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Feeding back: our online safety survey results

Deputy Head David Ryan (Pastoral) thanks all the parents and pupils who took the time to complete the online survey on eQE earlier this year.

He reports that while there were a few interesting gaps between parents’ and boys’ perceptions, in general, the current Personal Development Time curriculum tallies well with people’s biggest concerns, while the risks that boys in the younger years and their parents were most worried about are now being covered in the new Year 7 digital literacy curriculum. Work is being undertaken to improve resources in certain key areas of online risk, ensuring that the School educates pupils solidly in these before they discover them to be an issue.

The aim of the survey was to allow the School to evaluate the knowledge and understanding of both parents and pupils, giving them the opportunity to state what they feel are the biggest online risks and the areas in which they would like support.

Among the main findings were that:

  • Despite smartphones not being allowed in the younger years at QE, it is clear that the majority of pupils do use them outside of School, particularly from Year 9 onwards;
  • There is a stark difference between the proportion of students saying they own a games console that is connected to the internet (63%) and the proportion of parents who thought their son had one that was connected to the internet (42%);
  • Parents largely agree (60%) that they would check usage of computers and smart phones, but very few (13%) said they would check a games console or tablet device. Similar results were reported for the setting up of restrictions, controls and filters;
  • QE boys primarily use: YouTube (81%); WhatsApp (64%); Discord (37%); Snapchat (31% using it daily, or most days); Instagram (27%, but rising to a maximum of 63% in the Sixth Form) and TikTok (22%). They  have a good understanding of how to set up privacy settings and report content or other users on these platforms;
  • Pupils in the younger years are primarily concerned about being targeted online by people with harmful intentions. They worry about being: bullied (57%); pushed into scams or dubious investments (55%);  tricked into clicking on fake links (51%), or simply being contacted by such people (50%);
  • Students in the older years are more concerned by the risks posed in: spending too much time online (75%); having to feel perfect, popular and attractive online (39%), and receiving false information in the news (35%);
  • Across all year groups, the overwhelming majority of boys felt confident that they could report an issue related to online safety.

The findings of the survey have informed the creation of a new eQE support page for parents and students, which signposts professional support and advice for online safety.

Healthy, safe and secure

Online safety has been a key consideration in the planning of our 1:1 programme.

We are taking steps to protect boys from damaging or inappropriate material.

The rapid rise of AI adds another dimension: while it offers opportunities to enhance boys’ research and refine their thinking, it also brings risks of plagiarism, of pupils failing to acknowledge the use of AI, and of over-reliance, leading to a reduction in critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The QE curriculum – alongside public examination and course protocols – will educate boys about academic integrity and the responsible use of AI.

We have also undertaken measures aimed at helping our pupils avoid problems such as eye-strain and fatigue, both for their immediate well-being and to prevent any longer-term health concerns from arising.

One advantage of the Lenovo device selected for the 1:1 programme is that it offers more variety in the way it is used than a conventional laptop, with a stylus, touchscreen and keyboard all at pupils’ disposal. This encourages greater movement, with the physical benefits that brings. In general, tablets will be flat on the desk during lessons and used with the stylus. This means that, in terms of posture, using a device is similar to using paper and pen. (We expect that many homework tasks will involve pupils typing their answers, while classwork will generally be handwritten with the stylus.) In line with our emphasis on ‘blended learning’ – a combination of traditional and technology-dependent practices – QE boys can typically expect to be switching between their devices and pen & paper during the School day. The School will continue to monitor posture and ergonomics.

The Lenovo device is small and light enough to be easily carried, within the case provided, in pupils’ bags. For both crime prevention and road safety reasons, we strongly advise boys to keep their device both in its case and in their bag at all times when coming to School and on the journey home.

Whilst at School, the device is only to be used as and when instructed by a member of staff. Boys will not be using their devices unsupervised at break and lunchtimes, for example. It is important that there is time to socialise off-screen, run around in the playground and attend a range of extra-curricular activities.

The School is, naturally, concerned about online safety, too, and has taken steps to safeguard pupils and ensure that the devices are used only for appropriate educational purposes. QE has invested in monitoring and safeguarding software provided by education specialists, Smoothwall. Protections offered by the software include:

  • The monitoring of pupils’ activity during lessons by teachers;
  • The monitoring and retrospective accessing of pupil communications made through Microsoft 365 applications such as Teams and Outlook;
  • An alert system, based on key words, that will automatically inform QE if a pupil has attempted to access inappropriate material, whether in or out of School;
  • A block on pupils downloading additional programs to their device, such as streaming and gaming apps.

