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Take it from us: last year’s leavers give current sixth-formers the benefit of their university experience

QE’s University Convention may have gone online this year because of Covid-19, but the alumni still turned out in numbers to support current Year 12 boys.

Well over 50 Old Elizabethans – mostly those who left the School last summer – took part in the video convention for Year 12 pupils considering their university options.

With 19 sessions on 14 subjects delivered over seven days, the virtual event was a major organisational and technological feat.

Michael Feven, Assistant Head (Pupil Development) said: “We were determined to ensure that the current Year 12 did not miss out on opportunities and I am tremendously grateful to our former pupils who supported us. Their participation means that the University Convention was this year once again one of the biggest examples of alumni participation at the School.

“The event allowed boys to find out more about quite a wide range of university options and, of course, to discover how our alumni’s university student experiences have been affected by Covid. All Year 12 boys were free to drop in as they chose, and the sessions proved popular, provoking plenty of discussion afterwards.”

In normal years, OEs visit the School together for the convention, which therefore also becomes a reunion for them after their first two terms at university.

This year, however, their contributions were given on Zoom in a series of lunchtime sessions over the seven days.

The alumni spoke on 14 subjects in the first four days, from Architecture to Computer Science, Law to Medicine & Dentistry, and from Geography to Languages.

The final three days involved sessions structured around topics such as the year spent in industry during Engineering degrees and the different types of universities available, with sessions including Campus vs City, Oxbridge, International and London.

To ensure full coverage of the planned topics, the first-year alumni were joined by a number of OEs from earlier years , such as Nik Ward (2003–2010) and Danny Martin (2010–2017) speaking on studying Architecture, and Rhys Bowden (1996–2003) and Simon Purdy (2009–2016) on Music.


Harmful and hurtful: asking the hard questions about micro-aggressions

Old Elizabethan Bilal Harry Khan threw down a challenge when he took part in a video conversation about ‘micro-aggressions’ as part of a new series of bitesize discussions on vital issues such as race and discrimination.

Anyone accused of perpetrating micro-aggressions should overcome the natural instinct to go on the defensive and instead be open enough to “interrogate the ideas at the root of things that may be causing harm”, urged Bilal, a podcaster, workshop facilitator and event host.

His ten-minute conversation with Year 13 pupils Thomas Mgbor and Ayodimeji Ojelade was recorded so that the issues raised can be discussed in tutor groups. It is one of a series of Perspective discussions being arranged by the School’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Ambassadors. Last year, Ayodimeji and Thomas were instrumental in the founding of Perspective – a new forum set up in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Michael Feven, Assistant Head (Pupil Development), said: “I am so pleased to see these short, accessible discussions taking place, and I thank especially Old Elizabethans such as Bilal who have agreed to take part. Thomas, Ayodimeji and the ambassadors’ team are to be congratulated on being so assiduous in ensuring that these important issues are both raised and discussed at QE.”

Other conversations in the series so far have included one with Natasha Devon MBE, an activist and researcher in the fields of mental health, body image, gender and social equality.

Bilal (OE 2003–2010) read Theology at Cambridge and then worked in youth engagement. He has designed and delivered hundreds of speeches and workshops in schools and youth settings on behalf of partners such as KPMG, Virgin Atlantic, Boots and Barclays. He is also frequently called upon to speak on issues of social justice, race and masculinity for news and current affairs programmes.

Bilal began the discussion by defining micro-aggressions: “They are statements, actions or incidents which are regarded as indirect, subtle or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalised group, such as a racial or ethnic minority. The key bit for me is the words ‘indirect, subtle or unintentional’…These are things which are unintentional, but are still harmful or hurtful, when somebody might say ‘ah, but I meant that in a nice way,’ or ‘that was just a bit of banter’ or ‘that was supposed to be a compliment’. “

He gave an example from his own experience: “That question: ‘Where are you from? No – where are you really from?’ Where you have said you are really from is never the right answer. They want to know where your grandparents or great-grandparents are from; when I say ‘north-west London’ that is not believed.”

