most intelligent footballer and has made regular television appearances on programmes such as Question Time and Countdown. He is also well known for campaigning against racism and inequality in football, and is an ambassador for the ‘Kick It Out’ scheme.

Clarke and Jon were in France to follow and investigate the story of Walter Tull. Walter was one of the first black professional footballers and the first black officer in the British Army. Clarke and Jon are pictured examining an unexploded shell near the spot where Walter was killed in action on 25 March 1918. His body was never found.

A third interesting project for Jon was a separate visit to France with Rev Richard Coles. Some of you may remember listening (or dancing) to Don't Leave Me This Way by the Communards. Classically-trained Richard was one half of the Communards pop duo, and nowadays co-presents BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live.

The purpose of the trip was to explore the life of Lt Col Bernard Vann. An ordained priest, Vann was killed attacking the German Fonsomme Line near Ramicourt on 3 October 1918, just four days after the action for which he received the Victoria Cross. This is the highest military honour in Britain, awarded for ‘valour in the face of the enemy’. Bernard was also awarded the Military Cross and Medal Bar. Jon and Richard are pictured at Bernard’s grave at Bellicourt British Cemetery. 

Wednesday, 16th April 2014

After struggling to cope with the searing Antiguan heat and talent of their young, speedy opponents, Shiplake’s tennis players could have been forgiven for losing heart after defeats in their first two tour matches.

The Antiguan opponents from Halycon Tennis Club moved the Shiplake players around the court with dept drop shots and consistently accurate winners down the line. Each match is comprised of four singles matches and two doubles contests. In the first match, Shiplake failed to register a victory and succumbed to a 6-0 loss with Antigua’s number one ranked junior player particularly impressive.

Despite this knock in confidence, Shiplake were in truth unfortunate to lose the second fixture. Charlie Sichel and Matt Horsfall had worked hard on their serves in training and this helped them to win some valuable energy-saving ‘free points’. Sichel won his singles match to post the first victory of the tour, closely followed by George Nicheli who came through a close match to win 6-4. Unfortunately, Shiplake could not claim the wins required in the doubles matches and were faced with a second defeat.

Ahead of the third match, Head of Tennis Mr Mallins made a small wager with the opposition meaning that the losing team would have to sing their national anthem. This served as inspiration for the boys as they came out fighting after a refreshing boat trip on the previous day. Charlie teamed up with Harrison Balchin and claimed an important doubles win. Nicheli and Horsfall quickly followed suit and all of a sudden a first victory was in sight. A stunning display of matchplay from Horsfall got Shiplake over the line, and the team were absolutely delighted with the win. Gracious in the defeat, the opposition lined up to sing the Antiguan national anthem.

The fourth and final match was played in cooler conditions, which was more familiar to the British players. After impressive singles wins, it looked like Shiplake may tie the series. Unfortunately they were not able to get the doubles victory required and the fixture ended in a draw. Perhaps this was the fairest way to end Shiplake’s time with Halycon Tennis Club who have been wonderful and friendly hosts all week. To show their appreciation, the touring pupils donated bag, balls and caps to the club, and treated them to a rendition of the British national anthem.

Mr Mallins was pull of praise for the Shiplake team: "The tennis squad have been well-behaved, focused and a pleasure to spend time with on this tour, and I am very proud of them finishing the series with a win and a draw."

Tuesday, 15th April 2014

Alongside recent trips for the army and navy sections of the College’s CCF, the Royal Air Force cadets enjoyed a spring field trip of their own to RAF Benson. Officer in charge of the RAF section, Fl Lt Peter Hewerstone, kindly provided a report of the day’s events:

“Resplendent in their newly issued blue working dress uniform, 33 recruits and 6 senior RAF cadets arrived and RAF Benson and were met by Flt Sgt Cassidy, who provided them with a brief introduction to the station followed by a history presentation of 230 Squadron, who were our hosts for the day.

