Saturday, 16 July 2016

A Legacy of Lies?

by Aladdin Benali (OP). This article was originally published on Westminster Review.

Last Wednesday was David Cameron’s last day as Prime Minister. After 6 years, his premiership came to an end as Theresa May moved into No. 10. Cameron’s time in office has been highly controversial, plagued by accusations of dishonesty and deception. But how justified are these charges?
Throughout Mr Cameron’s career, he has been described as a political chameleon, with Labour’s 2006 local election advertising slogan: “Dave the Chameleon”. His “Call me Dave” attitude attracted criticisms of being an ever-changing populist in his quest for power.
Cameron’s political integrity certainly comes into question when some of his promises are scrutinised. Many promises made in 2010 and 2015 elections have not been delivered on:
 “In five years’ time, we will have balanced the books”.
The deficit is set to be more than £73 billion this year. It has been cut by around 40%.
“We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT
VAT increased from 17.5% to 20% in 2011 under Cameron.
“I want us to be the greenest government ever

Support for solar panels on homes has been cut. Green Deal to help people insulate old homes, green building standards for new homes and support for industrial solar projects has also been scrapped

Source: All statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)
Cameron’s ability to deliver was certainly comprised in the Coalition (2010-2015). However, it would be wrong to presume that if a Prime Ministerial promise is blocked by political circumstances, we cannot hold it to account. For example, in April 2015 Cameron assured voters Tax Credits are “not going to fall”. The next Spending Review, however, saw severe cuts to Tax Credit. After political uproar and heavy criticism from the House of Lords, the government scrapped the proposed cuts. In this welfare failure, Cameron still made a promise that he did not intend to deliver.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Have A Great Summer . . .

Having passed two milestones in the last couple of weeks (our 2,000th post and half a millionth page view), Portsmouth Point blog will be taking a break over the summer. A big thank you to all of our editors, contributors and readers. 

See what Portsmouth Grammar School teachers will be reading over the summer holidays: BCH, DTD, LNP, LVB, SL, SP; RJIR; EEB, JEB, JEP, KGT, TMF, ASCC, MJS, MJW and Tom McCarthy; LAMS,PWG and GTP

Please read and enjoy the latest issue of the printed Portsmouth Point magazine (theme:‘Alien’) which has been sent home to pupils and parents in the end-of-term packs. See, below, the brilliant cover images produced by Portsmouth Point Photography Editor Will Hall (and read his explanation of how he achieved his 'alien' effects):

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Enrichment Week: Year 8 at Paulton Park

by Lucy Smith

I have put this video together from the Year 8 Paultons Park trip. 

Kimberly Sanders organised a brilliant trip, where Year 8 pupils got to study business and engineering, and try their hand at programming rides using software and models. I shot and edited this GoPro footage to give a flavour of the day.

Life’s a Competition, Isn't It?

by Lily Cannon

When it comes to phrases, “the early bird catches the worm” is a particular favourite of my younger brother, particularly when he has just seized the largest portion of dessert or piled into the front seat of the car, which between us is widely regarded as the best due to its superior view, close proximity to the radio and seat warmer. For me, therefore, this sentence induces a certain sense of irritation, possibly caused by my association of it with defeat.

However while sizzling in the heat of sports day today, racking my brains for something to write for the blog, I couldn't help but think of this phrase. Despite my strong dislike for it I think that there is a truth in the point made about competition. Too often another phrase is thrown at us by teachers, parents and coaches desperate to inspire some determination in their lacklustre teenagers,  no doubt you will be familiar with “life’s a competition” but aside from its use in cheesy pep talks, I encourage you to consider to what extent do you believe this?

Considering both arguments, on one hand many may dismiss the concept on the grounds that this is purely used to motivate others rather than as a motto to live by and lacks truth. Some may argue that ultimately the competition is with yourself and that achieving a personal best is the most important thing. Building on the theme of quotes I came across this from R. Kelly, “My greatest competition is, well, me.” A personal best is what most people naturally aim for trying to better themselves and improve on past attempts. It is, of course, how we learn, by making mistakes, analysing and using this newly acquired experience so that the next attempt will be more successful.

And yet, we find it almost impossible to not compare ourselves to others. For example, though I may try not to make a judgment based on an individuals appearance, I cannot help but have an opinion on it. Based on this opinion I would then, consciously or not, make a comparison or try to draw parallels between us. We cannot help looking for similarities and differences between ourselves and others in our animalistic desire to fit in. Our tendency for competition could also be described as instinctive and animalistic. Fundamentally competition is the attempt to be better than those around you, the exact definition being “the activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others.” In the fight for survival competition is key to primarily winning a mate, territory and prey. However the idea that we must compete with our peers and contemporaries in every aspect of life be it jobs, academia, love and relationships or appearance, is unnerving and therefore many choose to slander it. We believe ourselves too evolved and moralistic to bow to instinct but how much can we control our most basic desires?

Monday, 11 July 2016

What Are PGS Teachers Reading This Summer V

Portsmouth Point asked PGS teachers to reveal what they are looking forward to reading over the summer holidays. Here we feature selections by Ms SmithDr Galliver and Dr Purves.

