Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Is this the beginning of the technological future? - Ben Evans, Sixth Former

In Back to the Future part 2, Doc Brown and Marty McFly travelled to October 21st 2015. It’s now November 16th 2018.  So, where’s my hoverboard, why don’t my shoes tie themselves, what gives? The future always seems to be so far away, and every time there’s a technological breakthrough, people seem less and less amazed. We’ve become numb to the rate at which technology progresses, and now, it could be slowing down.

In 1965, Gordon E. Moore predicted that the power of computers would double every two years. This was an ambitious claim to say the least, and people had many doubts about the computing industry, as shown in these quotes:

‘I think there is a world market for maybe five computers’ – Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

‘Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons’ – Popular Mechanics Magazine, 1949 
‘There is no reason anyone in the right state of mind will want a computer in their home’ – Ken Olson, President of the Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977

It came to pass that the people who were the most successful in the next 50 years were those who saw the potential of computers. Gordon Moore obviously believed in this potential and he later became a co-founder of Intel. His prediction was so accurate in fact, it became known as a law, Moore’s law. However, Moore’s law is ending. Not because we are getting worse at making computers, in fact we’re finding more efficient ways to do it all the time, which I will talk about later, but we are hitting some barriers. A processor is made up of billions of tiny switches, called transistors. Just like a light switch, these can be on or off and nothing else. If on is represented as a 1 and off as a 0, you can create a binary system, and this is the basis of all classical computing. As we make transistors smaller, we can fit more into the same space and thus we get smaller computers that are just as powerful. This effect is known as miniaturisation. The issue is that we have become so good at making transistors small, that the next smallest thing is a single atom. This poses a few issues, and it is the main reason that processors are no longer becoming twice as powerful every two years. The other reason is that the more power we put in, the hotter the computer gets. We have reached a level where if not cooled properly, most of the computers we use would simply melt and burn. Electronics are also far less efficient unless they are cooled. This is why the computer cooling industry is somewhat booming at the moment, and the prices show it.

While it may seem like we are reaching the end of technology development as we know it, we’re not and there are many things to be excited about in the future. I’ve personally noticed that advertisement for ‘futuristic’ technologies has certainly increased. The other day I saw four adverts in a row on new technologies. The first was for Microsoft AI, a project that involves programs that allow deaf people to ‘see’ sound, something I am actually researching for my computing coursework, drone security and helping architects recreate history in virtual reality. The next was completely about virtual reality, and how it could be used to affect people going through therapy, children going through education and using it to see chemical molecules in 3D. I then saw an advert for Samsung’s new 8k TV and finally a Siemens advert for voice controlled appliances. I didn’t really know what to think. Why would you need to spend hundreds of pounds on a virtual reality headset to see molecules in 3D, when you can just buy one of the model kits we have in our department for a fraction of that. 8K TV? Just to put that into perspective, that’s 33 million, 177 thousand, 600 pixels. The human eye can barely see the difference in 4K. Enough pixels! As for voice controlled appliances, if you’re going up to the washing machine to put the clothes in anyway, you may as well press the button while you’re there.

To read the full article, please visit our academic blog page

Thursday, 6 September 2018

The positive effects of parkland on academic achievement - Tom Whipple, Science Editor at The Times

We say often how fortunate Canfordians are to have access to such inspirational space in which to live and work.  Here Tom Whipple explains the power of parkland on positive academic achievement and on general wellbeing.

"Green spaces could be good for grey matter, a study has found. The research showed that children living in areas with more parkland had better spatial working memory, which is linked to academic achievement.

Almost 5,000 English 11-year-olds were involved in the study, which was published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology. The authors wanted to see how important shared green spaces were to a trait strongly linked to academic performance, among other things. Spatial working memory is a measure of how effective people are at orientation and recording information about their environment. It enables us to navigate through a city or remember the position of objects. To make sure that they were not measuring only socioeconomic status, with the children of the rich tending to live in leafier areas and have more educational advantages, the scientists looked at the level of deprivation of the neighbourhood. They found that irrespective of wealth more green space was associated with improved spatial memory.

Eirini Flouri, of University College London, said that the study emphasised the importance of parkland in urban planning. “Our findings suggest a positive role of green space in cognitive functioning. Spatial working memory is an important cognitive ability that is strongly related with academic achievement in children, particularly mathematics performance,” she said. She added that factors for which they had not accounted could be behind the link.

The research is the latest to link urban greenery to health benefits. Scientists have also found evidence that living close to parkland leads to a sustained improvement in mental wellbeing. In 2014 Exeter University contrasted these long-term effects of green space to the impact on happiness of promotions, pay rises or windfalls, all of which increase happiness only temporarily. They suggested that it helped to lower stress levels."

