December 15, 2015
December 15, 2015
The term began with Queen Elizabeth’s School still in celebratory mood after our public examination results in August. We have become accustomed to attaining academic success at the very highest level here, but it is important that we should not take such results for granted, nor play down the achievement of our boys. I therefore make no apology for celebrating those results again.
It is truly remarkable both that 98.4% of A-levels taken at QE in 2015 were graded at A*–B and that the figure for this benchmark measure has now exceeded 98% in three of the last four years. The results are, in fact, a little better even than the figures announced in August, since a number of boys subsequently had their individual results upgraded following re-marks.
The exceptional nature of our boys’ achievement quickly became clear in the summer, as QE topped the national league table of state schools in the Daily Telegraph and was the leading English school across both the state and independent sectors in The Times. More recently, the influential The Sunday Times Parent Power survey named QE as the country’s top state school for the third consecutive year. It has become a commonplace to remark that nationally girls now outperform boys at every level in education. Happily, at QE we are bucking that trend, beating two girls’ schools into second and third places in the Parent Power survey. What is more important still is that our examination results are achieved in a context in which our pupils remain grounded and go on to university as ‘confident, able and responsible’ young men, as our School mission statement has it. This was recognised in the latest report on QE from the Good Schools Guide, who visited us this term. At the end of a highly favourable review, the GSG assessor concluded that QE “offers the top 10% of learners from a diversity of backgrounds an exceptional and rounded education that even private schools struggle to compete with”.
I have had the pleasure of welcoming a number of illustrious guests, including the scientist, Lord Winston, and Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers, who is Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Lord Winston gave an engaging lecture and I was particularly interested to hear him speak on the necessity of failure for the learning process. I wholeheartedly endorse this: through our pastoral system, we aim to work through the setbacks that pupils inevitably encounter, thus fostering resilience to help them cope with the stresses they face during their School careers and later in life. Our emphasis at QE on the pursuit of broader interests – whether academically or in extra-curricular activities unrelated to their studies – helps boys achieve a positive state of mental health. In this regard, I should particularly like to highlight the benefits of sport. Again in contradistinction to the national picture in which today’s young people are less likely than previous generations to get involved in organised sports, participation in team games and individual sports at QE remains very high. The physical benefits are obvious, not least in the light of the findings of Public Health England that a third of children are now overweight or obese when they leave primary school. Participation in sport has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, while generally tending to increase happiness. Furthermore, the emphasis on perseverance, application and, for team games, on effective collaboration helps boys develop as rounded individuals.
Senior boys have spent much of the term engaged in the university application process. I have been pleased to meet Old Elizabethans who have come to the School to assist current pupils in planning their futures, whether they have been conducting mock interviews, taking part in our Careers Convention or making special visits at the invitation of our academic departments. (I also enjoyed this term’s Old Elizabethans’ Association Dinner, at which it was lovely to meet up with those alumni whose last year at School was 2005-2006.)
Among these senior boys’ immediate predecessors, namely our 2015 leavers, the University of Cambridge is once again numerically the leading destination. The Complete University Guide, published by The Sunday Times, places Cambridge at the top of its table of UK universities, followed by other universities at which Elizabethans frequently gain places in large numbers, including Oxford, Imperial and Warwick.
If such success is to continue, we must move forward as a School. We are now in the last year of our current School Development Plan. Progress has been very rapid and we are on track to achieve its objectives. In a speech on the future of the BBC, the corporation’s Director-General, Lord Hall, set out his determination to “continue excellence in a time of change”. We must do something similar here, establishing a vision in our new four-year plan that builds on our strengths while also moving with the times.
I should like to thank our alumni for their ongoing contribution of books to The Queen’s Library through the Amazon wishlists facility. The Library is now very well used. Many boys have discovered or developed a love of reading, while all our pupils are taking advantage of the facilities to augment their learning.
Finally, may I wish all our old boys an enjoyable Christmas break and a peaceful New Year.