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Record numbers turn out for 450th anniversary Old Elizabethans Annual Reunion Dinner

Guests at this year’s QE alumni dinner enjoyed a new, more relaxed approach to the occasion, while also making the most of a few additional activities during the evening.

Always a highlight of the Autumn Term, the dinner gained additional importance this year since it came in the School’s 450th anniversary year. One hundred and fifteen diners – a record attendance in recent years – gathered at Queen’s Road.

They were overlooked – but hopefully not put off their sumptuous fare! – by portraits of the two key figures in the School’s 1573 founding, Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in the Dining Hall.

The guests ranged widely in age, from those who were pupils in the 1950s to a group of 31 who all left the School in 2020 during the first year of the Covid pandemic.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “The OE dinner is a great reminder and celebration of the strength of our Elizabethan community.

“While our guests certainly seemed to appreciate the extra attractions we laid on for them to enjoy in our anniversary year, the dinner is mainly about people spending time with friends, making new connections and remembering their time at QE. And in this, it was a great success, with a lovely atmosphere, excellent food and some really positive feedback afterwards.”

The evening began with the QE Saxophone Ensemble playing in the Main School Hall while guests enjoyed welcome drinks. Their tunes included Irving Berlin’s 1929 song, Puttin’ on the Ritz, its title a reference to a slang expression of the time meaning to dress conspicuously and fashionably. With the black-tie dress code of previous years relaxed for this year’s new-style dinner, there was plenty of opportunity for guests to do just that: colourful ties were there in abundance (although, in fact, even ties were not compulsory).

Guests had the opportunity before and after dinner to look through materials from the School’s archives. There were also tours of the Mayes and Main buildings, with current Sixth Form students Danylo Gutsulyak, Maxwell Johnson and Sena Lai-Fujiwara all playing the piano in the Friends’ Recital Hall, entertaining the visitors and amply demonstrating the acoustics in this major new facility opened in May 2022.

Personal messages written by the Headmaster on specially produced postcards were provided for each guest.

In his words of welcome, Mr Enright recapped on the anniversary year, including the launch on 1st March of former Headmaster John Marincowitz’s “excellent” new history of the School, Queen Elizabeth’s School: 1573–2023. “It is never too early for some QE-themed Christmas shopping!” he said.

While some of the formalities involved in previous years’ dinners were dispensed with, the evening still featured the presentation of the Eric Shearly Memorial Prize awarded to 2023 School Captain Darren Lee by Martyn Bradish, Chairman of the Old Elizabethans Association.

Also retained were the traditional toasts. Eric Houston – President of the association, Master 1976–2010, and Second Master 1999–2010 – duly toasted: His Majesty The King; The pious memory of Queen Elizabeth I, our founder; Friends, present and absent; and The School.

The dinner included confit lamb shoulder croquettes and roasted chicken breast (with cauliflower bhaji and autumnal vegetable pithivier as vegetarian options), followed by dark chocolate torte and then tea or coffee, served with homemade petit fours.

  • Click on the thumbnails below to view a selection of photos. (QE alumni can see all the images from the evening on QE Connect.)
Making history: A-level winners excel in Queen Elizabeth School’s 450th anniversary year

As A-level grading returns to pre-pandemic standards this year, QE is celebrating “brilliant” results that cement the School’s place in the very top echelons of the country’s academic schools – a proud pinnacle in its 450-year history.

At the highest possible grade, the School improved significantly on its 2019 figures, with 58.2% of A-levels being awarded A* – easily beating the pre-pandemic record of 46.9% set in 2018. It was a similar record-breaking performance for combined A–A*: 89.1% of A-levels had these grades, well above the equivalent figure in the pre-Covid years.

And at the benchmark A*–B, QE continues to shine, achieving 96.9% in 2023, the 18th consecutive year in which QE has exceeded 95%.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We are very pleased indeed with this brilliant performance. Like the record-breaking 47 Oxbridge offers made to QE boys in the spring, these A-level results demonstrate that, in our 450th anniversary year, the School is thriving and continues to go from strength to strength.

“We recognise that this Year 13 cohort has not always had an easy journey: they were unable to sit their GCSEs because of Covid, so, like their peers across the country, this was the first time they had faced high-stakes testing.

