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With the launch of the latest Student Magazine, entirely produced by members of the Sixth Form, we thought we'd share some of the interesting articles and musings on the blog site.  The first is an interesting article by Elizabeth Baker on the importance of the Arts in contributing the creativity in everyday life and whether it is given enough credability in our education system.  The article has been brought to life by some stunning illustrations by Mary Lykova (Year 13) and we are delighted to be able to share these.

All those that have found a love of the Arts struggle to be taken seriously in their studies, work and even whole careers. A stigma surrounds the arts as a soft, easy subject for all those that are not intelligent enough for Academic subjects.

As a result, many people are put off the idea of pursuing an artistic career in which they may have thrived and adored, for fear of seeming academically unsuccessful, unrealistic or just lazy. Yet for individuals from Jamie Oliver to Coco Chanel, an education and pursuit of a career in the arts had yielded massive success.

The creative industry permeates a huge range of things we just don't notice in our day-to-day lives. How about fashion? Pick an item of clothing you own, maybe you're wearing it right now. That piece of clothing has likely been meticulously planned and designed, scrapped, reimagined, tweaked and perfected countless numbers of times to even make it to the final cut.

The arts are in anything and everything we see in our world. Yet we take all this completely for granted. This morning we all rolled out of bed, got out of those pjs, maybe flicked on the radio or checked the morning paper. Some of us put on some makeup, others ate a bit of toast, but we all interacted with someone's final product of massive amounts of hard work. (Interior Design, radio, music, the written word, fashion, the culinary arts- on PowerPoint). And we haven't even begun to touch on the major industries of music and film.

However, if we look at the Creative Arts as equally challenging, rewarding and beneficial to study as, say, the sciences -this does then beg the question, are subject choices a fair measurement of ability? What could have been made of these brilliant creative minds had they somehow joined the ranks of brilliant academics of their time?

Professor of speech sciences at University College London, Valerie Hazan says: "As a scientist you have to be creative to really think what is the question."

Poet, Lavinia Greenlaw says: "Poets are often thought of as vague and wishy-washy, but, like scientists, they can't be. A poem can be about vagueness, but it has to be in precise relationship to vagueness if it's any good.”  

Perhaps it's not only the would-be-rock stars-turned-accountants that are missing out. Perhaps the Industries themselves are missing out on prospective innovations and contributions that a wider diversity of talent and types of intelligence could bring. A creatively-nurtured brain could bring a critical new perspective to a patient's diagnosis or ground-breaking new scientific theory to the table. Interestingly Albert Einstein, for one, had a passion for classical music and playing the violin. In fact, historically a proficiency in arts and sciences has proven to produce the most impressive individuals, like Plato (epistemology, militarism to politics) and Brian Cox.

Conversely, our society today pigeonholes individuals so easily that great potential may be woefully neglected. Confining and categorising ourselves in this way as Creative or non-Creative, to me at least, therefore seems entirely illogical. This is especially true of the incredibly early specialisation seen in England's schools where children as young as 13, are required to drop subjects. Imagine if Leonardo da Vinci had gone through our education system today. One of the greatest geniuses of our history may have been put into the bottom set for maths, been completely discouraged in his abilities outside painting and sculptures and turned solely to art. Some of the world's most outstanding investigations into human anatomy, botany, machinery, military engineering, and physics would have been completely lost to the world. Or maybe his mathematical talents would have been recognised but isolated, forcing him into a corresponding career, never allowing him to take an artistic apprenticeship and develop his artistic talents or paint 'The Last Supper' or the 'Mona Lisa'.

Da Vinci, like many leaders of the Renaissance humanist movement, never saw a divide between science and art, seeing them instead as intertwined disciplines from which one benefitted from one another. For that reason, I think da Vinci would approve of my saying that I believe we need to rekindle our respect for the Arts and allow our talented individuals to redevelop a relationship between science and art and pave the way towards their joint thriving evolution.

