Friday, 14 July 2017

Enjoy the summer . . .

We wish our readers plenty of opportunities to explore new places, new experiences and new ideas over the summer holiday. 

Of course, we invite you not only to journey through the pages of the 'Exploration' issue of Portsmouth Point magazine (published today), but to navigate the hundreds of fascinating articles on the Portsmouth Point blog written by pupils, staff and OPs over the course of this year.  

Bon voyage! 

Cover image from the 'Exploration' issue of Portsmouth Point magazine: by Oliver Stone

The Editors
Portsmouth Point

Poem: Observing a Return

by Fenella Johnson

I heard them first just after eight ;
their horns screaming in jubilant ecstasy,
which rose to the pitch of the swarming incessant flies
that we batted away with our hands,
then the sound of engines emerged, unscathed by,and clawed free from,the wind,
sound that felled the peace of the eveningand
as they gathered even closer,
I saw the men abroad,work soiled and sloth bellied.
Above the clouds roved the sky,
and below the little unfurled masters of waves,
summer spun and unspeakably lovely,
iridescent as gladiolus
beloved and scattered by the ocean.
Not even the squelch of rain halted their stately approach,
as they moved not in that intoxicating pace of mid-summer,
but steadily
the boats shaking themselves free of the breeze
and splendidly,stupendously gliding into the bay.

Why It Is So Important to Learn German

by Naeve Molho

German is often regarded as a harsh sounding, difficult and isolated language, however most people’s perceptions could be hardly further from the truth. This article will discuss some key reasons as to why German learning is so important, from an economic, cultural, linguistic and academic stance.

The Economy
Economically Germany is not only the largest Economy in Europe, but the fourth largest in the world.  Therefore anyone aspiring for a career in business or finance would find German a very useful and important tool in aiding their career. The Economy is so strong that despite the recent and rising  migration crisis, Germanys economy has remained stable.

The Global Business opportunities
Germany is well known for its innovative and successful  global business’s, therefore knowledge in the language would particularly help a future career with the potential to be working in the headquarters of any of the German brands including : BMW, Adidas, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Puma. It is important to highlight Germanys contribution towards the international market as they are not often recognised for their global contributions.

The Fashion Industry
Germany’s fashion industry is one of the most prominent in the world with their concentration on the new young designers. Berlin Fashion week holds a huge variety of talents, which is not surprising with the amount of popular German designers and fashion figures such as , Karl Lagerfeld, Hugo Boss, Heidi Klum and Wolfgang Doop.

A widely spoken language
 Not only is German one of the official languages of the European Union, but the most widely spoken language in Europe.  Learning German offers a chance to connect and network globally with over 100 million people who are able to speak it!

German Culture
Whether your passion is for art or history Germany offers a huge variety of cultural heritage sites. An understanding of the language could give you a chance to learn about these in far more depth and detail.  Whether it’s visiting checkpoint Charlie, the Reichstag or even Oktoberfest your language knowledge can lead you anywhere.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Time Lapse of Painting

by Imogen Ashby

Leonardo Prize Year 7 Winner: Coast

by Thomas Woodward

The sun lay untouched,
Tranquil and laid-back.
Gently lapping to and fro,
It was as flat as a millpond.

She inhaled deeply,
A pebble rolled onto the sand,
Etched with scratches and scars.
She exhaled strongly,
The pebble parted the water like Moses.

She inhaled deeply.

Life to the Full

by Tom Fairman

The excitement of the holidays has begun in earnest and teachers are just as excited if not more so than the students. The thought of lazy mornings with no alarm, no bells signalling the next lesson, not moving to someone else’s timetable, but being free to choose your own path, to do what you want to do is almost a reality. What is not to be excited about? The juxtaposition between term time and the holidays is never so apparent as at the time when they meet; possibly the light being brightest when it follows the dark.
There is a wonderful child like feeling in this excitement. The joy can feel as if it is bubbling under the surface, ready to burst and bring life back into your life. That is not to say that there are no joys in teaching, but the holidays are when you feel most alive, when you can recover and have life to the full. The long hours, emotional investment and physical exertion are only possible with the time to relax and replenish so you can give your all to the children in your classes. The work without the holidays leads to burnout and the holidays without the work leads to purposelessness. A full life requires them to be in tandem; the disciples were sent out with a mission, not just to rely on the goodwill, but to earn their keep.
 When life is in tandem, things are complete, they are at their fullest, there is nothing missing. However there is a common restlessness, a feeling of something missing that seems to not be satisfied by any logical arguments or by obtaining more stuff. This feeling is not dependent on whether the sun is shining in your life or if the storm clouds are gathering. If this is all there is to life, if what we have in front of us is the extent of our purpose, if our worth, satisfaction and ability to deal with the bad stuff is just based on what we have, then it is a very incomplete world we live in. 
When people you love die prematurely, when you have great success, but others suffer, it is natural to search for meaning. Rational, psychological arguments are offered, but sometimes fall short. People will always want and need more than an explanation of how our brains work or the way atoms interact however interesting and true these things are. There seems to be something in our human condition that yearns for something beyond this world. This world is not enough and as humans we are not complete with just what is in front of us.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Leonardo Prize Year 8 Winner: Omaha Beach

