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Out of sight but, please, not out of mind: old boy returns to School to give an update on the international refugee crisis

The international migrant crisis in southern Europe may have faded from the headlines in recent months, but the humanitarian challenge remains, Old Elizabethan Nicholas Millet reminded QE boys when he returned to his alma mater.

Nick (OE 2001–2008) co-founded Refugee Education Chios, which provides education, support and training for teenagers and young adults living on the Greek island of Chios, which became a de facto detention centre after the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement.

The project offers safe places – a youth centre and a learning centre – outside the Vial detention camp, reaching up to 250 children and youth aged up to 22 each week. Both centres tailor their work to the refugees’ particular needs, with, for example, the learning centre offering a trauma-sensitive curriculum and the youth centre helping teenagers develop trusting relationships and confidence in their own abilities and skills.

He spoke to boys in the middle years of QE about the charity’s work and about the migrant crisis in general, highlighting the ongoing nature of the problem, which, he said, was all too easily forgotten.

Thanking him for his visit, Head of Academic Enrichment Nisha Mayer said afterwards: “Nick provided an enormously insightful and, at times, emotional talk, which was a good reminder of the importance of being involved with humanitarian causes.”

Nick first got involved in the refugee relief work before the 2016 agreement came into force. Inspired to take action to help refugees by a weekend visit to the ‘Jungle’ camp at Calais, he put his successful career as a management consultant on hold and flew to Chios, which lies just 7km off the mainland of Turkey.

The island was the arrival point for the highest number of refugees after Lesbos, with up to 1,500 men, women and children making the journey across the Aegean Sea every night at that time. During his talk, Nick showed the boys photographs of refugees arriving on Chios, often in perilously overloaded rubber dinghies. Other images revealed the poor conditions in the camp.

Nick, of Stanmore, has a history of involvement in humanitarian projects. Shortly after leaving QE, he spent time at the Sri Sathya Sai School – a village school in Kerala, India, which QE has supported since 2002. And, while he was reading for the Politics, Psychology and Sociology Tripos at Cambridge, he undertook research for the Grameen Bank, the Nobel Prize-winning microfinance organisation based in Bangladesh which works to help the poor.

On his most recent visit to QE, Nick mentioned especially the desperate plight of lone child refugees, telling the boys: “Children are sent because their parents can’t afford for the whole family to escape.”

“Grammar schools provide an unrivalled ladder of opportunity” – new report published as QE’s George the Poet inspires the next generation at Cambridge

New research highlights the success of grammar schools in sending large numbers of pupils from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to top universities.

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) study shows not only that students of all backgrounds are much more likely to progress to a top-tier university if they have been educated in an area with grammar schools, but that this is particularly true for those from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds.

Its publication comes as the magazine of King’s College, Cambridge, reports on Old Elizabethan George the Poet’s key role in the college’s first-ever open day for BME applicants. The magazine explains that although King’s accepts a relatively high number of state school pupils, it remains concerned about the ethnic diversity level among its student body.

Nationally renowned spoken-word performer and social commentator George Mpanga (OE 2002–2009), who himself attended King’s, led an empowerment session for the visiting prospective undergraduates. He told them how his time at Cambridge helped him understand the inner-city community he had come from, giving him an academically-based perspective which has informed his subsequent commentary on race, education and class.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “At Queen Elizabeth’s School, we are proud of our long-term success as an entirely meritocratic institution, and it is noteworthy that many of our leavers, such as George, who go on to Oxford and Cambridge are from modest backgrounds, often representing the first generation of their families to go into higher education. Nevertheless, we have made it one of our key priorities to do even more to ensure fair access and we are currently developing our outreach activities accordingly.”

The 60-page HEPI research paper, entitled The Impact of Selective Secondary Education on Progression to Higher Education, was written by Iain Mansfield, a former senior civil servant at departments including the Department for Education. Its findings suggest that grammar schools can increase the likelihood of progression to the top third of higher education institutions (as defined by the Department for Education) for pupils from some traditionally disadvantaged groups, including pupils in the most disadvantaged two quintiles, namely social disadvantage and BME. In fact, it showed that the latter are more than five times as likely to progress to Oxbridge if they live in an area with selective schools than in a non-selective area, with England’s 163 grammar schools sending more BME students to Cambridge than all 1,849 non-selective state schools combined.