“Ofqual, the examinations regulator, told examination boards to aim for the proportion of top grades to be in line with the levels recorded in 2019, so for our boys to have comfortably exceeded that level is really quite an achievement – one which demonstrates that the highest standards were maintained at QE throughout the pandemic. They should be very proud of what they have achieved.

“The pandemic has in fact helped us accelerate the technological development of the School; we have taken great strides in our digital strategy, whilst continuing to invest in our campus, its facilities and the further opportunities that this generates for our boys.”

Among many successes across the subjects this year, French stands out for its 100% performance – all five candidates achieved A*.

In purely numerical terms, Mathematics had the most A* grades, with 106, followed by Chemistry (44) and Further Maths (43).

“While examination performance certainly matters, what goes on beyond the classroom here, including all the many opportunities available through our QE Flourish enrichment programme, is of equal performance,” added Mr Enright.

“This cohort at QE have taken full advantage, making an impact on a national and international stage, not least in providing members of the team that won the VEX Robotics World Championships in 2018. We have many stars – one of their number, Rahul Doshi, won Channel 4’s Child Genius programme some years ago, for example – but he and his peers wear their intelligence, talent and ambitious aspirations lightly.

“They should be proud of the wider contribution they have made. Known for their kindness and empathy, they have supported each other as friends, and those lower in the School as peer mentors. They have also helped to establish and develop connections with the local Barnet community, such as our QE Together partnership with Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School.”

“We hope that these students take away from QE not only great results, but a broad range of experiences that will have shaped them into well-rounded young men of good character, ready to step into the world and make a positive difference to the lives of others, living up to, and perhaps even exceeding, the example set by many illustrious Elizabethans over the past 450 years.

“Congratulations to the boys and their families on their fantastic achievements.”

Figures in this article were updated following the outcome of re-marks in early October 2023.

Boys’ mature response to film about assassination attempt on Hitler wins plaudits

QE boys were the first-ever under-18s to watch producer Ilana Metzger’s film about her father, a Holocaust survivor who once attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

And she was so impressed by the their mature response that she is now donating 30 copies of his autobiography – gifted to her by an anonymous viewer of the film – to the School.

The visit had been suggested to the Headmaster, Neil Enright, by Old Elizabethan Alan Solomon (OE 1951–1957), pictured here.

He had been impressed by the way the documentary told the story of Ilana’s father, Henry Wermuth, and also looked more widely at the Holocaust and its origins.

Following the screening of the film, Breathe Deeply My Son, to last year’s Year 9 during the Summer Term, the boys took part in a question-and-answer session.

In a message sent to the Headmaster subsequently, Ilana praised the QE pupils for their “interesting and insightful questions” and high level of maturity.

In the film, Mr Wermuth, pictured here with Ilana, explains how in 1942 he broke out of Klaj ammunition camp in Poland when he learned that Hitler was scheduled to pass through the village.

He piled sticks and rocks on the railway track, but the attempted derailment was unsuccessful.

He told The Jewish Chronicle in 2013: “A train passed with three wagons, and in the window was a man who I recognised by the moustache as Hitler. I stood there mesmerised, waiting for the crash, but it never came. Either a local farmer or someone patrolling must have removed the logs.”

Mr Wermuth survived the war weighing just 5st 3lb (33kg). His father, mother and sister all died in concentration camps.

He was awarded a medal for his attempt by the German city of Frankfurt in 1995.

After liberation, he settled in the UK and built a property business in London. He died in 2020, aged 97.


Entrepreneur Arian passes on lessons from Silicon Valley

3D printing entrepreneur Arian Aghababaie, co-founder of California-based Holo, shared insights into the latest developments in additive manufacturing and gave advice on engineering careers when he led two inspirational events at QE during a visit to the UK.

After working for global software firm Autodesk, based in San Francisco, Arian (OE 1998–2003) raised venture capital and successfully spun out its additive manufacturing team to form Holo, while also transitioning its technology from the 3D printing of polymers to metals. Six-and-a-half years later, Holo is at the forefront of innovation, using its proprietary digital platform to enable the manufacturing at scale of high-performance parts across a range of materials, including metals, ceramics and composites. Holo is supported by top-tier Silicon Valley investors and strategic partners.