Bilal continued: “It’s the cumulative impact of loads of micro-aggressions that really makes someone feel like ‘I don’t belong here’ or ‘I am angry’ or ‘I am ashamed’ or perhaps that there is ‘something about me that is not right’.”

He suggested that QE pupils should be a true “ally” by challenging micro-aggressions not only when someone who might be hurt or harmed by them is present, but also when they are absent. He urged boys to be “more confident and comfortable to challenge and question, and also just to own up and apologise when we have said and done these things”.

Thomas asked Bilal how he would respond to those who would suggest we are turning into a “snowflake community”.

“This is not about being ‘woke’ or hyper-sensitive or being ‘snowflakes’,” Bilal said. “It’s about recognising that these issues have actually been used as tools of oppression for centuries.”



From parish politics to the global village – QE pupils given food for thought as the world celebrates International Women’s Day

Pupils at Queen Elizabeth’s School have been celebrating the achievements of women and reflecting on the issues they face, as people around the world marked International Women’s Day (IWD).

English teacher Eleanor Pickering put together a pack of resources to encourage discussion in tutor groups on the day itself or – with boys returning to their classrooms this week after Covid testing – in the following few days.

The resources include a PowerPoint presentation, suggestions for activities and videos. They ranged from the literally parochial – the recording of a Cheshire parish council meeting that went viral last month – to the global – an Oxfam presentation that posed questions about international aspects, including women’s earnings around the world.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We recognise the importance – not least since we are an all-boys school – of celebrating the achievements of women and girls, of raising awareness of bias and of challenging inequality.

“The work and lives of female scientists, writers, historical figures and politicians are increasingly being covered across the curriculum, while outside lessons, we seek to keep these matters to the fore through discussions in tutor groups, through our Personal Development Programme and through our appointment of senior pupils as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Ambassadors.”

IWD was adopted by the United Nations in 1977. Its theme this year was #ChooseToChallenge. Tutors at QE took the opportunity to ask boys what they might choose to challenge in their own lives.

The Oxfam presentation asked how much less women earn than men globally and on average – the answer is 23%, according to a UN report.

The presentation explained that while gender imbalances are reducing in some areas – 25 per cent of all national parliamentarians are now women, up from 11 per cent in 1995 – in other areas, formidable barriers remain, with, for example, women in 18 countries needing to have permission from their husbands to work outside the home.

The Handforth parish council Zoom recording became famous because of the calm and decisive way in which Jackie Weaver – chief officer of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils – dealt with councillors during a heated, and sometimes chaotic, meeting.

Other resources available to the boys’ tutors included Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk from 2012 entitled We should all be feminists in which she urged people to work towards a different, fairer world with happier men and women who are truer to themselves. This perennially popular talk has had more than 4.6m views to date.

A further suggestion was a TED talk from Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.

Testing, testing! QE on track for a safe and smooth return to classes

Preparations for a safe return to lessons at the School this week are running according to plan, with sixth-formers experiencing a smooth start to the new testing programme yesterday.

Years 12 and 13 were the first at QE to benefit from the asymptomatic testing programme that is clearing the way for classroom learning to start for all year groups on Thursday.

In line with Government instructions, all pupils taking part in the programme are being tested before returning to School for lessons, so that any positive cases can be taken out of circulation before they have the opportunity to mix with each other and with staff.

Volunteers have rallied round, working alongside members of staff to make sure all 1,250 boys can be tested in time.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “Testing all our pupils is a major logistical exercise, and one that, of course, has to be conducted in Covid-safe conditions.

“It is certainly a challenge, but I am pleased to report that the first day went without a hitch, with the operation running both calmly and efficiently.

“Although the testing is not compulsory, I am most encouraged to see that the participation rate is very high indeed, which will certainly aid the effectiveness of the programme in protecting all students and staff.”

Pupils are all being given specific times to attend over the first half of the week, with Years 9–11 due in for their first tests today and Years 7 and 8 on Wednesday.

