Celebrating boys’ current achievements – and the importance of learning to secure their future

Parents, staff and VIP guests gathered to celebrate the achievements of QE’s older pupils at the Senior Awards Ceremony – one of the most important events in the School’s calendar.

More than 120 prizes were presented to boys from Year 10 to Year 13 for achievements ranging from a wide sweep of academic accomplishment across all subjects to awards for sport, debating, leadership and service.

This year’s main speaker was Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London – the first female Guest of Honour at the annual event.

Welcoming Professor Gast, in his address, Headmaster Neil Enright expatiated on the nature of learning. He quoted the American social philosopher, Eric Hoffer, who said: “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

""Even if, he said, boys never again use Pythagoras’ theorem or a Bunsen burner once their School days are past, the very act of learning about these things – the process of understanding, analysing and remembering – brings a benefit in itself and is a skill to be carried forward that will always be useful.

In her address, Professor Gast commented on what  ‘good fit’ QE and Imperial are: both are meritocracies that wish to nurture excellence; both take very good ‘material’ – that is, young people with great potential –  and improve them through a careful programme of learning and challenge, and both are hard to get into!

""A quietly spoken but charismatic American,  who has attended and taught at a variety of leading academic institutions, including Princeton, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Lehigh University, Professor Gast told the audience that you can never know which parts of your learning and life experiences will prove useful. Therefore, she advised, the boys should take all the opportunities that life throws at them and try out as many things as they could. Professor Gast said that when she was young, she was a keen college athlete. Years later, when due to deliver important addresses to large audiences, she would remember the slight feeling of nerves she had had in the starting block, but knew that she had a job to do and the nerves would subside.

The Professor outlined just a few elements of the extensive research being carried out at Imperial, including investigations into the causes and treatment of sight loss, and the development of robotic devices that could clean a house or drive a car.

""Professor Gast sits on a number of international advisory committees, including the Board of Trustees for the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia,  the Academic Research Council for the Singapore Ministry of Education and the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of Malaysia. She said that employers are often looking for varied experiences in young graduates. They are especially interested in those with international experience who are willing to work abroad and can think globally.

The ceremony in the Main Hall was punctuated with a number of musical interludes performed by the boys. The pieces included excerpts from Beethoven’s Sonata no. 1 in F minor and Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor.

""After Professor Gast’s address, School Captain Varun Vassanth delivered a vote of thanks and the assembled company then repaired to the Shearly Hall for a buffet, where the prize-winners and their families had the opportunity to mingle with the Guest of Honour, the Headmaster and other staff. In addition to Professor Gast, the VIP party included the Deputy Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Alison Cornelius, who delivered an address, and the Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London and Queen’s Representative in Barnet, Martin Russell.

There was also a mobile studio area in which boys and their families could have portraits taken by professional photographer Eleanor Bentall.