Arian’s morning at QE began with a tour of the School, before he led a Sixth Form additive manufacturing workshop, with five of QE’s own 3D printers on hand. Later, he delivered a lunchtime talk, giving his take on careers in engineering and 3D printing.

Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “Arian provided Year 12 with a workshop which firstly covered his professional journey to date, from his early days post PhD working on founding his own company (The Invention Works) through to his position as Senior Principal Engineer at Autodesk. Most of the workshop, however, focussed on his current company, Holo. He explained that he and the other co-founders could see the enormous potential to create a viable business in this area and so pursued it as an opportunity.”

Arian went on to explain the details around the scale of production, the materials used and the fidelity of the products which Holo’s machines can make through its own PureForm Technology.

“His technologies have a unique advantage over competitors, and he works with many major companies in the healthcare, consumer electronics, robotics, and automotive sectors, to name a few,” said Mr Noonan.

He even set the Year 12 boys a challenge to develop a product using QE’s own 3D printers. They should design (and perhaps build) a scaled-up, minimally invasive surgical instrument. His requirements were that:

  • The instrument should have six degrees of freedom
  • It should be able to be cable or gear-driven
  • The boys’ work should include the design of at least two custom end-effectors (the devices at the end of a robotic arm, designed to interact with the environment)
  • They should determine its size and features based on the capabilities of their own printers.

Bonus points were offered for the designs with the fewest components and if the end-effectors could be easily changed within the same clevis pin (part of a fastener system)!

Two examples of the boys’ work in response to the challenge are shown here.

In the lunchtime talk to Year 10, Arian took a more personal look at his story, beginning with his time at QE, when he was in Stapylton House and was a musician and prefect.

After first presenting a version of his life which had him gliding seamlessly from his first engineering degree at Bristol to gaining his doctorate, also at Bristol, moving to San Francisco in 2016 and then founding Holo the following year, he next spoke about “what it’s actually been like” – a narrative that includes leaving QE early, dropping out of university, the financial crash and the huge impact of Covid.

The lessons he learned included “stay true to your authentic self” and “don’t fear failure”.

The visit came about after Headmaster Neil Enright struck up a conversation with Arian on LinkedIn.

Mr Noonan said: “It really was a tremendous day. One of the boys involved said to me afterwards: ‘Sir, are you aware that Arian is working in the job we all dream to have one day?’ I am immensely grateful to Arian for taking the time to give back to his School and for giving our students something amazing to aspire to.”


Formal but fun: saying farewell to QE’s leavers

QE’s Valediction event for the Class of 2023 saw the 450th anniversary year cohort gather with their parents for an afternoon celebration.

There were prizes for some, while the contribution of all the leavers – or graduands – was celebrated during an occasion in Shearly Hall that featured speeches and presentations, followed by afternoon tea on Staplyton Field.

The guest speaker was Sahil Handa (OE 2009–2016), the first-ever Elizabethan to take up a place at Harvard in the US, who has already blazed a trail in several different fields, from the arts to founding IT startups.

As befitting an event which embraced a sense of fun alongside its formal aspects, the afternoon’s musical interludes looked to the lighter side: staff reportedly enjoyed processing in to the accompaniment of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, performed by the QE Jazz Lounge.

Headmaster Neil Enright thanked parents for their “huge support, both moral and financial, over the years” and urged both them and their sons to stay in touch with the School.

He told the boys: “I hope in the years to come that you will come back and see us; tell us about your adventures and careers; and, more importantly, tell those following in your footsteps through the School: that you will show them and their families the great variety of things that an OE can do, and an Elizabethan can be.”

The guest speaker was himself an example of that variety. Currently a Visiting Fellow at The John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Sahil is, among many other things:

  • A writer: he was a founder of Persuasion, a non-profit magazine devoted to liberal values and the defence of free speech
  • An entrepreneur: he has worked on both Typos, a messaging app for creatives and Lines, a messaging app offering verifiable communications in the blockchain-based web3, for which his company has raised over $6.5m in funding
  • A dancer: he ran the QE dance club for four years and lists “dance battles at nightclubs” among his present interests
  • An artist: he was selected for the Royal Academy of Arts’ AttRAct scheme while at QE and still enjoys painting on canvas.

