السلام عليكم

As-salam alaykum (السلامعليكم). Year 8, as part of their Tolerance unit in Theology and Philosophy, visited the London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre in Regent’s Park on Monday 23rdSeptember. Their aim was to have the opportunity to experience a mosque in an ethnically and culturally diverse part of the UK. By doing this, they were able to enrich their study of the Islamic worldview and experience a practising theistic community in a culturally plural environment, with the implications and importance of this being they could begin answering existential questions and formulating personal truths.

Accompanied by Mrs Cousins (their Matron) and Mr Brownley, they were met by their tour guide, Aisha Abdella, in the forecourt of the Masjid. They undertook a unique tour of the Mosque, which was donated by King George VI to the Muslim community of Britain in return for the donation of land in Cairo by King Farouk of Egypt and Sudan on which to build an Anglican cathedral. The pupils were able to sit in the prayer hall (with their shoes off) and observe the beautiful patterns on the inside of the dome and the lack of imagery and pictures on the walls. This is important to Muslims in order to focus their minds only on prayer to Allah.

The pupils were given a tour of the educational rooms, which had detailed explanation of the philosophy of Islam and the key principles of the religion. Finally they were invited to observe the Zuhr prayer (noon) and sat at the back of the hall as they saw nearly 400 worshippers break their work day to pray. The Adhan was called (this is the Arabic call to prayer, which is recited, through a microphone, by theMuezzin and echoes around all the buildings of the Mosque as well as through the minaret across Regent’s Park.

The pupils are aiming to understand the link between a state and the religion of Islam. Both contain similar core attributes and focuses like authority, justice, the right to equality and the need for tolerance. It is an important way to approach the religion after news reports of terror attacks (including the death of Lee Rigby), the vandalism of Mosques and burning of the Qu’ran. We live in a plural democracy and logic (and philosophers) says that for each person to thrive we must tolerate the beliefs, actions and practices of others, especially if these are found to be different to our own.

Burn or Turn

Burn or Turn was the provocative title of the final lecture in a series of four attended by Year 13 History students. It centred around the burning issue of whether Mary Tudor was right to burn around 300 Protestants as part of her restoration of Catholicism in the 1550s. Eminent historian, Peter Marshall’s conclusion was that it wasn’t a great idea, but that everything else Mary did was enlightened and positive and that she certainly does not deserve the title ‘Bloody Mary’.

Students were attending these lectures at the City Temple in Holborn put on by Sovereign Education as part of their revision programme. The annual visit is seen as an important part of their course; it gives them direct access to the foremost experts on the Tudor period and a taste of university-style lectures.

Other lectures addressed Tudor rebellions, the reign of the “Boy King” Edward VI and the central issue of whether or not there was a crisis in government in the Mid-Tudor period, the latter being presented by Professor Ronald Hutton from Bristol, an expert regularly seen on television. 

Inspirational Jazz

You expect supreme technical proficiency and the ability to make the complex look simple from the National Youth Jazz Orchestra but Shiplake College’s GCSE musicians were astounded by the sheer exuberance of the performance.

They were privileged to be in the Kenton Theatre audience prior to the NYJO’s big-band, foot-tapping evening performance. Since 1965 the NYJO has given the future cream of British Jazz the opportunity to play off each other and to blend their skills and sounds into a band with ever-changing and fascinating group dynamics. 

At the heart of the performance was Duke Ellington’s Queen Suite, written in 1959 and then extended in 1971, and 1972. Ellington had clearly been captivated by his meeting with the British Monarch and he presented the only pressing of the record to Queen Elizabeth. It is only since Ellington’s death that the record has been commercially recorded.

M4 traffic marred the afternoon as the band’s vocalist failed to make it to rehearsal but the rest of the band, largely sixth form and university age musicians provided plenty to inspire. The finale of the James Bond Theme finished the afternoon in a style typical of OO7 and it was appropriate that local jazz musician Alan Graham, who has mentored so many of the local musicians in the band, had played on the original recording half a century ago.


