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Honouring former Headmaster Tim Edwards

Queen Elizabeth’s School today remembers Tim Edwards, Headmaster from 1961 to 1983, who died on Friday at the age of 98.

Timothy Bracey Edwards took over the headship from longstanding Headmaster Ernest Jenkins (1930–1961). After leading the School as a grammar for ten years, he then steered it through a major expansion as it became a comprehensive, which it remained during the rest of his 22-year tenure.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “After serving at Bletchley Park during the latter stages of the Second World War and then establishing a successful teaching career, Tim came to QE at the start of the 1960s – a period which saw huge change in the country and in the national education system. He had a long headship and was a figure of consequence, not only at QE, but also locally, serving on the Education Committee of Barnet Council.

“He played a significant role in the School’s modern history, and many will remember his courteous nature and kindness. I offer my sincere condolences to his family on their loss.”

The 1981 School Captain, Andy Porteous, also paid tribute to his Headmaster: “He was a man of great compassion and principles.”

Educated at Clifton College in Bristol, Mr Edwards joined the RAF after leaving school in July 1943. His early plans to become a pilot were thwarted when a problem with his eyesight was discovered.

Having taken German at Higher Certificate level at school (the precursor to A-levels), he was sent to Bletchley Park, where his work involved decoding German weather reports from Balkan airfields. Interviewed about his experiences in 2020 for a Bletchley Park podcast published the following year, he was characteristically modest: “I don’t think my contribution to the war effort was anything more than negligible, if as much as that!”

He served as an interpreter in Germany after the end of hostilities, recalling a 20-minute drive through Hamburg during which he did not see a single building that was untouched by Allied bombing.

On being ‘demobbed’ in 1946, he took up the place that he had previously been offered at The Queen’s College, Oxford, where he read German, with subsidiary French.

Following a brief period of teaching at Felsted School in Essex, he spent ten years as Assistant Master at Manchester Grammar School, before arriving at Queen’s Road, where he remained until his retirement at Christmas 1983. He is pictured, top, on his appointment in 1961.

Writing for The Elizabethan in April 1963, Mr Edwards paid tribute to his predecessor in describing the QE that he had taken over two years before: “Queen Elizabeth’s was a good school first and foremost because Jenkins had left it like that.”

In his new history of the School, Queen Elizabeth’s School: 1573–2023, Dr John Marincowitz (Headmaster, 1999–2011) describes Tim Edwards as “a man of his time”. An advocate of reform, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the national moves towards replacing grammar and secondary modern schools with comprehensives. QE’s first comprehensive intake arrived in September 1971 – six forms replacing the grammar school’s three-form entry.

Dr Marincowitz wrote: “It was to his considerable credit that Edwards virtually doubled the size of the School’s roll, the capacity of its accommodation and the number of teaching staff. Edwards praised the extent of government funding, stating that ‘nothing has been spared in equipping the school for its new role’.” The picture above shows Mr Edwards, left, at the opening ceremony of the Fern Building in 1974.

Dr Marincowitz described Mr Edwards’ management style as “consultative, participative and democratic”. The group photograph shows him with his staff in July 1983.

In the Bletchley Park interview, Mr Edwards explained why he remained at QE for more than half his career: “Having been myself interested in the comprehensive concept, I stayed on: I thought, you know, if I had advocated comprehensive education, I should stay and see it through, so I did.” Under Mr Edwards’ successor, Eamonn Harris (Headmaster, 1984-1999), the School reverted to a fully selective admissions policy in 1994.

Among other reforms Mr Edwards introduced was the abolition of school on Saturdays at QE; the establishment of an elected council to hear pupils’ views; and the modernisation of the curriculum. FQE (The Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s) was established during his headmastership, in 1966. He also oversaw the School’s 400th anniversary celebrations in 1973.

Married to Pat, who pre-deceased him, he had five children.

Remembering Diane Mason: tributes paid to “inspiring” FQE stalwart

Headmaster Neil Enright today paid tribute to Diane Mason, a longstanding supporter of the School, former parent and retired staff member, who has died at the age of 88.

Diane’s association with QE extended back to 1985, when her eldest son, Andrew (Andy), joined the School, followed two years later by his brother, Chris. She quickly became involved in the work of The Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s, serving as Secretary for some 35 years, until retiring earlier this summer.

Diane was also employed at the School from 1997 to 2011, fulfilling administrative roles in areas including the careers programme and the School’s liaison with FQE. She was also an extra-curricular tennis and swimming coach at QE, drawing on her background in Physical Education. She then continued to support the School as an exam invigilator.

