From Free Schools to Benedict Cumberbatch

Recent news from the Government that a new (10th wave) of Free Schools is to be approved in England prompted me to look into the questions, what exactly is a Free School and do we have any in the TW area?

Free Schools are similar to Academies (like the excellent Waldegrave School) in that they are in the State system but not directly controlled by the Local Education Authority, so they are “free” in that sense, as well as making no charge to parents and having no academic selection criteria for admission.  But they differ in that normally they are new schools, sponsored or run by an education or learning charitable trust.

In the TW area, two Free Schools are opening as we speak, namely Turing House, run by the Russel Education Trust, and Twickenham Primary Academy at Heath Gate House Twickenham Green, run by the GEMS education trust, who are also next year opening a Primary Academy in Kingston. GEMS is a successful worldwide provider of education services, started in 1959.

The Turing House school is to open in a temporary site in Teddington, but is possibly later putting down roots in Whitton. This is strange for two reasons, first the idea was sold as filling a gap in secondary education in the Teddington area, and indeed there is some opposition in Whitton because of the effect upon traffic. You can argue that it is still within a couple of miles, but a trip across the A316 (either way) seems like a different place altogether. Second, the name Turing comes of course from Professor Alan Turing, associated with the NPL in Teddington, who many believe was the father of modern computers and artificial intelligence.

Turing, who graduated from Kings College Cambridge, was a talented marathon runner who regularly ran the 40 miles from Bletchley Park to London for meetings.  He lived at one point in Hampton, where you can see his Blue Plaque.

BeneHis life was recently portrayed memorably in the film The Imitation Game  (named after his “Turin Test” for artificial intelligence) by Benedict Cumberbatch, plotting his triumph in cracking the Enigma code through to his tragic death after undergoing treatment for his homosexuality, then illegal.

At one point Cumberbatch’s character says “There are 159 million, million, million possible Enigma settings…it is 20 million years to check each of the settings (manually)”

This links to a potentially typical GCSE foundation question which might be:

Express 159 million, million, million in Standard Form. Ans. Each million has 6 zeroes i.e. 106, and when you multiply such numbers you add the powers.
So it is 159 x 1018  and finally in standard form 1.59 x 1020