Digital Pathways Workshop

Originals of the Magna Carta, Mercator’s World Map, Robert Falcon Scott’s last letter to his wife, some Beatles’ lyrics and Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook were some of the treasures viewed by Lower Sixth Form students visiting the British Library for a Digital Pathways Workshop in support of the AQA Extended Project Qualification.

The main purpose of the day was to develop digital research, referencing and investigative skills. Areas covered included how to use a search engine and how to establish the trustworthiness of websites.  A  search of a well-known chemical website showed that it had been hacked by an environmental group and using VisualTracer  pupils were able to trace the URL to India. There were handy tips on useful websites and digital presentation tools.

All pupils chose an artefact to research and finished by giving a short presentation to the rest of the group. Topics included: the Great Fire of London, Anne Boleyn (presented using Facebook!) and Shakespeare’s Folio.

This was a day that all will find extremely useful for future sixth form and university studies.





Seeking a site for a llama farm

‘There’s something going on today,’ said one of the locals finding that Midhurst’s Budgens was rather busy for a Monday morning. Over one hundred Shiplake pupils had arrived for an economy version of Supermarket Sweep. Carefully planned menus, with a budget of £5 per head per day, heavily pasta-based, were augmented with a few treats as the boys shopped for their Bronze and Silver DofE expeditions.

After sharing out the rations between their groups of six or seven, and cramming them into the last space in their rucksacks, the groups set off on their routes across the South Downs.

A variety of missions, including finding sites for a llama farm and a music festival, were successfully completed. With mist shrouding the landscape the walks provided a thorough test of the map-reading and navigation skills learnt in preparation for the expeditions.


Iceland Trip

At the beginning of the October half term holiday 30 GCSE and A level Geographers and four staff flew from Heathrow to Iceland for a five day trip. The youngest inhabited island in the world at only 24 million years old, Iceland is the size of Ireland but has a population only twice that of Reading. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t much to offer - after four days of sightseeing we hadn’t even left the south west region!

With no volcanic eruptions to worry about we landed at Keflavik Airport and were immediately greeted with icy Arctic winds as we headed into the heart of the capital Reykjavik. Early the next morning we began our journey along the country’s only major road (the N1- very creative!) towards the town of Vik. On route we visited stunning waterfalls at Seljalandsfoss and then Skogafoss before a walk on the Solheimajokull glacier.

After staying overnight in an incredibly remote hotel, day three took us to the black beaches of Dyrholaey and some of the roughest sea conditions any of us had seen before heading back to Reykjavik and an evening visit to the public swimming pools heated by geothermic power.

Day four saw us complete the famous ‘Golden Circle’ which includes the most popular tourist spots in the country. Starting with a visit to the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power station, we then moved onto see Gullfoss (The ‘Golden Waterfall’) and the famous geothermic Geysirs where we were treated to regular eruptions of water up to 30 metres high before a walk through Þingvellir National Park, the Nordic Parliament site on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. On the last morning we visited the Gunnuhver hot springs and geothermal area before relaxing at the Blue Lagoon spa prior to our flight home.

G L Seccombe, Head of Geography

Travel & Tourism Students Visit Bath and Stratford

Having chosen to study BTEC Travel and Tourism as a Sixth form option, 18 students spent three days learning what it meant to be a tourist by visiting some of the UK’s most popular tourist attractions outside London. Leaving Shiplake early on Thursday 20thSeptember, the group travelled to Bath in order to visit the Roman Baths, walk around the town and try to get an understanding for why approximately 5 million people got there each year. With these 5 million people spending on average £348 million per year, it was clear how crucial tourism is the local economy.

