On Wednesday 3 March, over 300 Year 9 - 11 students joined a zoom call to hear about applying to Oxbridge. The School were delighted to welcome five Old Haberdashers to the call who discussed their own academic journey:
Harry Kingdon, OH 2015 - Philosophy at Cambridge
Hugo Murphy, OH 2016 - English at Oxford and a MA at Cambridge
Jordan Bernstein, OH 2016 - Law at Oxford
Rohan Oyewole, OH 2020 - PPE at Oxford
Josh Kaye, OH 2020 - Maths at Cambridge
Josh’s best suggestion to our aspiring applications was to enjoy getting confused. He talked about the art of problem solving and using YouTube to discover new and challenging problems. This matched with Hugo’s love of grappling with difficult ideas and the joy of reading literary reviews.
Other tips included not to rule anything out, to prepare early and enjoy becoming an independent thinker. In true Habs style, the panel were put through their paces with a quick-fire round of questions at the end. One Year 9 parent wrote: ‘it was a pleasure listening to the OHs who spoke with such openness and enthusiasm’.
It was a wonderful evening and the School would like to thank the OH panel for their time and good humour. Best of luck to our future Oxbridge applicants.
Before half term, the School had the pleasure of welcoming ex-England, Middlesex and Surrey cricketer Mark Ramprakash for the ninth HabsTalk.
It was an amazing opportunity that saw over 150 current students, OHs and staff log on to listen to Mark. Mark is only one of 25 cricketers in the history of the game to have scored over 100 1st class hundreds and has amassed over 39,500 first class runs over his career. Since retiring Mark has become England’s test and white ball batting coach. Not to mention the achievement of winning Strictly Come Dancing.
Mark started by giving the boys his insight into what successful leadership in cricket looked like through his journey from first class and international cricket, and through his coaching journey.
On completion of his talk the boys were asked to write in with their questions for Mark to answer which Mr Simm chaired. The students were fantastic in their questions which ranged from the technical to the tactical, and all aspects of Mark’s journey as an international cricketer and coach.
The School would like to thank Mark for giving up his time for the boys and the staff. It could have definitely gone on for a few more hours with the number of questions that were sent in.
On Tuesday 2 March, Year 12 students had the opportunity to meet six Old Haberdashers to learn about their experiences of applying for university. We welcomed the following boys to the call:
Ronit Anand - Social Anthropology at London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London
Ed Fage - Economics and Management at University of Oxford
Jasper Federman - Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion at University of Cambridge
Sam Grankin - History and Politics at University of Cambridge
Rohan Thandi - Combined Honours in Social Sciences at Durham University
Ashley Turner - Economics and Management at University of Oxford
The 2020 OHs spoke candidly about their experiences of applying to university and how they decided what they wanted to study. Jasper and Rohan both urged the Year 12s to spend time researching the subtle differences between the courses. Ashley discussed the importance of developing as a thinker, explaining how he likes to ask himself why things happen in certain ways.
Sam explained a little about the Oxbridge interview process, highlighting the fact that he is now taught by the academics who interviewed him. These academics are good at identifying who will enjoy the ‘intense academic experience’ offered at Oxbridge.
Ronit’s mantra was that the Year 12s needed to develop a sensibility for their subject. He used his time in the Sixth Form to think like an anthropologist, picking the brains of experts and deciding what he wanted to gain from a university experience.
Ever the mathematician, Ed reminded the Year 12s that they were likely to spend in excess of 2,700 hours studying their chosen degree subject and that it made sense to spend time researching possible degrees.
It was a fantastic event and the School would like to thank the OHs for their support. We wish them well in their return to university.
On Saturday 28 February, eight boys from Year 9 and 10 competed at Imperial Juniors in an online debating competition. For several of the boys this was their first experience of competitive debating, although it was a rare junior competition for Alex and Fola, who frequently compete on the school senior circuit.
56 teams entered the competition and after three rounds of debating different topics, 12 teams would make it to a gold final, a silver final and a bronze final respectively with four teams starring in each. Before this competition Fola and Alex had never made it into a final..
One motion they particularly enjoyed was a debate on whether countries with poor human rights records should be allowed to host the Olympics. Coincidently, the students had already debated this topic in senior debating the previous year and thus allowed Alex and Fola to more easily express many of the key arguments for the motion, revolving around pressuring these regimes to change and the detrimental harm it would cause to the civilians of the country, especially those who would be forcibly removed from where they lived to make room for stadiums and other infrastructure.