Sahil attended Valediction together with his mother, cousin, friends and his brother, Nikhil Handa (OE 2013–2020). He recalled his first encounter with Deputy Head (Pastoral) David Ryan, who hauled him over the coals after spotting him dancing outside the classroom window to entertain his classmates during afternoon form time. This less-than-auspicious beginning soon turned into a supportive relationship, however, when he became part of Mr Ryan’s English class. “I thought he’d make my life miserable. But to my surprise, it seemed as though he’d forgotten the whole episode entirely. I went on to learn everything from him… Mr Ryan was also the first person who complimented me for being a generalist.”

Sahil spoke of: the trials and tribulations of being a writer – “if I did not write, I would not be true to myself”; the importance of confidence and of learning from rejection, and of “maintaining and strengthening the relationships that matter”.

In conclusion, he alluded to the former TV show, Takashi’s Castle. “There’s an activity where contestants try to skip across stones on a lake, avoiding falling into the sea. I like to imagine. It’s how I feel when I’m dancing: like melodies are being created for my feet. You are now leaving a place of constraints and the world will create stones for you, if only you skip. Write the email. Ask the question. Start the conversation. Say the tough thing. Make the difficult choice. Take a posture towards the world that makes you look up and laugh at its wonder. It’ll be as though somebody is creating stones for you to walk on.”

A large majority of Year 13 students attended. All received a set of QE cufflinks, while the prizewinners also received a copy of former Headmaster Dr John Marincowitz’s new history of the School, Queen Elizabeth’s School: 1573–2023. Among the speakers was Theo Mama-Kahn, School Captain 2022, who was one of the leavers. He gave a vote of thanks.

During tea afterwards, there were performances by four forms who shone recently in an inter-House music competition.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Enright said: “We began a Valediction event both because we wanted to say farewell formally as a School, but also to give people an opportunity to say their own goodbyes: the chats and well-wishing out on the field, with boys, families and staff thanking each other for all they have done over the past seven years, was an important element of the occasion.

“The Class of 2023 have distinguished themselves not only as a highly able cohort, but one characterised by kindness and positivity. They have served as great ambassadors to those younger in the School and I look forward to them continuing this record within our alumni community.”


Making history at the 450th anniversary year Founder’s Day

Past, present and future came together to make Founder’s Day in Queen Elizabeth’s School’s 450th anniversary year an unforgettable occasion.

Always a highlight of the School calendar, Founder’s Day this year featured a string of anniversary-related special events, including the burial of a time capsule, as well as time-honoured traditions, from the reading of the School Chronicle to a cricket match between the current School XI and alumni.

The afternoon fete, run by the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s, drew the biggest numbers in recent memory, while there was a moving retirement ceremony for Barrie Martin MBE, QE’s long-standing Chairman of Governors, who steps down from the role this summer.

The event, which raises funds for the School, was a financial success, too. Having raised their target to £25,000, the Friends saw this figure comprehensively beaten: the current total stands at £41,042.48, including more than £28,000 on the day itself.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “Our anniversary slogan is ‘thriving from ancient roots’ – and Founder’s Day 2023 exemplified this to the full. In the morning we reflected together on our long and rich history in the thanksgiving service at the parish church, while the happy crowds at our colourful afternoon fete were a reminder of just how vibrant and successful is the Elizabethan community of today.

“Barrie Martin made an immeasurable contribution to that success: the 24 years since he became Chairman of Governors have seen QE rise steadily to its position today as one of the UK’s leading schools, and generations of boys owe him a debt of gratitude.

“Fittingly, the burying of the time capsule on Staplyton Field gave us an opportunity to look to the future, as any organisation must do if it is to maintain its success. The artefacts in the capsule include predictions from our current Year 7 about what the School might be like in 2073, when we hope the capsule will be opened on QE’s 500th anniversary.

“My thanks go to the small army of people – including FQE volunteers, staff and pupils – who made the day such a success, and to the many who contributed so generously to maximising FQE’s income, which will be invested in the School.

“I hope many will be inspired to help in the future: you can put the third Saturday of June in 2024 in your diaries now!” Mr Enright added.

The day began with an innovation: a procession from Tudor Hall – the School’s home from its founding through to 1932 – which arrived at St John the Baptist Church promptly for the 11am service.