In the meantime, QE’s programme of remote learning continues, with boys following a full timetable at home using the School’s eQE online learning platform and MS Teams.

They will have their second and third tests from Thursday onwards, once they are back in lessons.

The group of volunteers involved in the programme spans the Elizabethan community, including parents, former members of staff and other friends of the School.

“Some are giving up significant amounts of their time over the course of the in-School testing programme, for which we are all very grateful,” said Mr Enright.

“These volunteers are working alongside members of staff, with everyone trained for their respective roles.”

“It was, of course, great to see pupils back on site today – a foretaste of Thursday, when we look forward eagerly to seeing all the boys back in lessons here.”


Spearheading change in society: PinkNews boss speaks to QE boys

Benjamin Cohen, founder and CEO of PinkNews, dotcom success story and broadcaster, spoke to current pupils as part of LGBT+ History Month.

Benjamin, who was at QE from 1993–1998, took part in a video conversation with the School’s Student Leadership Team and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Ambassadors.

The session was recorded so that it can be used by form tutors to stimulate discussion among all year groups as an eQE online resource within QE’s personal development and wellbeing programme.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “Our students will take courage and inspiration from all Ben had to say when reflecting on his career, the success of PinkNews, equal marriage, Section 28, religion and much more besides.”

Benjamin launched PinkNews, a UK-based online newspaper, in 2005. PinkNews describes itself on its website as “the brand for the global LGBT+ community and the next generation”.

But before that, Benjamin had already made his mark as a serial entrepreneur in the boom around the start of the new millennium.

After leaving QE, he created JewishNet, which he describes as “Britain’s first social network before the term was invented”. It grew rapidly, making him worth £5m at one point.

Soon after, he established CyberBritain – “a darling for a couple of years” – which, among other things, launched a UK-specific search engine powered by its own technology and attempted to launch a service similar to Spotify.

For much of his time with CyberBritain, Benjamin was also an undergraduate at King’s College London.

He went on to be a columnist for The Times, corporate advisor for ITN, business & technology correspondent for Channel 4, a PR director, and, from 2010 until 2017, was a presenter for the BBC, where his work included writing and presenting a critically acclaimed documentary, I was a teenage millionaire. He is also a longstanding UK trustee and non-executive director of Humanity & Inclusion, a global disability development charity.

He explained the importance to PinkNews’ success of its leading role in the campaigns to legalise same-sex marriage: “Since then, we have just grown and grown and grown.” Having expanded further during lockdown, PinkNews now has more than 40 people working for it and 50m consuming its content monthly, he said.

During his talk, there was plenty of time for questions from the boys, which Benjamin was happy to answer.

Asked about whether religion comes into conflict with LGBT rights, Benjamin, who comes from a Jewish background, said it was partly to explore such questions that he had chosen his degree subject – Religion, Philosophy and Ethics – at Kings. “Some faiths have moved on quite a way, but others still have a long way to go,” he said, reflecting that families often found their own ways to adapt, including that of his (non-Jewish) husband.

Questioned on barriers still facing LGBT people, including school pupils, Benjamin spoke of how much things had changed in schools from when he was a pupil. At that time, the ‘Section 28’ law that made the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ illegal in state schools was still in force. “This would have been literally against the law,” he said, referring to the discussion.

Today, the situation was very different, he said. “With me as a gay man, I can pretty much do everything I want within the UK…but trans people do face some challenges.

“It generally takes an example – so, if a student was to come out as trans or something, that would create the atmosphere to enable pupils [and] the school to move on.”

He reflected that there was a growing acceptance in society that families can differ from traditional patterns.

Benjamin, who applauded QE’s policies in areas of sexuality and relationships, said that the national introduction of ‘compulsory Sex and Religious Education’ over the last year had been a significant step: “We are in a pretty good place.”


Light at the end of the tunnel: Max’s positive message on mental health in the pandemic

Old Elizabethan Max Hassell gave a virtual talk for senior pupils on his experiences with ADHD, anxiety and depression as the country marked Children’s Mental Health Week.