by Gio Avondo

The soft summer sand of the beach
Warmed the boy's feet.
It rippled in even waves
As he chased his brother.

An overwhelming bang,
Caused him to stop,
And the once-bright coast,
Became a cloudy, foreboding landscape.

Landing crafts unloaded groups of frightened men,
Gunfire could be heard all the way down the beach,
Which led to hundreds falling,

Blood soaked the sand,
Screams filled the air,
And wherever the boy went,
At bodies he would stare.

Then he blinked.

The men became children,
Playing in the sea.
And the towering tank was replaced
By an ice cream van.
The dog's bark was mistaken for the gunfire,
Sounded seconds before.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Leonardo Prize Year 10 Winner: Coast

by Isla Sligo-Young

Mirages twist me back and forth,
Coastlines l have been waiting for days roll over my mind.
The boat rolls and rocks,
The dinghy screams out for help just like mum did when the waves took her.
Dad holds me down, scared that if he lets go this trip will be more hell than hope.
The smuggler says we are almost there but I don’t trust him anymore,
All I trust is that the endless waves always come back for me,
All I trust is that the new land can never make up for this crossing,
All I trust is that the waves bring nothing but death and destruction.
l blink away the cliffs in front of me,
Take them from my mind and crush them beneath the waves,
They stay as solid as the old mountains at home.
Hysteria rises on our carrier, people push like a current to see what’s before us
I get swept under the feet as the tide rises.
Boat shifts and groans beneath its effort,
The splintering makes my stomach swirl like the water around us.
They hear it too.
We all hear it now.
I curl up, praying for the white horses to carry me to the shore,
They trust me now, they let me braid their fragile manes beneath my fingertips
I’m begging them to let me sit astride, to float like a wave to safety.
But they haven’t replied yet
Already they are grabbing at my ankles,
Clutching at my waist,
Clenching at my throat.
Sand spins around me,
Sea, sky and sand toss me back and forth
Back and forth,
Back and forth
Sand slams me down
Sea recedes
Sky takes over
I’m lying
I’m breathing
But I’m not living.
This isn’t living.

Monday, 10 July 2017

"The Nasty Party" - How the DUP is Toxifying the Tories

by Katie Sharp

Recently, the views of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have come to the media’s attention after the party agreed to prop up a Conservative minority government. Many people have criticised Theresa May’s decision to enter an informal coalition with a party that has views many would describe as backwards and antiquated. This is particularly significant, considering the fact that Conservatives have been trying to rid themselves of these labels for years. As May said herself at the 2002 Conservative party conference: There's a lot we need to do in this party of ours. Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us: the nasty party."

This quote makes it seem very odd that May would contradict herself later on (it’s not like we’ve seen her do something like this before with the snap general election, of course). Using the DUP as a way to cling on to power proves that all the Conservatives currently care about is keeping hold of power, something they may certainly pay for in the next General Election if this minority government turns sour.

Unsure of the views of the DUP? Here are the views of some of the current DUP MPs.

Sammy Wilson, MP for East Antrim, former Minister of the Environment for the DUP- denies the existence of climate change (“I still think man-made climate change is a con”), described breastfeeding in the House of Commons as “voyeuristic” and the women who want to as “exhibitionists”.

David Simpson, MP for Upper Bann- creationist, voted against the Same Sex Couples Bill in 2013 and spoke against the Bill, as seen in this video: 

Winner of the Leonardo Poetry Prize 2017: The Closing

by Isobel Kaye

In the early evening, the beach prepares for bed
And for the long sleep.
Random rocky structures protrude,
Like sequins sewn on to a yellow coat.
These gems, on closer inspection,
Are the shiny remnants of lost lives.

Across the shingle, in the shallow water, stands a godwit
On long elegant legs like a model on the catwalk,
Her fiery chest displayed and
Her long bill puncturing the soft, shifting land
In her ceaseless search
For worms and molluscs.

Further away, beyond the young wader,
The sea, chalybeous and calm, lies
Like cloth, spread out on the dressmaker's bench.
You can hear nothing,
Except perhaps the northerly winds in the distance,
Threatening to intrude.

