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“A healthy and ambitious dramatic tradition”

The annual staging of a School Play in recent years marks not the beginning of Drama as a major facet of life at QE, but its renaissance. Work recently undertaken on the archives has brought to the fore photos and documentation from large-scale productions throughout the 1950s.

These plays included Shakespeare (Henry IV, Part I, 1953; Julius Caesar, 1959) and perennial favourites, such as George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (1951), as well as The Would-be Gentleman (1952, adapted from Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme) and the now little-performed comedy by James Bridie, Mr Bolfry (1954).

The performances were reported in the Elizabethan magazine of the day and attracted proper, critical reviews from the Barnet Press – and even, on occasion, in the national papers. In 1958, an unnamed critic for the Times Educational Supplement reviewed Nightmare Abbey, Thomas Love Peacock’s 1818 gothic satire: “Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet, is blessed with a healthy and ambitious dramatic tradition, and cursed with a constricting stage.” The reviewer went on to praise the cast for “playing their extraordinary characters as if they believed in them, never allowing them to degenerate into burlesque”, while offering a couple of suggestions to the producer.

For most, if not all, of these plays, that post was filled by English teacher Jack Covington. A glance through the programmes reveals some other familiar names, too, including Captain Absolute in the 1950 production of Sheridan’s The Rivals played by one K R Cooper – current Governor Ken Cooper.

Guarding the markets

After training as a solicitor with Allen & Overy, one of the ‘magic circle’ of top London law firms, Samir Manek is now pursuing his interest in the regulation of markets in his powerful role with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority.

“I supervise a global investment bank to ensure adherence with the letter and spirit of the rules and assist with investigations into, and prosecution of, white-collar crime at investment banks,” says Samir (OE 2001–2008).

“Understanding the reasons for the 2008 financial crisis and the regulatory response to it has been the thread that has run through my academic and professional career. Working at the FCA gives me a unique insight into this area, with the opportunity to shape the regulatory landscape.”

Samir, who attended the most recent Old Elizabethans Association dinner in the autumn, remembers his years at the School with gratitude. “QE instilled a strong sense of discipline and drive in me. I have the School’s ethos and all my teachers to thank for this – in particular, Ms Maule [now Assistant Head of English, Victoria Maule] for her enthusiasm and encouragement.

“I graduated with a first-class degree in Law from the University of Warwick, my brother and I being the first generation of my family to go to university.”

During his course, Samir became President of the Warwick European Law Society and was involved in the university debating team. He also spent a year abroad at Utrecht University.

After gaining his Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice, Samir joined Allen & Overy. He took up his post with the FCA in April 2017.

"" Santino Boffa has followed a varied career path on his way to becoming the top global recruiter for a fast-expanding technology company.

After reading Law at Sheffield, Santino (OE 1996–2003) first became a professional football coach and then took a number of different posts in recruitment. A secondment in 2014 saw him helping to launch a global banking programme – Santander’s My Rewards – to over 3 million account holders.

Then in March 2016, he began working for Qubit, a Software as a Service (SaaS) start-up company specialising in personalisation, where he is now Global Talent Acquisition Manager. Qubit, which has received more than $76m in venture capital funding, helps more than 300 of the world’s top consumer brands to understand and influence how people interact with them across multiple digital channels, including web, mobile and email. Customers include John Lewis, TOPSHOP and Hilton Hotels.

His London-based job involves recruiting engineers globally, with a specific focus on software engineers and product managers. He is also responsible for shaping and executing global recruitment strategies and building world-class teams.

In July 2017, Santino visited the School to help out as part of a careers event. "It was great being back at QE. The School Hall seems a lot smaller these days - and I was really impressed with the new facilities," he said.

"My memories of the School include early-morning games lessons in the old swimming pool in the middle of winter, with the roof leaking. The students today don't know how good they have it!"

He said: "I like to spend my time outside work travelling to new countries and watching my beloved Arsenal home and away."

In July 2016, Santino married Carmela Vitale, who works in advertising.