In the lunchtime address, Max (OE 2002–2009) reflected on his own journey and underlined to the boys the benefits of seeking help, should they need it. It was only when, quite recently, he received his medical diagnosis that he was finally able to make sense of some of his own reactions and behaviour in the past, he explained.

Max concluded with an appeal to the boys to look out for themselves and for their friends. “Especially because of Covid, a lot of people are struggling in these times and people’s mental health has gone down a bit…Don’t be afraid to show weakness with each other…check up on each other; talk about things…be kind to each other.”

At QE, Max was a keen sportsman, playing in the First XV and representing Hertfordshire at U16 and U18 levels. “I absolutely loved it [at QE],” he said. “I grew up just around the corner. I was a really confident kid, and it was only later that I started to get these feelings around possible depression and possible anxiety.”

After gaining straight As in his A-levels at QE, Max went to Bristol to read History and continued his rugby there, playing in the university Second XV.

In his talk, Max said it was beneficial for the boys to hear from an alumnus of the School – somebody who had been in their shoes. He explained that he sought to open a dialogue on important topics around which there can still be stigma and to challenge the stereotypes of what someone with ADHD is like: great progress had been made in society, he acknowledged, but there was still further to go.

Left to their own devices and with their own thoughts, people could find themselves in a “dark place”, he said, which was why he urged the boys to check up on each other.

Today Max is a football agent – “my dream job” – with Sync Global Sports, a London-based agency.

“You can be diagnosed with these kinds of medical conditions, but you can still have a very happy and fulfilled life and it does not have to hold you back in any way,” he said.

The Headmaster, Neil Enright, said it had been a privilege to be able to hear Max’s talk, which was timely in the context of the lockdown and ongoing pandemic. “Prioritising wellbeing and encouraging boys to talk about their feelings is at the core of the daily pastoral support and guidance sessions in eQE, our virtual school.

“Thank you, Max, for being a great role model, for raising awareness about some of the barriers to positive mental health young men may face and for prompting so much discussion across eQE.”

Assistant Head (Pupil Development) Michael Feven also conveyed his thanks to Max: “He spoke so openly to our current boys about his experiences of being diagnosed with ADHD and living with anxiety and depression. This is such an important message for young men to hear, and we are hugely grateful to Max for sharing his story in this way.”

The talk was recorded and remains available on the QE Connect network, where it can be accessed by alumni and senior pupils.

New top team for a new year

Siddhant Kansal takes up the reins from today as QE’s 2021 School Captain, supported by a twelve-strong Senior Prefect Team and more than 100 additional officials and prefects.

Siddhant will be working closely with the new Senior Vice-Captains, Sultan Khokhar and Paul Ofordu.

The transition from the 2020 team started towards the end of last term, when Headmaster Neil Enright announced the 2021 appointments in a special meeting, during which he handed ties to the Senior Prefect Team (pictured top), consisting of Siddhant, Paul, Sultan and ten new Vice-Captains. As part of the transition arrangements, the whole team were given training last month, with an additional training session also held specifically for the vice-captains.

Congratulating them, Mr Enright said: “Siddhant is an excellent choice, with leadership skills that are readily apparent, combined with good humour, charisma, thoughtfulness and the ability to inspire. I am sure he will discharge his duties with great distinction. I am confident, too, that Sultan and Paul will provide Siddhant with great support. Sultan has a reputation for excellence in all he does, while Paul has been outstanding as a peer mentor, bringing warmth and reflectiveness to the role.

“I also thank our outgoing School Captain, Ivin Jose, and his team for their hard work and impressive leadership during the most unusual of years.”

Head of Year 12 Simon Walker said that the Senior Prefect Team personify the very best of the School community. “These 13 students have, over the course of their time at Queen Elizabeth’s, earned the respect of peers and staff alike through the way that they apply themselves to all that they do and the way they conduct themselves in doing it.  All have shown consistent dedication to excellence in their studies, commitment to a wide range of in-school activities, and courtesy, integrity, responsibility and public-spiritedness in their conduct.