Above this hushed landscape,
The dull sky puts on an old dressing gown
Generations old, but still there is energy.
Tiny, salty particles assail your nostrils,
While your eyes grow dim
At the closing of the day.

Books for the Summer V

The summer holidays are the perfect time to catch up on some reading. Here, Mrs Bell and Ms Burden reveal what books they are looking forward to this July and August. 

Mrs Bell

This summer I shall be reading The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton. I loved her second  novel
The Muse and so thought I would read this her debut novel.

I shall also be reading The Outside Lands by Hannah Kohler, a former PGS student. This novel has had excellent press.

I am also reading Burial Rites ahead of student coursework next year and I'm very interested in how the story of an Icelandic murder will unfold. 

There are also some poetry books to dip into and a really fascinating study of sexual anarchy in the Fin de Siecle era to read and ponder. That will lead to looking at novels and texts from the era, I'm sure. 

I wish everyone a summer of happy reading!

Ms Burden

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Poem for Sunday: Blood Red

by Mahia Chowdhury

I woke up to a sky of blood red.
I fear for my life but silence seems to evade me,
My censored screams
Fade into the background.
I struggle to free myself from the vicious grip of a man who was

I took one look into his eyes,
And I cried
For I saw the devil.
The look of bloodlust and hunger for more.
As if  wasn't human.
As if I didn't matter.
He laughed at my panic;
He sensed it,
He craved it.
I mean nothing more than a pile of dirt
Because of my skin
My culture
My beliefs
Because of who I am.
The devil took one last look at me
And with a flash of silver plunged in my chest he took away
my skin
My culture
My beliefs
Who I am.

With that, I let out my final cry,
My final thought,
My final breath.
And all I saw was blood red.

Books for the Summer IV

The summer holidays are the perfect time to catch up on some reading. Here, Dr Purves and Mr Burkinshaw reveal what books they are looking forward to this July and August. 

Dr Purves

I didn’t manage to get much of my own reading done last year, concentrating instead on various Julia Donaldson books with my children. So, there are some similarities between this year’s list and last year’s. While I am sure that there will be plenty more time spent reading The Highway Rat, Zog, and The Snail and the Whale, to name but three, I am going to try to make sure I have time to read:

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez– I started reading it (again) last night and fully intend to finish it this time.

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada,- another book which I have started in the past, and which is currently on one of the displays in the school library, and which I fully intend to finish this summer and certainly before I see the film.

Finally, there is a whole pile of education-related books sitting on my desk at home, which I tend to dip in and out of through the year and which I hope to be able to read more fully this summer, including What if everything you knew about education was wrong? by David Didau and Cleverlands by Lucy Crehan, both of which were on the staff summer reading list this year.

Mr Burkinshaw

Zero Energy Theory

by Harry Leggett

Before I get into the meat of this topic I think it would be best to define a few of the key terms that will come up in this article. What is energy? Well in physics terms energy is defined as the capacity for doing work. It can exist in many forms, you may have come across thermal or electric or chemical or nuclear or many other forms. However all of these forms fall in to two basic categories, Potential and Kinetic energy. This can be shown in the table that I found from a US energy administration website (Figure 1). However you may be wondering why energy is any meaning, well energy is what is used to move cars or to cook food or to run freezers or light our homes, so ultimately energy is what society and humanity lives off. 

To explain the zero energy theory I'm going to start right at the start. When studying energy in physics or science you will be told that you can measure kinetic energy and potential energy using the formulas 1/2 x m x v2 and m x g x h, where m is the mass of the object, v is the velocity, g is the gravitational constant and h is the height at which the object falls from. If you do a simple experiment and drop a ball from a specific height and measure the kinetic energy and the gravitational potential energy then you will get a graph similar to the one in figure 2. What you will notice is at all points the sum of the two types of energy is the same, coincidence? No, this is one of the fundamental laws of physics. The conservation of energy, which states “energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transferred from one form to another’. As a principle this is great however there will be some slight issues with this as you may say that air resistance hasn't been taken into account so not all of the energy is converted from gravitational potential to kinetic. 

