QE Update
MAY 2020
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Front of School
Letter from the Headmaster
Dear Parents and Boys

Since the last edition of QE Update, the Prime Minister has made his address to the nation on the roadmap for relaxing some of the lockdown restrictions. This has been followed by both further Government guidance – and by much debate within the education sector and in the media. The headline for secondary schools is the expectation that some face-to-face, on-site provision will be made this term for students in Years 10 and 12, who are halfway through their GCSE and A-level courses respectively. Clearly, this development raises a very large number of questions: there are a range of instinctive reactions, and I empathise with the concerns that people may have.

We are working on a plan to deliver end-of-year exams for those two year groups, alongside academic and pastoral support in School. Further information will follow directly to the affected families, as and when we are able to provide it: all planning is being done with the caveat that guidance and requirements may be clarified, revised or added to in the coming days and weeks. We expect further Government announcements by the time we come back from the half-term break. Equally important at this time, however, is that we continue with developing home-learning, ensuring that boys in all year groups are fully supported.

At Queen Elizabeth’s, I would propose that our overall approach is guided by a number of core principles. The first is that the health, safety and wellbeing of our whole community is front and centre. The second is that any changes to provision should not jeopardise or undermine the great work that has been done to this point, particularly with respect to remote learning through eQE. The third is that changes should be tailored to the particular context of our School. This context has many different elements, from the boys’ very high levels of engagement and success with home-learning (thank you!) to their geographical dispersion and the impact this has on journeys.

The current situation has undoubtedly presented challenges to many – stress, anxiety and isolation – through which we have sought to support our pupils, as our Deputy Head, David Ryan, details in his report. As we come to the end of a half-term lived entirely in lockdown, the timing of Mental Health Awareness Week, this week is particularly apposite. The crisis has meant an adjustment for us all, and circumstances have affected people in different ways and at different times. We have also, though, seen great expressions of community across the Elizabethan family and the nation at large. Now is a time to continue to look out for one another, to support each other and – in keeping with the 2020 MHAW theme of kindness – to be kind. I hope that many will take next week's half-term break as a further opportunity to perform acts of kindness for others.

Today is also National Thank a Teacher Day. I take the opportunity to thank all members of staff for their immense efforts over the weeks to maintain the academic, pastoral and extra-curricular life of the School and to fulfil many business-critical tasks. The result of all their hard work is that we are very well situated as the national situation continues to develop.

One of the advantages of our very long history is that we can take confidence and gain perspective collectively from the School having overcome all sorts of awful challenges in our past. This week a minute resurfaced from the Governing Body archives, dated 6th September 1605, when the area was dealing with a protracted outbreak of plague. Its tone is far from sanguine: “For these three years last past, what with the great and universal sickness then happening …. the school is thereby likely to grow in decay”. Then, parents were too terrified of the plague to send their children to School and the Governors, in fact, refused to meet. Nevertheless, eventually the threat receded, and the School did recover.

Today, through technology, we are able to maintain learning and social contact, helping us support one another. I look forward to the time when all of this is again done in person at School, and we will soon begin moving carefully towards that position, following the guidance and strengthened by the knowledge that the School community has largely continued to flourish even in these present times.

As you can read about in this QE Update, the bespoke tutorials held online have provided a great insight into how the boys are getting on. Everyone is enjoying seeing each other. Special group calls were held with many in Year 13 last week on what would have been their last day in School before examination leave. We hope to see them back at Queen's Road to properly mark the end of their time at QE when that becomes possible, and we want to stay closely connected until then.

More broadly, our Year Heads’ half-term messages reflect on the good work and healthy interactions among the boys and with the staff at all levels of the School, while it is fascinating to see how leavers and recent OEs have been helping current pupils through our QE Connect platform and in other arenas.

My message to the boys for next week’s half-term holiday is that they should remember the Ss of 'switching off' and 'socialising'. A new eQE page should give you inspiration and plenty of ideas for things to do. Let us know what you get up to via

Better days are ahead, but in the meantime, we are here to support you. Allow us to do so by raising any difficulties you are having with us; may I encourage us also to reach out to support one another in the best traditions of the Elizabethan family.

Enright Signature
Mr Neil Enright
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Plus ça change … challenge and continuity in lockdown pastoral care

The five weeks of the Summer Term thus far have seen a significant number of pastoral interventions that have allowed us to stay in touch with all our students and to provide support and advice where it is needed.

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Help when you need it 

QE’s School counsellor, Marina Prevezer, is available for discussion with any pupil worried or concerned about any aspect of his life, whether or not that involves the School.

Deputy Head (Pastoral) David Ryan said: “In society, people sometimes misjudge counselling and define it as something that ‘is not what men do’, or ‘a sign of a lack of strength’. Actually, the opposite is true; counselling is about positive thinking, reflecting, working things through and then taking action. The best leaders listen and take advice; counselling can be seen in a similar way.

“We would certainly encourage any parent who thinks their son might benefit from meeting with Marina, even if it is on a short-term basis, to contact his Head of Year to discuss how we might set this up.”

QE’s comprehensive pastoral support also includes an established link with the online mental wellbeing platform, Kooth – a free, safe support service for young people that is anonymous for its users.

Visit Kooth
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All my questions answered! Online bespoke tutorials are a hit  

Regular meetings on academic progress and all-round wellbeing involving boys and their form tutors have long been an important part of the School's pastoral programme.

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Uncharted territory: Year Heads’ messages to boys after two months in lockdown 

Heads of Year find boys generally coping well with remote learning, while passing on expert advice to help them tackle the acknowledged challenges of life in lockdown.

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The importance of being kind, to oneself and others

Consideration for the wellbeing of others has long been a core value at QE, so ‘kindness’, which is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, especially resonates within the Elizabethan community.

Not only is kindness a virtue in itself, but research indicates that people who are kind and compassionate see clear benefits to their own wellbeing, enjoying greater happiness and experiencing less stress. Thay may even live longer.

Assistant Head (Pupil Development) Michael Feven says: “With so much additional pressure in our lives as a result of the pandemic, this year, more than ever, it is appropriate for us to encourage positive mental health amongst our boys, and to urge them to extend kindness not just to others, but also to themselves.”

The week, which runs from 18th-24th May, is sponsored by the Mental Health Foundation, whose website offers information and advice.

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Rallying round: alumni link up online to support senior boys

Old Elizabethans are taking a flexible approach to help pupils prepare for their futures at university and beyond in the current unprecedented circumstances.

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Make no mistake - we’re best when we collaborate

Old Elizabethan George the Poet makes a powerful plea for people to co-operate and work together creatively during the Covid-19 crisis.

While protecting the vulnerable and preserving the NHS are important, in his poem, The Power of Collaboration, poet and podcaster George Mpanga (OE 2002–2009) also sees other benefits springing from the collective efforts to beat the virus – and even includes a reference to his alma mater. Important as “unity in the global community” is, the crisis is bringing us closer to the people we know – “and that’s why I am still in touch with my old schoolteachers”.

He urges people to use lockdown time as a springboard to further collaborative creativity, concluding: “We dictate what the future holds, because today’s present is tomorrow’s past.”

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