“The range of exceptional qualities within this diverse team is particularly striking. There are students: who have shown dynamic and imaginative leadership of a variety of in-school clubs and activities; who have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities on the sports field, or within their form groups; who have enriched their peers’ experiences of School through their superlative contributions to peer-mentoring or music; and who have stood out in the way that they have embodied the School’s values in the way they treat other pupils – those who have always shown kindness, sensitivity, patience and generosity of spirit towards others. In their different ways, all of them have the qualities to set the tone for and to lead the student body as a whole to the very highest national, indeed international, standards.”

And Mr Walker added his own words of praise for the new School Captain and his vice-captains. “Siddhant brings a fantastic range of qualities to the role. He applies himself with enthusiasm, energy and positivity to all he does.” Extolling Siddhant’s “first-rate skills of leadership”, Mr Walker said that his “clarity and engaging and open manner make him an exceptional communicator with natural presence. He is also a reflective thinker who is highly adept at collaborating with others – he makes others feel that they and their contributions are important and valued. He will be able to inspire the whole prefect team, and his graciousness, supportiveness of others and dedication to all he does will set a hugely valuable example, both for the prefect team and within the student body.

“What is impressive about Sultan, above all, is how he sustains the same exceptional level of care and attention to detail across such a wide range of activities. This mentality of excellence is reflected not only in his many involvements but, importantly, also in the way he always conducts himself around the School. He has a flair for organisation and strategy that will be invaluable in coordinating the activities of the prefect team, especially at a time when swift, smooth and calm implementation of procedures can be vital in ensuring the safety of everyone within the School community.

“Alongside him, Paul is a paragon of the School’s values: his purposeful and self-disciplined work ethic is matched by his commitment to and distinction in many areas of school life.” Paul’s work as a peer mentor had “illustrated his passion for supporting other pupils in order to enrich their experience of School and enable them to flourish”, he was bringing great skill to his new role and his “admirable character” encompassed “sensitivity, care for others, patience and the ability to listen empathetically”, Mr Walker said.

The vice-captains are allocated responsibilities in specific fields, such as community & charity, form involvement and equality, diversity & inclusion.

The vice-captains are: Raphael Herberg, Saalif Jilani, Aadarsh Khimasia, Manav Khindri, Manomay Lala-Raykar, Alexandre Lee, Mark Markov, Miguel Nieves, Shivas Patel and Shay Raja.

For the six Houses, the House Captains and Deputy House Captains are as follows, with captains listed first:

  • Broughton: Prajish Kannan & Dillan Shah
  • Harrisons’: Romansh Gupta & Yuvraj Manral
  • Leicester: Ethan Solanki & Devarya Munshi
  • Pearce: Nirmay Jadhav & Beuran Kannan
  • Stapylton: Thilakshan Thayalan & Jay Vasireddy
  • Underne: Christan Emmanuel & Dan Suciu.

In addition, there are 92 other prefects in 2021.

Pushing the conversation: alumni speak on LGBTQ+ issues and their experiences on International Men’s Day

Two Old Elizabethans visited the School in person for a Covid-compliant celebration of International Men’s Day.

Jamie Sherman and Arjun Goswami talked about their experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ community, while also fielding questions from current sixth-formers.

In their replies, they covered how legislation and attitudes have changed since they were at School, with neither feeling that being members of the LGBTQ+ community has held them back, although Arjun (OE 2001–2008) argued that the presence of “systemic homophobia” in society and in boys’ schools can lead to stigma, which in turn causes mental health issues.

They spoke to an in-person audience in QE’s Conference Centre comprising  some senior prefects, including the Equality, Diversion & Inclusion Ambassadors, while the event was live-streamed to tutor rooms across Years 9–13.