There, Giles Martin (OE 1992–1999) the son of the Chairman of Governors and the Programme Leader for Higher Education Practice at Bath Spa University’s School of Education, reminded the boys and wider congregation of the words of Gandhi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as it you were to live forever.”

Reflecting on his memories and experiences at the School in music, debating and sport, he stressed the importance of teamwork. He was part of QE’s undefeated water polo team of the late 1990s.

After staff and boys made their way to Queen’s Road, the Roll Call and Reading of the School Chronicle took place in front of Main Building, with two paragraphs added to the latter’s account of QE’s history, covering the royal visit in November by The Duke of Gloucester and the 450th anniversary celebrations, including the March service in Westminster Abbey.

School Captain Darren Lee, of Year 12, stepped forward to fill the deep hole dug for the time capsule. This included:

  • A letter from the Headmaster to the Elizabethans of 2073;
  • Darren’s reflections on the 450th celebrations;
  • 450th memorabilia including a 450 badge, documents and flowers from the abbey preserved in resin by Art teacher Jeanne Nicodemus;
  • A copy of the recent whole-school photo;
  • The Year 7 pupil’s predictions – intended as a surprise for the Elizabethans of the future, it can however be noted that the boys predict technology, and AI in particular, will radically change education methods!

The Barrie Martin retirement ceremony included the presentation of a book of photos from his years of service, a framed sketch of the School and other mementos. Flowers were presented to his wife, Perin, as well as another of the resin cubes containing flowers from the 450th anniversary service (supplied by the florist who also provided flowers for the Queen’s funeral and King’s coronation).

A photographic portrait of Barrie will be placed in the ‘crush hall’ in the Main Building upon his retirement. It was taken by the School’s photographer Eleanor Bentall, who has also taken portraits of subjects including Boris Johnson, former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, Clare Balding and Tinie Tempah.

Thanking those present, Barrie, who is also Chairman of FQE, recounted how he came on board with the Friends after being approached by FQE stalwart Diane Mason. He joined the Governing Body in 1989, having been invited by Eamonn Harris (Headmaster 1984–1999): “I wasn’t stupid enough to say no to the Headmaster!”

Recalling some of the key milestones in the years that followed, he said he was unable to thank all those “exceptional people” that he had worked with, who had “made what I did possible”. Particular thanks were, however, given to the three Vice-Chairmen of Governors he worked alongside: the late Sid Clark; Ken Cooper; and Nick Gaskell, who will succeed Barrie as Chairman on 1 September this year.

The 1pm–5pm fete brought together current and past pupils with their families, as well as families of boys who will join Year 7 in September, large numbers of Old Elizabethans from different eras, local residents, former staff and other supporters.

The ever-popular international food tents were extended this year, while there was a range of impressive culinary creations battling it out in the Cake Competition. Additional attractions included a VEX Robotics tent – popular with parents as much as anyone! – and Ju Jitsu, where, rumour has it, Barrie Martin was seen performing a martial arts hold.

Away from the Stapylton Field, the QE Collections mini-exhibition included a rare opportunity to see the original 1573 Royal Charter that brought about the founding of the School. A particular draw was a book-signing by Dr John Marincowitz (Headmaster 1999–2011), whose new history of the School was published in March. This had to be extended due to the long queues. He said: “I met many lovely boys, old boys, parents and even a descendant of former Master James Barcock (1689-1719)! Such a variety of really interesting people.”

At the back of the School, the Stanley Busby Memorial Cricket Match on Third Field saw the old boys claiming what Head of Cricket Richard Scally described as “a well-deserved victory”. He added: “Both openers for the OEs – Omar Mohamed and Shahil Sheth – scored quickly, amassing 50 runs each and setting a challenging total of 159. In reply, the School lost early wickets and the run rate became too high, and although there was some strong resistance from Year 12’s Rohan Belavadi and Ranvir Sinha, it all proved too little too late, and the old boys won by 39 runs.”

  • Donations can still be made through the dedicated Founder’s Day JustGiving page. The fundraising total includes money taken on the day, online giving, sponsorship from a House Music competition on the eve of Founder’s Day and the sale of advertising.
  • The full-colour, 56-page fete programme includes a range of features, as well as advertisements from donors and supporters. You can read it here.
Rising fives: QE nominated for Team of the Year award

The recent rise of Eton Fives at Queen Elizabeth’s School has now been recognised with a nomination for the Team of the Year award from the sport’s governing body.