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Claire Rhodes, Year 13, recounts a fascinating Geography trip to Iceland, where the icebergs, waterfalls, lava caves and geysers provided a truly memorable landscape.

A short flight from Bristol to Keflavik International Airport brought us to one of the most amazing places on earth.  Iceland is famous with geographers, so being an A-Level geography student myself, I could not contain my excitement.

Having been initially taken-aback by the flatness of the land and the freezing cold temperatures we made our way to the Bridge Between Two Continents, spanning the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs through Iceland between the Eurasian Plate and the North American Plate. We were quite literally standing on the effects of continental drift.

We then visited the vigorously bubbling Gunnuhver, Iceland’s largest mud pool with a diameter of 20m. The steam vents were huge and bombarded us all with an overwhelming stench of rotten eggs! We also learnt about a mad female ghost called Gunna, who would hang around Reykjanes peninsula mud pools so she could kidnap or kill unsuspecting travellers.

Arriving in the capital, Reykjavik and walking down the streets, we passed street performers playing jazz music, giving the area a magical and Christmassy vibe. It almost felt like Paris, or on some picturesque movie set for an American Christmas film. On the way to dinner we passed Hallgrímskirkja (good luck pronouncing that), a modern cathedral with a breath-taking tower, which is composed of large circular tanks, which hold the city’s naturally heated water reserves.

Even dinner at The Hamburger Factory was interesting, as they had the number of the population of Iceland stuck up on their wall and whenever a new baby was born they would pick a customer to ring the bell and increase the number by one. I asked a waitress what they did when someone died, and she simply replied “We wait till everyone has gone home and then lower the number”.

My personal highlights for day two was walking under two waterfalls, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Fun Fact: You can see it featured in Justin Beiber’s recent music video for ‘I’ll show you’.

At night we stayed in cozy little cabins where we sat out on the balcony and marvelled at the Northern Lights - the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

Our trip amongst the icebergs on the Jökulsárión Glacial Lagoon was unforgettable. The glacial lake is one of the deepest in Iceland, and scattered with enormous icebergs the size of houses, which were carved off the Breiðamerkurjökull. Just before sunset, we went for a hike on the glacier Svínafellsjökull, where our guide showed us around a wonderland of ice sculptures, ridges and deep crevasses and let us loose with our own ice axes.

Highlights of the final day included a visit to Keriö, a ginormous volcanic crater lake, formed after a volcanic eruption; a trip to the geysers in Geysir; and lava caving where, when we got to the deepest part of the cave, our tour guide told us to switch our lights off. If there is one thing I will remember from this trip it is how dark it was in that cave - the sort where if someone waved their hand right in front of your face, you would have no idea it was there!

Finally, we went to visit Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions and one of the wonders of the world, the Blue Lagoon. It is indescribable how amazing it feels to be floating in the warm water, with a cold slushy in hand and looking up at the stars!

Iceland is a must visit destination. I can truly guarantee to anyone who is planning on visiting Iceland that you will have a magical time and see things that will stay with you for a lifetime.

 

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You may have seen the headline recently: ‘Old painting found in Scotland, last valued at £25, now thought to be worth £25 million’.  Prep Headmaster, Andrew Moore, explains the significance of this.

It’s the story of the discovery of a Raphael in a Scottish manor house. It started with the visit of an art historian who noticed the painting high up in a dark corner. It was discoloured by layers of old varnish, “I thought, my goodness, it looks like a Raphael. It was very dirty and slightly yellow. Being an anorak, I go round houses like this with binoculars and torches. If I hadn’t done that, I’d probably have walked past it.” (Mr B. Grosvenor, Smithsonian.com)

The part of the story which amused me was the thought that it could be worth £25million, but maybe not, it could still be worth £25 and how incredible it was that something could be extremely valuable or virtually worthless, no-one really knew for sure. The actual appearance made very little difference, it was the history (or depth) which was important.