Afterwards, Jamie (OE 2002–2009) said: “It’s great to be back at QE and to catch up with everyone. Thank you for having us and letting us speak about LGBTQ+ issues. It’s fantastic to see the School pushing this conversation.”

Michael Feven, Assistant Head (Pupil Development), said: “I am hugely grateful to Jamie & Arjun for talking to the boys so honestly and openly about their experiences in this way. With the development of Perspective, our new student-led area of the School’s eQE online learning platform, and an ongoing review of our Personal Development Time curriculum, important conversations such as these are rightfully becoming an increasingly embedded part of life at QE”.

International Men’s Day, which was first celebrated in 1994, is promoted as an occasion to celebrate boys’ and men’s achievements and contributions, with an emphasis on promoting male role models. This year’s international theme was Better Health for Men and Boys.

Jamie is an Associate with a legal firm. He identifies as gay, ‘coming out’ when he was 24, but not feeling able to do so whilst at School. Arjun (OE 2001-08) is undertaking a doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Manchester University, and identifies as pansexual; Arjun was keen to share his perspectives as an Asian man.

They presented slides giving some definitions of gender, sexuality and attraction. Much of the time, however, was devoted to answering questions, including the following:

What was your experience of realising you were gay whilst at School?

  • Arjun; Being BAME (Black And Minority Ethnic) and at a boys’ school had made it even harder when trying to figure myself out – being called ‘gay’ was used as an insult. When I eventually came out, my family who are Hindu and liberal, was fine, but I have friends from other cultures who struggled to come out.
  • Jamie: I realised I was gay at 14, but felt isolated at School, like something was wrong with me. I spent ten years ‘in the closet’, which took a massive psychological toll. [He referenced Section 28, the law which at that time made it illegal for schools to promote homosexuality]. It is a ‘fantastic development’ that talks like today can now happen in schools – it’s a completely different environment now.

What is it like being in the LGBTQ+ community as an adult?

  • Arjun: When I was at School, I was worried about how my life would be as an adult, and actually I found it was totally fine. When I came out, I didn’t lose any friends, I became more confident, and found my sexuality (being pansexual i.e. attracted to an individual  person, regardless of their gender/sexuality) didn’t hinder any area of my life – it was the opposite of what I had expected. The aim of today is normalising the idea that it’s fine to just be yourself – the barriers are less than before. And there is comfort in the fact that being LGBTQ+ is actually a protected characteristic under the Human Rights Act – it is illegal to discriminate [against LGBTQ+].
  • Jamie: When the illusion of what society expects hits you – i.e. that you will grow up to have a wife and kids in the traditional way – that can be scary; but the reality is in contrast to what you expect. I have a male partner, I have friends and family, many of my friends are from School, we do everything that others do, we have the same holidays and social connection – I realise that the difference was all in my head. There is such a push for diversity and inclusion in all areas now. There was this notion that being LGBTQ+ will hold you back, but it’s just not an issue.

How does being LGBTQ+ impact your mental health?

  • Arjun: There can be systemic homophobia in society and in boys’ schools – being heterosexual is what is expected. This can lead to low mood, low self-esteem, identity issues and anxiety – the fear of judgement. The biggest cause of death in males 16-25 years is suicide; being LGBTQ+ and BAME brings additional factors. 1 in 4 in the wider community have mental health issues – it is estimated this number grows to 1 in 3 within the LGBTQ+ community – due to the stigma. The message is to be respectful, be inclusive.

Does it hold you back, do people accept you?

  • Arjun: Actually, it has made me more confident in who I am. To my face, I’ve not had much discrimination at all. My mum struggled the most, being from an Indian background; her biggest fear was that others would judge the family – but she’s not worried now.
  • Jamie: In my first job in an office there was so much to take in, so I didn’t come out. I thought it would hold me back – but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. When I came out people just didn’t care – it’s just not a big deal any more.

Arjun said later:  “It has been lovely to have spoken at QE, a school very special to me, … about a very important issue that is integral to embracing equality and acceptance for all.”