Having last year won the Eton Fives Association’s U14 Beginners’ competition, the Year 10 QE pair of Yash Kedia and Zayn Phoplankar went one better this season, becoming fully fledged U15 champions after beating Berkhamsted School’s best in the National Schools’ Championship. It is thought to be the first-ever national championship title for a QE Fives pairing.

In a further sign of the sport’s growing strength at the School, Year 9 novices Veer Gali Sanjeev and Ishaan Mishra reached the final of this year’s U14 Beginners’ Competition.

Headmaster Neil Enright: “I am super-proud that we have been nominated for such a prestigious award. My congratulations go to our Director of Sport, Jonathan Hart, his colleagues and, of course, our brilliant student players.”

The EFA citation for the award begins: “With just one court, the success story in recent years of Fives at [QE] is quite remarkable.” It goes on to praise the “large numbers of players produced” and the “strength in depth” evident at QE.

The Team of the Year award will be decided by a vote of EFA members.

Other Team of the Year nominations include independent Ipswich School and St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington, as well as clubs associated with: Berkhamsted; Magdalene College, Cambridge, and the Old Salopians (alumni of Shrewsbury School).

Eton Fives is a hand-ball game developed in the late 19th century at Eton College. It is played only as ‘doubles’ (i.e. by two pairs of players); there is no official ‘singles’ version of the game.

QE’s association with the sport goes back more than 140 years. Its first Fives courts at QE were opened at the School’s previous Wood Street premises in 1880, following a £10 grant from the Governors and a special fund-raising concert.

After QE’s move to an entirely new site in Queen’s Road in 1932, the sport languished for some years and it was not until the post-World War II rebuilding programme in 1951–52 that plans for a single new court were considered. By 1954, the court was complete, and the School was affiliated to the Eton Fives Association and entered the Public Schools Championships in 1955.

Like all Eton Fives courts, QE’s has only three sides, and is open at the back. It includes architectural features of the Eton College chapel, including a protruding buttress.

Old Elizabethan Sunil Tailor (1999–2006) is now an EFA trustee.

If I were you…getting the inside track on university life

Large numbers of last year’s leavers returned to QE to support current pupils at the School’s University Convention.

Organised as part of the QE’s extensive programme to support boys preparing for the next stage in their education, the morning event aims to provide detailed and specific guidance to the current Year 12.

It provides an opportunity for boys to hear an unembellished, honest account of particular universities and degree courses from those with the most recent experience possible, namely QE undergraduates who completed their A-levels only last summer.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “It was great to see many of our 2022 leavers back here to provide their guidance to the current Year 12 and to catch up with them two terms into their time as Old Elizabethans.”

This year’s University Convention, which was held in the Shearly Hall, covered a wide range of universities and courses. There was also the opportunity to hear from those on gap years.

“It is so valuable for our current students to get first-hand information – the inside track – from those studying on courses and at destinations they are considering, helping them very much with the choices that they will be making later in the year,” said Mr Enright.

“I think that the visiting alumni enjoyed it, too: as well as supporting their School, it was a good opportunity to for them to meet up with others from their year group.”

The event, which included a buffet lunch in the Main School Hall for alumni and staff after the morning’s activities, is just one of the ways in which alumni support current pupils in planning their futures.

Old boys of all ages come along to the annual Careers Convention for Year 11, while the School welcomes a succession of Old Elizabethans in person and remotely during the year to deliver expert talks on a variety of career-related and academic topics, to conduct mock interviews, or to contribute to other School events. Alumni can even sign up to make themselves available through the dedicated QE Connect alumni network.

Anniversary to the fore at 56th Annual Elizabethan Union Dinner Debate

With the QE 450th anniversary celebrations at the forefront of everyone’s mind, the subject chosen for this year’s Dinner Debate was especially apt.

Sixth-formers gathered to take on the visiting Old Elizabethans, debating the motion, This House would leave the past behind us.

In his address, Saifullah Shah (OE 2013–2020) alluded to the anniversary year, which has as its slogan, Thriving from ancient roots.