The devices should also prove useful in helping to maintain mental wellbeing: they can be used by the boys to organise their learning, thus helping them stay on top of their studies. And they offer access to personal organisation and self-reflection tools, as well as to the School’s online bespoke tutorial system, through which tutors monitor boys’ progress and wellbeing.

The curriculum will set out both appropriate and inappropriate uses of GenAI – Generative AI, a form of AI that uses prompts or questions to generate text or images which closely resemble human-created content. The former might include a pupil using AI to help brainstorm and explore ideas, or to provide feedback on his work, giving areas for improvement. Examples of inappropriate use might include: not asking teachers’ permission to use a GenAI; or, if permission is granted, not citing the use of AI when work is submitted, or not reviewing the work for inaccuracies and AI ‘hallucinations’.

  • Further reading: the Joint Council for Qualifications recently published a paper entitled AI Use in Assessments: Protecting the Integrity of Qualifications. It can be accessed here.



The Great QE Sponsored Showstopper Bake: announcing the winner

The results are in, and Mel Giedroyc – TV celebrity, former BBC presenter of The Great British Bake Off and judge of QE’s very own Founder’s Day 2021 Showstopper Bake – has made her decision.

Mel has spent the last few days drooling over photos emailed in to the School as culinary creatives from across the Elizabethan community proudly showed off the fruits of their labour while gathering sponsorship money – turning their dough into dough, as Mel put it. They were free to make any bake of their choice, but extra credit was given for a QE theme or (with equipping the new Music School the focus of this year’s fundraising) for a musical motif.

Here then, in full, is Mel’s adjudication and announcement of the winner:

I’m truly overwhelmed by the amazing standard of these cakes. They really are showstoppers, each and every one of them – huge congratulations to everyone who did a sponsored bake. It’s lovely to think that the dough will become music….from crumpet to trumpet…..ahem…. from crumb to crumhorn……cream horn to French horn…….aaaaargh you can take the girl out of Bake Off etc. etc.

It is genuinely very hard to pick an overall winner from such a glorious collection, and several must be mentioned along the way. Full respect to Matthew Rose [Executive Assistant to the Headmaster, OE 2002-2009] who managed to feature his own surname in his bake. The beautiful ROSE on top of his masterpiece as a nod to the Founder – ingenious. Irfan Ahsan and William Joanes (both from Year 8) delivered scrumptious-looking and highly skilled musical note and grand piano creations respectively.

But the cherry on the icing on the tip of the top of the cake has to be

……drum roll please….

……(deep breath)….

The WINNER OF THE GREAT QE SPONSORED SHOWSTOPPER BAKE FOR FOUNDER’S DAY 2021 (that’s got a real ring to it)…for its stunning colours (the School colours, natch), his use of varied techniques (chequer-board insides and beautifully crafted fondant instruments to decorate) and its overall ‘stunningness’ and deliciousness….I wish it could have been a feast for my stomach, not just for my eyes…

….from Year 12 it is the one, the only, the star baker……Manomay Lala-Raykar!!!!



Bake and cake creators: captions for the gallery below (click on images to view)

1-2. Manomay’s winning entry
3. Mrs Shirley Wang, mother of Alvin Xu, Year 7
4. William Joanes, Year 8
5. Tunishq Mitra, Year 7
6. Tunishq Mitra, Year 7, with his bake
6. Aston Daniel Anup, Year 10
7. Akhilesh Karthikeyan, Year 8
8. Irfan Ahsan, Year 8
9. Mr Rose
10. Library Services Assistant Corinna Illingworth
11. Director of Music Ruth Partington
12. Rishi Watsalya, Year 7.

Masks at QE: all you need to know

Following a change in Government guidance, the earlier national recommendation that face masks should be worn in classrooms has been lifted.

In a special message, Deputy Head (Pastoral) David Ryan sets out below for the boys what this does – and does not – mean for daily life at QE, while adding a few further pointers for families on staying Covid-safe.

For the boys

A change in Government guidance means that as of Monday 17th May, there is no longer a recommendation to wear masks when you are in classrooms.

Keeping our School community safe has, and continues to be, our main focus as we deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, could we ask you to be aware of the following:

  • You may still wear a mask in a lesson if you choose to do so. Also, please do be aware that there are others in our school community who continue to need to do so.
  • There may be some lessons in which you are asked to wear your mask; please do so where this is the case.
  • We may, of course, be advised to reintroduce mask-wearing for a temporary period in response to a localised Covid outbreak. Were this to be the case, we would advise you to do so from the start of the School day.
  • Thank you for the responsible attitude you have already shown in continuing to wear masks in corridors. We will ask you to carry on doing so until further notice: this allows us to maintain a high degree of Covid safety as different year groups mix.

