Headmaster’s update

Headmaster’s update

As the academic year closes, I look back on a term that has brought fresh renown to Queen Elizabeth’s School.

In April, I received a letter from Schools Minister Nick Gibb congratulating QE on being in the top 1 per cent of state schools in two separate areas. One was Progress 8 – a Government measure which tracks academic progress between the end of primary school and GCSEs – for which we ranked higher than any other selective school and in the top 15 of all schools nationwide. Our score of 1.22 means that QE boys achieve more than a whole GCSE grade higher in each subject than their primary school attainment would have suggested. The other area was for the proportion of pupils – in our case, 100 percent – entering the English Baccalaureate (not a qualification, but a combination of core GCSE subjects recommended by the Department for Education).

Confirmation that these high standards continue through the Sixth Form came later with the publication of Government analysis revealing that, over a three-year period, QE sent more pupils to Russell Group universities than any other school. A very significant contribution to this achievement is made by alumni. I was delighted to welcome some 60 of last year’s leavers back to contribute their first-hand knowledge of university life to the Year 12 Universities Convention. Our new University Mock Interview Evening being organised for October will further expand our University admissions Support Programme (or USP).

Old Elizabethans turned out in numbers for Founder’s Day, alongside current boys, their families and many other guests. Several of the visiting alumni participated in the afternoon’s cricket fixture, the Stanley Busby Memorial Match, taking on an OE XI. Changeable conditions made for a tricky wicket for the batsmen on both sides. After the old boys were bowled out relatively quickly, a straightforward win for the School seemed to be on the cards, but as the OE attack began toppling the School’s middle and lower order, the game suddenly looked in the balance. In the end, the School was, though, able to surpass the OEs’ total. As ever, a fun and friendly atmosphere pervaded this fixture. Indeed, the same may be said for the afternoon as a whole – the weather held and the atmosphere at the fete was tremendous.

Earlier in the day, we were pleased to welcome Tommy Peto (OE 2003–2010) as our guest speaker at the thanksgiving service. Tommy has recently begun a new role in management and strategy consulting after enjoying a stellar academic career at Oxford. After graduating in the top ten in Philosophy, Politics and Economics out of more than 230 in his year, he went on to take an MPhil in Politics and then his DPhil, which he completed last year. He has won accolades including Clarendon Scholarships, an Open Scholarship at Brasenose College, a Principal’s Commendation for his finals performance, together with Collection Prizes for his performance in college examinations in Statistics, Economics, Logic, Philosophy and Politics. In addition, he has wide experience as a debater and debating coach, having taught the subject to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to the Oxford Union’s élite debating squad and, as a volunteer, to schoolchildren.

In his Founder’s Day speech, Tommy urged the boys in the congregation to discover what they enjoy and then to be both creative and hardworking in pursuing it as a career. The performing arts here are most important in this regard, since they give boys avenues in which to express themselves and develop their talents and interests. Besides that, they are good for the participants’ general wellbeing and are useful in terms of developing transferable skills such as self-confidence, teamwork and presentation. Music is flourishing at QE, so I was delighted this term to announce the immediate go-ahead for our new Music School. To make way for the new facility, which is the next major project in our long-term estates strategy, we will be demolishing the Mayes Building this summer. As some alumni will know, this building was named after Harry (‘Curly’) Mayes, who served the School for a remarkable 60 years as porter, steward and caretaker. Having been appointed in 1902 under our last Victorian-era headmaster, John Bond Lee, Mr Mayes continued working until a few weeks before his death on Remembrance Sunday, 1962. He is pictured here, standing on the left mulling over a problem with others, probably in the 1930s. Other recent work on-site here has included the creation of an airy atrium linking both sides of the Fern Building, as well as structural work in the Art department and Science corridor.

One person who has been at the heart of planning for long-term strategic development is Colin Price, our longest-serving member of staff and Second Master since 2001, who is retiring from the Senior Leadership Team. It has been my great pleasure to work alongside him for 17 of his 33 years, especially over the last eight since my appointment to the headship; I have benefited significantly from his counsel as the sole deputy head. Happily, Colin will still teach Mathematics, so many more boys will benefit from his experience. He will continue to serve as a governor and as a Trustee of the Friends.

There is a new senior team structure for September. Three long-serving Assistant Heads, Emi Aghdiran, Anne Macdonald and David Ryan, are promoted to Deputy Head. We will have three new Assistant Heads; Michael Feven and Sarah Westcott are familiar and well-established figures here, while we welcome Crispin Bonham-Carter, joining us from Alexandra Park School. The new team will be engaging with the School community as we formulate the next School Development Plan for 2020–2024.

I wish all our alumni and their families an enjoyable summer.

Neil Enright, Headmaster