Last December, in recognition of her work for FQE and other causes in the Borough of Barnet, Diane was among the guests at a special carol service at Westminster Abbey spearheaded by The Princess of Wales. The service was attended by The King and Queen Consort and The Prince of Wales, Prince George and Princess Charlotte as well as other members of the Royal Family and VIPs.

Offering his condolences to her family, Mr Enright said today: “Diane will be sorely missed within the Elizabethan community. Few have made such a broad and sustained contribution to the School and The Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s.

“Over several decades, she brought great energy, vigour and dedication to all that she did, and my  colleagues and I are immensely grateful for her inspiring and steadfast support.

“Furthermore, Diane was liked and respected by everyone here at QE: occasions like Founder’s Day simply will not be the same without her. She embodied the best of FQE and its values, and I know she will be fondly remembered within our community for years to come.”

Having taken the decision to remain actively involved in supporting FQE after her sons left the School, she worked alongside her husband, George, who survives her.

Diane was a convener and recruiter who made things happen, rolling up her sleeves and leading by example. She also encouraged others to become actively involved in the Elizabethan community.

Those who have known her many years include Barrie Martin, the School’s longstanding former Chairman of Governors, who continues in his role as FQE Director. Speaking at a special event at this year’s Founder’s Day marking his retirement from the Governing Body, he credited Diane with getting him involved in the work of the Friends. This, he said, led to the then Headmaster Eamonn Harris (1984–1999) summoning him to the Governing Body.

Diane also served on the Governing Body, as a parent governor, campaigning in support of the School securing grant maintained status in 1989 – the success of which restored QE’s independence from the local authority.

Deputy Head (Pastoral) David Ryan and his former colleague, now retired, Colin Price (Second Master from 1999–2019) have both independently commented that the charity’s name, Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s, could have been invented for Diane: she was truly a friend of the School.

As well as The Princess of Wales’ carol service – for which she was nominated for an invitation by The Representative Deputy Lieutenant of the London Borough of Barnet, Martin Russell – highlights of her association with the School include her formally opening the Shearly Hall in December 2009.


Teacher, Governor and Trustee who “leaves a wonderful legacy”: Sid Clark (1933-2021)

Leading figures from the QE community today paid tribute to Sid Clark, an important figure at the School for half a century, who died this week.

Appointed as a Chemistry teacher in 1956, Mr Clark went on to play a significant role in maintaining standards at QE through some of the School’s most turbulent years and, before his retirement in 1987, helped newly arrived Headmaster Eamonn Harris in laying the groundwork for its subsequent success.

Having made a huge impact in his staff roles, among them Head of Chemistry and Head of Sixth Form, Mr Clark (pictured, centre, above)  continued to serve the School in retirement, as a Governor, and as a Trustee of the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s, who, together with Mr Harris, set up its covenant scheme.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “Sid made a truly significant contribution to our School during a long and distinguished period of service. The FQE covenant scheme, with which he was so involved, has formed the foundations for the ongoing transformation of the School site, allowing us to provide ever greater facilities and educational opportunities for the boys.”

Mr Enright’s predecessor, Dr John Marincowitz, Headmaster from 1999 to 2011, said: “I am saddened to hear of Sid Clark’s death. His enormous contribution as an educator over three decades in the Chemistry labs benefitted many boys. It was however, as Trustee and Governor for much of my Headship that I appreciated Sid most. He gave dedicated service as treasurer, securing FQE’s finances at a time of rapid growth and challenging capital projects. As Governor, he provided wise counsel and stalwart support.

“Sid held ambitious aspirations for the School and remained a pillar of continuity from the mid-1950s to the mid-2000s.  This was a time of considerable turbulence in education. It was also period of reinvention and regeneration at Queen Elizabeth’s.  We will remember Sid with gratitude for the part he played in the School’s emergence as a centre of national excellence.”

Former Second Master and President of the Old Elizabethans Association Eric Houston also paid tribute to Mr Clark: “Greatly respected by his colleagues for his formidable intellect, he will be remembered as an outstanding schoolmaster who dedicated so much of his working life to his pupils.”

Mr Houston, who remained in touch with Mr Clark and visited him in New Zealand (pictured left), where he moved in 2008, said: “Sid was so proud of the School’s outstanding achievements but it is true that he had a huge part to play in making this possible. He never sought any credit for his many contributions, but we should acknowledge with gratitude all he did over many years. He leaves a wonderful legacy.”