Ms Smith

As St. Swinthuns’ Day approaches and the weather remains unsettled, my dreams of lazing on Southsea beach with a selection of books looks ever-unlikely. Maybe, instead, a coffee shop will have to provide my summer reading venue, in the absence of blazing sunshine.

First on my list in a book by modern feminist activist Laura Bates, Girl Up! I have to confess that I have actually almost finished this book, but thought it was worth a mention. Girl Up! is intended as a sort of manual or handbook to life as a young female in the 21st Century, offering a mixture of anecdotes, statistics and practical advice to surviving sexist pitfalls online, at work, at school, in the media, and just walking down the street. The title is a take on the language that dominates our culture in presenting masculinity as dominant and femininity as submissive: “grow a pair”, “alpha male” and, of course, “man up.” This would be a great book for those from Year 9 upwards, girls and boys, who care about challenging gender inequality in society and believe that gender stereotyping has the potential to hurt and limit everyone.

My next book on the list is Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig; this is one off the staff summer reading list, and deals with one man’s personal battle with mental health issues. Another book that made the staff summer reading list is Will Storr’s Heretics. My wonderful PRS colleague Jo Morgan dumped a copy of this on my desk just before she went on Sabbatical, with the instruction “Read this! I can’t stop thinking about it and I need someone to talk about it with!” I may have been a little slack in reading it, but I will get around to it over the summer.

This list is very non-fiction heavy, so I might also choose some fiction to read from the list of suggestions by my colleagues here. My final two selections continue in that vein, and are both books that my Year 13 A Level class bought me as parting gifts following our two years together. Bad jokes and puns being a speciality of mine, Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein’s Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar… , a philosophical joke book, seemed like an obvious choice to keep me supplied with enough ammunition (I’m hoping) for the remainder of my career. I’m also very excited to get my hands on Paola Tingli’s Women in Italian Renaissance Art, which has a dedicated chapter to the depiction of female Saints. Thanks a lot, Year 13! You clearly know me very well by now! 

Dr Galliver

I’m currently reading Mary Beard’s SPQR for the wholly unoriginal reason that I enjoyed her TV series and I have enjoyed the Robert Harris novels about Cicero.  I thought that I ought to know a little more Roman history.

With regard to novels, I’ve just started The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry.  It was quite well reviewed in The Tablet and it’s set in the late nineteenth century, my favourite period.  When I’ve finished this, I intend reading  Joseph O’Connor’s “Ghostlight” and Elena Ferrante’s “Story of The  Lost Child.”  Again, there’s no great depth of thought behind my choices other than O’Connor being an Irish writer I admire,, Ferrante an Italian, and my two most recent trips have been to Dublin and Naples.

I’ll also be reading Patrick Joyce’s “State of Freedom” and Ciaran O’Neill’s  “ Catholics of Consequence”  to see what they have to say about the part played by public schools in the formation of British elites.

Review of the 2016 Carnegie Medal Winner: One by Sarah Crossan

by Dulcie Langley

One is a powerfully emotive and uniquely original novel, encompassing many different complex themes and emotions such as first love, loss, identity and the question of whether everyone really is born with a soulmate.

The book explores the lives of twins Grace and Tippi. But not just twins – conjoined twins. Bound at the hip, these extraordinary sisters share a bond unlike any other; they are two entirely separate individuals yet at the same time completely in sync with each other. Two people, with different hopes and dreams, but sharing one body.

But sharing this uniquely unbreakable bond is inevitably followed by physical as well as emotional difficulties, suffered not by just the sisters themselves but their surrounding family, from finding the money to pay countless hospital bills from their treatment to braving the disdainful expressions and snide comments they receive for their differences.

When their financial situation worsens, the twins are forced from their protected and secure home-schooled lifestyle to the unforgiving and judgemental world of a public school. Suddenly, there is nowhere to hide from the curious enquiries and blunt remarks from other students.
But this is just the beginning hurdle for the girls. For around the corner lies an unexpected choice – the hardest of their lives. A decision they never imagined they would have to make…

This book was unlike anything I had never read before. I enjoyed the effect of the original layout – the story was written in simple verse, and this really enhanced the delivery of the book. A poem formed each chapter, and as such I often flicked back to chapters of particular poignancy and significance in the story. Some of these poems were also very powerful not just with the One back story yet standing alone too. I had never read a young adult novel that adopted this structure before, but it was extremely effective, especially in such an intensely emotional book as One. Pinpointing and highlighting particular phrases in each line of verse instead of simple long sentences, I believe, made the impact of each word in Sarah Crossan’s thought-provoking descriptions even more important.

What Are PGS Teachers Reading This Summer IV

Portsmouth Point asked PGS teachers to reveal what they are looking forward to reading over the summer holidays. Here we feature selectons by Mrs Casillas-CrossDr Smith, Mrs Worley and Tom McCarthy.