It made me think about the value of a really good education. I passionately believe that is something which must not be underestimated. The sort of education which creates life-long learners, people who are kind, generous, adaptable, diligent and thoughtful is essential for every family, community and nation. It is not always possible to judge the value of this aged eleven or even eighteen, but it becomes clearer at twenty-five, forty or seventy. We are all concerned not just with life, but with the quality of life for ourselves and our neighbours throughout the world. There are some massive world issues ahead as the world population continues to grow from 7 billion to nearer 11 billion by the end of the century. Our children will need to engage with all the issues and have the courage, strength and determination to make difficult, and hopefully good, decisions.

What value can you put on education? I would willingly trade a Raphael lying in a dark corner of a Scottish Manor or even in a dark bank vault for an excellent education for my children. Admittedly, we are unlikely to get the windfall of a Raphael in the attic, but what is it worth? It may be more possible than you think.

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If you have ever thought about visiting Northern India, then read Geography teacher, Natalie Cordon’s beautifully descriptive account of her 14-day kayak expedition through the remote region of Ladakh, amongst landscapes carved out through the epochs of time.

On arriving in Leh, Ladakh, in Northern India, at 3,500mm above sea level, and the absence of my luggage which was on a holiday of its own somewhere in the Middle East, I found myself having to focus on not passing out from the thin air, but excited at the prospect of beginning my expedition.

The drive from Leh to the put-on of the Tsarap Chu river was far from your usual shuttle. The mountain passes reach over half the height of Everest with Himalayan views of cloud-shrouded mountains to take your breath away. I also enjoyed my highest ever 'loo with a view'!

As we descended the other side of the mountain pass, the nomad tents came into view. These remote Himalayan yurts would be our most spectacular home for the night.

First impressions of the Tsarap River did not disappoint. A series of beautiful box canyons with intimidating horizon lines which at first seemed like the gates to hell but funnelled down into wonderfully clean rapids and brought us to our first camp. 

From here, the Tsarap's character changed dramatically as the gradient flattened, the water slowed to a stand-still and the thick soup of sediment settled to the bottom of the lake to reveal azure blue waters and a hair wash opportunity.

After a hard day of paddling we camped on the beach below Phuktal monastery, a remote Himalayan community of monks accessible only by a 14-day hike or a multiday kayak expedition. A warm welcome from the little 'monkies' felt like the perfect end to a most incredible day of beauty and thrilling whitewater.

A short day of paddling followed. Gone were the tight box canyons with intervening sections of fast-flowing flat water and Reru Falls opened up before us. ​A perfectly flat expanse of river beach at the end of the rapid was a welcome relief and an idyllic camp spot.

The following day, we paddled in to Padum town. Our arrival felt somehow bitter sweet with the prospect of a shower, deliciously sticky walnut cake, a bed and excessive amounts of food very much welcome, yet meant missing the night sky, shooting stars and sunrise over the mountains.

Fully revived, we set off the following morning excited by the prospect of another night under the stars. The confluence of the Tsrarp and the Zanskar rivers felt truly special with the volume increasing and the walls of the world-renowned Zanskar gorge, the Grand Canyon of Asia, closing in - purple and green copper sheer vertical walls with a supremely complex system of faults and folds seemed perfectly preserved from the collision of the Indian subcontinent and the formation of the Himalayas millions of years beforehand.

​The human history of the Zanskar is just as astonishing as its physical landscape. Blackened caves high in the sides of the canyon showed evidence of the resilient communities living and working in such a seemingly barren landscape, people who use the Zanskar River as a kind of frozen highway in winter, making multiday expedition at -40 degrees Celsius as an accepted part of life and culture, a commute to work, school and market, not a sport.

The opening out of the Zaskar canyon yielded several big volume and playful rapids before its confluence with the mighty Indus. Whilst our time on the Indus was relatively short, it felt humbling to paddle on one of the world's great rivers that helped to shape the continent, gave life to the earliest of Indian civilisations, continues to support life in the high altitude desert today and indeed gave India its name.

It is with great regret that I had to leave Ladakh and return to life as usual in the UK but I am not sad for I know that I will return and I look forward to sharing this special place with friends and family.

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