What does that all mean about the zero energy theory though? Well if you were to use the equation for kinetic energy there is no way that you can get a negative number, velocity may be a vector meaning it has a direction but that will always positive because it is squared and if you square a positive or a negative number you create a positive. Therefore no matter what the circumstances are, kinetic energy cannot be negative. However Potential energy is measured by the formula m x g x h, where the mass is positive and the height is positive however g, the gravitational field strength is -9.21 because it is acting towards the centre of the earth, now that means that gravitational potential energy will always have a negative value. Now if we apply that knowledge we know now we can understand that kinetic and gravitational potential energy can cancel each other. Marcelo Samuel Berman submitted a hypothesis on the zero energy theory in 2006, however many theorists have written contrary hypotheses about similar subjects. Ultimately the zero energy theory will remain a theory for a very long time, however plenty of discoveries and theories in recent years have led to holes opening on which there may be more to come on the zero energy theory.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Poem: The Two Sides Of War

by Abid Ali

It felt cold on that first day,
And I’ll never forget how,
It was an adventure, an escapade,
Of some sort in the here and now.
I felt the surge of rush and thrill,
Motivated by a simple goal.
And so at last came my first kill,
The wait to collect my first soul,
The time that had finally come to an end.
The wait.
Long and tedious; I could only commend,
Those who survived their otherwise doomed
Of course it is an honour to
Have served, and go
Surely it is a crime to
Return with the glory of a hero
I will
Loathe those who hold their heads high
Because they think that they are the best,
because they will
Feel no guilt to the misdeeds they did
Refuse to accept that what I did was right
But they
Mock us, destroy us inside out
I don’t understand why they think that they
Return on the idea of victory
We all will
Have suffered the biggest loss.
Just as we
Build our pride tall and high,
We know we will fall, and yet we
Cannot give a reason why.
No matter what we do, we
Give up
The truth is that we will never
Move on
The one thing that we can do is
The pain it brings,
It’s not worth
The blood, the dead, the cries and screams
Going, I would never have found out that,
I truly am thankful for
Coming back

Books for the Summer III

The summer holidays are the perfect time to catch up on some reading. Here, Dr Richmond and Mrs Kirby reveal what books they are looking forward to this July and August. 

Dr Richmond

Blond Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Boris Johnson by Nigel Crawthorne:  this is not meant to rival the definitive, and highly researched, biography of Johnson by Andrew Grimson, but this is a more tongue in cheek look at the life of Boris Johnson, albeit in 384 pages. It takes us through all the obvious milestones – his privileged upbringing, his time at Eton, his persistent failure in remaining faithful to his long-suffering wife Marina, his rise through the Conservative Party, and his anti-EU sentiments. I find Boris very entertaining even though he is a bit of a twit. Therefore, I suspect that the book’s objective will be to show how despite Boris’ obvious talents and intelligence, his fall has come about by his appalling Brexit campaign in which he failed to explain what the negative results of GB leaving the EU could result in. But I will love reading about his life again….it always makes me smile and I dream about what could have been (i.e., Prime Minister Boris Johnson).

Happy by Derren Brown: a friend recommended this book to me and I was slightly dubious about picking up another self-help book, particularly as it was written by a Channel 4 illusionist! But I have read the first chapter and I love it! Basically, this book is the Buddhist philosophy about contentment for a non-religious audience. To be happy it to accept that nothing in life is permanent, that things come and go, but that you ought to be happy with you make of your life. Brown repeats that all of life’s facticity’s can be transformed into something positive and constructive, even if you are born into difficult circumstances. To be happy is not to attach yourself to people and things, but to the fact that you are alive, breathing, and can shape your own future. Read it!

 Violated by Sarah Brown: after watching the BBC drama ‘Three Girls’ recently, which documents the sexual abuse of children in Rochdale and Rotherham by Pakistani men, I was recommended to read this first-hand account of the abuse by Sarah Brown who was a teenager in Rotherham in the early 2000s. The accounts of what she and others went through is heartbreaking but the book also attempts to highlight how the authorities, who were meant to protect poor white girls in these deprived northern towns, failed them at every level. It is a damning account of how these men, and others in society, viewed these girls as trash.

Mrs Kirby

The LaFerrari at Gunwharf; 70th Anniversary Tour

by Tony Hicks

The first hybrid with 963cv The LaFerrari @ gunwharf quays. £1.35 million for each of the 499 they will ever make. The car has a top speed exceeding 217 mph. A 6.3-litre Ferrari V12 with a KERS-esque battery pack and electric motor to give 950bhp and 663lb ft of torque.


by Martin Smith

CS Lewis, using his Chestertonian ability to cast into prose things which we all know already but have never really crystallised into thought, once wrote that:

We are inveterate poets. When a quantity is very great we cease to regard it as a mere quantity. Our imaginations awake.” [1]

