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Rugby Sevens: home team battles in the ‘group of death’ as Eton notches up tournament first

Sixty teams from leading schools across the country made the journey to Barnet for the 43rd annual Queen Elizabeth’s School Rugby Sevens.

Wimbledon College took the U16 Cup and Whitgift School won the U14 Cup, while Eton College were the first team in the tournament’s history to win the Plate at both U14 and U16 level, after seeing off the challenge of Warwick School in both Plate finals.

Players had to contend with a full range of weather conditions, including blustery, gale-force winds, heavy rain, a little sunshine and even some sleet or snow towards the end of the day.

QE’s Head of Rugby, James Clarke (OE 1999–2004), who was the main organiser, thanked all the visitors for a good day’s rugby, adding: “It is a real QE community day, with staff, student helpers from Years 12 and Year 7, Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s and former staff all out in force to ensure that it runs smoothly.

“So far as QE’s players are concerned, we had a tough draw. Our U16A team found themselves in what could in retrospect be considered the ‘group of death’, pitted against both the eventual Cup winners, Wimbledon, and the Plate winners, Eton. They nevertheless managed a 12-5 victory against the other member of the group, Woodbridge School, in their opening game. The U14s also had a tough day, but battled well throughout.”

The tournament was established in 1976 by Dave Maughan, who was QE’s Head of PE/Games from 1974–2003. He returned to the School once again this year to support the running of competition.

The first tournaments, from 1977–1981, were played at the Old Elizabethans RFC at Gypsy Corner and were mainly for schools from Hertfordshire, featuring A & B teams from both age groups. In 1982, the tournament relocated to the School pitches, and the Byng Road pitches of Barnet RFC (now the Barnet Elizabethans RFC, following a merger between the two clubs in 1997).

By then, the event was becoming popular with schools across a wider area. 1983 saw it reach its present size of 32 teams in each age group, with participants from across England and Wales, including QE’s A & B sides at U14 and U16 level.

Eight of the nine pitches used are on clay soils, so conditions can frequently get muddy. The finals are played on pitches 1 and 2 at the front of the School.

In the tournament’s history, notable achievements have included:

  • Two occasions on which schools ‘did the double’, winning both the U14 and U16 events – Eltham College in 1986 and Wellington College in 2017
  • Consecutive wins – a feat achieved only once, when St Paul’s School took the U14 trophy in both 2003 and 2004
  • Victories by schools to take the U14 title and then later the U16 Cup. QE achieved this in 1977 and 1979. Others who have followed suit include Wellington College, who did in twice (2000 & 2002; 2015 & 2017); London Oratory School (1998 & 2000); Wimbledon College (2005 & 2007), and Gowerton School, Wales (2012 & 2014).
Democratic deficit grows during Dinner Debate

Sixth-formers took on Old Elizabethan opposition to debate one of the biggest questions of our era – whether there is a future for democracy.

More than 170 guests, including Old Elizabethans, Year 12 pupils and staff, attended the 54th Elizabethan Union Annual Dinner Debate, at which OE Nikhil Patel (OE 2007–2014) gave the after-dinner address.

At the start of the evening, an indicative vote on the motion, This House believes democracy has had its day, revealed that a large majority – around an 80:20 split – opposed it. However, some deft debating by the School team successfully shook the faith in democracy of some 15-20 people, who had swung to their side of the argument by the final vote, thus technically giving the School victory in the debate. Nevertheless, a majority – albeit now reduced to 70:30 – remained opposed to the motion.

The Headmaster said: “This was an enjoyable occasion, with some adroitly made arguments on both sides and contributions in the floor debate that were both enthusiastic and well-considered. I am grateful to the visiting alumni, including our guest speaker, Nikhil. The debate is valuable in helping sixth-formers prepare for similar formal occasions at university and, later, in their professional lives.”

The School team of Chris Hall and Aryan Jain explained that democracy was failing to solve the big questions and, furthermore, was wrongly identifying what those big questions were. They gave as examples the fact that large amounts of effort were being spent in the UK on Europe and Brexit, but correspondingly less on issues such as climate change, education and welfare. The pair argued that the electorate’s greatest concerns were not always based upon real evidence – a problem they blamed on media distortion.

Instead they put forward a form of technocratic government under which the experts could get on with running the country and implementing the right policies, noting that we already entrust large and important sections of government, such as the legal system, to independent non-elected institutions – in this case, the judiciary.