In the end, all eight boys can be proud of their achievements. On speaker points, Fola came joint fourth, Alex came joint 14th and Toby came a very respectable 16th in his first ever competition, whereas Jack and Samadi finished just outside the top 30 speakers.
As a result of their top finishes (2nd, 1st, 1st) Alex and Fola made it into the gold final – on the balance of the first three debates, they were ranked third – level on team points, and only six speaker points behind the team who ranked first in the preliminary debates. However, going into the gold final, Alex and Fola had finished above each of their three opponents when head to head with them earlier in the day.
For the final motion, they were placed in the shoes of a teenager and tasked with deciding whether they would attempt to turn in their corrupt parent who was a politician to the authorities. Fola and Alex were given Opening Government. Unfortunately, and through nobody’s fault, during the debate the Opening Opposition (directly opposite Alex and Fola) had serious connection issues. This meant that Alex had to repeat part of his speech, and it meant that the two teams speaking in the closing half of the debate had significantly more time to prepare.
In the end, however, Alex and Fola came in a close second to the team in Closing Opposition whom they had themselves beaten in the second round – in a decision which split the judging panel three to two. Nevertheless, we get closer to that significant step of winning a gold final at a major competition.
On Monday 1 March 2021, Habs was delighted to introduce Dr Peter Liddel of the University of Manchester to speak on the subject of ancient Greek inscriptions.
The study of Greek inscribed texts, known in academic language as ‘epigraphy’, is an important subdiscipline within the field of ancient Greek history. As Dr Liddel explained, the interest in Greek inscriptions dates back to the 16th century, but epigraphy did not gain full academic respectability until the middle of the 19th, in the generation after the liberation of Greece from Ottoman rule.
Dr Liddel showed that until as late as the 17th century it was speculated in Britain, even in educated circles, whether Greece was populated. The near total ignorance in the West about Greece while under Ottoman suzerainty contrasts with the hungry fascination with Greek antiquities in the 19th century and beyond, felt among western European nations.
The School is privileged to have been able to listen to a world expert in the field. This was a magnificent crossing of interrelated disciplines: for modern historians, a reminder that questions about use of source material have a long and ancient history; for ancient historians and Classicists, a reminder that the evidence with which we grapple has a rich modern history behind it also which we can, at times, overlook.
The start of the year saw success for Habs debaters, participating in both the Oxford and Cambridge regional rounds and qualifying two teams in each event.
Oxford regional consisted of two rounds with somewhat familiar debates, covering whether soldiers should have their ability to feel pain removed, and whether history should focus on notable individuals or common people.
Themes of agency, consent, practicality and harm were contested in the first debate; counterfactual worlds and establishment of tangible change was a critical factor of the latter motion. Notably, an Old Haberdasher - Aniket Chakravorty - was co-ordinating the event for our region. At the end of a short 3-hour night, Habs LVJR (Lucas (L6H1) and James (L6C2)) and Habs JSVS (Jonny (L6R2) and Veylan (L6J2)) proved the strength of our Lower Sixth cohort by standing out to qualify for the next round.
Unfortunately, this year it seems they will not be able to travel to Oxford, but their achievement was nevertheless impressive, serving to push forwards Habs debaters into the spotlight step by step as our debating club transforms and improves. All teams put out impressive performances; the two round format being shorter than the traditional four gave some teams their chance to shine, boosting confidence in the build-up to Cambridge Schools.
Later, on the 13 February, four Habs teams virtually competed in the Cambridge Regional North London round 2021. Speaking on motions varying from 'This house would transfer ownership of sporting teams to the fans' to 'This house would give a stay-at-home spouse a salary'. Themes of gender role equality, criminal reintegration, harms vs benefits, and many more were debated strongly throughout the day.
By the end Habs had proven their strength in the competition; Habs OMAP (Om (L6S2) and Aarnav (L6H1)) and Habs ATKK (Ahan (U6R2) and Keshav (11H1)) had both qualified for the Cambridge finals day which takes place on 6 March. With a special mention to Keshav in particular who impressively stepped up so readily at the last minute and filled in as Ahan’s partner. These results were particularly impressive considering the size and strength of the competition - 50 teams competing in total with only five spaces available for the final.