"" Yusuf Sherwani is combining his love of technology with his expertise as a medical doctor to help people give up smoking.

Yusuf (OE 2003–2010) has produced Quit Genius, an app which aims to make therapy for people trying to stop smoking more cost-effective and scalable.

"Quit Genius became a passion during medical school after I saw how difficult it was for clinicians to prescribe effective behavioural therapy that could help people change their habits to help prevent disease,” he said. In an interview with the American technology magazine, Wired, he explained that the problem with the face-to-face support often used to help patients stop smoking is that it is simply not financially sustainable. "We're replacing the patient/therapist relationship with the patient and an app."

Quit Genius is among a number of start-ups seeking to demonstrate that "supportive… treatment can be as effective as reaching for your phone”, the article explained.

The app was developed by Yusuf's company, Digital Therapeutics, of which he is CEO, and backed by a partnership, Velocity Health, set up by two large players in the fields of technology and healthcare, namely Wayra UK (which is, in turn, part of Telefónica) and Merck Sharp & Dohme UK (MSD). Velocity Health is an ‘accelerator’ for innovative healthcare solutions. In addition to the backing from Velocity Health, Quit Genius attracted support from angel investors.

Imran Hamid, chief commercial discovery for MSD, told Wired: "We're witnessing the birth of digital therapeutics as a class of medicine in its own right."

In 2017, Yusuf graduated as a doctor from Imperial College School of Medicine, but opted to pause his clinical training to focus on Quit Genius.

"I probably discovered my entrepreneurial streak during my time at QE," he recalls. I started my first online start-up whilst in Year 9, creating a network of online bulletin boards which quickly amassed millions of monthly visitors, before selling the business in Year 11."

In the Sixth Form, Yusuf asked to study Computing, which the School had not previously offered as an A-level. "I'll always admire the fact that QE agreed to create a class for just three of us who wanted to study the subject!

"During that time, I also founded a consumer electronics e-commerce platform which relied on importing high-end audio equipment from China with a friend and contemporary at QE, Zainul Dhalla, which I carried on working on during my gap year.

"The project was actually very successful for a number of years, helping us pay our way through university. However, eventually, we found it too gruelling an experience to juggle Medicine and Law respectively with a growing business and took the joint decision to wind it down. Several other start-ups have subsequently copied the same model and have been successfully operating for a number of years."

Reflecting on his life so far, Yusuf adds this: "I'll simply say that there's light at the end of the tunnel for those who don't make prefect!"

""Sixth-former Eddy Burchett gained a global perspective on work experience with a charity striving to alleviate international poverty at grassroots level.

The Jewish charity, Tzedek, gave Eddy and three fellow students a challenge: they had to select a good cause and then create and deliver a fundraising campaign, bringing in as much money as possible.

“By the end of the week, we had raised over £380 for a programme in Ghana which aims to improve education and reduce class sizes, ensuring children are receiving the best possible education.”

This, he explained, was in line with Tzedek’s philosophy of providing facilities for self-betterment, rather than simply handing over large sums of money. The charity runs a number of projects in Africa and India.

""“Our fundraising activity involved visiting as many educational sights throughout central London as we could within a space of two-and-a-half hours. We shortlisted 15 locations, and were dropped in a random location, so we could not plan the route in advance.”

With the boys pitted against a girls’ team, the challenge took on a highly competitive character.  “In the end, the boys visited 11 out of the 15 locations, running 11km, whereas the girls only visited six.” 

Afterwards, Eddy found time to reflect on what he had learned through the whole experience: “The main lesson was to not take for granted the education we receive in developed countries: although I had not been to some of the locations I visited, such as the Natural History Museum, for years, they were all available to me, whilst in Ghana students struggle to have any sort of education.

“I would strongly advise work experience for a charity; it shows that you are willing to do good for the community, rather than simply looking for ways to make money,” Eddy concluded.