“It was perhaps an idealised vision of how such a government might operate, but Chris Hall grounded it all strongly in logic,” said the Headmaster.

The motion was opposed by Ashwin Sharma (OE 2008–2015) and by Year 12 boy Alex Beard (replacing old boy Jason Thomas [OE 2010–2015], who was unable to attend).

“Ashwin and Alex worked very well together to argue a compelling case, with Alex stepping in very well to complete the opposition and contributing significantly to the very high standard of debating across all the speakers,” said the Headmaster.

They argued that democracy is the best system we have. Moreover, the rise of the internet and other new technologies are increasing democratic opportunities around the world, including in countries not typically classed as democracies. Democracy is more than just elections, they pointed out, stating that the very fact that the Elizabethan Union Dinner Debate was taking place was itself evidence of a functioning democracy.

In his speech, Nikhil Patel recalled his own School days. He heeded the advice given on his very first day by the then-Headmaster Dr John Marincowitz to “get stuck in”, throwing himself into School life and later becoming School Captain (in 2013), as well as playing in the First XI cricket squad, captaining the Second XV rugby team and playing the saxophone in several ensembles.

He advised the assembled sixth-formers similarly: “Always endeavour to challenge yourself, push the boundaries of what you previously thought and attempt new things, whether that be a language, a sport or an activity.”

They should pursue things about which they are “truly passionate”, he said, before espousing the power and value of friendship: “…always remember your roots and who was with you on this journey when it all started.

After leaving QE, Nikhil studied Geography and Management at Cambridge University where he was President of the India Society and captain of the Fitzwilliam College cricket team when they were twice winners of the Cuppers inter-collegiate competition. After university he took a gap year and now works as a Management Consultant for EY and an advisor to WOAW, a content marketing firm. He was accompanied at the dinner by his partner, Aparna Joshi.

Nikhil finished his address with a toast to the Elizabethan Union. Current School Captain Bhiramah Rammanohar proposed a toast to ‘The Visitors’, while there were also the customary toasts to ‘Her Majesty, the Queen’ and to ‘The Pious Memory of Queen Elizabeth I’. Year 12 pupil Viraj Mehta chaired the debate.

The diners enjoyed spicy parsnip soup followed by confit of lamb (or pulled vegetables) and chocolate cake.

Alumni turn out in force for Universities Convention…and an invitation to Founder’s Day

With some 60 of last year’s leavers returning recently to contribute to the Year 12 Universities Convention, this event has become one of the biggest examples of OEs’ engagement with the School, writes the Headmaster.

Given their new experience of university life and fresh memories of the university application process, the visitors were able to give some really useful first-hand advice to current sixth-formers.

Staff always enjoy the opportunity to hear how these, the newest of our alumni, are getting on – even if it can sometimes be hard to recognise some, with their ‘civilian’ clothes, beards and new, non-QE-approved hairstyles!

An invitation

After the success of the Universities Convention, the Dinner Debate and Rugby Sevens, I would like to invite all our alumni to our next major calendar event, Founder’s Day, on Saturday 15th June 2019. It is an excellent a great opportunity for OEs to catch up with old friends in a relaxed atmosphere.

The day begins with the Founder’s Day Service in St John the Baptist Parish Church at 11am. We can seat a small number of Old Elizabethans at the service on request.

The afternoon’s events start with a buffet lunch open to all Old Elizabethans at approximately 1pm, immediately after the traditional reading of the School Chronicle in front of the Main Building. And, of course, there are attractions to suit all interests at the Founder’s Day Fête on Stapylton Field.

Of particular interest to many alumni is our annual Past XI v Present XI match (the Stanley Busby Memorial Cricket Match), which will be played on the Third Field. Relaunched a few years ago, this fixture now draws many cricket fans from among our alumni.

If any old boys would like to play in that match, do get in touch – we would love to hear from you. In fact, as we plan our welcome, it would be helpful if any former pupils who expect to be at Founder’s Day could let me know by email in advance, especially if you would like to attend the church service or lunch. Finally, if any old boys would like to make contact with particular members of staff, present or past, at Founder’s Day, do please email  and we will do our best to make it happen.

Neil Enright

Universities Convention

The School welcomed back a large group from the newest cohort of OEs for the Universities Convention, who are viewed as a trusted and valuable source of information for the sixth-formers.