And there were reminders of the 450th anniversary celebrations even during the meal: dessert was served accompanied by white chocolate discs bearing the anniversary logo.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “The Dinner Debate was a successful evening, continuing the happy and energetic mood from our thanksgiving service in Westminster Abbey and with a motion that caused us to think about the nature and importance of the past, while looking to the future. It certainly provoked some lively discussion, taking the debate down a number of interesting avenues.”

“The dinner participants also made a little bit of history themselves: our 2022 School, Captain Theo Mama-Kahn, led the loyal toast to ‘The King’, rather than ‘The Queen’, for the first time in the Dinner Debate’s history.”

The event, which this year was chaired by Jai Patel, of Year 13, helps prepare the boys for some of the social occasions they may encounter early in their time at university. The debate follows the Oxford/Cambridge Union style.

With its distinctive atmosphere, it also serves as somewhat of a staging post between the boys’ present as pupils and their future as Old Elizabethans.

“The Dinner Debate is important in promoting oracy and free-thinking scholarship, but it is also a fun and relaxed evening, which most seem to enjoy!” the Headmaster added.

Before the debate, the votes were counted as follows: 14 for; 126 against; 30 abstentions.

The motion was proposed by the Year 13 pair of Ashwin Sridhar and Sudhamshu Gummadavelly. Opposing it with Saifullah was Mipham Samten (OE 2012–2019). Many Year 13s contributed from the floor.

Ashwin and Sudhamshu argued that ‘leave’ does not mean ‘forget’, making the case that the past and its injustices should not be allowed to define the future, and that we should move forward with equality of opportunity (rather than imposing discrimination of a different form, such as quotas to seek redress). They cited as a positive example the reconciliation seen in Spain after its civil war and the end of General Franco’s regime, where old differences were left behind.

The opposing OEs defined the key term differently, accusing the boys of wanting to ‘have their cake and eat it’. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat its errors.

However, at the end of the debate, the proposers’ case had won many over, and the final totals were: 76 for; 55 against; and 39 abstentions. Thus, it was a victory for the School, the Upper Sixth pair successfully convincing people that the past could be left behind, even while its lessons were still being learned.

In his address, Saifullah, a third-year Law student at Downing College, Cambridge, began thus: “From the celebration of this School’s 450th anniversary, the motion of the upcoming debate and the range of familiar faces on display, the past would appear to have all of us in its embrace tonight.”

He related how he had suffered some early disappointments at Cambridge in moots (mock judicial proceedings set up to examine a hypothetical case as an academic exercise) and was considering stopping doing them altogether, but then scored a memorable success after applying to take part in a Cambridge Union debate. “Given the stakes and the competition, I had no expectations going into the audition. But I also had nothing to lose and, against all the odds, I prevailed. My fellow speakers included a Queen’s Counsel, a Cambridge Professor and most memorably, Lord Neuberger and Lord Sumption, two former justices of the Supreme Court. Debating alongside my childhood heroes whose judgements had helped inspire me to study law was a surreal experience, and one that I will never forget.”

The experience heralded an era of competition success for Saifullah: he has now a record ten mooting and mock trial competitions, and has been a student speaker in six Cambridge Union Debates, the most in recent history.

He concluded by telling the assembled sixth-formers: “Your time in school will not define your legacy and your purpose as students is not to reap fruit but to sow seeds. You don’t need to be School Captain or valedictorian, and it is often the trees that bloom latest that have the perfect blossom. The road ahead of you is tough, it is treacherous, and it will push you to your limits. But if you walk your path with courage, with conviction and with hope, then you will not only survive but thrive.”


Thriving from ancient roots: Queen Elizabeth’s School celebrates its 450th anniversary in Westminster Abbey

Four hundred and fifty years to the day since Queen Elizabeth I granted the Charter for the establishment of Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet, the Elizabethan community gathered in Westminster Abbey to celebrate in a special service of thanksgiving.

Featuring elements ancient and modern, today’s service reflected the past, present and future of a school that has in recent years risen to a place of high national repute.

All 1,295 pupils attended, together with almost all staff, as well as governors, Directors of the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s, Foundation Trustees, former staff, Old Elizabethans and around 300 current parents – a congregation of some 1,800 people.