""This month’s OE Association Dinner was a great success, writes Headmaster Neil Enright. No fewer than 91 old boys and staff past and present – an increase on previous years – turned out for an evening which delivered both an excellent meal and some terrific speeches. The address from our guest of honour, Robert “Judge” Rinder (1989–1994), was characteristically entertaining but also rather profound.

Rob reflected at The Old Elizabethans Association’s dinner on what he has taken from the School, while thanking QE for the “gift” it had bequeathed to him. He especially thanked his Headmaster Eamonn Harris, who was in attendance, together with my immediate predecessor, John Marincowitz.

""He praised QE’s burgeoning alumni network, urging that it should be nurtured and utilised: all old boys should get involved to help pay back the “debt” that each owed to the School, he said. QE had, after all, provided them with a “public school education” for free!

Some recalled that when Rob appeared on BBC TV’s Room 101, the pet hate he had consigned to the basement torture chamber as the ""worst thing in the world was “school reunions”.  I trust that his experience at the dinner – his first-ever reunion event at our School – went some way to changing his mind about this.

It was excellent to see so many of our ten-year leavers (those who started their final year in 2007) back for the occasion. They helped make it a truly memorable evening.

Formed in 1886 as an informal dining club, the association took on its present form in the 1920s. Its current President is Ken Cooper (OE 1942-50).

""In my speech, I took considerable pleasure in highlighting the fact that the academic year thus far has been notable for the large number of alumni reconnecting with the School, many coming to visit us for the first time since leaving. They have offered support to the boys by volunteering advice, interview practice, work experience placements or sponsorship. This upsurge has, in part, been a result of our first foray into social media: if any old boys have not yet connected with me on LinkedIn, please feel free to do so.

""It has been wonderful to see the enthusiasm and engagement of our old boys; it is something we hope will only continue to grow as we pursue our aim of building a strong and active network of alumni, focused on supporting each other and, crucially, the boys currently at the School.

Many Old Elizabethans were, in fact, instrumental in ensuring that the School’s 2017 Careers Convention – held the night before the dinner – was our best ever.  This major event in the QE calendar is for Year 11 boys and their parents; it seeks to provide expert help and guidance in choosing and planning career paths.

""The evening had begun with an opportunity for the OEs and other guests to meet each other for wine and canapés in the School’s Café 1573 prior to the arrival of the boys and their parents.

More than two-thirds of the 50 or so guests who so generously gave up their time to converse and answer questions were OEs. The range of careers represented included the Law, medicine, the creative arts, engineering, banking & finance and the public sector. I thank all those old boys who were involved.

Going underground…and overseas

Ramesh Paripooranananthan is forging a successful career as a London architect – interspersed with globe-trotting trips to attend the weddings of Old Elizabethans in the Far East!

Ramesh, who uses the surname Pari professionally, works with BB Partnership – a London practice specialising in mid to high-end residential projects. He was recently lead project architect on a £250m-plus mixed-use development in Brent, the largest in the firm’s 25-year history.

He is currently overseeing the construction of two largely subterranean houses in the capital. It is a solution that is being used increasingly in London, especially where space is at a particular premium. The design includes lightwells and courtyards cut into the ground to let light pass down into the spaces underground.

The project is, however, not without its challenges, as Ramesh explained: “This is a much more expensive method of construction; we only investigate this when we have situations where planners will not let us build up. Both houses have already made the architectural press due to the controversy over the application, and I am sure they will also make it again once they are completed.

He adds: “Digging into the ground in central London is always a tricky business as you never know what you will find. I worked on a job a couple of years ago where we found a World War II bunker underneath the offices we were refurbishing!”

Ramesh (OE 1997–2004), who was in Underne House, studied at Central St Martins and then at Nottingham University, where he qualified as a Chartered Architect after eight years’ working and studying. He credits QE for the resilience and perseverance necessary for that period.

He previously featured in Alumni News in 2015 when 12 OEs attended his wedding to Millie, whom he had met at Nottingham. (“There are still just the two of us, but starting a family in the near future is on the agenda, he says. “In the meantime, my hobbies – photography and running – and my nephews – four boys – keep me very busy!”)