After staying overnight in Bath and taking over a superb yet small Italian restaurant, the group moved north east the next morning to Stratford-upon-Avon. Birthplace of two of the UK’s most famous sons (William Shakespeare and Mr Seccombe (Trip Leader)), Stratford is one of the most popular destinations for international tourists coming to the UK and travelling outside London.  The group started with a tour of Shakespeare’s birthplace before a walk around the town led by Mr Seccombe and local resident/ Learning Development department teacher Mr Cooksey. Walking along the River Avon the group visited Holy Trinity Church where the Bard was buried and the recently refurbished Royal Shakespeare Theatre. In the evening, after taking over another restaurant, the group went back to the theatre to watch a superb production of ‘Twelfth Night’.

Day three started early with a visit to Warwick Castle, where the group learnt about the history of the Castle and enjoyed the variety of attractions and exhibitions within the Castle.  After spending three hours exploring the Castle it was time to head back to Shiplake after a thoroughly enjoyable three days. The students will be reflecting on their experience and what they have learnt about the tourism industry in upcoming assignments.  


Year 12 Geography Trip to Wales

On Sunday 11thof March, 23 Year 12 Geographers travelled to the village of Borth in West Wales to conduct a series of fieldwork activities, aimed at enhancing our understanding from lessons and collecting data for fieldwork analysis and investigation.  

Staying in a hostel overlooking the beach and eating meals at a local golf club, we were well situated to complete the work that was required.

On Monday morning we woke to the smells of a full welsh cooked breakfast before beginning our coasts day. We started with a walk to the top of the nearest headland, where, despite a thick sea mist, we were able to look across the entire bay and get our first glimpses of the recent £13 million coastal defence project. From here we moved onto listen to a presentation by the engineering company Bam Nuttal who are completing the work which should protect the village from coastal erosion and flooding for the next 100years. Cost benefit analysis is crucial in this sort of project and with predicted damage of £30 million over the next 100 years if nothing was done, it seems a sensible option.

After lunch we did our fieldwork on the sand dunes, where we investigated a full Psammosere succession through the Ynyslas dunes. Collecting profile data, ph samples and vegetation coverage, we will have all of the detail we need for the upcoming Unit 2 exam.  Once the ph samples were analyses and we had enjoyed a hearty meal it was time to celebrate Harry Cheesewright’s birthday to a local caravan site bowling alley.

The next day we followed the Afon (river) Rheidol from its source to its mouth looking at the upper, middle and lower course before making our way to the mouth at Aberystwyth, comparing gradient, sediment size and flow before matching this data to the Bradshaw model we have studied in class. On arrival back to Borth we walked along the coast and got close up views of the sea defences being made and a submerged forest that was appearing because of shifting sands.

On the last day before the trip home we did a village profile of Borth, in order to  see what the area was mainly used for, such as tourism or housing and as a result decide whether the village should have so much money spent on protecting it or not.

Thank you to Mr Seccombe, Mr Pavey, Mr Howorth and Mrs White for this opportunity to go see the lovely, sunny coast of west Wales- we all thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Charlie Foster, Year 12.


Year 9 Visit WW1 Battlefields

Day One:  No-one was quite sure what we were in for as we left Shiplake on the day we broke up for half term.   We knew that we were going to see World War One battlefields and cemeteries, but we had no idea of the impact it would have upon us.

After a long coach trip to Dover and ferry crossing to Calais, we made our way to the Youth Hostel at Ypres where we stayed the first night. 

Day Two:  our first visit was to Essex Farm, which was the site of a Canadian field hospital.  Many British soldiers were buried here.  It was immediately obvious that Mr Cooksey knew a huge amount about the battlefields, and how lucky we were to have him with us.  He described the scene so well – not just the landscape, but also the conditions at the time of the war, and how the soldiers would have felt. 

Later that day we also visited the cemetery at Tyne Cot and also the German cemetery at Langemarck.   The size of the cemeteries was overwhelming – 44,000 graves at Langemarck and almost 12,000 at Tyne Cot, including over 8,000 which were un-named – the grave stones just had “Soldier of the Great War” on them.