For all QE families

As the national situation improves, I am pleased that we have now been able to return to a single, School-wide lunchtime, albeit while maintaining the year-group bubbles for eating and for extra-curricular activities.

May I appeal to you to continue to ‘play your part: help control the virus‘; is it important that we remain vigilant as a School community, still adhering to our three key messages: Please keep your distance, Wash your hands, and Catch it, bin it, kill it. Further details may be found in our Back to School Guide 2021.

I would like to remind families and older pupils to register their home-test results with the Test Register system, as well as with the Government website.

Finally, may I also remind drivers of our short list of traffic and travel dos and don’ts. We are keen to keep all pedestrians safe and to maintain good relations with our neighbours, so we strongly request that you comply with these simple rules.






Public examinations national consultation: January 2021

Following the cancellation of GCSE, AS and A-level examinations this summer, the exams regulator Ofqual recently published its consultation on how grades should be awarded this year.

The consultation document proposes that pupils continue with their normal education during this academic year and that they are then assessed by their teachers in a period beginning in May and extending into early June.

Ofqual is proposing that exam boards should provide “guidance and training” to help teachers make “objective decisions”. It also suggests that exam boards make available sets of papers for teachers to use with students “as part of their assessment”, arguing that this “would support consistency within and between schools and colleges.” The consultation asks for views on: the proposal to use such papers; the form any such papers should take; whether the papers  could re-use material from past papers; when the papers should be made available, and whether their use should be compulsory.

The consultation document adds: “The teacher, through the marking of the papers, could consider the evidence of the student’s work and use that to inform their assessment of the grade deserved. The exam boards could also sample teachers’ marking as part of the external quality assurance arrangements and to seek to ensure this was comparable across different types of school and college, wherever students are studying. The use of exam board papers could also help with appeals.”

Ofqual is also proposing that teachers should draw on a “range of broader evidence of a student’s work in making their final assessment”.

Teachers would submit grades to the exam boards by mid-June, with external quality assurance by the examination boards taking place throughout the same month.

The results would be issued to pupils once the quality assurance process is complete. This is likely to be in early July.

Any pupils wishing to appeal against their results could do so immediately after receiving them. These appeals would be considered in the first instance by the schools and colleges attended by the pupils, with the appeal to be heard by a “competent person appointed by the school or college, who had not been involved with the original assessment – this could be another teacher in the school or college or a teacher from another school or college.”

A further appeal could then be made to the exam board, but such an appeal would only be allowed be on the grounds that the school involved had not acted in line with the  board’s procedural requirements.

The consultation closes at 11:45pm on 29 January 2021. The consultation document and a facility to respond online to it are available here.


No time to waste! Make your lockdown New Year’s Resolutions

Boys are being encouraged to commit to a series of home enrichment New Year’s resolutions over the next six weeks.

With a wealth of suggestions on eQE to choose from, pupils can make the most of their lockdown by filling in the dedicated form with at least four ideas in each of the following categories: ‘expand my creativity’; ‘maintain my physical and mental health’; ‘exercise my mind’ and ‘take responsibility for those around me’.

Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter reports that staff have worked hard to establish online activities for pupils on the eQE home enrichment page, while also creating links to a vast range of other extra-curricular opportunities and ideas. All subject areas on eQE have enrichment pages where boys can access activities such as competitions. In addition, the departments are working to establish remote learning clubs, such as the Sports Journalism Society run by English. Among activities that are lined up for the coming period, or are under way, or have already taken place are:

  • A live, open School chess competition run by teacher in charge of chess, Geoff Roberts;
  • An online piece of theatre involving the Year 8 cast from the postponed School production and directed by RM Drama’s Gavin Molloy. More details to follow!
  • Live Thursday concerts run by the Music department;
  • Live English Speaking Union debates against other schools run online by Academic Enrichment Tutor Tom Foster;
  • VEX robotics competitions;
  • A TedX Live event in July, for which QE has been granted a licence. Sixty boys have already applied to speak. (TEDx is a grassroots initiative modelled on the mission of the free, online TED to circulate ‘ideas worth spreading’).



Present purpose and future focus

As teachers and families grapple with the challenges of a second lockdown, the importance of pastoral care for all QE boys remains undiminished, reports Deputy Head (Pastoral) David Ryan.

“Our aim is to look after the boys and provide the same level of pastoral care that we would were they to be physically on the School site. The focus is very much on ‘here today, looking at tomorrow’ – thinking positively about strategies to deal with the situation at hand, but also looking at the world beyond Covid (as we must!), ensuring that all the boys keep their sights fixed on their future and on learning about the world around them.”