But is it simply - or solely - ‘greatness’ that turns a mere quantity into a thing of wonder? After all, none of us would tremble before the number 93,000,000, which is very great indeed, were we to see it on a calculator’s screen, divorced of context. And yet when the same number is suffixed with ‘miles’ and applied to the distance from the Earth to the Sun, then we do most certainly tremble in awe and wonder as our imaginations stir into life. The strange crosswind of mind that enables people to do this – to turn mere quantity into something much more – is a wonderful tool for teachers. [2] Wherever possible we humans strive to think about numbers and sizes in colourful and expansive terms, relating quantities and concepts to each other so that together they form something greater than the sum of their parts. In the classroom, whenever I begin to teach about atoms, I play off my pupils’ natural faculty for this kind of abstract synthesis. I proffer six millilitres of water – a rather prosaic thing in its own right – and then the number 6 x 1023, also a rather meaningless thing in and of itself. But then comes the punch line; the latter is the number of atoms in the former. Then all of a sudden imaginations spring into life and awe and wonder can be seen in the eyes of my charges as they begin to marvel at the ineffable tininess of atoms that this connection implies.

A very great quantity that I have been thinking about recently is 8,700,000. Why so? This number happens to be the current population of London. [3] An interesting thing to ponder, I suppose, but the arresting connection that really stirred my brain into life is that 8.7 million also happens to be the number of abortions carried out in Britain since the passing of the eponymous Act of 1967. More arresting still is that out of the 508 abortions performed in Britain each day, the balance of available evidence suggests that anything up to 493 of these are carried out illegally. In order to see why this may be the case, we need to look at the wider legal context. Abortion per se is in fact illegal under Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act, 1861, viz:

Monday, 3 July 2017

20 Years of Harry Potter Part II: More PGS Staff Reveal their Favourite (and Least Favourite) Characters

To mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, we asked for Potterfans among PGS staff to share their views on the series. Here, we hear from Mrs Linley, Mr Doyle and Faith Fairman.

Mrs Linley

Which spell would you most like to be able to do and why? Accio! I’m always, err, misplacing things so being able to summon them to come to me would be useful!

What form would your Patronus take? A dog.

Which House would the Sorting Hat have put you in and why? Probably Hufflepuff – patience and loyalty!

Which book is your favourite/least favourite and why? Favourite is Order of the Phoenix, it brings the return of Voldermort to a climax once everyone sees him in the Ministry of Magic.
It’s difficult to choose a “least favourite” having enjoyed them all, what I will criticise though is the decision to split the final book in to two films – clearly only done for commercial purposes and the first of those films was pretty dull! 

Which characters do you particularly like or dislike? I never really warmed to Slughorn.

Which of the Horcruxes do you find the most memorable? The Horcrux they find in the cave where Dumbledore has to drink from the font and it makes him ill?  The locket?  Completely creepy in book and film.

Do you have a favourite line from the series? Hermione’s explanation to why Cho cried when she kissed Harry and Ron’s subsequent response.

Which staff at Hogwarts do you think are particularly good teachers and why? Professor McGonnagall – firm but fair!

Would you have sought a career as an Auror, a Dragon Keeper, a Gringotts Banker or a Ministry of Magic worker? Ministry of Magic worker – quite fancy a position in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, lots of travel!

What position do you think you would have played at Quidditch? My hand eye co-ordination is dreadful, nobody would want me on the team so I’d be much better preparing banners and cheering teams on!

Which item from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes would you most like to own? A Pygmy Puff (thank you Google for the research provided for this answer!)

Mr Doyle

Which spell would you most like to be able to do and why? Expelliarmus - great when fidgeting pupils do not leave their pens alone. 

What form would your Patronus take? Dame Shirley Bassey in full gown.

Which House would the Sorting Hat have put you in and why? Hufflepuff – barely mentioned and needs a higher profile – some FAB-U-LOUS.

Which book is your favourite and why? I think the Philosopher’s Stone – it was something very different and the promise of more to come was thrilling.

Which characters do you particularly like? Professor McGonagall – the Perfect Housemistress: caring, kind, but ruthless when someone messed with one of her House!!

Is it Ethical to Keep Once-Living Organisms in Jars of Chemicals?

by Imogen Ashby

I don't know what I believe, yet, I've been told that all creatures have souls. I've questioned this, I admit, but  I do conclude that there must be something right at the centre of us that makes us keep on living. 

I know in medical terms that is, of course, the heart, yet I can feel something deep in the pit of my stomach that makes me, me. Something that's more than personality traits and the ability to enable ourselves to love others; something that truly is soul-wrenching.

