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Queen Elizabeth’s School and Atom Learning unite to break down barriers for disadvantaged children applying to grammar schools

QE has teamed up with education technology specialists Atom Learning to support primary school children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Children aged 7–11 who are eligible for Pupil Premium will have free access to online learning resources and to preparation for grammar school entrance tests.

The new support programme, which is open to both girls and boys, helps children extend their learning, developing their core academic skills and building their confidence.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “At QE, we are firmly committed to the principles of meritocracy and of inclusivity. Our admissions process is strictly meritocratic: anyone can apply for places here, irrespective of their financial background. Furthermore, although we welcome pupils from a wide geographical area, QE is very much part of the local community – a Barnet school, just as our 1573 royal charter envisaged. We are, therefore, especially keen to encourage social mobility in areas close to the School.

“This partnership with Atom is about removing barriers: we are equipping disadvantaged children to thrive in their education, helping to ensure that they do not miss out on opportunities. While families do not have to be aspiring to selective secondary schools to take part in the programme, we hope that it will help further broaden access to grammar schools, making them even more socially representative. We naturally hope, too, that some of these families will consider QE for their sons.”

Atom Learning provides an online learning and 11+ preparation platform, giving access to a range of fun and engaging materials to help children during Key Stage 2. It is used by over 100,000 families across the UK, including 14,400 families with children preparing for 11+ exams.

With some families nationwide paying for private tuition and coaching to prepare their children for grammar school entrance tests, the partnership between QE and Atom, with the free support that it offers, should help create a more level playing field for applicants. The programme is open to any child who has been eligible for free school meals at any point in the last six years, as well as looked after children.

It is designed to benefit all children, whatever their current attainment level; it may also be helpful in familiarising those hoping to apply to academically selective secondary schools with some of the topics and skills that they might encounter in those processes. The programme will not prepare candidates specifically for the QE entrance test.

QE is one of more than 20 grammar schools across the UK with which Atom is running partnerships. The value of the programme nationally is put at £1.1m. Those who qualify will be given free access to Atom Home, usually priced at £575.90 per year.

Atom Learning gained prominence a few years ago for raising the largest-ever Series-A funding round for a UK EdTech company. Its Chief Operating Officer, Flo Simpson, who leads its Outreach and Access department, said: “At Atom, our mission is to make exceptional education accessible to all, and our partnership with Queen Elizabeth’s will bring our award-winning learning technology to even more families. Atom empowers children to not only excel on their 11+ exam day, but to build a lasting love for learning and confidence that will pave their path to success throughout their lives. We’re dedicated to widening access to incredible education resources, and we’re delighted that grammar schools are putting pupil premium support at the top of their agendas.”


Good neighbours! QE begins partnership with nearby charity

A team of Sixth Form leaders made the short journey to help out at a family charity’s new base just yards from the School.

The Year 12 House Captains and Deputy House Captains got to work on a ‘packathon’ organised by Sebby’s Corner, which offers support to families across Barnet, Hertfordshire and London.

The packathon, a follow-up event from Mother’s Day, had a target of providing 100 hospital bags with essentials for expectant mothers and their newborn babies.

Sebby’s Corner’s new hub, which was visited by The Princess of Wales before Christmas, is based on the Queen’s Road industrial estate, close to the main QE gates.

Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter said: “QE has a long tradition of supporting charities, which is very much in line with a key aspect of our mission – that we nurture responsible young men who seek to change things for the better.

“Sebby’s Corner does excellent work in supporting families in real need, and we are therefore delighted to be supporting them, especially since they are now our near-neighbours.”

The 12-strong team from QE’s six houses were invited to spend a morning helping staff sort supplies so that they were ready to be packed into bags. Many of these bags were provided to Barnet Hospital, with some also going to mothers referred to the charity who are refugees, are escaping domestic violence, or are living in poverty.

Founded in 2021 by Bianca Sakol MBE, Sebby’s Corner operates on the principle that no child should go without the basic essentials she or he needs to thrive.

Through referrals from professionals such as midwives, health visitors and teachers, it provides items such as clothing, nappies, formula milk, toiletries and baby equipment. Its Birthday Club also provides presents for children in need on their birthdays.


Quiz questions and Queen, ribbons and rainbow bracelets: QE’s colourful LGBT History Month

QE marked February as LGBT History Month with a series of special assemblies and other events designed to raise awareness of the issues.

2023’s School Captain, Darren Lee, led the way in a competition to design computer desktops with his winning images of two American icons of LGBT rights, tennis legend Billie Jean King and ‘first trans celebrity’ Christine Jorgensen.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We are proud as a School to promote equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and I congratulate all those who have been involved in celebrating LGBT History Month.

“Of course, this is not only about one month in the year: it is important that all our students develop an understanding of society around them and the histories and experiences that have shaped culture, politics, and the law.

“To this end, we are in the process of auditing our curriculum across the whole School to assess how it is aligned with our vision for a broad, balanced and inclusive curriculum. This involves ensuring that diversity is celebrated and that there is positive representation.”

The month included assemblies delivered by the charity Just Like Us, with its ambassadors delivering separate, age-appropriate talks to Years 7–9 and to Years 10–12 about growing up queer, covering topics such as faith & sexuality, gender identity and coming out.

Last year several pupils joined forces with those from Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School as part of the QE Together partnership to take part in a national advertising campaign with Just Like Us.

Other activities during the month included:

  • Wearing rainbow ribbons on blazers; these were distributed free by prefects
  • Watching the film Bohemian Rhapsody, a musical focusing on the life of Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, in the Main Hall
  • Making rainbow-beaded bracelets
  • Participating in the LGBT History Month Quiz on the last day of the month.