Recently, it has been Ramesh’s turn to return the compliment: in November, he travelled with several old boys to Hong Kong for the wedding of his QE contemporary, Dennis Yiu, and then journeyed on to Thailand for the nuptials of Bimal Sualy, from the year below. Both grooms were in Stapylton. “I spoke to Bimal for the first time when we both attended the University of Nottingham and now I am one of his groomsmen – small world!” says Ramesh.

Ramesh is pictured above on the far left with other old boys from his year, left-right, as follows: Bhavin Shah (Stapylton); Paraag Gudka (Pearce); the groom, Dennis; Johan Byran (Stapylton) and Kunal Shah (Stapylton).

Ramesh’s contemporaries, Sandeep Dasgupta (Stapylton) and Rahul Patel (Stapylton) also attended along with: Warren Balakrishnan (Underne); Rachita Lokubalasuriya (Leicester); Chivaar Gami (Leicester); Ashish Gohil (Leicester) and Dhanish Mahmood (Leicester) from the class of 2005.

Ramesh was among the alumni taking part in this year’s Careers Convention for Year 11 boys and their parents. “I try and give back to the School however I can.”

During the autumn, QE pupils came to his office for mock university interviews. “I was very proud last year to see that the three boys I worked with went on to study architecture at brilliant universities. I think it is fantastic the School is building this network for the students, as this wasn’t in place when I was there. This will only help the student body.”

School sports star now shining in business

After the glory of a glittering sporting career at QE and the trials of a period when he had to take over the family business during his father’s terminal illness, Asif Ahmed has gone on to build up a thriving firm of accountants. He is now so well-regarded for his entrepreneurial expertise that he advises the Government on start-ups.

Asif (OE 1997–2004) co-founded London and Essex-based Richmond Gatehouse LLP in 2012. Five short years later, it provides professional services to a raft of industries – property, construction, healthcare and leisure – including a number of household names. Asif himself specialises in advising early-stage technology businesses, a sector in which the practice has developed a strong foothold.

“The firm has really been built with our bare hands and we have grown from one room with one employee to three offices with a strong team of professionals. We’ve even been fortunate enough to provide work experience to some QE boys.”

Drawing on his experience as both entrepreneur and professional advisor, Asif enjoys helping companies that will influence “how the next generation work and play. It is exciting to be able to shape their growth in some small way.”

Earlier this month, Asif returned to QE to share his reflections on his career and life with current pupils.

Many of his memories of the School centre around sport. Asif was the only member of his year to have triple full colours. He played cricket for the First XI and for Middlesex CCC, rugby for the First XV and for Hertfordshire RFU, and he was in the Eton Fives First Pair.

“As a distinctly average academic student (relative to my peers!), sport helped me find my place to build all my core skills and confidence. I must credit Mr [David] Maughan and Mr [Tim] Bennett for being mentors and providing a superb infrastructure of discipline, with a focus on encouragement.”

He remembers long Saturday-morning drives to rugby matches in the minibuses, which were dubbed Q or M after their registration plates. “Our First XV commanded a lot of respect amongst our competitor schools: at the time I started playing for the First XV, I think we had four or five international players!” Another sporting memory is “going for cross-country runs in Barnet’s very own Bermuda triangle – the ‘elephant dip’.”

While Asif’s first-form tutor, Victoria Maule, started at QE on the same day he did (she is now the Assistant Head of English), Headmaster Eamonn Harris was coming towards the end of his 15 years at the helm.

“As one of the last year groups to enter the School under Mr Harris’s tenure, I remember there being a particularly strong focus on discipline, from the shine on your shoes to the quiff on your head. You used to think twice about how you were going to walk through the corridor, to ensure you looked the part. It is amazing, however, that to this day there isn’t a Sunday night when I won’t polish my shoes.

