Tuesday, 5 February 2019

OBITUARY: E. Rex Sean

‘Sup w********s what’s good?

Right, ritual number one complete. Who's ready for a rollercoaster obituary?

I joined Hampstead in 2011. I started writing for the Trash in 2016 after choosing to stay at Hampstead for Sixth Form. At the time of my GCSEs I believed it was in my best interest to continue my education there and in many ways, I still believe this was the best decision. I chose to stay at Hampstead because I knew that with the subjects I chose to study at A Level I would have the best teachers available. And they truly were. My two years of Sixth Form gave me many opportunities and great experiences both from teachers and peers. This is what makes Hampstead a truly welcoming community and a brilliant place to broaden educational and personal horizons. 

I decided to write for the Trash for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I became increasingly disillusioned with the school over time as I saw student power decrease and teachers - who had students' best interests at heart and whose ideas would’ve made learning even better - put down by senior staff for not conforming to the School's ridiculous regulations. Secondly, I wrote for the Trash due to a drop in student voice. I watched on as School Councillors were disregarded by management for bringing genuine educational concerns, instead being credited for the introduction of bins. Finally, I was also present when SLUDGE's obituary was published and the SLT launched a crackdown on the Debate Society which he passionately advocated. I think what pushed me more into supporting the Trash, let alone writing for it, was seeing how the school and in particular the Head, responded to criticism with tyranny and open threats against individuals. I wrote with the intention of trying to make a difference however corny that may sound. 

Now, I was a lazy writer, I won’t lie. I only wrote 10 articles in the 18 months I was an official writer, taking over this account from a previous writer. I somewhat regret this. In his obituary, SLUDGE wrote that the Trash is “A blog [which he hoped would] continue until it is not needed.” It is genuinely saddening that I have had to write for this blog 6 years on from its creation. I have seen no change for the better in the school. I have only seen Hampstead School fall further and further down the slope and more dramatically off of the rails. I hope that students continue to speak of this blog - even in some deranged myth about SLUDGE and his heroism if they want - and write for it, if only to write poor quality spoofs to antagonise the school management.

I *chose* to stay at Hampstead for Sixth Form. Many people in my year group chose to leave the school favouring other “better” places like Woodhouse College, HSFW and CSG, amongst many other schools and colleges. As I said, I chose to reject those institutions in favour of Hampstead. My rationale behind this was that Hampstead offered some of the best teaching staff for my subject choices (Humanities teachers, you're all amazing) alongside high quality educational and extra-curricular experiences. 

My teachers were incredibly hard working. On occasion, they would come in exhausted from being overworked and yet still be able to produce a brilliant lesson which has enabled me to now attend one of the top 100 universities in the world. I cannot thank them enough for their dedication in all that they have done. I’d also like to apologise to them for being a massive suck up (you loved it though don't lie). I also, from Y7 to Y11 had the best Head of Year I could’ve asked for. She stood up for me and other students on multiple occasions in order to defend us against decrees from the Head which would've seen a fall in standards of education and personal development. The work done by these members of staff is priceless and brilliant. Once again, thank you for standing up for, and supporting, every student.

So to all the current students reading this: don’t give your teachers such a hard time. The vast majority genuinely want the best for you and know what they’re doing and get enough of a hard time from the SLT as it is. Challenge them intellectually, not in terms of their patience. 

Despite some great experiences, I have seen increased disillusionment of teaching staff as a result of the Head and his management. So much so that one long-serving teacher who left in recent years told me they left because they had effectively had enough of working there. Staff have also seen their workloads increase exponentially. Now, this is of course largely down to the government and the poor funding of the education system, but also the decisions made by the school. Decisions such as asking teachers to teach subjects that they do not specialise in to KS3 students (due to chronic understaffing) based on tangential background knowledge such as their partner knowing about the subject, all while they are overworked as it is in the subject they actually teach. Fabulous teachers are leaving the school due to ridiculous demands being placed upon them by the management. Students then bare the consequences of staff grievances as staff are exhausted and unfocussed at times due to pressure from above. Furthermore, newer staff pick up the management’s authoritarian obsession which means they quickly lose their individuality and quality as teachers, leading to students losing enthusiasm in subjects as focus shifts from broadening knowledge and intrigue, to check box exercises and respecting authority. Fault lies with the Head and his culture of intimidation.