These jars of muscle and bone have helped thousands of medical students in many centuries passed to understand the bewildering and fascinating anatomy of which humans and animals alike are composed of. They can see for themselves how a certain blood vessel leads through the chest or how nerves wind their way up the spinal chord without having to wait for a donor to die and give up their body to medicine to be torn apart by curious and clueless students. These jars stop unnecessary dissections because they're there to be observed, but they have been frozen in one position for the whole past and the future in which they'll still be trapped. Medical students can't explore the way they want to as they cannot interfere with the chemicals or remove the specimen from its coffin or else it will disintegrate with its first breath of air after death. The jars are the most useful, effective and convenient way to learn other than a real body covered by a polypropylene body bag.

Books for the Summer II

The summer holidays are the perfect time to catch up on some reading. Here, Mr Doyle, Ms Hart and Mr Fairman reveal what books they are looking forward to this July and August. 

Mr Doyle

Mr Burkinshaw’s request for recommendations gave me the excuse of rushing to Waterstone’s to choose some summer reading books! This year I have chosen:

The Disappearance of Emile Zola by Michael Rosen – I did not know that Zola had fled to England, having lost a libel action in Paris. This book tells the story of his flight and subsequent life in London
As far as I Know by Roger McGough – I admit to never really having studied poetry or read much since school. However, I saw this selection by McGough whom I enjoy hearing on Radio 4 and thought it would be a good start to correcting this gap!
The Careful Use of Compliments Alexander McCall Smith – this is my book for the plane – easy to enjoy and well-written, I have much enjoyed his other books
I also have a couple to dip into when time allows:
Carol Klein's Favourite Plants – Carol Klein a fabulous presenter on the television (notably Gardeners’ World) and this is a beautifully put together book, listing and explaining some popular and others much less known plants
Chasing the Dram - Finding the Spirit of Whisky by Rachel McCormack – a history of whisky and its myths. In the introduction, she writes: “The Scottish approach to whisky – drunk with no ice and maybe only a ‘wee’ bit of water – can often be similar to the Presbyterian approach to sex: lights off, one position and never admit that you are actually enjoying it. Rachel believes that there is a whole Kama Sutra of uses that whisky can enhance. Not just in cocktails but in food too.” Should be a fun read!


by Tom Fairman

These three little letters have a lot to answer for. They represent the doorway though which most discoveries are made and have led to many of the breakthroughs that make our lives so much easier. They are a wonderful learning tool in the classroom and their loss is to the detriment of the whole class when they are shut out or not allowed to be mentioned. This said, though, they are also a massive pain.
In a family home, the question of why stems from two main situations. The first occurs when a parent is asking a child to do something which needs to be done under tight time constraints, but the child is unwilling to obey immediately, preferring to seek the underlying motivations behind the command as if the understanding of why they need to brush their teeth will somehow make the situation more bearable. The second situation follows swiftly on from the first, but this time it is uttered from the mouth of the parent and is along the lines of: why do we have kids?
"Why?" is a question that is asked a lot when you take any decision; the larger the decision, the more it is asked. Changing jobs is a prime example. People are eager to know why you want leave, possibly making sure they have not done anything wrong or checking in case you have done something wrong. They also want to know why you are going to the next job, to see if the grass is greener or that they have made the right decision by staying. Or it may be just because they are interested in you! It is healthy to ask these questions of the big decisions, but sometimes it is healthy to stop and ask about the small ones as well.
Behavioural economics as a discipline has done much to try to undercover the underlying motivations that drive human decision making. If rationality in the form of pure utility maximisation does not hold successfully, is there something else that informs our decision making? We are a product of many biases and, as we can not stop to carefully consider every decision we make, we go with our instincts which are not always in our immediate interest. Sometimes it works out, other times it does not; more often than not we hide behind the excuse that we have always done it this way and so give up our individual responsibility for the outcome.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Photography: More Goldfinch Chicks at PGS

by Tony Hicks

A second lot of goldfinch chicks (four again) about a week or so old. They most likely hatched on about 23rd June.

20 Years of Harry Potter: PGS Staff Reveal their Favourite (and Least Favourite) Characters

To mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, we asked for Potterfans among PGS teachers to share their views on the series. Here, we hear from Mr Hamlet and Ms Burden.

Mr Hamlet

Which spell would you most like to be able to do and why? Being a DIY lover, I’d have to go with Reparo… though it might take the fun out of it a little

What form would your Patronus take?  An owl.

Which House would the Sorting Hat have put you in and why? Would anyone be anything other than Griffindor… I don’t think so.  I’m a Griffindor through and through.

Which book is your favourite/least favourite and why? They are all great so not an easy question, but there are probably just a few easy and convenient fixes in the early books – The Chamber of Secrets for example, why are all those spiders lining up to go into the forest at that particular time… they don’t seem to behave that way normally? 