The annual Year 12 convention is part of QE’s University admissions Support Programme (or USP), which is designed to ensure boys receive the best advice, guidance and assistance in preparing university applications.

The returning alumni had the opportunity to catch up both with each other and with their former teachers in a buffet lunch held for them on the day of the convention in the Main Hall, which was provided with assistance from the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s.

At the convention itself, the Year 12 boys were encouraged to be quite specific with their questions to the alumni, asking, for example whether there was anything the students wished someone had told them before they applied.

The current pupils also quizzed the OEs on topics such as the cost of accommodation in university cities.

The Universities Convention and USP sit alongside the School’s broader careers provision, through which boys can look at the jobs, professions and industries they might wish to pursue after university, or what other paths they might want to take upon leaving the School.

  • Some of the students at the convention had also been in to the School the previous week in order to speak to Year 13 on similar issues: Abbas Adejonwo, Rehaan Bapoo, Dhruv Kanabar, Yashwanth Matta and Oliver Robinson gave advice based upon their experiences as first-year undergraduates at Cambridge, Oxford and Warwick.
Christmas festivities and the season of goodwill at Queen Elizabeth’s School

Festive traditions taking in church, charity and Christmas lunch helped bring the Autumn Term to a suitably seasonal end.

The Service of Nine Lessons & Carols at Chipping Barnet Parish featured Christmas music spanning the centuries. Boys and staff raised money for local charities seeking to help the disadvantaged. And the penultimate day of term brought the ever-popular full Christmas lunch in the Dining Hall.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We had a busy, enjoyable end to the term, with boys also taking time among all the festivities to remember those less fortunate than themselves. As we begin the holidays, I extend my very best wishes to all for Christmas and the New Year.”

At the Carol Service, the congregational singing began with Once in royal David’s city and ended with Hark! The herald angels sing. Interspersed were musical offerings from the Chamber Choir and the School Choir, including their respective renditions of the modern A Child is born in Bethlehem by Malcolm Archer and John Rutter’s Christmas Lullaby, as well as an introit by 16th-century Renaissance composer Palestrina, performed by the Chamber Choir.

The ‘nine lessons’ (Bible readings) were read by a boy from each year, including School Captain Aashish Khimasia, and by staff, culminating in the Headmaster’s traditional Christmas contribution from the opening chapter of St John’s Gospel.

The service was preceded by a short reception for staff past and present, and for governors, members of The Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s and alumni. The reception was held close to the parish church in Tudor Hall, Wood Street, the historic home of the School until it moved to its present location in 1932.

While charity work takes place throughout the year at QE, a special effort is made at Christmas, the traditional season of goodwill. This year, there was a collection for the local food bank and for a local homelessness charity. Boys and members of staff contributed over a week-long period, and a large volume of donations was made.

These charity efforts were organised by Head of Extra-Curricular Enrichment, Rebecca Grundy, with the assistance of prefects.

In addition, in line with recent QE tradition, boys from the School Choir went out carol-singing in aid of Cherry Lodge Cancer Care in Barnet.

Career choice and diversity: record number of volunteers at convention

The 2018 Careers Convention set new records, with more than 50 volunteers visiting QE to help Year 11 boys plan their futures.

Several visiting experts gave structured presentations, while on the main conference floor, boys and their parents seized the opportunity to ask questions of volunteers.

Many of these volunteers were Old Elizabethans, including a good number of young professionals who have left the School in the past decade.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We want our boys to be as aware as possible of the many different possibilities that are out there for them, and I am pleased to say that this convention did exactly that, showcasing a very broad range of opportunities. There was a real buzz out on the convention floor. It is always incredibly useful for the boys to be able to seek advice from those who have been at the School and who have had the experience of establishing themselves in their chosen fields.”

Among the advisers and volunteers were representatives of all the major professions, including law, banking & finance, medicine, dentistry, architecture, science and engineering.

