Headmaster’s update

Headmaster’s update

The visit of the US Ambassador, Matthew Barzun, to Queen Elizabeth’s School on the first day of term ensured that we enjoyed a truly memorable start to 2015. His talk proved both informative and thought-provoking in equal part.

Mr Barzun’s visit [pictured] was followed by the publication of the Government’s league tables of school performance, which placed QE in first position nationally among both state and independent schools for its GCSE results. The School also ranked among the very best performers across the country at A-level. Whilst individual journalists selected different measures to interpret the data, the overall picture was clear: QE was among the very highest performers nationally at both Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5.

Even within this context of strong academic results across the board, there are, of course, pupils who excel and shine among their peers. Our recent Senior Awards ceremony purposely rewards such boys, but as a School we do not focus narrowly on examination results, nor even solely on performance within academic subject disciplines: the prizes bestowed on boys during Senior Awards encompass areas such as chess, public-speaking and commitment & service, to name just three. In my speech, I highlighted a famous quotation attributed to Hillel the Elder, a Jewish religious leader born around 110 BC: “If not me, who? If not now, when?” His was a life characterised by gentleness, patience and service. Voluntary service is very much a part of the fabric of our School community. A very large proportion of Year 11 now sign up each year to The Challenge, part of the National Citizen Service, which runs a programme during the summer holidays. Social action is an important component. Our thriving Combined Cadet Force constitutes another activity in which boys devote themselves to a cause greater than themselves. I am always impressed and gratified that so many of our parents set their sons an example by selflessly giving their own time to the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s. I know that FQE’s preparations are now in full swing for the Founder’s Day Fete on Saturday 20th June, to which Old Elizabethans are, of course, cordially invited.

An illustrious visitor this term was Professor Sir Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Warwick, who was our Guest of Honour at Senior Awards. His university is second only to Cambridge as a destination for our Year 13 leavers. I was therefore particularly interested to read the findings of a recent commission led by Warwick examining the value of culture in society. The commission called for evidence of ‘excellent cultural and creative education’ to be made a prerequisite for an ‘outstanding’ rating from an Ofsted inspection. Such a requirement would, I believe, hold no fears for QE. I greatly enjoyed this year’s major drama production, Oliver Twist, and music performances including the Food, Glorious Food! concert – evidence aplenty, I suggest, of excellence in the creative sphere.

Moreover, the growing prominence of our old boys in the arts suggests that our efforts to inculcate creativity and original thinking are bearing fruit well beyond our pupils’ School years. Poet and performer Anthony Anaxagorou (OE 1994-1999) featured in the last Alumni News, while in this issue, we report on the remarkable success currently being enjoyed by his fellow poet, George Mpanga (2002-2009).

Also in the previous Alumni News, we appealed to Old Elizabethans to donate books to the new Queen’s Library through Amazon’s ‘wishlists’ facility. I am pleased to report that this proved successful, with books worth some £1,500 donated in the space of a few weeks across a range of subjects. I am most grateful for the generosity of so many of our former pupils.

My best wishes to all old boys of the School and their families for a pleasant Easter break.

Neil Enright