Which characters do you particularly like or dislike? Might be a bit controversial, but least favourite character is probably Harry Potter himself: he never really gets going as a great wizard, he has a lot of luck, everyone else seems to come to his rescue all the time and every time he gets the bad guy, it seems to be with some power or spell that he never knew he was capable of.  But for the protective spell his mother gave him, he’d be pretty average and not worth You Know Who’s time.  Favourite character…?  I like the bad guys – Bellatrix, Fenrir, Snape, Wormtail are all great characters, but ultimately of course, it has to be Voldemort

Which of the Horcruxes do you find the most memorable? It’s the later ones really – once they get on with it, the last few horcruxes seem to sort of gallop along as if Rowling ran out of ideas about how to include them meaningfully in the story; so it’s lucky dip between Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup, Rowena Ravenclaw’s Diadem, and maybe even Harry Potter - see above

Do you have a favourite line from the series? I solemnly swear I am up to no good

Which staff at Hogwarts do you think are particularly good teachers and why? The fearsome but fair Professor Minerva McGonagall

Would you have sought a career as an Auror, a Dragon Keeper, a Gringotts Banker or a Ministry of Magic worker?  A dragon keeper

What position do you think you would have played at Quidditch?  Seeker – on the fastest broom there is.

Which item from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes would you most like to own? Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder

Ms Burden

Which spell would you most like to be able to do and why? Selfishly, I'd like to be able to do the "Impervius" spell - the one that repels water from glasses. I have exactly the same issues with wearing glasses and playing sport outdoors that Harry has. However, it would be more unselfish to choose a piece of magic that could help humanity - perhaps "enervate", the spell to revive the unconscious.

What form would your Patronus take? Tortoises are my favourite creatures but a chelonian might not repel a Dementor....let's go for a hare.

Which House would the Sorting Hat have put you in and why? I'm not sure. Any of them except Slytherin.

Which book is your favourite/least favourite and why? Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is my least favourite - it's in need of an edit and it very much feels like a "mid series" book. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is incredibly well-crafted and the revelation at the end is breathtaking.

Which characters do you particularly like or dislike? Dobby is incredibly irritating. Remus Lupin is my favourite character. I desperately want to like Snape at the end but I can't - so much of what he does and says earlier is incredibly cruel. He's an interesting portrait of a person who has been damaged by life and tries to damage others in turn.

Elizabeth Blackwell: An Inspirational Life

by Lizzie Howe

Image by Elizabeth Blackwell
(Chawton House)
While visiting Chawton House last week for an English trip, we were taken to a walled garden at the top of the south lawn. A herb garden, inspired by Elizabeth Blackwell. Born into a wealthy Scottish family in Aberdeen in the 1707, she was trained as an artist. When she was 27 she married her second cousin, Alexander Blackwell, in secret. This was only the beginning of her misfortune, little did she know.

After some years in Aberdeen, Alexander's medical qualifications were called into question and in fear of the charges that might be laid against him he fled to London taking Elizabeth with him and away from the only home he had ever known. When in London Alexander continued with his dubious lifestyle and served as a publisher, all the while neglecting to take the required apprenticeship or join the guild. As a result of this he was fined heavily and when he was unable to pay them sent to debtors’ prison.

This left Elizabeth Blackwell destitute with a small child to care for. In a remarkable show of tenacity she set herself up to write a new herbal, a book which doctors could use in order to identify those plants they needed in their practice. The task would ultimately take her six years to complete. Untrained in botany, she visited the Chelsea Physick Garden in order to create the new herbal, under the tutelage of Isaac Rand (the curator of the Chelsea Physick Garden). Elizabeth also engraved the copper printing plates for the 500 images, and hand-coloured the printed illustrations in the first edition of A Curious Herbal.

The book was a success for its time due to the detail and accuracy of the illustrations and the need for a new herbal. With the money from the book that Elizabeth had earned through her own hard work, she paid for Alexander’s release from prison. He was then proven to be a man who clearly could not learn from his mistake as he began to accumulate debts once more, until they were forced to sell some publication rights for the book. Eventually, Alexander fled once more, this time to Sweden and without Elizabeth. After several years serving as the appointed court physician to Frederick I of Sweden, he was ultimately arrested and accused of conspiracy against the Crown Prince. On the 9th August 1747 he was taken to be executed, joking that as he had not been beheaded before he clearly needed instruction when he laid his head incorrectly on the block.

Is the Use of Standardised Testing Improving Education?

by Sienna Bentley

A large number of schools across the UK use standardised testing to “augment their internal assessment regime”. It can be seen that there are both pros and cons to using standardised testing, used typically to test knowledge of a particular criteria or to challenge underlying skills such as comprehension and reasoning.