Commenting on the findings in the Times Educational Supplement, Mr Mansfield makes a plea for expanding grammar schools: “…for many disadvantaged students, grammar schools provide an unrivalled ladder of opportunity, offering them a route to elite higher education that is simply not systematically available to them elsewhere.”

He also tackles one frequent criticism of selective education head-on: “Did you know that that 45 per cent of pupils at grammar schools come from households with below-median incomes? Opponents of grammar schools like to portray them as only for the rich, but this statistic makes that claim demonstrably untrue. Yes, it’s true that grammar schools take a lower proportion of pupils on free school meals than one might expect – but the same is true of the most academically successful comprehensive schools, due to house-price selection.”

For his part, George Mpanga sought to inspire the visiting A-level students at King’s College, telling them: “I’m looking forward to seeing you guys in ten years and you saying to me: ‘Oh, remember that time in King’s? I was there!’ Because you will be someone, wherever you choose to go, you will be of consequence. I anticipate that; I look forward to that.”

He told them how his own time as an undergraduate had changed him: “When I went to Cambridge, I looked back at my community through binoculars and I could see it for what it is. That wouldn’t have been possible if I’d stayed in the environment. I would have become either consumed by my anger or completely disconnected with the social set-up, with the social scene.

“Being here gave me the space to look at it objectively and apply some of the disciplines of sociology, of the humanities, of the social sciences to what I saw growing up. It gave me that language. And what I found is, when I went back to that environment, everyone understood. No one looked at me funny because I’d gone to Cambridge.”

He recalled the occasion when the President of the African and Caribbean Society had persuaded him to give his first performance at Cambridge. “He was like, ‘You have to contribute. What? You’re just going to be here and you’re not going to give yourself? You’re not going to represent where you’re from in this place?’ And that pricked my conscience a little bit, so I agreed to do it.”

Medic’s journey from the QE ‘elephant dip’ to beach volleyball

After qualifying as a GP, Dr Joseph Besser is now combining his practice of medicine with a passion for educating people about health – and enjoying married life in the sun in Australia.

Joe (OE 1997–2004) went on from QE to read Medicine at Nottingham. After graduating in 2009, he worked at some of the UK’s best-known hospitals, but also spent long periods in Australia, including 18 months in Melbourne as a junior doctor working in Accident & Emergency.

“Obtaining a medical degree permits you a great freedom to travel and work overseas,” he says. “I returned to London to complete GP training at St George’s in Tooting, and once completed, returned to Australia, this time to Sydney to work as a GP.

“I am now settling into life as a GP in Australia. I currently live and work in the Northern Beaches of Sydney in a beach town called Manly. I find myself on the beach almost every day. On the weekends, I spend my time playing as much beach volleyball as is humanly possible.”

His particular medical interests include psychiatry – he has worked both at The Priory and at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital – and innovations in general practice.

In 2018, he started a medical blog, Teach Me GP, and an article from it (What advice should we give to patients about their consultation?) was published in the British Journal on General Practice. “The year was full of accomplishments as I also passed my final GP exams and finished the year by getting married to my wife, Emma, who is also a doctor.”

“I hope some day to be a teacher, to emulate my favourite teachers from QE, Nottingham University and then St George’s Hospital in Tooting, those who have inspired me in the past. I am therefore undergoing training to become a GP trainer.” Joe also hopes one day “to promote better health education in primary and secondary schools. Our health is precious and yet we do not do enough to formally educate people on how to look after it.”

Those “favourite teachers” include Neil Enright, the current Headmaster, who was his Geography teacher through A-levels and who led a “memorable field trip” to Swanage.

“Although I stopped studying English after GCSE, I recall with great fondness classes with Mr [David] Ryan. I wish I had been lucky enough to live closer to the School so I could have remained in contact with more of the staff after leaving,” he adds.

Among his many other QE memories, the “lively” end-of-season rugby dinners stand out, as does the annual cross-country run, with its infamous ‘elephant dip’. “It was so wet and boggy that some unfortunate souls would lose the shoes right off their feet.”

“I made lifelong friends at QE. The best man at my wedding was a fellow lieutenant, Matt Houghton, and the old head boy [School Captain], Ashish Kalraiya, was an usher. Both were in my year.”