The remainder of the morning comprised of visits to 230 squadron's hanger to take a close look at the latest version of the Puma helicopter, followed by a visit to the police flight helicopter and finally the Oxfordshire air ambulance. Interestingly, the latter two helicopters were identical types but, as might be imagined, equipped completely differently to suit their individual roles. In all cases, the cadets were encouraged to ask questions relating to the use and operation of the three contrasting helicopter types. The morning outlined the stark contrast in how civilian and military aircraft are deployed.

A working lunch followed, attended by Ft Sgt Cassidy, who made himself available to discuss life and opportunities in the RAF and to talk to individuals who were interested in pursuing a potential career in service. The afternoon saw an onboard visit to the Merlin helicopter, led by Ft Sgt Bradley, who introduced the cadets to the onboard systems and equipment. 'Bradders', to cite his nick name, also spoke of his RAF career, countries he had visited, and sports opportunities available in the RAF. 

The remainder of the visit comprised of a look around the Fire Section and the Air Traffic Control Centre. The latter offered an insight into flight management and cadets were able to see and hear helicopters departing and making their instrument approaches. They were also shown the radar systems, which tracked aircraft overflying the station.

This visit provided the cadets with a useful review of day to day life and operations on an active RAF station and further cemented the relationship between Shiplake College and RAF Benson. Although we were unable to fly with 230 Squadron as hoped, we left with the hope that 230 might be able to land at the College later this year and offer air experience flights to the cadets.”

Monday, 14th April 2014

On Thursday 20 March a number of Shiplake’s senior musicians were invited to participate in a music workshop hosted at local girls’ school Queen Anne’s.  The workshop was delivered by multi-award winning a cappella group All the King’s Men.

The group are based at the King’s College London, with regular performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and other competitions around the world. All the King’s Men combine tight vocal harmonies with mesmerizing choreography. Ahead of their evening performance at Queen Anne’s School, the singers gave up their afternoon to share their expertise with Sixth Form students.

The Shiplake boys and Queen Anne’s girls were put through their paces learning an arrangement of Lion King classic The Lion Sleeps Tonight complete with moves and animal noises!

Following the workshop, the pupils were given the chance to see the entire group in action during the evening performance, before performing their hastily rehearsed arrangement to an expectant crowd. Excellent solos from Cameron, Grossman, Tom McCooke and William Simpson helped the hybrid group to deliver an enjoyable performance.

The rest of the set from All the King’s Men comprised of inventive arrangements of well-known songs including Coldplay’s Yellow, Whitney Houston’s How Will I know? And Cee Lo Green’s Forget You.

Year 13 Music scholar George Graham described the event as “An absolutely fantastic evening and so inspiring to everybody there. The a cappella group are definitely an act you must go and see!”

Video footage of Shiplake’s performance is available on the Shiplake_Music YouTube channel

Sunday, 13th April 2014

Ahead of their impending AS Level exams, Year 12 pupils attended a revision seminar entitled 'Ace Your Exams', delivered by exam specialists 'Elevate Education'. The basis of the 'Elevate' message and philosophy is to work yearly with around 400 of the country's brightest young people and find out how they work and revise most effectively. Trends and patterns and identified to establish the most beneficial techniques, which are then shared with pupils across the country.

The presenter captured the attention of the entire group immediately, and every pupil filled out a revision information pack which will be a valuable resource over the coming months. 

The key messages of the seminar were as follows:

  • INSANITY – Einstein’s definition is “…doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The point being that the most valuable exercise for revision is to assess what work you have already done, take note of mistakes and don’t make them again.
  • The value of completing practice papers.
  • Planning and preparation – detailed revision plans/exam room skills. 

Head of College House Mr Brown was hugely impressed with the seminar, saying: "The seminar was, I thought, really helpful and verging on the inspirational. Initial feedback from pupils is also very positive. The information was presented in such a helpful and interesting way, and I hope the pupils really benefitted." 

All Year 12s have access to the student implementation guide which contains follow-up exercises and activities, as well as tips for putting the skills into practice. Staff will also be looking to embed these skills in the classroom.

The students now also have access to Elevate Education's student website containing video tips, written study skills tips, GCSE & A Level practice questions and a forum for students to ask questions.