Delegates were also able to hear from several alumni who have taken a more unusual career path, such as:

  • Sergio Ronchetti (OE 2004-2011), who gave a presentation on Sound Design in Video Games
    Kane Evans (OE 2003-2010), who, after working for Manchester United, now works as a business analyst for Formula 1
  • Phil Peters (OE 1997-2004) who leads e-commerce operation Zing Zing, vying to be ‘the best Chinese takeout in the world’
  • Civil Service Economist Andrei Sandu (OE 2007-2014) who found himself advising a Government Minister at a European summit just months after beginning his career upon graduating
  • Ashish Patel (OE 1997-2004), a medical doctor who is now Head of Research at a venture capital firm. He gave a presentation on Medicine, AI and Venture Capital.

The volunteer helpers were invited to a reception and networking opportunity in Café 1573 before the convention itself got under way.

Rugby Sevens: exciting play despite “tricky” conditions

Home teams and visiting players alike overcame the challenge of muddy pitches at the 42nd annual Queen Elizabeth’s School Rugby Sevens to deliver a high standard of play.

With 128 teams booked for the event from 45 schools nationwide, the 2018 tournament was, as usual, a landmark event in QE’s sporting calendar.

Old Elizabethans in attendance included former School Captain Aaron Sonenfeld (2000–2007), a leading First XV player of his era. Aaron, who spent some time talking to the Headmaster, read Political Science and Government at Cambridge and is now an Engagement Manager for international management consultancy firm, Oliver Wyman.

Sevens organiser James Clarke (OE 1999–2004), a PE & Games teacher at QE, said: “There was a very high level of rugby. Conditions were tricky, with muddy pitches, but the rain largely held off throughout most of the day.” He was assisted by a team including two former Heads of Games, who returned to QE to lend their support. Mark Peplow was at the School from 2002–2016, while David Maughan, Head of Games from 1974–2003, was instrumental in founding the tournament in 1976.

Richard Scally, also of the PE & Games department said: “Our U16s had an exciting opening match against Gunnersbury from Brentford, although a second-half resurgence was not quite enough to overturn the deficit from the first half. They then had to play the eventual winners, Tonbridge, before putting in a controlled display to beat The King’s School, Gloucester, 12-0, with a brace of tries from Year 10’s Jeff Hagan. “They displayed commendable intensity, particularly in that final game, which will set them up well for joining the senior XV next season.”

QE’s U14s began with defeat to Wimbledon College and were awarded a 25-0 walk-over win against absent Colfe’s School [from south-east London], before drawing 12-12 with Gunnersbury.

The U16 Cup was won by Tonbridge School, who triumphed 19-14 over Whitgift School, of South Croydon, in the final. In the U14 competition, it was Whitgift who won, beating Berkhamsted 25-22. Berkhamsted recorded a convincing 47-0 victory against Langley School, of Norwich, to take the U16 Plate, while Trinity School, Croydon, beat The Judd School, from Kent, to win the U14 Plate.

  • In the next age category down, QE’s U13s headed to Berkhamsted School for its Sevens tournament on the same day. PE & Games teacher Luke Jacobs said: “They performed very well, playing six matches, winning five and losing only one, to a strong side from The Perse School, Cambridge. They beat tough schools along the way, such as Barry School from Wales, Campion from Essex and notably Whitgift, a very prestigious rugby school whose older boys were doing so well at our own Sevens.” Notable performances came from Year 8 boys Oke Onyebuchukwu and Vinesh Sritharan who were “outstanding throughout the day”, Mr Jacobs said.
Facebook furore, OE memories and Arsenal all feature at Dinner Debate…plus an invitation to Founder’s Day 2018

The 53rd annual Elizabethan Union Dinner Debate not only proved enjoyable for alumni and current sixth-formers alike, but the ongoing furore over Facebook and Cambridge Analytica made it highly topical, too, writes the Headmaster.

As usual, although it was a formal occasion, the dinner came with a healthy serving of fun and good-natured banter.

An invitation

After such an excellent evening, I would now like to invite all our old boys to the next major event in our calendar, Founder’s Day, which takes place on Saturday 16th June 2018.

Founder’s Day represents a great opportunity for OEs to catch up with old friends in a relaxed atmosphere. Moreover, the Founder’s Day Fête really brings the whole QE community together to celebrate and support the School – and Old Elizabethans are a key part of that.

The afternoon begins with a buffet lunch open to all Old Elizabethans at approximately 1pm, immediately after our traditional reading of the School Chronicle. Re-launched a few years ago, our Founder’s Day Past XI v Present XI match (the Stanley Busby Memorial Cricket Match) on the Third Field now draws many cricket fans from among our alumni. And of course there is something for everyone among the attractions at the Fete on Stapylton Field. It will be possible to seat a small number of Old Elizabethans at the Founder’s Day service, which begins in St John the Baptist Parish Church at 11am.