Subscribers to The Times can read the article online at

Thursday, 16 August 2018

A Level Results Day: an OC perspective - Libby Jones (2014 leaver)

Four years ago today, I was devastated by the news that I had missed one of my A Level grades and had therefore been rejected by Exeter University. I remember frantically calling the admissions office and unsuccessfully pleading with the lady on the other end of the phone to accept me. I had had my heart set on studying at Exeter for years and I really struggled to process that this was not going to become a reality for me.

After several days of feeling really upset and thinking everything through with the support of my parents and teachers, I decided instead to defer my entry to Cardiff University, which was my insurance choice, and to take a gap year – something that I had previously been too nervous to commit to doing. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made, as I had an incredible year gaining work experience and spending time volunteering overseas that I would never have experienced if results day had gone to plan. This was followed by three fantastic years in Cardiff studying Human Geography, which were full of new and exciting opportunities and experiences. I also quickly realised that the course was far more suited to me than the one at Exeter would have been and I really enjoyed my studies, as well as the time I spent playing hockey and volunteering with South Wales police.

Having just graduated and really thrilled to have gained a First, I can confidently say that my A Level grades have neither defined me nor stopped me from achieving my goals. I hope that by sharing my experience I can help to reassure anyone who may be feeling disheartened or having to rethink their plans: I can guarantee that you can make your plan B just as good, if not better than what you hoped for in the first place.

Libby is hoping to pursue a career in PR and marketing and would love to connect with any OCs or Canford parents working in that world. If you would like to get in touch with her please email

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The Currency of Language - Dr Patricia Gibbons

We face a difficulty when we use language, because we need it to stretch in all kinds of directions to say so many things.  The contents of one language is needed to do it all – from expressing feelings of elation, to making abstract thought concrete, to talking about practical things.  It is ordinary language but we need it to do extraordinary things.  The language we use about education matters.

Increasingly, language from the area of Economics is used about education.  Our colleagues in the Economics Department regularly use terms such as customers, market exchange, consumers, commodities, money etc.  It is entirely appropriate to engage those terms concerning the transfer of goods, such as coffee or oil, from one person to another.  Transactions occur when a person wants to secure an item they desire which they do not provide for themselves.  The transaction occurs through the exchange of money for commodity.  The value of the commodity has no intrinsic value but has the monetary worth of what someone is willing to pay for it.  But is the language of Economics appropriate in matter of education, and do the economic ideas and assumptions faithfully portrays the vision of education we hold?

I suggest that as far as education is concerned, and very specifically private education where parents pay fees, adopting economic language is inaccurate and has a potentially corrosive effect, devaluing and distorting the high vision we have of education.

To read the full article, please visit

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Exam Stress and Sport - Mark Burley, Director of Sport

The importance of maintaining regular involvement with sport and exercise during the exam season can't be underestimated.  There has been a growing tendency to see exclusive blocks of revision as the only option to produce exam success, withdrawing from competitions and matches at late notice. Sadly this not only significantly disrupts the remaining teammates but also has the potential to detrimentally impact upon the physical, emotional and mental health of the individual pupil during this period. Remaining part of a team / crew / squad with whom one has invested significant time and effort is often the necessary interlude which helps generates a refreshed perspective and appetite for further learning during the revision period.

Numerous scientific studies have explored this issue and have proven the physiological benefits of regular exercise to keep the mind refreshed and break up the monotony of revision. This can be complemented by other activities such as breathing techniques, mindfulness and meditation, all of which can help offset stress and panic which can build in the lead up to exams.  See some of the articles below for useful tips on coping with stress during exams: 

A growing area of interest for researchers in this field has been exploring the emotional importance of remaining involved with peer groups and teammates during the exam season. The shared experiences and empathy from friends within a team who are undergoing the same kind of stresses creates a degree of calmness and reassurance which helps to alleviate tension at a key time in an adolescent’s life. Moreover, the value of a shared commitment as part of a team competing in a fixture, tournament, regatta, etc. generates greater balance and meaning to young people’s lives. Exam success is undoubtedly an important aspect of school life which greatly influences future opportunities but the pursuit of such success should not be to the detriment of one’s emotional and mental health, nor should it be seen as the only indicator of success and progress.

