Top Secret: Espionage comes to Oundle!
25th January 2017

On Tuesday 17 January, espionage came to Oundle School as the Business Language Champions (BLC) were proud to co-host ‘The Word is not Enough’ with friends from GCHQ.

Befitting the secretive nature of the task at hand, the ten teams of Year 10 pupils comprising two teams from each of Oundle and John Warner (Hoddesden) Schools, as well as teams from Caroline Chisholm School (Northampton), Montsaye Academy (Kettering), Birkdale School (Sheffield), St. Saviour’s and St. Olave’s School (London), Hampton College (Peterborough) and Gartree High School (Leicester), were known only by their first names and represented sections from 001 - 010 – no fancy team names required!

Tasked with cracking a drug smuggling ring in only three hours, the participating pupils faced encryption and decryption, coded audio messages, an introduction to a new foreign language and the kidnapping of their teachers (some were more bothered by this than others). Perhaps even more stressful was a four minute presentation of their findings in front of a panel of judges.

As one of the GCHQ representatives remarked, the thing he likes best about this challenge is that it truly represents much of the work that a GCHQ linguist would undertake, albeit with a swifter resolution than is usual. It is also yet more proof for those who needed it, that the world of languages is a dynamic and exciting one, opening up careers in many fields beyond the traditionally cited ones of teaching and translation.

All sixty participants worked extremely hard, facing the tough challenges that were thrown at them with initiative, persistence and good humour. Every competition must have a victor however and the winners of a trip to Bletchley Park, kindly donated by GCHQ, were Birkdale School in Sheffield, with the runners-up coming from Oundle. Oundle pupil, Serena De Choisy (14) won an individual prize for her leadership and team organisation.

Oundle pupil, Alice Broadbent (15) commented, “After an icebreaker of idioms in French, Spanish and German, we were taught about the Government intelligence agency, GCHQ and then embarked on language taster sessions, taught by the experts themselves, in either Mandarin, Korean or Arabic.

As temporary agents, we were then given our briefing: Khalif, a drug dealer from Colombia, was working in Operation Krypton to bring drugs to England. It was our duty, as the newest recruits, to stop this.

The whole day was a manic marvel of languages and spy skills; an amazing and different experience.”

A final thought for you…is it pure coincidence that both times BLC have run this event, the winning team has been Section 007 - or does someone out there know something we don’t…?

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