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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.

Oct 23

A Vision for Change

A Vision for Change


At the beginning of year 12 students are given the oppurtunity to volunteer with the youth charity Envision. In previous years groups have worked on local projects to encourage cycling and wider-scale campaigns to protect endangered species. Last year a group of girls decided to base their work around the area of gender stereotypes and exploring the ways in which they could tackle these all too prevalent problems. What began as a weekly session with an Envision mentor soon evolved into something much bigger, as they decided the best way that they could make a difference was to target those closest to them and so chose to run a series of workshops for year 9 girls in St Mary Redcliffe school.  


Susannah Harvey writes -

"We wanted to pass on our own experience and the lessons we had learned to boost the girls confidence and self esteem. We ran 4 workshops on self-image, relationships, ambitions and talents with these aims in mind. Running the workshops was an incredibly rewarding experience, seeing the girls come out of their shells, particiapting enthustiastically in the activities we set and really considering the things we discussed with them was more than enough payment for the work we put in."

Envision logo


The team was to be rewarded even further however.


A month after all the workshops were over they were informed that they had won a nationally prestigous Diana award for their work. Two members of the group were chosen to attend the award ceremonies where they had an amazing time and had the oppurtunity to meet other inspirational young people from up and down the country. Seannah Calladine, shown at the awards ceremony remarked that "It was a privilege to work with the girls and to watch  their confidence develop, and to have our work rewarded on such a scale was something completely unexpected but a real honour". The other members of the core team were Natalie Devalba, Alice Trickey and Robyn Samuels.

Diana Award

Jul 10

Redcliffe Debating Team in national finals

Redcliffe 6th Form Debating Team Success

The Redcliffe 6th Form debating team did outstandingly well in achieving equal third place in the Institute of Ideas 'Debating Matters' competition, which attracts 200 schools from across the UK. Having battled through a local and regional round to become 'Wales & the South West' champions, the team went to London for the finals at the start of July. Over an exhausting and challenging weekend the teams were put through their paces by top-name judges including: broadcaster and BBC Today programme presenter, Justin Webb; chairman of Unilever UK &Ireland, Amanda Sourry; Chief executive of the British Council, Martin Davidson and The Times' Associate Editor & Chief Leader Writer, Camilla Cavendish.

During the course of the weekend the eight competing teams grappled with a wide range of contemporary debates. In our first round Jake Dowse and Ana Ryan-Flinn showed their coolness under pressure and understanding of the issues in debating the question of whether social media is rejuvenating politics. The semi-final debate on the impact of neuroscience on our understanding of criminal responsibility was especially challenging, with a range of science, law and philosophy being argued under the scrutiny of specialist judges. Alice Thomson and James Nash put up an impressive fight, but the approach to the motion that Beckfoot School from Bradford chose to take was tough to bring down, and Beckfoot won through on a split decision from the judges. The rest of our team included Dominic Dee, who helped get us through the Bristol heat, and Jo Hawkins and Ally Glennie, who were lined up to represent us in the final, which was eventually won by Graveney School in London.

Debating team

Speaking after judging our semi-final debate, journalist Camilla Cavendish said:

"This was my first time judging for Debating Matters and it was brilliant. An enormous amount of work had been done by the teams and they withstood a great deal of pressure from the judges and the audience. Debating Matters really takes students forward. It is very different from conventional debate, and moves away from flashy rhetoric and towards substantial argument"

Across the three day final teams not only spoke in their hard-fought debates, but also made some excellent contributions during the numerous extra-curricular activities that were organised across the National Final weekend, including a panel discussion on the impact of the Leveson Inquiry on free speech, with top name speakers Ray Snoddy, presenter BBC Newswatch; Thais Portilho-Shrimpton, coordinator of the 'Hacked Off Campaign' and web editor for the Media Standards Trust, and Brendan O'Neill, editor of spiked; and at an Institute of Ideas 'Question Time' event, with speakers including Alex Deane, Head of Public Affairs at Weber Shandwick, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and Dr Ellie Lee, reader in Social Policy at the University of Kent. 

In addition to winning £1000 of books for the school, the Redcliffe team carried off 3 of the 12 individual awards – Jake Dowse receiving an 'honourable mention', Ana Ryan-Flinn the third prize for her individual contributions, and James Nash, the Gina Owens Memorial Prize for the passion, humour and quality of his contributions.

May 11

Rome trip in March

Rome trip in March

Students in Year 12 and 13 had a very successful trip to Rome in March. The sun was shinning, the ice cream was delicious and the city lived up to its reputation as being one of the most beautiful in Europe.