Headhunter Scott highlights the importance of pursuing a career that you enjoy

Scott Lesner switched careers after initially training as a lawyer – and has never looked back.

Now a recruitment specialist, Scott (OE 1987-1992) has carved out a successful career, while raising a family and maintaining his longstanding enthusiasm for football, as both player and fan.

“I didn’t love being a lawyer (and I think it’s really important to enjoy what you do at work), so I switched to legal recruitment,” he explains.

Scott joined QE in the middle of Year 8 in 1987. “I had some magnificent teachers,” he says, mentioning especially Eric Houston (who retired as Second Master in 2010 and is a Foundation Governor), History teacher Mr Oulton and Dr John Marincowitz (who went on to become Headmaster in 1999, retiring in 2011). “I didn’t just learn from them academically, but I was also moulded by them as a young man. I’m very conscious of that and grateful for it.”

Notwithstanding the School’s focus on rugby, football, including his beloved Spurs, has always been Scott’s passion: “I travelled an hour to school on the 107 bus from Kenton with a group of friends – mostly it was also a fun, social time. Once, after a particularly heated north London derby between Spurs and Arsenal, we were a bit rowdy on the bus and got in trouble for it at School.”

Such rare instances aside, he made a positive impression in both the classroom and on the sports field. “I won a number of academic prizes – if I remember rightly, for History and Latin – and I was good at sport. Cricket was my strongest and I think I played once for the First XI.”

A member of Stapylton House in an era when Stapylton was on a winning streak, he was also a prefect: “I still have my tie in a memories box.”

After A-levels in 1992, Scott progressed straight to Nottingham University to read Law and was then sponsored through Law school, training with the firm that is now CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang. “I spent a further two years there as an energy lawyer, advising clients on electricity market liberalisation and power projects.”

In 2000, he took the plunge and made his move into legal recruitment, joining Deacon Search, a firm that had been established only the year before. After a spell with another legal recruiter from 2005-2009, he returned to Deacon Search and has been there ever since.

“I’ve spent the last 18 years advising partners moving between the major UK and US law firms and conducting headhunting assignments. The highlights are always the team moves, as clients really appreciate those and, to be candid, they’re the big fees! It’s a fascinating business, as, being people-centric, no two situations are the same.”

On its website, the firm salutes him as its ‘search oracle’, highlighting his ‘photographic memory for partner moves (and for football trivia)’.

Scott adds: “Our company is doing well. We’re continuing to grow and we’re hopeful that 2019 will bring some significant international expansion.”

He is married to Katy and has three children: Jake, aged 14, Jasmine,12, and nine-year-old Max. The family live in Elstree.

A volunteer contributor at the School’s Careers Convention during the autumn, Scott remains close friends with one of his QE contemporaries – Adam Sherling (OE 1985-1992) – and is in contact occasionally with others, mostly via LinkedIn. “Recently, I exchanged messages with Khairul and Hisham Hussain for the first time in years.”

His passion for football is undimmed. “I still play five-a-side. I’m a season ticket-holder at Spurs with my dad, my sons, my cousin and some friends. I also manage my youngest boy’s Sunday league team,” he says.

A globe-trotting TV career…and musical Armageddon!

In a colourful life, triple BAFTA-nominated Martyn Day has enjoyed an illustrious television career that ranged from working on much-loved children’s programmes to making documentaries in locations as disparate as the Arctic and India.

Martyn (OE 1956–1963) has socialised with the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards. He has played at Glastonbury.

And, in 1965, in one never-to-be-forgotten evening, his mod band supported The Who – then just on the brink of international stardom.

Yet before all that, it was two teachers at QE who inspired this artistically inclined Leicester House pupil and helped set him on to his preferred path in life – although not everyone at the School was so supportive of his ambitions, as he recalls.

“The QE that I went to was very different to the School today. Under Ernest Jenkins’s rather stuffy headship, the place was not geared up for us off-beat souls who did not want to become accountants, lawyers or colonial administrators. I was told that I was not suitable for university (i.e. Oxford or Cambridge) but ‘Not to worry!’ There was an ‘interesting future’ for me in: a) the City, b) the Armed Services or c) the Church. This was of little use as I wanted to work in TV.