The Head and his ego do not end with turning teachers into some sort of power hungry police force. This, of course, is where I come to mention the idiocy of his policies on media, advertising, and favourite of the Trash, the uniform issue. The Head’s obsessions with media appearances has frequently harmed the school as previously reported. I distinctly remember one person many years ago claiming that Szemalikowski is, to paraphrase, “like a vampire, except instead of sucking blood he leeches off of the media to feed his ego”. Now, aside from all the financial issues which have harmed the school at a time of increasing budget cuts, the issue of the media in recent times led the Head to indulge the Secretary of State for Education. Now I do not know what they discussed but I have an idea that the Head most likely did not raise the issues of acadamisation, of budget cuts, of teacher recruitment issues that this government has allowed to spiral out of control. In the Buzz (Summer 2018) the Head writes that the minister “officiated” the opening of the New Block (not to be confused with the New Block), which might I add was supposed to be built when I joined Hampstead in Y7 but due to the Secretary’s government was delayed until I was in Y11 as they cut the Building Schools for the Future programme. I doubt the Head mentioned this though. If he did, good on him. But most likely the Head just cosied up to the man who now presides over the continuation of such harmful programmes alongside funding £50m for grammar schools to expand with the goal of the creation of new grammar schools in the future. 

Now onto a more serious issue largely unnoticed at Hampstead: anti-Semitism. This issue has been has become prominent in national news recently due to the ever ongoing crisis within the Labour Party. However, what I feel the need to mention is also that in my time at Hampstead I have noticed that Hampstead has also had a deep-rooted issue with such racism. It is prevalent amongst students and often I have seen it go unchallenged by other students and staff. To detail some cases of anti-Semitism I have witnessed or been told about at Hampstead:
  • During the 2014 Israeli-Gaza war a Jewish student in the year below me was attacked by an older student on the basis that he’s Jewish and could be held responsible for the actions of the Israeli government. The student was not Israeli, just Jewish.
  • I know another student who was called a “disabled Jewish faggot” 
  • I have heard of students belittling the tragedy of the Holocaust, justifying this through comparisons to the conflicts in Gaza and the West Bank.  
  • And I, myself, have had coins thrown at me.
This is not an exhaustive list, however. In fact, most of the anti-Semitism is very casual and as such you become desensitised to it. From comments about some Jewish world conspiracy, accusations of killing Jesus, and tropes of Jews being rich and stingy, always in a “joking” context. This form of racism is prevalent within Hampstead. Now that is not to say that it is all deliberately hateful. Much comes out of ignorance which is where fault lies with the school for not properly educating students on what can be deemed as anti-Semitic. The school bears a responsibility to properly educate its students on how to be a normal and respectful human being. This is particularly important in the modern context when we look at escalating online anti-Semitic abuse directed at Jews who speak out (See Rachel Riley as an example). If they cannot even do that to a satisfactory standard how can we trust them to teach students more complex things like how to pass an exam? Yes, students are taught about anti-Semitism through Holocaust education in Year 9, Sixth Form and for one PSHCE lesson each January, but this is certainly not enough. At a time when it is reported that 1 in 20 Britons do not believe the Holocaust took place, more must be done to tackle the issue of anti-Semitism in society and this must start in schools like Hampstead. 

School is also what you make of it. Extra-curricular activities, as proclaimed on this blog over and over again, turn a school from an exam factory into a place of genuine education. These are the crowning jewels of a school, allowing students to freely express themselves and deepen their knowledge. In my time at Hampstead, however, it was very rare that I would see clubs promoted that weren’t run by PE or the Drama department for the school play. It made it seem to a person like me, who fits into neither grouping, that the school would not cater for me. Of course, other clubs exist, but were much less well promoted in more public forums such as assemblies.