The pastoral sessions held each week amount to more than three hours of contact time with tutors. These allow a range of issues to be discussed, as well as providing the boys with an opportunity to work in a slightly less formal way with their form-mates and have the human contact that is so important at this time, says Mr Ryan.

The sessions set out below make up the three hours:

  • Every day, pupils have morning session with form tutors via Microsoft Teams. The tutors thus help to ease boys into their routine, dealing with any issues that arise (such as their wellbeing, or IT problems) and generally getting the day off to a positive start;
  • Afternoon sessions are really important, too, adds Mr Ryan. Personal Development Time (PDT) occurs weekly and involves students addressing a range of issues in this half-term;
  • Weekly discussion sessions have been taking place. “With all that has been happening in America, there have been lots of live issues to consider, alongside other interesting, and sometimes controversial, topics, such as vaccination priorities or the effects of leaving the EU.”;
  • Bespoke tutorials have been taking place since the start of term, allowing tutors to meet boys in smaller groups and to give pupils personalised advice, as well as enabling discussions about ways in which the boys can support each other;
  • Peer mentoring has continued as normal, with pupils meeting online, and feedback being forwarded to Heads of Year and form tutors.

If parents have any concerns that they would like to discuss with their son’s form tutor or Head of Year, they should contact

Mr Ryan highlighted some of the pastoral activities that have been taking place across the year groups. For Year 7, in recognition of boys’ increased time spent online during lockdown, a remote PDT session on eSafety was brought forward in the programme. Keeping boys safe and healthy has also been to the fore in Year 8, where form tutors have been asked to encourage pupils to engage in extra-curricular activities away from their screens in order to help with their mental health. Many boys have responded, taking part in activities such as exercise, meditation, reading and cooking.

The momentous events taking place across the Atlantic have not gone unnoticed. Year 8 had a PDT lesson on Getting the scoop, teaching pupils how to analyse their online sources of global news, with a focus on the US election. PDT lessons in Year 10 are taking place on democracy, media and the law, and the boys are also enjoying taking part in discussion sessions on topical events such as President Biden’s inauguration and on the interplay between politicians and the media. “There have been some good discussions on whether Twitter was right to ban Trump from using their platform,” says Mr Ryan.

On Mondays, Year 9 boys are discussing their GCSE options and looking at what particular skills are suited to which subject and future careers. This activity is closely linked to the newly introduced Collaborative careers task that the boys are completing. This task is focused on building a variety of skills – teamwork skills, in particular – and requires the boys to devise a way of working together in teams of eight outside lesson time. “It is a unique challenge that has been made possible due to the remote nature of our learning now,” adds Mr Ryan.

The Sixth Form also has its sights set on life after QE: Year 12 had three sessions of remote vertical tutoring from their counterparts in Year 13 to provide them with further support. This has involved using eQE’s forums function, with the Year 12s asking questions about university, and Year 13s who applied for the same degree subjects responding.

In another example of how the School’s investment in IT to facilitate independent learning has paid off, form tutors have reported how they much they have appreciated being able to use the ‘breakout’ function of MS Teams to split the boys into small groups, both to facilitate discussions of particular points by the boys and so that they can more easily catch up with members of the form. “Boys and tutors enjoy interacting with each other in these smaller groups, as they provide an opportunity to see, and speak to, each other more easily,” says Mr Ryan.

Head of Year 7 Tom Harrison pre-recorded one remote assembly, in which he advised Year 7 boys on ways to remain healthy and organised in the current situation, while in Chemistry teacher Tom Batchelor’s Year 7 Leicester form, the form captain and deputy have been creating PowerPoint presentations which they have used to lead weekly quizzes and give news summaries via MS Teams.



Covid-19 testing at QE – and your consent

In line with previous Government requirements, QE had expected to launch a mass Covid-19 testing programme in School in the first weeks of term. This has now been postponed because of the lockdown. However, it is still expected that such testing will form part of the measures to enable a safe return to School, whenever national policy makes this possible.

Planning for testing is, therefore, continuing. The aim is to ensure a smooth return to on-site classes, with as little disruption as possible academically, with full pastoral support for all boys, and with minimal risk to public health.

Participation in the programme to be held at QE is not compulsory – participating boys or their parents can opt out at any point.

The School is, however, encouraging everyone to join the programme, since it will remove anyone who has the virus but is asymptomatic from circulation, while reducing the numbers who need to stay at home where they have been close to a person with a positive test result.