It is also important to retain perspective, especially for the younger age groups, where end of year exams are simply an indicator of progress – not a judgement on one’s future academic success. Participating in school fixtures and events is normal for all teenagers and should not be seen as something to give up to singularly focus on exams and tests. As with most things in life, there isn’t anything wrong with a bit of balance.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Has Rap replaced Poetry? - a debate presented by Kacper Kazaniecki (Upper Sixth Former)

If I were to ask you who’s the current Poet laureate, the people’s poet, I don’t presume many of you would know. I for certain didn’t until pretty much yesterday. However, if I were to ask you who won the latest Grammy award for the best hip-hop album, I presume many more would know. 

The MP Emma Dent Coad has pointed this out in the houses of parliament after the Grenfell Tower disaster. She says:
“At times of national disaster, poet laureates are often called upon to commemorate and reflect upon events. In North Kensington we have our own Ben Johnsons and Alfred Lord Tennysons. 
Our poet laureates are Akala, AJ Tracey, Lowkey, Peaky .. we have Stormzy and Potent Whisper calling out what he calls “Grenfell Britain” in gut-wrenching prose."

Although the two art forms share the same fundamental medium that of rhyme and rhythm, there is a great discrepancy between how the two are perceived within society. If you were to take the average GCSE student, chances are that they wouldn’t have the greatest opinion on poetry. ‘It’s boring’, ‘the language is too confusing, ‘I can’t relate to it’ they might say, views that they wouldn’t necessarily hold of rap music. So, has rap music replaced poetry for (at least) our generation? Or is poetry the eternal art of humanity that is here to stay for millennia to come as it has done in the past. Does one deal with the depths of the human condition, that of: love, eternal truths, and our relation to the world. And does the other cover the superficial and primitive aspects of humanity that of: greed, intoxication and sexual obsession. Or maybe the two aren’t entirely antithetical, as many parallels and influences can be drawn between them.
Before we delve deeper into the analysis of both, here are some sentences either from Shakespeare or from ­popular hip-hop.  Guess which one the line comes from.

“To destroy the beauty from which one came” – Jay z, You Must Love Me
“Maybe it’s hatred I spew, maybe it’s food for the spirit” – Eminem, Renegade
o Later in the song Eminem says: “See, I'm a poet to some, a regular modern-day Shakespeare”
“Men would rather use their broken records than their bare hands” – Orthello
“I was not born under a rhyming planet” - Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing
“The most benevolent king communicates through your dreams” - Wu-Tang Clan, Impossible
“Socrates, philosophy and hypotheses can’t define me” – Wu-Tang Clan, Triumph

The reason to play this mini-game, isn’t to cherry pick some obscure, unknown tracks just to be able to say ‘look, hip-hop has clever lines as well’. But more so to show that the boundary between the two, once the context has been removed, can be very blurred. The hip-hop bars were chosen from very well-known artists who are or were at the forefront of hip hop. Wu-Tang-Clan for example, had the first hip hop album to reach no.1 in the UK charts. Perhaps the appeal that the British audience found in the album was the resemblance to the more traditional aspect of English literature.

To read the full essay and other latest writings from Canford pupils, please visit

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Language learning is thriving - Richard Wilson, Head of German and Other Languages

Despite the national press reporting a decline in pupil interest in learning a foreign language, Languages at Canford are thriving. The school currently offers French, German and Spanish as core subjects at IGCSE and Pre-U, and saw 145 entries at IGCSE last summer and 19 at Pre-U. Results are excellent, with on average 70% of IGCSE graded A*/A and over 70% of Pre-U examinations at D1/M1 level in these languages in 2017. 

Alongside these main languages, last year also saw the biggest ever year for the ‘Other Languages’ department. There were record numbers of native-speakers, bilingual and non-native speaking pupils learning and/or taking exams in a record ten different world languages – Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Polish, Turkish and Urdu. Worldwide these languages are spoken by 2 billion people across four continents. A Level saw an A* in A2 Russian and As in AS Arabic, Italian and Polish and at IGCSE all examinations taken were awarded A*/A grades in Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish and Urdu. In addition, pupils also take the internationally recognised HSK Chinese and the JLPT Japanese language proficiency exams. On leaving Canford, many pupils also decide to study one of these languages as part of their degree at top universities. Recent languages combinations include Chinese, Spanish with Chinese, Spanish with Arabic, French and Japanese, Arabic and Ancient Greek, Italian with Danish, French with Italian, Italian and Japanese, Japanese with Russian and many more.

As one Canfordian commented:  "I love travelling to different countries and learning about new culture and I think languages will really help me in my career as now Europe is becoming very international. I am now fluent in English, Dutch and Russian, so hopefully they will guide me to many exciting career opportunities.”

It is a real pleasure to manage such a diverse range of languages and to learn about the pupils’ personal and cultural connections to them. My congratulations go to all pupils involved in our Other Languages programme and their excellent efforts.