Having graduated with a first-class honours degree from the University of Wales, Mr Clark was appointed in 1956 by Headmaster E.H. Jenkins to teach Chemistry. He remained at QE for the rest of his teaching career.

Through his teaching, he helped launch a number highly successful and distinguished academic careers.

A one-time athlete of national standing himself, he gave coaching and encouragement to many boys on Third Field and Stapylton, while he also spent a great deal of his time driving the School’s most talented performers around the country for them to compete in national athletics competitions.

He was quickly promoted to Head of Chemistry, and, when the School was reorganised and became a comprehensive in 1971, he shortly after became Head of Sixth Form.

He maintained his insistence on high standards of behaviour and dress, and on the pursuit of academic excellence.

“Many Sixth Form students from that period owe the places they secured at top universities to the individual help and guidance they received from him,” said Mr Houston, who added that when Mr Harris arrived in 1984 and ushered in a period of great change, Mr Clark soon joined with him to form “a formidable partnership that was the foundation of QE’s subsequent success”.

His total commitment to the School did not diminish in the slightest following his retirement in 1987.  After QE opted out of local authority control in 1989, he became a Governor, serving for a period as Vice Chairman, and he unfailingly attended all School functions. He worked on a number of sub-committees and was an influential figure in the School regaining selective status in 1994.

Every major project that has taken place on the School site since 1990 has, to a greater or lesser extent, been made possible because of the covenant scheme he helped set in place and oversaw for many years. Pictured here is the signing for the contract for the Martin Swimming Pool – a demonstration of the impact of the work of FQE and the fruits of the covenant scheme.

In 2008, Mr Clark and his wife decided to relocate to New Zealand to be closer to their daughter and three grandchildren. He died peacefully in the North Island city of Hamilton earlier this week.

For the fallen: Remembrance Day 2020 at Queen Elizabeth’s School

The School observed today’s Armistice Day two-minute silence with a ceremony that was adapted this year because of Covid-19 restrictions.

When boys fell silent at 11am on 11th November it was in their classrooms, while a smaller-than-usual wreath-laying ceremony took place at the World War I Memorial outside the Main School Hall.

The event is an opportunity for all today’s pupils and staff to reflect upon the service and sacrifice of those killed, injured or impacted by military conflicts, including the 113 Elizabethans who lost their lives in the 20th century’s two world wars.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “While the size of our commemoration here at the School had to be reduced this year and there was no QE Combined Cadet Force representation at Barnet’s scaled-back civic Remembrance Sunday event either, the importance and solemnity of the occasion was undiminished as we collectively marked the sacrifice of Elizabethans from generations past.”

The bugler who played the Last Post and Reveille at the School ceremony was Theo Mama-Kahn, of Year 11, who is studying GCSE Music. The cadet laying a wreath was Lucas Lu, of Year 12.

CCF Contingent Commander Major Mev Armon said: “Due to Covid, drill words of command cannot be given indoors, so Lucas represented the contingent, saluting the memorial on my behalf.”

Among current CCF cadets, Lucas stands out for his prowess in the field, added Major Armon, who is a Biology teacher.

Since not everyone was in earshot of the bugle, three short bell rings sounded at 10:58 as a signal that all boys should place their work aside to stand and prepare for the 11:00 bell ring marking the beginning of the silence. There was a final short bell at the end of the two minutes.

To ensure boys of all ages understood the significance of the occasion, a PowerPoint presentation detailing the history of the day was sent to form tutors to spark discussion among the pupils. It explained the importance of poppies – the first flowers to bloom on the World War I battlefields of Belgium and France – and included the famous poem they inspired, John McCrae’s In Flanders fields. Boys were also invited to watch a video featuring the Last Post.

House representatives throughout the School were involved in selling poppies to the year-group bubbles, including Leicester’s Victor Angelov (Year 11, pictured). The representatives brought the poppies round to the forms, giving everyone a chance to buy one in time for Remembrance Day.

Leadership, courage and commitment: reforming Headmaster Eamonn Harris (1984-1999) passes away

Former Headmaster Eamonn Harris, who is widely credited with saving Queen Elizabeth’s from closure and then overseeing its transformation into a successful grammar school, has died. He was 76 and had been unwell for some time.

At the start of his headship in 1984, he inherited an underfunded comprehensive school with falling rolls, poor academic results and demoralised staff. Over the next 15 years, he set about introducing change into almost every aspect of School life, often in the face of fierce political opposition.

By the time he retired in 1999, QE had become one of the finest state grammar schools in the country, providing a platform from which his successors were able to take the School to the position of pre-eminence it enjoys today.

