Headmaster’s update

Headmaster’s update

The award of an MBE for our Head of Mathematics, Fauziah Scarisbrick (known as Gee), in the Queen’s Birthday Honours helped make this an especially happy term at Queen Elizabeth’s School.

Everybody here is so pleased and it has been particularly delightful to receive messages of congratulation from her former pupils. It is, of course, the second such award for our School community within six months, following the MBE bestowed in the New Year’s Honours upon our Chairman of Governors, Barrie Martin, father to Piers (OE 1987-1994) and Giles (1992-1999).

The MBE sets the seal on a distinguished career as Gee retires from her position as Head of Mathematics this summer. She has spent her entire teaching career of almost 31 years at QE. As the longest-serving teacher, Mrs Scarisbrick is currently Mother of the Common Room and is the only member of staff who has worked with four Headmasters. She was appointed by Timothy Edwards in January 1983, promoted to Assistant Head of Mathematics by Eamonn Harris in 1994 and appointed Head of Mathematics when John Marincowitz became Headmaster in 1999.

Throughout the transition of the school from an under-subscribed comprehensive at the time of her appointment to the leading boys’ grammar in the country today, she has exemplified the aim of the 1573 charter – educating boys in manners as well as learning. Literally thousands of boys and alumni have cause to be grateful for the positive influence which she has had, directly or indirectly, upon their progress, development and future.

The first cohorts following her appointment as head of department sat their examinations in summer 2001. Two-thirds of that year group achieved grade A* or A at GCSE, while 73% of the A-Level Mathematics candidates gained a B grade or higher. Most recently in the 2013 public examinations she taught the weakest sets at both GCSE and A level maths. Her pupils were awarded 6 A* grades and 4 A at GCSE, and 6 A*grades, 17 A and 5 B at A level.

Her leadership has inspired a similarly impressive performance from her entire department. Typically, more than 80% of our Sixth-Formers take A-Level Mathematics, a remarkable figure in itself. Moreover, in 2013, 94% of those A-Level entrants achieved grades A*-A, while at GCSE, every boy in Year 11 gained A* or A. Many go on to read Mathematics, or courses underpinned by Mathematics, at university. All of this is due in no small part to Gee’s contribution.

And there is more to her success than diligence and professional firmness of purpose. Teachers never truly succeed unless they genuinely care for the children in their charge. As a personal mentor, Gee has guided many pupils through periods of difficulty, showing great warmth and sensitivity. She would say that she has simply been doing her job, but the boys, parents and her colleagues know that it runs much deeper.

I am happy that she is remaining as a teacher within the department and we will thus continue to benefit from her huge experience and talents, particularly as a Sixth Form teacher. She will be presented with her award in an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, when she will be accompanied by her husband and two sons.

It was also good to see our German exchange visitors at Founder’s Day and I was pleased to welcome Herr Lümkemann, Head of the school in Bielefeld, and his wife. Language learning is increasingly important in the life of the School: in September, German is being introduced to Year 7, while Latin, already introduced to Years 7 and 8, will be taught to Year 9 for the first time in QE’s modern history.

It was also very pleasant to welcome back our former School Captain, Matteo Yoon (OE 2003-10) as our Guest of Honour at our Junior Awards Ceremony this term. Matteo is currently at the BPP Law School taking the Accelerated Legal Practice Course, following his graduation from Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read Law. In his address, he recalled attending Junior Awards as a Year 7 student, almost 10 years ago to the day, and his pride at winning a prize. He urged the boys to trust in their teachers, believe in themselves and to try to be the best they could.

A great deal of work is currently taking place to prepare the Queen’s Library for its opening for younger boys next term. The Library, which is named after our founder, Elizabeth I, is already in use by older pupils. At a time when many libraries, including those in schools, are being forced to make cuts because of public spending constraints, I am especially proud that we have been able to invest so significantly in this facility.  We have equipped the Library with excellent computer-based study and research facilities. However, books also remain central; the process of extending our collections and filling the spaces for 13,000 books on our new shelves is an important one.

Around 90 Year 11 boys have signed up for The Challenge, a national, registered charity dedicated to community engagement, which runs a programme over three weeks in the summer and weekends in the autumn. It corresponds well to our ethos of boys participating in worthwhile activities beyond the classroom, serving causes greater than themselves.

That ethos has particular resonance this year as the country marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. The memorial tablet in our main entrance area bears poignant daily witness to the ultimate sacrifice made by 48 Elizabethans in that conflict.

On a lighter note, we are celebrating our own centenary specific to QE: it is 100 years since the introduction of rugby at the School. As our tourists prepared to leave to play cricket and rugby in Sri Lanka this summer, I enjoined them to remember that they carry with them a long and proud tradition of sporting endeavour associated with this School.

May I wish all Old Elizabethans an enjoyable summer.

Neil Enright