“Fortunately, there were two teachers who helped me out: ‘Jerry’ Reid, my English teacher, who introduced me to a world of literature way beyond the School curriculum, and Kaye Townsend, Maths, who heard my complaint and introduced me to a film production accountant. Maybe not lunch with Stanley Kubrick, but a welcome step in the right direction.

“I left QE in summer 1963, just as the Beatles released She Loves You, and started work as a wages clerk at MGM Studios in Borehamwood.”

Alongside his career, he was also regularly taking to the stage with a beat group called The Trekkas, based in Welwyn Garden City. “We were only an amateur band but good enough to be regularly booked to support established acts like Manfred Mann, Amen Corner, Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck. We even got to play alongside Elton John when he was plain Reg Dwight.”

But the most memorable night of all came on 17th June 1965, when The Trekkas (pictured here at around the same date) had been booked to play support at Bowes Lyon House in Stevenage. “What we didn’t know was the name of the band we were supporting. All we knew was they came from West London.

“We got there about 6.00pm to set up and were surprised to see that the other band – the unknown ‘stars’ – had already been into the hall, set up their own equipment and left. There was a drum kit and two huge amplifiers, bigger than anything that we had seen before.

“Everything was battered. The drum kit looked like it had been dropped off the back of a lorry. One of the amps, the one on the right, was missing the cloth covering the speakers. This had been replaced by a union flag. The gear looked expensive but it had been trashed.”

As a local band with many fans in the audience, Martyn and his bandmates were initially confident that “we’d blow them off the stage” – until the main act [The Who] actually walked on.

“The guys coming on after us weren’t neat at all. There were four of them and they didn’t bother with matching outfits like most other bands at the time…One [Keith Moon] wore a t-shirt with an RAF roundel on the front. Another, the singer [Roger Daltrey], had an arrow point-striped shirt. The bass player [John Entwhistle] was wearing a jacket covered with military insignia. The guitar player [Pete Townshend], carrying a beaten-up Rickenbacker, had a jacket made from a Union Jack.

“There was definitely something about them – a kind of ‘flash’ arrogance perhaps – but they were certainly cooler than us, sharper than us, angrier than us. In 1965 there was a word for people like them. They were ‘faces’ – out in front setting the trend.

“They didn’t bother with any of that ‘Hello, Good Evening’ nonsense. They just plugged in their guitars, looked at each other and let rip.

“They didn’t play their music, they attacked it. The volume was incredible. The bass line thudded against you, rattling your entrails. The drummer, RAF roundel man [Keith Moon], ignored most of the percussion niceties, and set out to beat his kit to death. On top of all this turmoil the guitarist in his Union Jack jacket [Pete Townshend] was chopping and hacking at his guitar, his arm windmilling in the air and slashing down to punch out chords.

“This wasn’t the usual ‘beat group’ crisp solos and chanky-chank rhythm. This was six-string Armageddon with every frustration they had ever felt compressed into three-minute musical hand grenades.”

“…And just at the point when it couldn’t get any crazier, it suddenly did. The guitarist started bayoneting his amplifier with his guitar, smashing the neck against the speaker board. Every rule about caring for your instrument disappeared in a screeching, splintering, crashing, cracking tsunami of sound. Then the drums went too, kicked forward and over off the stage. Tumbling, clanging into the audience. No ‘Thanks and goodbyes’. No “Goodnights and see you agains’. Just noise and fury and destruction – and then they were gone, leaving us, the audience and the world of pop music changed forever.”

The photo here shows a gig Martyn played at Goffs Oak while still at QE. He is pictured with fellow Elizabethan colleague Guy Hewlett (1954-1962), backing Tommy Moeller. Moeller later became the lead singer with Unit 4 plus 2, who had a No. 1 hit with Concrete and Clay.

Away from his music, Martyn’s television career was progressing well, as over the years he moved into special effects and then trained as a film editor, working in this era on the second and third series of Dr Who and, in 1973, as a researcher on the children’s TV magazine, Magpie.

By 1982, Martyn was a producer at Granada TV, where he worked until the early 1990s, finishing his period there as a writer/producer/director.

He spent two years in Macedonia producing a teen drama written to reduce ethnic tension to prevent the war in Kosovo spreading south (“It did – and it didn’t!”). He retired in 2010 after producing two series of the BAFTA-nominated game show, Jungle Run.