The other two Habs teams fought valiantly and marginally missed of qualification for the final, with Habs LVRG (Lucas (L6H1) and Rahul (L6M2)) missing out by only two points, and Habs FOAL (Fola (10M2) and Alex (10M1)) by only one point - this is very promising considering Fola and Alex are only in Year 10.
The School performed admirably on the speaker points leader board as well, Aarnav and Ahan both made it to the top 15 speakers for the competition, with 290 and 289 points respectively. Additionally, the total range of Habs speakers was only five points, so our group of debaters appeared very strongly on speaker points as a whole.
All in all, both competitions were very successful ‘outings’ for Habs, putting us in good stead for the Oxford and Cambridge finals and upcoming competitions in general. The debating revolution at Habs continues!
As part of our long-standing support of the Anthony Nolan Trust’s and DKMS stem cell register, last week the Sixth Form were invited to join the register as potential donors. The message sounded ever more powerful this time, as the call for help came from a family within the Harrow community.
Through the personal engagement of one of our students, Yash (11R2), we invited Mrs Kirpa Gudhka to address the boys in the family’s search for a stem cell donor for their young son, Veer, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder – FanAconi Anaemia. As a result, Veer’s bone marrow is not producing enough stem cells, which means that his blood cells are also on a decline. His family have been told that his best hope of survival is a blood stem cell transplant, and thus, the family must look to the stem cell register for an unrelated donor. Veer’s life is relying on the generosity of a person from anywhere in the world. The chances of a positive match are always slim and the search for a donor therefore always poses an anxious waiting period.
It is an honour for the school to support the Gudhka’s campaign and it is in moments like these that our boys so often and reliably rise to the challenge and help others in need. Indeed, it was through the outstanding initiative of Yash, who has established the contact between Family Gudhka and our school. The Gudhka’s were delighted to hear from Yash, expressing how they are eager to spread the message and raise awareness for the blood stem cell register. We are proud of the students and those who are joining the register.
Currently, only 2% of the UK’s population are registered as potential blood stem cell donors, and patients from the BAME community - like Veer - just have a 20% chance of finding a stem cell donor compared to 69% from those of a Northern European background. By diversifying the registers, their chance of survival will increase.
According to DKMS UK, every 20 minutes, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer. This diagnosis is devastating, and during the coronavirus outbreak, it is even more crucial that we do all we can to offer hope to people with blood cancer and blood disorders. The numbers of people joining the blood stem cell register has declined dramatically in recent times, and now more than ever before, we need to encourage more people to register.
The DKMS/Anthony Nolan stem cell register is open to anyone between the ages of 16 and 55; in the spirit of Yash’s drive, we would like to encourage our boys and their families to join the register.
Registering to be a stem cell donor is extremely simple, requiring only a cheek swab. It takes just a few minutes to become a potential lifesaver – there really could not be an easier way to save lives! The Gudhkas were delighted to hear that one of the 8,000+ registrants from their campaign ended up saving someone else's life around the world.
For further information about Veer’s campaign and how to join the register, please click here.
Congratulations to Erekle (11M1) who turned in a superb performance recently in the BMO2 (British Mathematical Olympiad) examination!
This is the hardest Maths exam for school students in the UK, and for a student from Year 11 to score in the top 20 in the country is a remarkable achievement. To reach this stage, Erekle had to qualify via the Senior Maths challenge in November and the BMO1 follow up exam.
Erekle should now be invited to attend further training during the Easter break and will be eyeing a place in the team of six for the International Mathematics Olympiad later in the year.
Over the half term, Vivaan (7M) participated in the Online Watford Music Festival. Competing in the pianoforte section, Vivaan secured first place with honours, receiving 91 marks in the 11 - 14 category!
This half term, I wanted to do something to try and help make a difference. So, I decided to volunteer at a local charity. One Vision is currently helping people affected by the pandemic, providing hot meals and essentials directly to families in need in and around the Watford area, which is so close to Habs.
I have been involved with packing and delivering hot meals (langar) made in the Sikh Gurdwara to Stanborough Park Church which are then delivered to vulnerable families by volunteers. It was amazing to see different communities come together to help those less fortunate (one of the core principles of the Sikh faith).
Habs International Relations and Economics Society was privileged to have Lord Alfred Dubs speak to us on a number of issues affecting the Britain and the World.
