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May 9

Gabbling and Debating

The Redcliffe 6th Form is very proud indeed to announce that one of our students, the wonderful Travis Alabanza-Brehard, has won the prestigious 'Gabblers' public speaking competition. This is the second time a Redcliffe student has won this in the last five years, our third win in total, and we are still the only state school to do so in the last 12 years.

Travis receives the Gabblers award
Travis receiving the 'Gabblers' public speaking award

The Gabblers club takes one student from 17 schools around the Bristol area and they meet seven times through the year for a meal, with half of them doing an after-dinner speech at each event, leading up to the final meal at which they all speak to well over 200 guests including the Lord Mayor. Travis had to do speeches on topics as varied and abstract as 'Siblings', 'Dreams' and for the final – 'Loose Ends', the overall 'Best Gabbler' award reflecting performance across the whole season.

Travis writes: "Representing Redcliffe in the Gabblers has been an incredible experience. I have gained confidence in myself and learned skills invaluable to life such as the art of public speaking. Having initially gone for it "just to compete", winning the competition is a surprise that has made my year, yet couldn't have been done without the support of Mrs Tothill and my fellow students, who would always listen to my speeches at lunch. Although I'm confident on stage acting as another person, Gabblers has taught me how to be myself and still have confidence. I have been extremely honoured to represent a sixth form I love, and hope Redcliffe hold the title for many years to come!"

This has been another great year for debating generally. Tim Moller and John Gibby reached the second round of the Cambridge Union debating competition and just missed making the finals. Our Model United Nations teams also did exceptionally well. Ollie Norman achieved best delegate in the environment committee, our Brazil delegation were one of the few to be highly commended, and a number of other students received commendations. The highlight was the Secretary General inventing a special award for Tim Moller as 'most charming delegate' out of the 600 present.


MUN 2013Our Model United Nations Team for 2013
May 1

Next Stop NASA

Designing a space settlement under time constrictions and stress may not be everyone's idea of fun but a team from Redcliffe 6th Form have just triumphed in the UK Space Design Competition doing just that, and are on their way to NASA in Houston this summer to compete at an international level. Year 12 student Camilla Lee was the catalyst for our participation in the competition. Having got the initial idea, all she needed was a team ...

Camilla writes: "The idea of starting the competition by myself seemed very daunting. I realized that the the team would need exactly the right balance of skills and needed to be really dedicated to win. I made posters advertising the competition and stuck them around the Sixth form, but my fear of not gathering a team on time made me resort to social networking. Within an evening, I had a full team of 12 enthusiastic year 12s so I happily took posters down the day after I put them up!"

The competition website ( gave the team their 'brief'. They had to imagine that it was the year 2083, and an organisation called 'The Foundation Society' had requested the creation of a video advertisement for their new 'Bastia' settlement. The Earth had run out of resources, and it was necessary to mine nickel from an asteroid called '4660 Nereus' (a real asteroid). The settlement had to house 1000 workers on a 4-year contract, and the advert had to attract all of these necessary personnel.

After studying the brief, we started work. We divided ourselves into small groups to do research on specific elements of the brief, such as the specified asteroid, the processes of mining asteroids and the dangers humans face in space. Once we collected sufficient research, several members of the group compiled that information into a script. Media skills also played a huge role in presenting our design. Several members of the group created artwork, James Lansdowne created an outstanding animation and we sourced music from a royalty free content site. Filming was complete over two days, and the final video took just under a week to edit. We submitted our final video in November with only days to spare from the deadline. Here is a link to our submitted video,


After weeks of anticipation and waiting for the result of our entry to approach, January the 7th finally came around. The brilliant news came towards the end of a long day, and led to lots of very excited texts and Facebooking.

The UK national competition took place on a weekend at the end of March at Imperial College London. After enduring a 2-hour minibus journey, kindly driven by Mr. Gregson, we arrived at Imperial at around half past nine.  Here we were going to have to work as a much larger team with students from other schools, pitched against three other equally large teams. The introduction was given to us by the co-founder, Anita Gale and by NASA representatives, who explained the weekend's structure and the new challenge. We would be designing a space settlement that was to orbit the moon, acting as a port for cargo and humans. We then headed off to our company head quarters and started creating.

After some brief mingling with the rest of our new team (now 48 people) the group was then divided into 4 smaller sub teams that would handle the Structure, Operations, Human resources and Computing/robotics of our design, and we began to work on the presentation. Initially we focused on researching the lunar atmosphere and fact-finding, and began to gather ideas for the very basic version of our design. Slowly and steadily, we started to piece together this space station. Communication was key at this stage, and there were people constantly running between groups, sharing ideas and exchanging figures! We decided to use a Google Drive to allow the groups to share work quickly and easily, and to put together preliminary slides for our presentation.