Reflecting on this career, Martyn says: “I have researched, set up and filmed fascinating stories all over the world, from the Giant Pingo [a mound of earth-covered ice] in Tuktoyaktuk in the Canadian High Arctic to the three-eyed Tuatara ‘lizard’ in the Cook Straits in New Zealand. On the way I have also met some really interesting people – the Waorani in the Ecuadorean rain forest and the Garos who live on the border between Burma and India are just two. I’ve also ridden an elephant in the wettest place on earth – Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, India – faced down a very miffed alligator in the Florida swamps and ‘borrowed’ a giant tortoise in Mauritius.”

Today Martyn, who lives in Twickenham, retains his keen interest in music, playing bass guitar in a band performing 1950s rock’n’roll. He writes a regular local history strand for the St Margarets Community Newsletter and St Margarets Magazine. He is also a warranted Cub Scout Leader.

In October, he was among the OE guests who came to the School to pass on their expertise at the Year 11 Careers Convention.

QE’s first-ever Stanford student returns to talk about life at one of the world’s leading universities

The first Elizabethan ever to go to California’s Stanford University sang the praises of studying stateside when he returned to speak to senior pupils at QE.

Stanford comes at or near the top of most global university rankings, with Times Higher Education naming it as one of its six world ‘super-brands’, together with Cambridge, Oxford, Berkeley, Harvard and MIT.

Valavan Ananthakumaraswamy OE (2009-2016), who chose to follow a mixed Liberal Arts programme for the first two years of his degree, told the current QE pupils that he had been particularly attracted by the wide range of subjects available through the US university system and by the closer relationships with professors.

He appreciated the excellent facilities and also the flexibility available to students when choosing classes, giving them more control over their own workload.

Valavan applied to Stanford after winning a place on the Sutton Trust’s US Programme – a scheme delivered by the educational charity in partnership with the US-UK Fulbright Commission to give bright British state school pupils a taste of life in American higher education. His profile for the programme recorded that his family originally come from Sri Lanka, but were displaced by the civil war.

The report also stated that Valavan saw his community service as “the most important part of him”. In 2014, Valavan helped found The Youth Project, a global movement of young people striving to make the world a better place, which now operates in 14 countries.

Extensive extra-curricular opportunities are a feature of the American system, he told the QE puipls on his recent visit, recalling his involvement with charity work while at QE and saying that this is something he has been keen to continue with at Stanford.

Palo Alto’s 300 days of sunshine each year were undoubtedly another attraction, as was the campus culture and the sense of community that this fosters. Valavan said he has been enjoying ‘dorm life’, adding that in his first year, he went on a skiing trip that was actually funded by the dormitory.

Valavan offered guidance on the application process, covering the nature of the aptitude tests, including SATs and ACTs (the two different tests that applicants are required to take for admittance to a US university). His main piece of advice was that applicants should just keep practising!

He advised boys to look into the possibility of financial aid for study in the US, covering the difference between ‘need-blind’ and ‘need-aware’ – terms used in the US, with the former meaning a university admission policy under which an applicant’s financial situation is not considered when deciding admission. A big advantage for those able to secure such financial aid was that, unlike in the UK, there was then no need for a student loan, Valavan said.

When asked about challenges he had faced, Valavan spoke about how he had to adapt to the culture of America. TV shows, shops and sports are all different there. He mentioned that President Trump was elected in first the two months of his studying there. He added that he likes the challenge of adapting and finds it exciting.

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.

So you want to be a lawyer? Different routes to the same goal outlined by visiting old boys

Senior boys gained valuable insights into how to pursue a career in Law when two alumni visited the School – with both stressing the importance of preparation and persistence.

Suraj Sangani (OE 2005-2012) and his contemporary at QE, Izzet Hassan, addressed boys in Years 11, 12 and 13 as part of the Senior Lecture Programme.

Izzet, who is a Future Trainee Solicitor at London-based multinational law firm, Slaughter and May, graduated with an LLB in Law from the University of Warwick before completing an MPhil in Criminology at Cambridge. He told the boys he was the first person in his family to go to university.