Having recruited 27 pupils from Years 9–11 as Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Ambassadors to support the two assigned Year 12 Vice-Captains with their leadership of this important aspect of School life, QE is embedding pupil leadership lower down the School and facilitating succession-planning. The ambassadors are split into sub-teams working on different areas of provision: events; pastoral resources; and the Perspective forum on the eQE network.

The EDI Ambassadors’ Club has been established and now meets fortnightly. This is open to pupils in Years 9–12 and is engaging pupils in active promotion of EDI at QE. It covers a wide range of issues and seeks to create a team culture of mutual support.

Other people covered in entries to the computer desktop design competition besides Billie Jean King and Christine Jorgensen included American gay rights activists Harvey Milk and Bayard Rustin. A more abstract design by Year 9’s Akshay Shah, featuring all the colours of the rainbow, was also among the front-runners (pictured top). The winning designs were displayed on desktop computers around the School.

Collaboration on location: QE Together support local school

Members of the QE Together partnership have now begun editing after spending two days filming in a Barnet primary school as part of a community outreach project.

A team from the partnership – consisting of senior pupils from QE and Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School – visited QE’s near-neighbour, Christ Church Primary School. The filming was the latest stage in a project that the team have been working on for several months to create a promotional video aimed at encouraging prospective parents to sign up for Christ Church’s nursery.

Lead Enrichment Tutor Kanak Shah said: “All the students – our boys, the girls from QEGS and the Christchurch pupils – did very well, and the little ones were adorable!”

The QE team comprised the 2023 School Captain, Darren Lee, and two of the 2023 Vice-Captains, Shuaib Adam and Anthony Bartlett.

Shuaib, of Year 13, explained that the QE Together team had first held meetings with Christ Church’s head, Mrs Elena Print, to map out ideas and plan the key messages of the video.

During the two days, the team thoroughly explored the school in their filming, as well as shooting B-roll footage (supplementary video) to support the visual story-telling at the heart of the film.

“We engaged with children, including those as young as nursery, guiding them to express the school motto [‘Through God’s love, we learn, aspire and achieve; we flourish’] and ethos. This collaborative effort not only enriched the visual narrative, but also provided an authentic perspective on the school’s values and identity.

“The experience so far has taught us many valuable skills, especially teamwork skills – both within our team and in collaboration with other schools – which has strengthened our capacity for effective communication, task delegation, and collective problem-solving. The cross-school collaboration has not only expanded our network for QE Together’s future, but also deepened our understanding of community dynamics and the importance of collective efforts.”


Lighting a path towards life on Mars

Teams from QE and The Henrietta Barnett School aimed to turn science fiction into future reality when they planned for a settlement of the red planet in a space design competition.

Four teams – two from each school ­– battled it out in the Galactic Challenge, which was hosted by QE. Helping out on the Saturday of the competition were a trio of Old Elizabethans who are themselves veterans of space competitions.

Their one-day mission: to boldly produce proposals for an Earth–Mars cycler settlement – a future orbiting hotel which would ferry 1,000 people to and from Mars in six to 14 months following a ‘cycler’ trajectory that regularly intersects the orbits of the two planets.

QE Head of Physics Jonathan Brooke said: “The boys presented with great skill and confidence. The proposal from both QE teams were thorough, dealing carefully with key challenges from the RFP [Request for Proposal – which reflected a typical design brief in the space engineering industry].”

Galactic Challenge, which is for students aged 10-14, is the sister competition of the UK Space Design Competition (UKSDC), which is for those aged 15–18.

The 12-strong teams each formed fictional aerospace companies: Astrodyne Delta; Columbus Aviation; Infinity Airspace, and Solaris Flight Systems. They elected company officers within the team, such as the company president, and vice-presidents. The CEO roles in each company were undertaken by Year 12 volunteers, who were there to guide and mentor the Key Stage 3 teams, rather than to lead. The QE CEOs were Soumil Sahjpall and Haradhat Ramanathan.

Teams were transported 60 years into the future, to the year 2083, where space travel might be commonplace.

The RFP asked companies to deal with various challenges. These included:

  • Critical systems – for example: how the settlement would be powered; how liveable conditions would be maintained; how passengers would be fed
  • Emergency response, including an evacuation procedure for the settlement
  • Workforce issues, including use of automation
  • Marketing and ensuring that the venture could be an economic success.

Now in Year 13, Soumil said: “Volunteering as a CEO was both fun and rewarding. The students were very keen, creative and enthusiastic.” His group, had researched well and learnt quickly “to compile a great proposal and presentation for the judges, including a CAD (computer aided design) and a promotional film”.

The judges’ panel featured staff from the Space Science & Engineering Foundation, QE Head of Physics Jonathan Brooke, Dr Flore Faille, Head of Physics at HBS, and Aadil Kara (OE 2010–2017).

Aadil’s QE contemporaries, Sam Bayney and Harikesan Baskaran, were among those helping out on the day.

Aadil, Sam and Harikesan were all part of a QE Sixth Form team that won the regional heat of the UK’s Space Design Competition and went on to the 2017 national finals, where Aadil was selected to take part in the International Space Settlement Design Competition in Florida.

Aadil has for several years supported both Galactic Challenge and the UKSDC, and is a member of the UKSDC board. A Senior Analyst with the Cabinet Office, he graduated with a first in Physics from Imperial College London.

After the event, Mr Brooke reflected on the successful partnership event between QE and HBS and on the performance of QE’s teams: “I was particularly impressed by the meticulous attention to detail that Solaris applied to the financial side of their proposal.”

Once all the competition was done, however, final victory went to Columbus Aviation, one of the HBS teams.