Given his role in promulgating the Dubs amendment on child refugees and as a child refugee himself who came to the UK in the Kindertransport escaping the Nazis it was fascinating to hear his thoughts on issues regarding human rights and migration in particular.
As a former MP (Labour, Battersea) and now active Peer in the House of Lords it was interesting to get his insights on the role of Government and Parliament in tackling human rights abuses and the importance of principle in international affairs, particularly as the UK seeks to define its role outside the European Union.
Lord Dubs was also kind enough to answer a number of questions put by members of the International Relations and Economics Society and the school community across a range of topics. Lord Dubs gave his insights on the politics of migration in the UK and how it influenced Brexit and continues to have an impact on policy in the UK today.
He also gave his views on how to tackle human rights abuses around the world and the importance of moral leadership in this area for the UK, especially in working with international partners and organisations with particular reference to China’s Uighur population as well as a host of other issues.
We are immensely grateful to Lord Dubs for speaking to us and for his unique insights and perspectives on these issues.
Long nights, cold weather outdoors – even the odd sprinkling of snow.
It would be an understatement to say that our co-curricular programme at Habs has been more important than ever.
Whether it’s jogging round the block, birdwatching from the garden patio, or relaxing with a spot of Yoga, we’ve worked hard this term to keep our boys engaged throughout remote learning.
Three of our Year 7 shared their stories about how they’ve kept active over the Spring term.
Joe & HabsDash
‘It’s good to get exercise outside! Being inside on a screen all day isn’t helpful for anyone.’
This was how Joe chose to introduce HabsDash. A weekly competition in which boys are tasked with running and recording their times, Habsdash has been a staple of our co-curricular offering for the past few years. It’s certainly been a gift for Joe over the past few weeks.
‘I usually swim but changed to running during lockdown. Since the leisure centres and swimming pools are closed, we thought it would be good to go running as a family.’
Joe goes running every week with his father, mother and sister, uploading his personal best time at the end of the session. Getting everybody involved has always been a key part of HabsDash, with Joe saying:
‘When you see your name on the leaderboard, you then look down and see your friends on it too. You might call up a friend, discuss the times and personal bests. Last week my friend Zack did a great PB and I called him up to say “I’m never going to catch you.”
Felix & Birdwatching
While Joe has sights on personal bests, Felix has opted for the quieter sport of birdwatching. Heading out onto the local footpaths with his mother, he’s thrown himself into the Big Garden Birdwatch, an event promoted by Mr Coleman and Mr Hardman. After asking for a few tips, Felix suggests:
‘You should do a lot of listening, especially of hedgerows. In the winter the hedgerows don’t lose their leaves, so you’re more likely to hear and see birds at ground level.
Felix has developed this hobby by taking notes of the birds he sees, recording their details in a birdwatching log. Although most of the birds seen are fairly common, he has seen a few redwings, which feed on the holly berries in his garden. Alongside his bird logs, he’s trying to identify birds by song:
‘I’m very much a beginner, but I know the song of the Great Tit, whilst Robins have a really long, bubbling call. Blackbirds are my favourite because they have really quite a long song which isn’t repetitive. They can go on for 45 seconds to one minute at a time!’
Yajna & Yoga
Whilst Felix has kept busy out of doors, Yajna has opted to unwind in his living room. Attending the weekly Yoga and Meditation sessions run by Mr. Walters, this club has allowed him to relax throughout the pressures of lockdown. When asked about the benefits of Yoga, Yajna says:
‘It’s more important than ever during this crisis. Some people aren’t getting any exercise! But for yoga, all you need is a small space and yourself. And it makes you feel relaxed if you’re frustrated, since you just need to sit down, think and reflect.
Good advice for us all, Yajna! Emphasising the need to remove distractions, he recommends an ideal place: one that is quiet and uncluttered. Having found the ideal space, Yajna suggests two techniques:
‘The Cobra Stretch is where you put your legs on the floor and heave your chest upwards. As you look upward, you feel all the tension goes away. But the most effective is the small mountain. You put both hands on the floor, one leg in front of the other, and then you hold it for thirty seconds.’
Bring the School to You
Perhaps what these clubs and societies demonstrate is the continued willingness of students, staff and school to stay active throughout this challenging period.
Whether it’s beating personal bests, watching Redwings fly past or practising the Cobra stretch, it’s certainly been another busy Spring term at Haberdashers’.
Thank you to all the staff and students involved in contributing to our co-curricular programme – and for making our school such an active community!