Suraj followed an alternative route, reading History at Warwick before being recruited by Hogan Lovells, which has joint headquarters in London and Washington. He is a Trainee Solicitor. “For me, it was a natural transition from a History degree to a flexible Law conversion. It does not matter too much if you do not start by pursuing Law degrees as you can often provide different angles at work,” he told the boys. “Just make sure you pick an essay-based degree that you enjoy – both the direct and indirect routes into law are viable.”

Both of them urged boys interested in a future in the profession to apply for vacation schemes and to establish networking opportunities as soon as they could: “Face-to-face networking at dinners and other events from as early as possible pays off as it will help one to take one’s career to the next level,” said Izzet.

While studying, both Izzet and Suraj applied for internships as part of the highly competitive vacation schemes. Izzet spent two weeks with Latham & Watkins, while Suraj won a place with Allen & Overy.

They spoke to the boys about the transition from university to employment and the difference between academia and the world of work. Suraj also addressed the differences between a barrister and a solicitor and the distinctives of criminal, commercial and family law.

Izzet said: “A Law degree is very challenging and is often different to what students expect.” Suraj added: “Practicing is also quite a different experience from studying, but very fulfilling when one gets the opportunity to work with respected companies to make a positive difference.”

They also covered university application procedures and offered advice and tips on personal statements, interviews and the Law National Aptitude Test.

Both of them reflected on the importance of becoming a well-rounded person. “As well as engaging with the valuable academic studies on offer at QE, it’s important to make the most of a rich variety of extra-curricular activities such as music, sport, Young Enterprise or charity work. This is often what will set you apart from other candidates when applying for jobs,” said Izzet.

The session ended with Q&As, with boys asking questions ranging from how difficult it is to gain a training contract to queries about working hours. The boys were advised not to become too disheartened if they received a few rejections in what is a highly-competitive field. “My advice is apply early and make sure you are aware of the different schemes, their opening dates and their deadlines. And keep trying!” said Izzet.

Izzet and Suraj agreed that pursuing a degree helps to improve one’s research and advocacy skills and said it was encouraging that that people can, and do, come into the profession from all different backgrounds.

“It is a great career choice,” said Suraj, “because I learn something new every day and learning does not stop.”

A career that delivers

Phil Peters is Managing Director of a fast-growing e-commerce business aiming to revolutionise the Chinese food delivery market.

Phil (OE 1997–2004) leads a team working to ensure London-based Zing Zing the “best Chinese takeout in the world”. Zing Zing, which was launched in 2013, sets itself apart by using only the freshest ingredients – and no monosodium glutamate!

He read Political Science and Philosophy at Birmingham and then worked for BBYO – the world’s largest Jewish youth organisation – before going into management consultancy, training first at PricewaterhouseCoopers and then working at i2a Consulting.

In 2014, he joined’s Customer Fulfilment Team in 2014 to look after various aspects of UK, and then, international online delivery.

Two years later, Phil was appointed as Zing Zing’s Operations Director, becoming MD a year after that. He worked on delivering an ambitious roll-out plan that has already seen the business grow from two sites to six since his arrival, which followed shortly after record-breaking Crowdcube fundraising.

He is pictured above with his colleague, joint Zing Zing founder Mark Schlagman, at the British Chinese Food Awards last year, where the company won the title of Best UK Chinese Takeaway.

With his breadth of experience in the professional services and start-up world, Phil was among the many Old Elizabethan volunteers contributing to QE’s recent Careers Convention for Year 11 boys and their parents, where he enjoyed talking to pupils interested in careers beyond the ‘traditional’ options available to them.

Wicket-keeper and Scrum Master: Charlie Scutt does what he enjoys

After graduating from Cambridge in 2013, Charlie Scutt has gone on to build a successful career with a company dedicated to meeting the needs of economic migrants worldwide.

Charlie (OE 2003–2010) works for London-based Lebara, where he relishes his “funky” role as a Scrum Master & Delivery Manager. The company is known principally as a telecommunications company, although Charlie’s work has mainly been in its money transfer business.

While at university, he was Girton College Cricket Club First XI captain. He has continued playing since, and three years ago made the move from his childhood club, Potters Bar CC, to the thriving Old Elizabethans CC, where he is a wicketkeeper. He is pictured here (back row, far right) with the current Old Elizabethans First XI. The vice captain (Front Row, Second from the right) is OE Paul Lissowski, who was in the year above Charlie.