This testing programme at QE will be for those with no symptoms. If anyone develops symptoms at any time (such as a high temperature; a new, continuous cough; or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste), he must immediately self-isolate, and book a test by calling 119 or visiting

The QE mass testing programme will involve:

  • Two lateral flow tests, which will be conducted near the point of return to School to identify asymptomatic cases.

Initial planning was also conducted on the basis of offering daily testing – for seven school days – for those identified as a close contact of a confirmed case. This would mean that, provided these boys do not test positive themselves, they would not have to self-isolate at home, unless they would prefer to do so. This part of the government’s testing plans is currently paused, as further evidence on the impact of this form of testing is gathered. Our consent form still takes account of this daily close contact testing so that we are ready should public health advice be that it is resumed.

The lateral flow tests are quick and relatively easy, involving a simple swab of the throat and nose. The swab will be self-administered, but with advice and guidance from a trained test assistant. The specimen is added to a solution in a tube and this is then applied to a test strip by a test processor. The lateral flow device then clearly displays the result in the form of horizontal bars on the test kit (similar to a pregnancy test).  The result is available in half an hour from testing.

Testing will in all cases be by appointment. Tests will be supervised by trained staff.

The test will be logged with the NHS at the point of registration. Registration is most easily done via a smartphone – as details, including a unique barcode provided upon arrival for each test, need to be entered online. For the purposes of testing, the School would therefore allow pupils to bring smartphones (including camera phones) with them. The results will be shared directly with those participating via notification from the NHS to the contact details entered in the registration process.

The School will only contact families in addition to the notification from the NHS if:

  • The test subject has tested positive, or
  • His test is void (whereby another appointment needs to be arranged), or
  • He is identified as a close contact of a positive case.

Please click below to fill in the testing consent forms. These include an option to decline consent. Consent can be withheld by a pupil at any time – no one would be forced to take a test against their will. Without a valid consent form, tests cannot, however, be administered.

For pupils under 16, parents should complete the form and should discuss testing with their sons. Pupils aged 16 or over should complete the form themselves.

The School will require a response for all pupils.

Consent forms

Pupils aged under 16 (to be completed by parents)

Pupils aged 16 or over (to be completed by pupils)

Remote possibilities: developing excellence in lockdown learning at QE

With remote learning currently in place for all boys from Year 7 to Year 13, QE staff are drawing on the extensive experience gained from last year’s first lockdown, while taking full advantage of technological advancements now available to them.

Deputy Head (Academic), Anne Macdonald, says that the focus in refining online and other forms of remote learning is on keeping pupils’ experience aligned with the School’s customary strengths: “It is important that we continue to develop the boys’ independent learning skills, building confidence and resilience, and honing their organisational skills.”

Overall, a “blended approach” is being followed, combining both “guided independent learning”, through the eQE platform, and “interactive lessons”, given through Microsoft Teams. “The variety helps pupils to remain engaged with remote learning,” says Mrs Macdonald, who sets out below the specific features being used and their attendant advantages.

Among the eQE features proving particularly useful in lockdown are:

  • Tasks and the subject pages in Academic Departments, which are used for sharing learning resources, such as PowerPoints, worksheets and weblinks, and for setting activities to support guided independent learning;
  • The add comment feature for eQE tasks or eQE Forums, through which boys can ask questions and receive answers from their teachers and peers. Pupils can also share work and ideas on the Forum pages;
  • eQE Class Tests: these are secure pages that can be set with timers and are thus useful for assessing boys’ learning during tests. These are being used for Year 11 mock examinations this week, for example.

Microsoft Teams is being used in two principal ways, as Mrs Macdonald explains. Either all boys and their teacher ‘join’ their MS Teams lesson at the start of the class, when they receive instructions about the learning objectives and learning activities to be undertaken. This is followed by a time of guided independent learning through eQE. It finishes with everybody ‘re-joining’ the MS Teams lesson so that the boys can review their learning and have an opportunity for their questions to be answered. Or full lessons are taught entirely through MS Teams.

The use of MS Teams:

  • Provides an opportunity for accommodating different learning styles, with verbal as well as written instructions possible;
  • Allows boys to receive answers to their questions, and teachers to assess learning;
  • Enables interaction through class discussion and the development of speaking and listening skills;
  • Gives a chance to demonstrate practical work and to hear performance work;
  • Facilitates pair work or group work through using breakout ‘rooms’.

The screenshot image, top, is taken from Mrs Macdonald’s Year 12 Physical Geography class on Friday, which covered the topic of Tectonic Processes and Hazards. Mrs Macdonald used MS Teams’ Whiteboard feature to explain ‘slab pull’ as a process of tectonic plate movement.