“I remember learning that, by mid-morning, kids will queue at a hole in the wall (the tuck shop) for absurd lengths of time to buy what can only be described as a pizza on half a baguette. I also learned that putting literally anything on chips in the Refectory could constitute lunch.

“I was a School Lieutenant, which I thought was great, until my brother went on to be School Captain.” Omair Ahmed (OE 2001–2008) was School Captain in 2007; he attended this term’s Old Elizabethans Association dinner as one of the group of ten-year leavers.

After A-levels, Asif went on to read Management Studies at Nottingham University. He secured a second-year summer internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers and a conditional offer to join the Big Four firm after graduation.

“I joined their mergers & acquisitions team in London and later worked in Jersey, Channel Islands, for a brief stint, before my father’s terminal illness forced me to unexpectedly resign and join his small accountancy practice.”

He completed his ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’ chartered accountancy qualification) and began stabilising the business. (It was closed on his father’s passing.)

“This provided the foundation to go on and establish Richmond Gatehouse LLP with my co-founder, Mubasher Ali, whom I met through a mutual acquaintance. We resonated over our like-mindedness, ultimately deciding to join forces and name the firm after the area we were sat in when we made the decision.

“Because of this experience, I was asked to serve on the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills’ Entrepreneurs’ Forum and, latterly, also on the Office of Tax Simplification’s Consultative Committee within the Treasury, advising on taxation matters affecting start-ups. It is particularly gratifying to see matters you have provided input on make their way to legislation.”

Married to Najah, a doctor within the NHS, Asif is a devoted family man, with a five-year-old daughter and baby son, aged two. He pays tribute both to his wife, for her “unwavering support during the particularly uncertain early years of my career”, and to the tenacity his mother evinced from his early childhood in providing both practical and emotional support to him and his brother in all their academic and extra-curricular interests.  “She was unfalteringly supportive, providing us with the confidence to pursue all of our ambitions and ultimately become the individuals we are today. As a parent, this is a lesson I hope to take forward with my children, as it is clear to me that a good school can only build on the foundations being set for you at home.”


Fact and fiction: thriller by ex-head of Special Branch up for award

The third novel in a best-selling thriller series written by former Commander of Special Branch, Roger Pearce, has been nominated for the prestigious Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award from the British Crime Writers’ Association.

Like its well-received predecessors, Javelin, which was published in October, draws heavily on Roger’s inside knowledge of counter-terrorism and national security matters.

His second career as a successful writer took off in 2012 after Agent of the State, his first book about Special Branch officer John Kerr, was published. The next in the series, The Extremist, came out the following year. Reviewers praised not only the fast-paced plots laced with “high-octane action” (as long-established crime writer Peter Robinson put it), but also the authentic detail, with the Daily Mail describing The Extremist as “terrific…vividly written and delivering a glimpse of what counter-terrorism feels like”.

Since then, Roger (OE 1961–1969), a former School Captain, has been the subject of numerous media interviews and has appeared at literary events including Scarborough Book Festival.

The books relate the adventures of Detective Chief Inspector Kerr, a complex, independent-minded character with a strong sense of mission coupled with an ability on the one hand “to do the right thing” whatever the cost, and on the other, to use deception without hesitation in order to get at the truth.

Roger, of Underne House, was at the School during the headmastership of Tim Edwards; John Pearce (no relation) was his Housemaster. After graduating in Theology from St John’s College, Durham University in 1972, Roger married Margaret, a former pupil at Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School, whom he had met when both were sixth-formers. Roger had intended to become ordained as an Anglican priest, but instead joined Durham Constabulary in 1973 and transferred to the Metropolitan Police in 1975.

Within a year Roger had applied to join Special Branch at New Scotland Yard. He also began an external LLB Honours degree from London University by private study and in 1979 qualified as a barrister-at-law at the Middle Temple.