In the US, the use of standardised testing escalated significantly after the No Child Left Behind Act 2002 which meant that annual testing was mandatory in all 50 states. Advocates of standardised tests claim they are fair and that most approve of their use, but it can be argued that neither of these claims are true. American students fell from 18th in the world for mathematics in 2000 to 27th in 2012, raising the question that standardised testing may not be as effective as it is made out to be.

While standardised tests are inclusive and essentially non-discriminatory because the content is the same for all students, they only measure a minute portion of what makes education worthwhile. Yes, everyone across the country is learning the same thing so the tests are fair in order to measure individual ability, but in schools this testing has almost removed the passion and determination to learn, replacing it with students learning how to pass a test. While it may be argued that this “teaching to the test” is a positive method because it focuses on essential content and skills and eliminates time-wasting, teaching appears to no longer be about passion for the subject but how to answer particular questions in a way that will achieve the maximum marks on a paper, in order to boost the school’s averages and “augment their internal assessment regime”. In this way, it can be argued that these methods drill the passion out of students, and in turn increase pressure because in reality, a student’s entire future is weighted on the results of these tests. Individual ability is assessed through these exams but it is not entirely fair to suggest that each and every student will be on top form during an exam when they know just how much pressure is on them, potential illnesses or conditions that the exam boards may not be aware of and the nerves that may be present before walking into an intimidating hall full of isolated desks and question papers.

Photography: Pipits on the Point

by Tony Hicks

Rock pipit with youngster on the rocks at the Point in Old Portsmouth.

Are People Claiming Religious Experiences Deluded?

by Gabriella Watson

A religious experience is a non-empirical occurrence, which may be perceived as a supernatural event, for which there can be no scientific explanation. It is a subjective incident, as it is personal to the individual with a sense of a presence beyond themselves. However, the view that people who claim to have religious experiences are deluded is a rational outlook because, although Swinburne’s principles of testimony and credulity attempt to support the validity of divine occurrences by explaining that individuals have no reason to falsify the truth about their experiences, Flew’s falsification principle challenges Swinburne’s argument as it asserts that, without evidence, any claim to a religious encounter is meaningless. In addition, despite the fact that William James used the impacts of religious experiences to prove that declarations of divine occurrences are justifiable, Freud’s explanation contradicts James’ beliefs after he states that religious experiences are nothing more than disguised fulfilments of wishes, deeming the impacts as insignificant and lending credibility to the view that spiritual events are merely misconceptions.

Firstly, Swinburne does not support the view that people who claim to have religious experiences are simply deluded, after he explains that there is no reason why accounts of witnessing divine occurrences should be treated any differently to ordinary perceptual claims. Swinburne argues inductively that it is reasonable to believe that God is loving and personal and would seek to reveal himself to humanity through religious events. He claimed that “an omnipotent and perfectly good creator will seek to interact with his creatures and, in particular with human persons capable of knowing him”. Swinburne uses the principles of testimony and credulity to strengthen this belief. The principle of credulity asserts that we must accept what appears to be the case unless we have clear evidence to the contrary. It is an a posteriori argument in that it is reasonable to believe that the experiences of others are probably as they report them to be, in the absence of special conditions, for example, the usage of drugs. This is supported by the principle of testimony as it explains that an account of an individual’s claim to a religious experience is plausible as they would have no reason to fabricate the truth, unless there was positive evidence to discounter their claim. He explains that “other things being equal, we usually think that what others tell us that they perceive, probably happened”, furthering his belief that religious experiences and not delusions and are in fact justifiable as there is no logical reason to discredit them.

On the other hand, the challenge from philosopher Anthony Flew refutes Swinburne's probability argument as he claims that any statement without clear evidence is flawed, strengthening the view that people who claim to have religious experiences are deluded. Flew used his falsification principle which highlights the weaknesses of Swinburne’s argument as it teaches that if a theory or statement is not empirically verifiable then that particular theory or statement is meaningless. Flew states that “until and unless some such grounds are produced we have literally no reason at all for believing”. Therefore, after applying the falsification principle to religious experiences, Flew concluded that without evidence the claims of a religious occurrence become futile and unreliable. He used John Wisdom’s parable of the gardener to strengthen his argument. This analogy describes two explorers who return to discover a garden in which flowers and weeds had grown. Even though there are some areas which are overgrown, there are certain areas that appear to be tended to. One argues that there is a gardener on account of the flowers, the other argues that they could be no gardener on account of the weeds. Flew’s point was that for a religious believer, they would always offer a qualification as to why no evidence could be found to count against their own beliefs and, as religious experiences are essentially events where there are no clear and agreed upon criteria which can be used to count against them, they must be disregarded as delusional events.