If any old boys would like to make contact with particular members of staff, present or past, at Founder’s Day, do please email my office and we will do our best to make it happen. In fact, as we plan our welcome, it would be helpful if any former pupils who expect to be at Founder’s Day could let me know by email in advance, especially if you would like to attend the service or lunch.

Dinner debate report

Old Elizabethans Jonathan Hollingsworth and Pravin Swamy (both 2006–2013) secured a decisive victory opposing the motion: This House believes that in the digital age we should not expect our online activities to remain private.

Pupils Akshat Sharma and Tej Mehta put forward the motion for the debate, which is attended by all Year 12 boys and which this year was held on the day of the 445th anniversary of the founding of the School. In reply, Jonathan opened, with support from Pravin. Jonathan and Akshat did the summing up.

Captain of the School Aashish Khimasia proposed the customary toasts to Her Majesty, the Queen, The Pious Memory of Queen Elizabeth 1, and to the visitors. Ross Lima (OE 1995-2002) proposed the toast to The Elizabethan Union.

Ross read Law at Sheffield and now works for Shell as Lead Legal Counsel for the sale of catalysts across large areas of the globe. In his speech, he reminisced about his first day at QE and meeting friends Laurence Burrows and Panicos Peter Petrou, both of whom attended the dinner debate as his guests, along with Ross’s wife, Sarah. He remembered how the then-Headmaster, Eamonn Harris, told them to look around at the prefects: “He told us we were wearing the same blazers, but we hadn’t earned ours yet.” Looking at his Dinner Debate audience, Ross said: “You are now in the same position as those very boys that I looked up to on that day, and through your achievements at this School you have earned the right to wear that blazer.”

Ross recalled some of his own past challenges, including overcoming his fear of heights to complete the descent of a South American mountain in treacherous wet conditions, where a false move would have sent him over the edge of a 3,000ft drop.

“I know my friends from QE have also faced, overcome and learnt [from] difficult challenges as well,” he said. “Laurence cycled 450 miles in three days across a mountain range with a 40,000ft climb; Panicos has set up a successful business in Africa despite having only been there a few times before. The toughest challenge, however, all three of us have faced is being Arsenal fans for 20 years!”

He spoke of the challenges the boys at the debate had already faced in their School careers and encouraged them to continue to seek out new ones, and to learn to overcome their fears.
Headmaster Neil Enright said: “The debate itself was a typically lively and good-humoured affair.

The whole event serves to help prepare boys for handling similar such formal, but social, occasions as they progress through university, their careers and life more broadly.”

The indicative vote at the outset indicated that the floor was leaning against the motion, and although the motion was indeed later defeated, the intervening debate was by no means completely one-sided.

It began with Akshat putting forward the proposal. He and seconder Tej set out their case that it was, in fact, a reality that our online activities are not private – using state surveillance, as an example. They also argued the importance of being aware of how others use the data they hold, via social media or online gaming. They put forward the view that if people agree to the terms of surveys and ‘apps’ they use, then companies like Cambridge Analytica had, in law, not necessarily done anything wrong.

They also expounded the case for the positives of monitoring online activities, for the purposes of detecting and preventing crime and acts of terror.

The opposition countered these arguments, claiming the price of giving up our online privacy would be to give up part of our humanity, including our freedom of speech. Facebook came in for criticism, and the alumni said that even Mark Zuckerberg has now opined that such companies need regulating. They argued that people would not expect more traditional forms of communication – the Royal Mail or faxes, for example – to be open to others to view, so why should the internet be any different?

They also questioned whether the good citizens represented on the floor should be subjected to privacy breaches by the state in the name of security, advocating a higher threshold. They proposed a series of policy interventions to ensure better data protection online.

The floor debate saw enthusiastic contributions from OE guests and Year 12 speakers alike. These ranged from the question of how to monitor and deal with the terrorist threat, through to the different expectations there should be for users in terms of the sharing of social media posts and messages between, on the one hand celebrities (and those who court social media attention) and, on the other, ordinary users. Boys also raised the already-strict financial and criminal penalties that exist for those who breach data laws.

Neil Enright