Formed in 1883, the Branch’s mission was to gather secret intelligence against terrorists and extremists. It conducted sensitive assignments here and abroad and was also responsible for the protection of the Cabinet, of visiting heads of state and of VIPs. Roger became the head of Special Branch in 1999 and also served as the Met’s Director of Intelligence, authorising surveillance and undercover operations against serious and organised crime. He held both posts until 2003. The Met’s Special Branch was merged with the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch (SO13) to form Counter Terrorism Command, or SO15, in 2006.

In his last months of service, Roger was approached by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to take up the newly formed post of Counter-Terrorism Adviser, where he worked with government and intelligence experts worldwide in the campaign against Al Qaeda. In 2005 he was hired by GE Capital in London as managing director of European security.

Roger and Margaret have two sons, both former QE pupils: Andrew, a composer, and Matthew, an airline pilot. Their daughter, Laura, is a personal assistant.


Headmaster’s update

The festive season got off to an excellent start with a wonderful Christmas Concert in the Shearly Hall, featuring rich sounds from our musicians and an eclectic programme that ranged from jazz to Bach.

The concert was held in association with the Rotary Club of Barnet, with which the School has enjoyed links for many years. The printed programme opened with a note of welcome from Brian Coleman, Old Elizabethan (1972–1979) and President of the Barnet Rotary Club.

Since then, heavy snow has given the School a truly festive feel, although I am glad to say that we managed to remain open. In our final 2017 event tailored for Old Elizabethans, a capacity 60 guests gathered in Tudor Hall, the School’s historic home, for a drinks-and-canapés reception prior to a wonderful Service of Nine Lessons and Carols in the Parish Church. OE guests spanned all generations and included several who were in London from abroad (including the US and Canada). Guests enjoyed exploring the space that was the heart of the School until its relocation to Queen’s Road in 1932, with features such as the infamous ‘whipping post’ proving a talking point. At the service, the usual combination of traditional carols and biblical readings was accompanied by highly accomplished performances from the School Choir and the Chamber Choir – the Anthem, And the Glory of the Lord, from Handel’s Messiah a particular highlight. The Mayor of the Borough of Barnet, Cllr Brian Salinger, was present at both the reception and the service.

In my recent letter to parents, I emphasised that, in considering their own futures, boys can derive considerable benefit by learning from alumni who have already travelled along the pathways that they plan to take or would like to explore. As we look forward to the start of a new calendar year, this seems an appropriate juncture at which to focus on how alumni can assist our boys in enhancing their future prospects.

One of the areas we are currently working on is QE Connect. Still in its early stages, this initiative will bring new coherence to our work to establish even closer connections between the School and our old boys. QE Connect will formalise ways of matching the boys in the School to alumni who can give them access to a broad network that will help them in pursuing their academic and professional aspirations.

The range of assistance already afforded our pupils by Old Elizabethans is striking. Alumni provide mock interviews and are a source of work experience for our older boys. An increasing number visit the School to talk to boys about university and careers. This term has seen visits from OE speakers following very different paths. For example, Drew Williams (2005-2012) is building a successful career with multinational professional services firm EY, after, somewhat unusually for a QE boy, opting not to go to university, while US-based entrepreneur Sachin Duggal (1994–2001), who is featured in this e-newsletter, has studied at three of the world’s leading universities. I am very pleased that we currently have recent leavers studying at Ivy League universities in the US who are very active in our alumni network and happy to help Year 12 boys with their applications. In addition, old boys increasingly play an important role at significant events in the School calendar, whether that is the Elizabethan Union Dinner Debate, the formal Year 12 luncheon, or, this term, the Careers Convention.

Through such events, senior boys can access the wealth of knowledge, experience and contacts that exists among our burgeoning network of old boys. The common thread of those alumni who have engaged with the School in the way I have described is that all wish to give something back and support current pupils. As a meritocracy, inevitably quite a high proportion of our pupils are the first to go to university in their immediate families; the first to aim for the most competitive professions. Their family backgrounds may not, therefore, give them access to the wider network that is so often indispensable to career success. Our alumni can be the gateway to that network – and we will be intentional about encouraging boys to engage with those of you who wish to be involved.