Maintaining the bond between School and home, even during a pandemic

With physical meetings ruled out by Covid-19 restrictions, QE turned to technology for its first parental consultation evening of the year.

Teachers and the parents of Year 13 pupils were able to link up online after the School invested in specialist software provider SchoolCloud’s dedicated Parents Evening Video Appointments service.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “This is a crucial term for our final-year students, as they apply to universities and work intensively towards completing their A-level studies next summer. We realised, therefore, that we needed to make special provision to ensure that contact with parents was kept up at such a pivotal time for their sons.

“We will be now be using this channel of communication for all this term’s parent consultation and review evenings; our staff look forward to meeting QE parents in this new, adapted way.”

Several teachers, as pictured here, initially tried out the system from their own offices at the School. Thanks to the security-enhanced aspects of the service – all video calls between staff and parents are encrypted, for example – on the evening itself, both teachers and parents were able to conduct the consultation meetings from their own homes.

Tara O’Reilly, Deputy Head (Operations) said that, from a technological perspective, the evening had been overwhelmingly successful; teachers experienced little difficulty in connecting and communicating with families as parents took up their appointments online.

For their part, teachers acknowledged that the use of technology is ensuring the maintenance of the home-School relationship, even during lockdown.

Julia Lister, Head of Chemistry, said: “The online system enabled the evening to proceed successfully and efficiently,” while Head of Economics Shamendra Uduwawala said simply that it was “a good system under difficult circumstances”.

The Parents Evening Video Appointments service includes an ‘efficient scheduling’ feature, through which the teacher or parent is automatically connected with the next person in their appointment schedule.  It is also designed to work simply through a web browser, with no app to download.

Alumni go online to help put pupils on the path to university success

With coronavirus restrictions precluding a repeat of last year’s inaugural University Mock Interview Evening at the School, QE’s old boys and supporters have instead been turning out in force online to make sure current pupils don’t miss out.

Using the School’s QE Connect social media platform, Assistant Head (Pupil Development) Michael Feven paired up Year 13 boys with Old Elizabethans happy to conduct virtual interviews via Zoom and Skype.

“Whilst we are disappointed not to be able to hold our Mock Interview Evening in person this year, the value of these interviews in supporting boys with their university applications cannot be overstated,” said Mr Feven.

The Autumn Term is a busy time for Year 13 boys, with UCAS applications due in, university admissions tests taking place for Oxbridge places and for degree subjects such as Law and Medicine, and with Oxbridge interviews being held in the run-up to Christmas. Mock interviews constitute an important element of the detailed programme of support that the School provides to help senior pupils secure places on the best courses and at leading universities.

OEs have been helping out sixth-formers with interview practice for many years, but last year’s dedicated mock interview evening at the School, which was attended by nearly 40 alumni and supporters of QE, was the first of its kind. This year, dozens of online-only mock interviews are instead being held; they continue throughout November.

Among those paired together for the mock interviews were Zac Howlett-Davies (OE 2006–2013, pictured) and Year 13’s Zeke Essex, who is applying to read Modern Languages at Corpus Christi, Cambridge. Zac, who read Modern Languages at Durham, uses his French and German on a daily basis in his role in European copyright licensing for printed music publisher Hal Leonard Europe.

“Mr Howlett-Davies gave excellent feedback based on his own experiences and it was great practice before the real thing. He was very knowledgeable and was very easy to have a conversation with,” said Zeke.

Sai Bodanapu, who is among QE’s aspiring medics, pointed out that the specific benefit of meeting his interviewer via Zoom in this pandemic year: “My mock interview helped me as it gave an actual representation of how online interviews will take place.” Sai was interviewed by Andleeb Ahmed, who is an NHS GP and mentor; her son, Fozy Ahmed, who left QE this year, is studying Medicine at Gonville & Caius, Cambridge.

“I am hugely grateful to the longstanding support from our Old Elizabethan community and from other Friends of the School who each year so generously give up their time to support our Year 13 students in this way,” Mr Feven added.