When I joined Hampstead in Year 7, I immediately joined the Debate Society. It taught me to think openly and critically, to voice my concerns and opinions in a clear and persuasive manner. I also met people who challenged my ideas and the environment I was in. Most importantly, we were led by students. Y13s would lead a year’s worth of sessions, teaching large groups of students from across the school age group as best they saw fit and as each year they left to go to university or work, they were replaced by their juniors who past on that knowledge adding new traditions and styles in order to get the best out of themselves and other students. This is what school should be like. A community of young people coming together to empower and better each other.

I’m saddened to say this no longer is the case. I have noticed a series of changes over the years since SLUDGE first advocated the Society in his obituary. First, there was increased surveillance and restrictions. Then came the imposition of teacher oversight for “health and safety reasons” which meant it could not operate if a teacher was not present - which was frequent as teachers were unaware of how or where the society met or functioned. This policy was of course headed up by the management. Since 2016, student leaders have been undermined on almost every occasion with their opinions agreed to and then deliberately disregarded and acted against. Despite obstacles, students continued to persevere and progress, winning their first competition in almost 10 years in January 2017.

However, in the last year, teacher dictatorship leadership has finally been established. Increasingly convoluted excuses to impose restrictions on student leadership, to the point where they could not function, were imposed and so participation ended, crushing a beacon of free speech. Yes, there were flaws and issues in the Society but excuses of “health and safety”, “a culture of bullying”, “elitism” etc. etc. all sound alarm bells of lies, deceit, and explicit anger at the thought of students being able to think and speak critically.

I have spent much of my obituary ranting about the failings of Hampstead, the Head, and management. In the true style of the modern politician, I have pointed out its failings and offered no potential solutions. I feel that I should. Firstly, allow students to set up their own clubs and societies as and when they wish to. Give them free rein over what it should be and where they can operate. In addition, give them proper publicity to bring together like-minded students. Secondly, treat staff like humans. Allow staff who challenge the autocracy to get promotions. Don’t ostracise them by preventing them from being able to progress in their career, leading to the loss of good teaching staff as they move away for better opportunities and working environments. Thirdly, use opportunities such as the horrific PSHE lessons to actually educate students on issues such as anti-Semitism. Fourthly, give students greater opportunities. Take sixth formers on trips to more universities so they can understand what it is they want to do. Let lower school students go on genuinely educational and enjoyable trips relevant to their studies as opposed to an off timetable day in school where an expert in mindfulness tells them to listen to a grape (true story). Fifthly, to the Headteacher: End the obsession with your ego, conformity, and business mindset with which the school is operated. Hampstead is a comprehensive school. Stop trying to corporatise it by suppressing individualism and leeching off of media appearances and advertisements. There is simply no need. Just focus on the one job you have which is giving students the best possible education. At a time of budget cuts, use money to hire qualified teachers and buy textbooks. This will give better education and give a little rest bite to teaching staff who are so badly overworked and under-resourced.

On this topic, stand up to the government which presides over these policies! Don’t cosy up to them and give them a nice tour with the nicest students around. Show them the harsh realities if they visit. Show them the understaffed departments such as Geography and Music (collectively these departments had 3 qualified teachers for the whole of the 2017/8 year and they did an amazing job under these awful circumstances I must say). Have a backbone and call them out in person not just in some badly edited news bulletin. The Headteacher has presided over a race to the bottom in standards of student and staff welfare in the name of statistics whilst simultaneously blaming government in PR exercises which while partially valid, do not detract from the fact that the Head and leadership is complicit in falling standards.

So here is where my long rant and ramble ends. My final words about Hampstead. My final lines on this blog. I hope this blog continues under some student or another until students are taken seriously. Sorry to be a pessimist, but that time will probably never come, regardless of who is leading the school so to students I say continue to question, challenge and rebel against all idiotic rules. I will probably never think of you again after this but maybe you can take some sentiment from my words, do what you like. I will now go on to learn that the world is probably just like Hampstead’s management but worse as I battle through university lectures, seminars and essays. I’m glad to say Hampstead is behind me and that I have genuinely enjoyed being part of this blog through both the good and bad times. Now, tradition dictates I end with a quote so I have picked this from John Mulaney. I feel that it is appropriate seeing as you’ve read all of my rambling up to this point.