Mrs Casillas-Cross

I am sure I will be reading a lot of Elmer the Elephant this holiday or What the Ladybird Heard which seem to be favourites in our house. Yet hope to get a little time to read our summer read of reasons to stay alive which Stephen fry claims is 'astounding'! I am also intending to read Alexander II and the modernisation of Russia and Robert Service's A History of Modern Russia. Warriors don't Cry about the events at Little Rock High School in Arkansas has also been beside the alarm clock for a while and hopefully will give me a little American history fix once I have finished Empire of Liberty by G Wood.

Dr Smith

Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Discussions around the concept of England and Englishness, and indeed Britain and Britishness, have constituted a powerful undercurrent for much of the political debate over recent months and so I am looking forward to taking the historical long view by absorbing Bede’s 8th century perspective.

Andrew Graham-Dixon’s biography Caravaggio. I shall be interested to find out how the creation of Caravaggio’s brilliant paintings was threaded through his rather lively life, which included killing a man in a fight and consequently spending years ‘on the run’.

Eamon Duffy’s ground breaking work The Stripping of the Altars, a book which is said to have destroyed the traditional narrative of the English Reformation having been welcomed by the masses as a means of euthanasing an already dying and unpopular religion. Duffy shows that in the 100 years or so prior to the beginning of the Reformation, English Catholicism was in rude health, widely and piously practised across the full range of social strata. Much as with Bede, it will be interesting to discover a picture of English culture which bears little in common with that of our present age.

Casting back to even earlier times, I recently acquired a hefty tome containing the complete letters and sermons of Pope St Leo (I) The Great. At over 500 pages long it is not the sort of book you read from cover to cover but each article is quite short so I shall dip into it at random.

As for novels, I’m toying with the idea of re-reading Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead and also reading some more Graham Greene.

The Renewal of Expectations of Political Leadership

by Helen Jackson (a presentation made as part of a political discussion with Portsmouth South MP, Flick Drummond, during a PGS visit to the Houses of Parliament on Friday, 8th July). Photographs courtesy of Mr Gallop

PGS pupils and staff, with Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond, Westminster Hall

A wise man once said “times, they are a-changing”, and recent events have shown that something else is changing: the expectations of political leadership. Certain expectations, such as charisma, the ability to debate (both in parliament and on television) and crisis management, have always been prevalent in British politics. However, events such as the EU referendum and the increasing need for a media presence have meant that expectations have also had to adapt.

The Internet heralded the advent of 24 hour access to leaders, and they have been expected to adjust accordingly. Leaders are now expected to be able manage multiple social media accounts, respond to comments made by both their political opponents and members of the public, and keep the country up to date on their activities. Privacy is of little importance. Anything can become a news story overnight due to the Internet. Taking David Cameron as an example, the political leader of the country saw certain events take centre ground online, first when he left his children in a pub, and, of course, piggate.

Pupils and staff outside No. 10

All political leaders must be careful of what photographs are posted online, case in point Ed Milliband and the infamous bacon butty picture, but the EU referendum has brought with it more acute expectations. The need for unity has come to the foreground.
The conservatives need a leader to unite a fragmented parliamentary party in a post-Brexit Britain, and more generally, the country needs a leader to negotiate Britain into a strong positional we leave the EU.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

What Are PGS Teachers Reading This Summer III

Portsmouth Point asked PGS teachers to reveal what they are looking forward to reading over the summer holidays. Here we feature selections by Mr Priory, Ms Thomas, Mrs Bell, Mr Fairman and Mr Burkinshaw. 

Mr Priory

In honesty, I pile up books for the holiday, intending faithfully to read them, only to find myself being attracted to other titles in bookshops or books left behind on a shelf in a holiday home. So who knows what I will actually read this summer?

However, the pile currently includes:

The Night Wanderers by Wojciech Jagielsiki- a novel based on the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, which I am visiting this summer

Letters of Ted Hughes edited by Christopher Reid- Hughes' imagination and story fascinate me and this collection offers a real insight into both 

All Wickets Great and Small by John Fuller- an entertaining study of grassroots cricket in Yorkshire recently published by my brother-in-law, who is cricket-mad and based in Bingley

The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse- a Gothic tale set in nearby Bosham, and rather intriguing as its not often you see taxidermy (something I confess to dabbling in in my teenage years) mentioned in a title!

Ms Thomas

I plan on reading:

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Three Days: A Passion by Tom Fairman
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Mrs Bell
I shall be completing the Richard Ford 'Bascombe' novels: The Sportswriter and its sequels, Independence Day, The Lay of the Land and Let Me Be Frank with You  - which are fantastically wry and revealing about being a 'grown-up'. 

I shall also be dipping into collections by poets I have been lucky enough to meet during my sabbatical: Caroline Bird, Kei Millar and Ross Donlon and Roselle Angwin, among others.

Learning about Photography

by Francesca Dellafera

Over the course of this term I have recently enjoyed taking photographs, whether for the means of art or just for fun. In art at the moment I am studying consumerism and so am keen to explore different ways to portray this. Here are some of my experiments:

In this photograph I have played around with different features, say the F-stop, which controls the lightness and the darkness of the image.