Current Headmaster Neil Enright said: “I am sorry to have to report the very sad news that Eamonn Harris passed away yesterday afternoon. Our thoughts, and those of the Elizabethan community, are with his wife, Pat, and family.

“It is no overstatement to say that without Eamonn’s unwavering commitment and redoubtable leadership, the School may have ceased to exist and would certainly not have flourished in the way that it has since.

“His tenure was characterised by the bold decisions and high expectations which are the foundations of the School’s present success. Generations of boys, parents and staff owe him an inestimable debt of gratitude.”

Mr Harris was appointed in October 1983, having taught for ten years at a tough school in Croydon and then at Samuel Whitbread Community College in Bedfordshire, where he was deputy head.

It was only after his appointment – but before he took up his post in January 1984 – that he learned that the local authority had scheduled QE for closure in two years’ time.

The School at the time was badly undersubscribed, with a mere handful of parents actually requesting it as their first choice. In September 1984, only 133 places out of the 180 available were filled. Not only were academic results poor, with few boys going on to good universities, but behaviour also left a great deal to be desired, and QE pupils had acquired a reputation in Barnet town centre for being rowdy and noisy.

He set to work with his customary energy, and the transformation quickly began, with one of his first measures being to ensure boys stayed on site at lunchtime while the behavioural issues were tackled.

Within just two years, the School was effectively oversubscribed, as, in September 1986, the number of successful parental appeals against refused places meant that the intake exceeded the School’s official roll.

One major challenge that quickly emerged was the state of the School’s finances. The School was not getting its fair share of the Local Education Authority’s budget.

Mr Harris therefore pressed hard to take advantage of the new freedom schools were given in 1988 by the Conservative government to opt out of LEA control and become Grant-Maintained Schools, funded directly by a grant from central government. It was a controversial move, opposed by the local Conservative-run council.

Mr Harris, however, was tenacious and the School achieved Grant-Maintained status in 1989. He explained why to his successor as Headmaster, John Marincowitz, in an interview conducted in 2015 as part of Dr Marincowitz’s research for a forthcoming history of the School. “I believed that I was responsible for my patch, my school, and to do all I could to make it a successful place. If all heads did the same schools would improve and standards rise.”

Mr Harris took a holistic approach to the transformation of the School, combining vision and drive with clarity of thought, a willingness to try new ideas and considerable attention to detail. While there was certainly a focus on teaching and monitoring of performance, ostensibly smaller matters were not neglected, either: uniform policy was, for example, properly enforced, and the School campus was better maintained, with shrubs and flowers planted.

The result was a cultural sea-change, with staff re-energised and motivated, and expectations raised. It was Mr Harris who reformulated the School’s mission: “to produce boys who are confident , able and responsible”.

Professional standards were introduced into areas such as staff development, IT and finance: the School acquired Investors in People status in 1996, while in 1998 QE was named Supreme Winner of the National Training Awards.

Extra-curricular provision received considerable attention, with notable successes achieved in national Young Enterprise competitions, rugby and water-polo.

In the early 1990s, taking advantage of another new freedom for schools, he drove the process which led to the Secretary of State granting the Governors’ petition to allow the School to apply a fully selective admissions policy once again in September 1994, thus reversing the move to comprehensive status some three decades earlier.

Following an Ofsted inspection in 1995, the Education Secretary, Gillian Shepherd, wrote to Mr Harris informing him that the inspectors had found QE to be “an outstandingly successful secondary school”.

The Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s (FQE), which had remained loyal during the School’s decline, was reinvigorated, and fundraising reached hitherto unseen heights in the last years of his headship. Without recourse to either local or central government funding, an amount of nearly £3 million was spent on new buildings – a Sixth Form block (the Heard Building), five Science laboratories and a Music block.

By the time he retired in 1999, after suffering ill-health following a bout of pneumonia, the School had in very large measure been transformed, with examination results strongly in the ascendant and the School’s reputation fully restored.

At his retirement, a Governors’ tribute penned by Dr Marincowitz said this of Mr Harris: “He inherited a school which was struggling to fill 150 places. He leaves his School one of the most sought-after and outstanding boys’ schools in the country. It is so because of his leadership, courage and commitment.”

  • Whilst the funeral will be a private service for close family and friends, there will be a commemorative event, to celebrate his life and his contribution to Queen Elizabeth’s, held at the School in the new year, to which all are welcome to attend. Details of this occasion will be circulated in due course.
  • The family have requested that no flowers be sent. Donations can be made to the Garden House Hospice in Letchworth instead, should individuals wish to make a contribution.