“Something happened here. You hope it’s a miracle, but probably not.”

Friday, 28 September 2018

Independence Open Day

With the fresh round of open mornings comes a fresh round of expensive adverts in the local papers (see Trash passim ad nauseum). All the schools are at it, even the ones like Hampstead that have had their budgets squeezed in the last few years, despite Headteachers saying their students are suffering without the funds.

The Ham&High no longer seem to be bothering to hide their bias when it comes to local schooling. Despite Hampstead and other local state schools advertising in their 12-page educational supplement this week, the insert was subtitled "How to choose an independent school", and qualified this with "Your guide to north London's top educators".

It's not the first time the Ham&High have ignored local comps that are doing reasonably well compared to their independent counterparts. For the last two years, the paper has lauded schools like UCS, whilst ignoring Hampstead altogether.

Buzz Bashing - Summer 2018

Right, let's get this over with.

The Head's message was expectedly brown-nosing as the most ego-appeasing thing to happen to him this year was another photo opportunity with a politician. This time it was the current Education Secretary, a man who is responsible for the continued stripping of school budgets such as, err, Hampstead's. He is also part of a government that torpedoed the funding for the school building originally planned to be built eight years ago, and cash was only dished out for the new, and cheaper, one because the old one was literally falling down. But, don't let that bother the Head. After all, senpai noticed him. In his message, the Head took the liberty of calling the Ed Sec the "Rt Hon Damian Hinds" twice, a courtesy not even the BBC affords MPs.

There was another piece detailing a visit by local MP Tulip Siddiq. The piece was far less gushing than the Head's message (nor was it attributed to any particular author). I wonder why? It may be down to the fact that, as a Labour candidate in 2013, Siddiq was pictured as being horrified at the news that Kinnan had been kicked out by the Head. In the Buzz article she was quoted as saying: "It just goes to show what young people from Hampstead and Kilburn can achieve if we give them the opportunity….." Sage words indeed.

A further piece of news that availed itself in the latest Buzz was that parents could now download the school's MyApp to keep up to date with whether their child has been sent home for some grievous uniform error. Despite the school embracing new technology, they ask that parents do not unsubscribe from their expensive email and text services as "the e-mail service is preferable". The main aim of the app, according to the article, is "to improve communication with Parents/Carers. The MyEd App [...] has shown an improvement in our partnership." That 'partnership' - terminology that makes it sound as if Hampstead had merged with a Japanese conglomerate - is one frequently and flagrantly ignored when students are sent home for one reason or another (usually uniform) without consent of their parent first, something which is morally and legally dubitable.

Whatever formatting disease the beleaguered ETC. had seems to be catching, as an article about a Language Challenge suddenly and mysteriously changed from a black font colour to a grey one, almost as if the puffier parts of the piece had been copied and pasted from promotional material...

There was a piece about the Army visiting the school, because what Hampstead really needs are more egotistical, power-hungry nutjobs at the top of chains of command. And, in a piece about returning library books, Hampstead was described once more as "a School that Reads", despite the article going on to demand students return books promptly.

Congratulations were in order, apparently, as the school had won yet another award. Yay! Oh, wait, actually it had just been re-awarded one it already had. Amazing. There was a further piece about SAM learning being "invaluable", which is only true in the sense it carries absolutely zero value to any discerning student.

There was a piece about the school's debating society right at the end, which by all accounts has not fared well over the last few years. Now taken over by a teacher (when it used to be entirely student-run, perish the thought), the article did very little to promote it, not least of which the utterly meaningless UN right quoted at the base of the piece. Whilst debating is a form that requires an ability to develop and communicate nuanced points, the piece had choice lines such as "students work in teams of four to work out the pros or cons of a particular topic"; two 'work's in one sentence, ouch!

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Results 2018

As with any year, the Trash would liked to have reported on Hampstead School's GCSE and A-Level results this year, as well as debunking some of the myths and exaggerations that the school invariably puts out, but unfortunately this year we can't.