The trip was designed to support the studies of students studying Classical Civilisation  and History at A level. Year 12 students were wowed by the Greek statues in the Vatican Museum, Discobolos, the Trevi Fountain (see below) and Apoxymenos, comparing them with the pictures they had up to this point seen only in their textbooks back at school. Year 13 focused on the ancient Roman sites; the Forae, the Pantheon and the Ara Pacis. These are set sources for the exam syllabus so they merited careful perusal! Other students particularly enjoyed the visit to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican City. All this was interspersed with frequent visits to piazzas, gelateria and the occasional café.

The Trevi  Fountain
As well as being particularly useful for our studies, the trip was also a great social opportunity and allowed us to make friends with students that we would not normally interact with. We were granted plenty of free time where we could experience Rome for ourselves, including its markets and fountains. This was really great for enjoying the culture of Italy without restriction. If you are considering going on the Rome trip then you won't be disappointed. There is so much to see, one trip will not be enough.

Enjoying Rome!

Mar 20

Model United Nations Conference

Picture2On the first weekend in February the Redcliffe 6th Form Debating Society went on our annual pilgrimage to the Model United Nations Conference at Kingswood School in Bath. This was Kingswood's 23rd conference and the fourth year that we have attended. It attracts over 600 students from mostly private schools across the UK as well as schools from the United States, Germany, Russia and The Czech Republic.

Model United Nations (known as MUN) provides students with an exciting opportunity to learn about the challenges facing the world today. Participants organise themselves into delegations, before being assigned a country to represent at the conference. They must then seek to reflect accurately the view of that country in a series of debates on international issues. The students who take part not only become more aware about the issues confronting the wider world, but they also develop important skills, such as how to communicate effectively to a large audience, how to think on their feet when confronted with the unexpected, and how to work collaboratively with others.

This year we took 21 students, who represented the countries of Egypt, Panama, Thailand and Lithuania. They each participated in one of the committees (Human Rights, Political, Economic, Health, Environment, Disarmament, Africa and Middle East) and then participated in a 'General Assembly' disaster scenario which they had to resolve. The committee agendas included the situations in Somalia, Burma, China, Syria, Iran and Palestine; combating international terrorism; fair trade and the global economic crisis; combating obesity and AIDS; climate change and sustainable farming; nuclear proliferation and child soldiers; education and clean water in Africa; religious freedom, torture, internet freedom, the death penalty and the rights of women.

This was our most successful year in terms of awards. Huge congratulations are due to Alice Thomson for being the best delegate in the Environment Committee and to the Egypt delegation as a whole (Ana, Jo, Alice, James, Ally and Leonie) for their commendation. Alice managed to be voted most likely to become a dictator and start WW3, as became a master of weaving various Egyptian proverbs into speeches. AlsoPicture1 commended as delegates were Henry Atkinson, James Nash, Naomi Wilkins and Chris Flossman; and Jeremy Budd was voted the most passionate delegate in his committee. A number of students wrote resolutions to be debated and some of them were passed. One of the highlights of the whole event was Chris Flossman, with a crown on his head, having been voted by the committee to take over the chair for a period, speaking from the podium in a fake Lithiuanian accent and selling the charity wrist-bands he had brought with him to a queue of delegates!

James Nash narrowly avoided being ejected from his committee on a number of occasions for being so awkward, but said “I feel I have learned quite a lot about Egypt, and also had to think quite a lot about the problems with the internet to write a resolution on it; I feel I have a much better understanding of them now.”

Dominic Dee said that “For me, the emergency crisis situation within the Health committee itself was the most enjoyable part of the debating, not least some people began to realise that the weekend was drawing to a close and decided to take things slightly less seriously. The time spent outside of because the school was obviously very enjoyable too, spending time with people who I haven't done much before.” We went out for a meal on both nights and games of Empire and Mafia were played fairly late into the night.

Richard Cheng highlighted the value of meeting new people that you usually wouldn't meet, the serious nature of the topics involved in the debates but also the light hearted moments with joke amendments or resolutions proposed which then receive a debate too (the Africa committee debated a resolution to send in the A Team and the Order of the Phoenix to solve a particular crisis situation). “Speaking in front of hundreds of people and proposing my resolution which got passed was really satisfying, although the research required to write a resolution is really immense”.

Ollie Norman said that “The whole weekend was a really interesting and worthwhile experience. I particularly enjoyed lobbying, and coercing people into signing my resolution. The debates, especially ones about subjects with which I was more familiar with, were great, and having my resolution selected for debate was a real achievement, albeit sparking a frantic 5 minutes in which I garbled a speech, and sent copious amounts of notes to other delegates, attempting, not without result, to get a delegate to support me. It wasn't all serious however, and the ensuing debate about the logistics of a forced labour camp in the Antarctic was fun. Probably what I learnt most of all was that international relations (if this model UN was at all realistic) can be a real barrier to addressing some of the most pressing issues facing the world.”

If their passion and moral commitments are anything to go by maybe this generation of students can do a better job of solving them than the current people in control.