Carried into the abbey were the Royal Charter itself, granted by Elizabeth I on 24th March 1573, and a banner that was presented to the School by HRH Prince Richard, The Duke of Gloucester, during his visit in November 2022.

The service included religious and literary readings, with Year 11 pupil Rohan Kumar’s winning entry in the School’s 450th Anniversary Poetry Competition, and music from every century of the School’s existence, culminating in a premiere performance of an anthem commissioned from internationally renowned composer Howard Goodall.

In his address, Neil Enright, 40th Headmaster of the School, said: “Today, we gather in this sacred and magnificent place to celebrate our School’s foundation. The place where our founder, Queen Elizabeth I, was crowned and is buried – a place of national celebration and commemoration. But, also, a place which inspires us to reflect upon our foundations, as much as our founding.”

Drawing an analogy with Jesus’s parable of the foolish man who built a house on the sand and the wise man who built his house on the rock, Mr Enright said: “There have been many times over the past 450 years when the rain descended and the floods came and the wind blew and the School’s foundations were tested.”

These storms included an outbreak of plague in 1603, when the School was said to have grown ‘sick in decay’, the imprisonment and even execution of governors for their support of the Crown during the English Civil War, straitened financial circumstances in the 18th century, the bombing of the School by the Luftwaffe in the Second World War, and the School’s decline in the 1970s and early 1980s, which saw it earmarked for closure by the local authority.

“Over the past 450 years, our remarkable school has often flourished, and always survived,” said Mr Enright.

“Our challenge is to ensure, in a world of shifting sands, where the rain will again descend, and the floods will come and the wind will blow and beat down upon us, that we will not fall. That we will stand firm on our foundations and draw strength from our roots, spread deep and wide, and meet the bold assertion of our Charter that we will be: ‘one Common Grammar School in or near the town of Barnet… for the education, bringing up and instruction of boys and youth…… and the same to continue forever’.”

The service covered four broad themes of: foundations; challenges; service to others and hope for the future.

It was conducted by The Right Reverend Anthony Ball, Canon in Residence, and sung by QE’s Chamber Choir, with guest singers from the staff, Old Elizabethans, and St Albans High School for Girls, all conducted by Director of Music Ruth Partington. The School Orchestra was conducted by Caroline Grint, QE’s Assistant Director of Music, and the organ played by Mr Peter Holder, Sub-Organist.

Before the service, the congregation listened to the orchestra’s performance of William Walton’s Crown Imperial and the Indian Ensemble’s performance of Tani Avartaram.

Among the guests were the headteachers of many partner schools, together with councillors, former Mayors of Barnet, and other supporters of the School.

The VIP party included: The Worshipful the Mayor of the London Borough of Barnet, Cllr Alison Moore; The Deputy Mayor of the London Borough of Barnet, Cllr Nagus Narenthira; Representative for The Lord Lieutenant of Greater London, Vice Lord-Lieutenant Colonel Jane Davis OBE QVRM TD DL; and The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Cllr Hamza Taouzzale.

After the first hymn, Helen Edmunds, Head of History, read from the Charter. Other readings were given by pupils of all ages, including 2023 School Captain Darren Lee, who is in Year 12.

The Headmaster said the traditional Founder’s Day prayer, while others leading in prayer included Mrs Emi Aghdiran, Governor and Director of FQE, and Matthew Rose (OE 2002–09), Head of External Relations.

Years 7–10 had travelled to the abbey by coach; Years 11–13 came on the tube. The Headmaster led them all in an act of rededication to the School’s mission, with each of the six Houses invited to respond, in turn, with “Adsumus” (We are present).

Before the final blessing and procession, the Chamber Choir gave the first-ever performance of the new anthem commissioned by QE, which has as its refrain:

That like an oak, it draws its strength
From ancient roots spread deep and wide.
From ancient roots
From ancient roots
From ancient roots spread deep and wide.

As the congregation departed to enjoy refreshments together, the bells of the abbey rang out.

  • To view the order of service, which includes the full lyrics to Howard Goodall’s new anthem and Rohan Kumar’s competition-winning poem, click here.
  • For more photos from before and after the service, click on the thumbnail images below.
  • For more 450th anniversary news, click here.