This year the school has not uploaded any article regarding results, nor have they put out a press release. The only quote from the Head that can be found is one on the Camden website, where he called A-Level Results Day "an exciting day".

For a more in-depth analysis of how well students did, we would normally go to the Ham&High, who tend to publish the results in their paper the day after in a league table of all the schools in the area. However, since the Ham&High have largely ignored Hampstead for the past few years in favour of local private and independent schools, we have yet to find a single figure or piece of copy relating to the school and its results in either last Friday's edition or today's.

Not that school-wide results matter; as long as individual students got the grades they wanted then congratulations are in order. Hopefully this marks the first year in a long time the school stop using students' achievements to justify and market themselves.


P.S - Anyone flicking through today's Camden New Journal may not see a single mention of Hampstead, but they may see a familiar shiny face in the form of onetime-SLT, now Head of Regents High School, the orange revel himself.

Friday, 27 July 2018

School Songbook Part III

After too long without fresh chunes to sing at assemblies, we present the latest version of the Hampstead School Songbook, a secular hymnsheet for the more vocal students.

Bohemian Rhapsody by Queenan (written by Freddy Mercurmum and Brian 5-May-to-C's)
Is this the real life?
Is this just redundancy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from period 3.
Open your eyes,
Look up to the board and see,
I'm just a poor guy, I need no sympathy,
Because I'm easy come, easy go,
Little high, little low,
Anytime the bell goes, doesn't really matter to me, to me.

Mama, just left my job,
Gave the finger to the head,
Sick of all the stuff he said.
Mama, life had just begun,
But now I've gone and thrown it all away.

Mama, ooh,
Didn't mean to make you cry,
If I'm not in Glasgow this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.

Too late, my time has come,
Sent shivers down my spine,
Body's aching all the time.
Goodbye, everybody, I've got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.

Mama, ooh
I don't wanna leave,
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all.

I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Szcaramouche, Szcaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Detention and latening,
Very, very frightening, me.
(Tuna Mayo) Tuna Mayo.
(Tuna Mayo) Tuna Mayo,
Tuna Mayo Baguetto
Magnifico.

I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me.
He's just a poor boy from a poor family,
Spare him his life from this monstrosity.
Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Never, never let you go
Never let me go, oh.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Oh, mama mia, mama mia (Mama mia, let me go.)
Szemelikowski has a blazer put aside for me, for me, for me!

So you think you can sack me and kiss me goodbye?
So you think you can slate me and leave me to cry?
Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here.

Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters, and 
Nothing really matters to me.
Anytime the bell goes.

Paint It Blik by The Rolling Stoners
I see a blazer and I want it painted black.
No colors any more, I want them to turn black.
I see the girls walk by, dressed in their inappropriate clothes,
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes.

I see a line of kids and they're all painted black.
With flowers and my love both never to come back.
I see people turn their heads and quickly look away.
Like a new Year 7, it just happens every day

I look inside myself and see my heart is black.
I see my blazer, I must have it painted black.
Maybe then I'll fade away and not have to face the facts
It's not easy facing up when your whole world is black.

No more will my green quad pond turn a deeper hue
I could not foresee this thing happening to you
If I look hard enough into the setting sun
My love will laugh with me before registration comes.

I wanna see it, the New Block, painted lack
Black as night, black as coal,
I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black.

Mr. Brightszide by The Killers
Coming out of back cage
And I've been doing just fine
Gotta gotta be down
Because I want it all
It started out with a kiss
How did it end up like this
It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss
Now I'm falling asleep
And she's calling her dad
While he's having a smoke
And she's taking a drag
Now they're going to school
And my stomach is sick
And I look like a fool
But she's touching his chest
Now, he takes off her blazer
Now, let me go.

I just can't look its killing me
And taking control...
Jealousy, turning Heads to insanity
Swimming through sick sheggeries
Choking on your cookies
But it's just the price I pay
Reception is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
Cause I'm Mr Brightside.

Our rendition of Rolf Harris's 'Tie Me Year 7 Down, Sport' was redacted by our editors as it was seen as inappropriate and in bad taste, as if that has ever stopped us before.