“I left QE in 2010 to study Geography at Cambridge, and without the support and guidance from the School – in particular Mr Enright [now Headmaster Neil Enright] and Mrs Macdonald [now Assistant Head Anne Macdonald] – that certainly wouldn’t have been possible,” says Charlie. “The reason I chose to do Geography was quite simply it was the subject I enjoyed the most.

“I like the fact that Geography covers a very diverse range of areas and have always seen myself as somewhat of a ‘generalist’. Choosing it for my degree made perfect sense as it gave me the flexibility to continue learning about a breadth of topics. I certainly didn’t have my future career in mind at this point and by no means had my future planned out (or even do to this day if I’m totally honest!). My goal has always been to try to do what I enjoy, but make sure I do it to the best of my ability!

“My three years in Cambridge were brilliant and I particularly enjoyed the college system whereby your college acts almost as your family away from home. Whilst the academic side of Cambridge was undoubtedly tough it was hugely rewarding, and it wasn’t all work.

“There was more than enough time to have a great social life and play a lot of sport. I played football (badly!) for my college and also played cricket for the university in my second and third years, mainly for the university Second XI although I did manage one appearance for the Cambridge University Blues (First XI) in my final year.”

Charlie is pictured here, fourth from left, with a group of OEs who went to Cambridge with him. They arranged this reunion dinner in 2013, when he was in his third year.

“After leaving Cambridge I was none-the-wiser on where I wanted to go career-wise, so spent the summer trying to navigate the baffling world of graduate jobs!” After receiving offers from a number of companies, he eventually decided to join Lebara on a six-month internship, choosing the company because it offered a broad role which suited his generalist mindset. “It turned out to be quite a good decision as I’m still there five years later!”

Throughout that time he has fulfilled a number of roles for the telecoms company. “Alongside the ability to call home, one of the next most significant needs of, in particular, economic migrants is the ability to send money home. From this idea, Lebara Money was born. Working as part of the Lebara Money team was a great experience as, whilst Lebara is a large established company, the Money team always acted as a semi-autonomous business unit; a ‘start-up’ within a larger organisation and, in my opinion, the best of both worlds.

“The goal was to provide an easy and secure way to send money home online, via web or mobile app. I worked on this product for four-and-a-half years, starting off in Operations Management (helping to manage customer services, fraud prevention, minor maintenance updates to the website etc) before transitioning into Project Management.

“I have increasingly focused on the technology aspects of the business though Delivery Management and (the funkily named) Scrum Mastering. This latest role essentially involves managing the end-to-end delivery of all ‘technology’ elements of the business. Having not come from a typical ‘tech’ background, this was an interesting challenge, but one I thoroughly enjoyed.

“I particularly enjoy the ‘Scrum Master’ element, which essentially means managing your team in a manner whereby, rather than planning all the details of a project months or years in advance, you break everything down into small iterations and focus solely on what needs to be done over the next week or two. At the end of each iteration (referred to as a ‘sprint’) you then review what you have built and your original goals, then adapt your goals for the next ‘sprint’ based on what you have learned from the previous one. This ensures continuous learning, greater ability to adapt to change and ultimately a more agile team than you would have using traditional long-term project management methodologies where the end goal – perhaps a year or more down the line – is defined on day 1.

“Methodologies such as ‘scrum’, which focus on making a team more agile, have now become the go-to way of managing software development teams across most industries, with everyone from banks to video game developers looking to roll it out (with varying degrees of success!).

“I would never have expected my career to have evolved in the way it has and it certainly shows you don’t need to do Computer Science, Software Engineering or another ‘tech’-focused degree to end up working in the technology sector.”

Outside of work, his decision to switch to Old Elizabethans CC has, he says, proved to be a fruitful one, as “two promotions in three years see the First XI playing the highest level of cricket in the club’s history”. Charlie is pictured here, back row centre, in his Year 7 cricket photo at QE.

“The club also runs highly successful Second, Third and Sunday XIs, alongside a flourishing Colts setup for kids aged 11-17, which means there are opportunities regardless of your age or ability. I’d encourage any cricketers at QE to consider joining Old Elizabethans CC as it offers a perfect opportunity for students to supplement the coaching they receive at School. It also provides the chance to continue playing regular cricket after the School season finishes each year in early July and then even into their adult life once they have left QE.”