That evening after supper, we attended the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate.  There was a large arch with names of the missing soldiers, who have no known grave.  At 8 o’clock, four trumpeters sounded the last post to commemorate the missing soldiers.  It was a very moving moment as everyone there was silent, thinking about the huge loss of life.

Day Three:  Friday 21st October- we left Ypres and travelled to the site of the battle of the Somme in France.  We were in the middle of nowhere – just farmland as far as the eye could see.  It gave us a real sense of the scale of the battlefield.   In our itinerary packs we saw photos of soldiers crawling across the same site, and we re-enacted the scene.  Crawling across the fields made us think about what the soldiers had experienced.

We then travelled to the Newfoundland Park, another Canadian cemetery and after lunch we visited the Ulster Tower, a monument to soldiers from Northern Ireland. 

The most extraordinary sight of the day was the Lochnagar crater.   The Lochnagar mine was an explosive-packed mine created by Royal Engineers.  It was detonated at 7:28 am on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  The explosions created what was then the loudest man-made sound in history and a crater 300 feet across and 70 feet deep.  Standing on the edge of the crater, you could almost imagine how soldiers must have felt when they saw the destruction.

Day Four: On our last day we visited the German and British trenches at Vimy, which was part of the Battle of Arras.  The trenches were well-preserved, with concrete sand-bags to keep them in place.  Walking there gave us a soldier’s view of life in the trenches.  The most amazing thing was the distance between the British and German lines – so close that they could hear each other talking.

Our final visit was to the stunning Canadian monument at Vimy.  Two huge white stone towers, representing the Canadian and French forces.  On the walls around the monument were the names of yet more soldiers who had no known grave.

As we left France, it was hard to take in everything we had seen.  Walking in the trenches was amazing – to think that so much is still preserved from almost 100 years ago.   The size of the cemeteries was astounding, and brought home to us the scale of the loss of life and the importance of remembering those that died.  After this trip, as the poem says – “We will remember them”.

Thanks to our teachers and especially Mr Cooksey for giving us such a terrific experience.   


James Hargreaves Year 9 Skipwith  

Kenya Expedition 2010: Gods amongst men

Kenya TripMount Kenya will always top 17,000 feet and the white water rapids will douse the raft's passengers with chilling water. Herds of elephants will trample past the camp site and fish will team over the coral reefs in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. But it is the people who make or break an expedition.

The Shiplake College expedition of July 2010 on their 25 days of travel bonded like no other. Even though they pitched camp on volcanic rock, were besieged by ticks, suffered twisted ankles and even a scorpion’s sting, they looked out for each other and looked after each other.

They accepted the rotas and hardships willingly, always ensuring that the last dish was washed and that when they pitched camp in the wilderness it remained an unspoilt wilderness as they left. It is on such selfless teamwork and camaraderie that the success of an exhibition depends.

Arriving at Kikunduku, amidst a dancing feet welcome, billowing clouds of dust into the warm bush air, the group saw how much progress the schools had made, plaques commemorating each of the projects funded by Shiplake College's efforts. They also saw how much remains to be done and how thankful the community is for Shiplake's support.

Having delivered desperately needed books, uniforms, pens, paper, sports equipment, wood and paints the group set to work to construct desks for study. Packing their rucksacks with books and paints a sub-expedition undertook the treacherous, ankle-wrenching 5km walk to Nzouni School.

Chris Clifford, an Old Viking now at university, and the poet of the expedition, returned for a second expedition, as did Andrew Galligan. They knew of the long weary trek to the top of Mount Kenya. The final ascent beginning at 0200 am with altitude sickness jabbing at head and stomach. Yet the lure of Africa pulled them back again. As Chris wrote “we stood on top of the world as gods amongst men."

The Shiplake contingent of 8 boys, led by Emma Arnold deserved their relaxation in Watamu waters and snorkelling from Captain Zuma's dhow. Twenty five days can open eyes, warm hearts and change lives. There is no doubt that many of these adventurers will wish to return for the next expedition.