We were thrown out of Imperial at 10pm, when we began to make our way to the hotel. There we continued work! We had our final dry run at four in the morning, and at that point, we were panicking about who was speaking and how. Morning dawned and, running on a lacklustre breakfast and somewhat sub-optimal amount of sleep, we proceeded from the accommodation back to 'Vulture HQ', with some people continuing preparations for the pitch even on the tube. The company managed to cram in a dry run of sorts (leaving a considerable amount to be desired) before we were eventually told we couldn't push the time any further and had to make our way to the lecture theatre.

The first two teams presented, competently but suffering some 'technical difficulties', and then the judges really laid into them. One team was enlightened to the fact that their main structural material was a flexible, cloth like fabric, and the other raised eyebrows with regards to the plan to take 10,000 chickens into space with them. We were next up.

The pitch was limited to 35 minutes exactly and we were the only team so far to hit that pretty tightly. It was a good effort overall, with some good individual delivery. Then, of course, our interrogation... The 10 minutes it took was long, a sea of hundreds of faces looking down on you, watching you squirm. We had, I think it's fair to say, the biggest grilling there was. All the other questioning slots were met with respectful silence from the audience. We got sharp intakes of breath and 'oooh's, plus the odd roar of laughter. With hindsight, they were the most trivial of issues, and perhaps an indication that we had done very well. But having it pointed out that, not only was your hairdressers bigger than your grocery store, but you employed more hairdressers than computer scientists, felt like a public humiliation.

The fourth presentation was the most slick. It was also painfully cheesy, featuring mnemonics and catch phrases and, if I recall correctly, almost an entire recital of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

We waited for what seemed like hours of agonising torment before the judging Panel finally reappeared.  They prolonged the torture. All four team names were on the screen for four of the longest minutes anyone had ever endured, before finally our team, Vulture Aviation, was circled. After seconds of processing this the team leapt up screaming, and all 48 of us went down congratulating each other.


The drama was not over, however. We now had to choose 12 people from the 48 in our team to go on and represent the UK in the international finals in Houston, Texas at the NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Centre. This was a long and difficult process because none of the adults were allowed to influence our decision and we had to choose all 12 between ourselves. After lots of bickering, six out of the 12 people that managed to get selected were Redcliffe students. That's half of the UK team!

The international final will take place over four days, starting from the 1st of August until the 5th. The setup for the international competition will be exactly the same, but we will be given four whole days to get our presentation done and we will also be competing with, and against, representatives of other countries from all over the world. It is definitely going to be challenging as there will be many different cultures and linguistic barriers that we'll have to work around, but we are all very excited and grateful to have the opportunity to compete in a competition of such a high calibre.

Written By, The Redcliffe UKSDC Team
Camilla Lee, Cai Burton, James Lansdowne, Matt Price, Nancy Ley, Joanna Dombek, Elenya Knops, Hani Salih, Sam Cheek, Matt Gilpin, Matt Lexton and Nathan Thomas


May 1

Redcliffe Student wins Management Undergraduate of the Year

 The Undergraduate of the Year Awards were set up to identify and celebrate the UK's best undergraduates in specific areas such as particular degree subjects (law, engineering etc), year group (first years) or other categories (future leaders, women, commercial excellence). 4000 students nationally applied for the awards, and to win one required a combination of academic excellence, the ability to pass a series of difficult online assessments, good written communication and finally the interpersonal skills necessary to compete with other students in assessments run by the sponsoring organisation.

Recent Redcliffe student George Fisher-Wilson is currently studying management studies at the University of Leicester, and applied for the 'Management' category of the awards. George is also the Vice President of the Leicester University Traders and Investors society and runs a small import business in his spare time. He is also employed by Vodafone as a sales advisor.

George writes "My award was sponsored by Enterprise Rent-a-car and I won a paid summer internship and a week in America with them. I first had to apply with some basic biographical information, then answer three questions which were basically sales and customer service based. After this I had a logical reasoning test, and scenario based tests. This lead to a phone interview, and then an assessment day in which I got to show off my debating skills which Redcliffe had definitely nurtured. We had to discuss different charity proposals that we were each assigned and then do a mock morning brief for staff. We were finally whittled down to 10 and invited to Canary Wharf for an awards dinner at which Trevor Mcdonald presented our awards."

None of George's teachers are remotely surprised.