Learning how to network effectively is an essential skill for all those with ambitious aspirations towards success in their professional lives. It is essential that our pupils cultivate the requisite skills, which are certainly among the “positive personal qualities and attitudes” valued by society that are mentioned in our Development Plan. It is especially important to develop the confidence to initiate conversations, particularly with people one does not know. This applies even – or perhaps especially – to the pupil who considers himself not naturally a confident person.

The Tigertones, Princeton’s all-male a capella group, proved to be fantastic role models in this regard when they visited us as part of their London tour: they were supremely confident, yet with conversation that was always appropriate to the situation. That is, in part, why we bring in such visitors. I am urging boys to seek out opportunities to practise the art of conversation, learning to ask appropriate questions and to listen effectively so that they can take their cue from the responses. Confidence is, after all, one-third of our mission statement as a School.

Another route through which boys can develop confidence and the ability to converse well with adults is by taking on positions of responsibility within the School. These exist in all years, culminating in the appointment of our Senior Officials in Year 12. I am grateful to our outgoing School Captain Oliver Robinson for his service and congratulate Aashish Khimasia and his team of Senior Vice- Captains and Vice-Captains on their appointment for 2018.

Part of the key to conversation is naturally the ability to use language well. The work of our poet-in-residence, Anthony Anaxagorou (1994–1999), reflects our emphasis on the development of good oracy, as does the example set by George ‘the Poet’ Mpanga (2002–2009). In the wake of the royal engagement between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the BBC turned to George for an insider’s perspective on the prince: he is an ambassador for Sentebale, one of Prince Harry’s charitable foundations, which supports the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people affected by HIV in Lesotho and Botswana. Having observed the prince’s work there at first hand, George was interviewed for a primetime BBC1 documentary about the engagement, fronted by Kirsty Young.

Our recent evening of rugby at Allianz Park, the home of Saracens, was a great occasion, notwithstanding the First XV’s 18–10 defeat against Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’. It was very well supported by Old Elizabethans. Those pictured are top row, left, to bottom right: Alex Grethe, Jake Nielen, Anton Bridge, Ioannis Loupas (all 2004-2011); Anoop Raghaven and Max Hassell, (both 2002–2009; Alvin Bombo (2002–2007); Gideon Levitt (2004–2011); Aaron Levitt (2002–2009); Matteo Yoon, Adam Kuo, Alex Goring (all 2003–2010), and Francis Vu (2000–2008). I was also delighted to catch up with David Clark (1993–2000), Paul Clark (1990–1997), Liam Higgs-Howson (2000–2007), Kelvin Hughes (1999–2006), Tomas Vieira-Short (2010–2017) and Lee Wright (2001-2008), among many others.

I am pleased to be able to say that we have just secured planning permission to create new facilities for Music within the existing Mayes Building. These will include rehearsal and performance spaces and will also retain an atrium to accommodate boys during breaks in the School day. Whilst the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s are not in a position to proceed immediately, this next stage of our Estates Strategy is fully worked up and we look forward to developing this as our next big project in due course. In the meantime, we continue to make use of donations from old boys for smaller projects bringing immediate benefits for current pupils.

As this term draws to a close, I remember with considerable satisfaction the fact that it opened with the School basking in the enjoyment of our dazzling summer results: nearly 42% of A-levels taken were at A*, while our GCSE performance was our best ever, with 71% of examinations awarded A* or its equivalent. Since then, we have had further independent corroboration of our success in meeting academic challenges. First came the announcement that QE had been named in eighth place out of 2,500 secondary schools (independent and state-funded) for performance and take-up of the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Next were official league tables showing that for the second year, QE again topped the list of all boys’ grammar schools for achievement against the Government’s Progress 8 measure, which charts the improvements made by children across eight key subjects between the end of primary school and GCSE. Most recently, we have been named as the country’s leading boys’ state school – and in second place overall – in the influential Sunday Times Parent Power survey.

My best wishes to all Old Elizabethans for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Neil Enright