Follow this link for more information in the awards :


Undergraduates of the Year

Apr 17

Bouldering Triumph

The final round the TCA South West Schools Bouldering League was held on Monday March 11th and we are very proud to announce that the St Mary Redcliffe 6th form team won the Y10-13 Male category in our first year of entry. The league consists of 4 rounds run over 5 months and attracted over 70 students from 12 different schools. In the past the event has been dominated by the local private schools, and the standard this year was reportedly very high, but in the end our team of Laurie Sinclair-Emerson, Jacob Day and Tom Barber came out convincingly ahead of QEH, Bristol Grammar and Bristol Cathedral School, due to a very consistent performance by all three boys. We wish we could claim any credit for this triumph, but the all credit lies with the boys, who took the initiative in approaching us to see if we would support and sponsor their entry.


Rather like our rowing club, which started five years ago now as a student initiative, we very much hope that this is something that can be sustained into future years. Our prize was a free training session at The Climbing Academy for 10 students, which should hopefully give it some momentum. What we hope it shows is that where students want to go for something there is no reason why it shouldn't happen.



Feb 27

Physics trip to CERN 2012

Physics trip to CERN 2012


On Monday 16th July 21 students and two staff met at Bristol Temple Meads station for the first stage of our journey to Geneva. On arrival at the hostel we were given and promptly lost our room keys, and settled into our rooms. The first activity was a treasure hunt around Geneva, which involved around four hours of pleasant strolling around the city, discovering treasures all over the place, from the four giants of the Protestant Reformation in the old town to the Geneva flower clock and the golden onions of the Russian Orthodox Church.


The first activity on Tuesday was to negotiate the breakfast buffet, after which we took a tram up to the UN, the second largest of its headquarters in the world (only New York is bigger). We all went through airport style security and walked across the site (complete with resident peacocks) to meet our guide. He took us to the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, decorated by famous artist Miquel Barcelò, the Salle des Pas Perdus, from which you can see the monument commemorating the conquest of outer space, the Assembly Hall and the Council Chamber, where many important historical negotiations have taken place. We found out about the current activities of the United Nations and the history of the Palais des Nations, formerly the headquarters of the League of Nations. Outside we found the Broken Chair, symbolising opposition to land mines and cluster bombs acting as a reminder to politicians and others visiting Geneva. We then found some fountains, which were particularly useful for cooling off in the heat!, before our stunning boat ride on Lake Geneva.


Wednesday brought the long anticipated visit to CERN. We started off in the visitor centre, ’The Globe’, using the interactive displays to learn more about what goes on at CERN. From there we visited ‘Microcosm’ and learned more about the contributions that research at CERN has made to the wider world. We then sat among world class physicists as we ate our lunch in the CERN cafeteria (best lunch all week!). After lunch we met a contact of Miss Wales’ who took us on a behind the scenes tour including the office where he worked with Tim Berners Lee when he proposed the WWW in the late 1980s, with the original poster on the door. In the afternoon we had our official tour. This started with a video introduction to the history of CERN and a questions and answer session with an undergraduate researcher. Two of our students were quite satisfied to spot a mistake in the particle masses quoted on one of his slides! We then piled into the CERN minibus to take a ride to two of the experimental facilities. The first one was the newly built control centre where students were quick to spot the rows of champagne bottles (empty!) from celebrations of each milestone in the development of their research. The most awe-inspiring part of the trip was at the CMS facility. We were able to go underground (although not right into the tunnel as it was active and highly radioactive) and see the heart of the world’s largest physics experiment. A display of all the people involved (they looked normal and just like us!) in the CMS project hopefully inspired some of our students to be part of the CERN team in the future. In the evening we were treated to more of Mr Gregson’s games to keep us entertained.


At the CMS detector


After breakfast on Thursday morning (and a bit of a lie in following the excitement of Wednesday) we all walked along the bank of the lake to the History of Science Museum for a journey into the city’s scientific past. The museum displays an intriguing collection of scientific instruments from the 17th to the 19th century, including microscopes, telescopes, sundials, astrolabes and a vast collection of glass eyes! In the early afternoon we went off in small groups to do our souvenir shopping, or even to take a dip in the lake, whose water has just melted and run off a mountain and so was still pretty cold! In the evening we went to Hotel Eidelweiss for a traditional Swiss meal. Most of us had fondue of some sort, accompanied by a local alpine horn player and yodeller! Back at the hostel we gave prizes and gifts for people achievements and contributions, Miss Wales receiving a ‘real’ Higgs Boson from the whole group as a thank you for organising everything. We departed early the next morning, retracing our steps to Geneva airport and back to Bristol, where after much frantic phoning, everyone was met and taken off home to continue their summer.


Many thanks to all who came and made the trip so enjoyable.