Headmaster’s update

Headmaster’s update

The Spring Term has seen instances of progress and achievement on a number of fronts at Queen Elizabeth’s School. These have included the success of our Year 13 boys in obtaining offers from Russell Group universities across a wide range of academic disciplines. Twenty-six pupils have gained places at Cambridge and Oxford, with those looking to study Economics, Engineering, Law and Natural Sciences faring particularly well.

In addition, 17 were placed in the ‘Cambridge Winter Pool’, meaning that they only narrowly missed out on securing a place at the university. Such success is the result of consistent hard work over a period of many months and of the support of others, including staff, parents and Old Elizabethans.

At our recent Senior Awards, I was pleased to welcome as our Guest of Honour Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, who has risen from a relatively modest background to become Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University. He grew up on an estate in Cardiff from where he went on to the Welsh National School of Medicine before eventually rising to become Chief Executive of the UK’s Medical Research Council. In his speech, Sir Leszek celebrated academic excellence and cautioned against a utilitarian approach to education. For my part, I would re-iterate that our boys need not be concerned if their genuine academic interests do not lie within a discipline that immediately links to a specific profession. They should have the confidence to embrace the privilege that we enjoy in the UK of being able to pursue our genuine academic interests at the world’s leading universities. A challenging intellectual experience leads to a wide range of career opportunities and is attractive to prospective employers.

Given the recent controversy in the Press around the appointment of Professor Les Ebdon as Head of the Office for Fair Access, it is perhaps appropriate for me at this juncture to make clear my stance on university entrance: I firmly endorse the view that universities should select students purely on the grounds of academic merit, and regardless of their social or ethnic background.

A similarly meritocratic position on admissions has, of course, underpinned QE’s success. This will be further enhanced by our new Admissions Code, under which all pupils will be selected on the basis of academic merit through the entrance examination. Although this change involves the removal of the small number of places reserved for musicians who qualified for the second round of academic testing, the Governors and I are committed to Music remaining a strength.

I continue to be encouraged by the eager participation in Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s events, such as this term’s Chinese Extravaganza, and also by the generous giving to our Covenant Fund, which makes possible developments such as our current building project. I am delighted to confirm that the first phase of this is now complete. We are currently negotiating the next phase, which will provide a two-storey extension, new refectory and full-size library. It is necessary to pause construction for the examination season, but I hope work will start again soon. May I invite former pupils to support the excellent work of FQE by attending our Founder’s Day Fete on Saturday 16th June, which this year is on the theme of the Olympics?

One of the memorable events of this term was the visit of our Paralympian old boy, Tom Aggar (1995-2002), for the Sixth Form Luncheon. We will be following his progress keenly at London 2012. We are looking to develop our links with our old boys of all generations.

Another recent highlight was the School Play, All the World’s a Stage. This was both ambitious in its scope and impressive in its execution: our Co-ordinator of Drama, Elaine White, should be congratulated on a very successful production. It is my intention that drama should be a significant aspect of School life at QE.

We are currently working towards the School’s Strategic Development Plan to cover the period 2012-2016. The results of a recent survey conducted among our parents as part of the consultation over the plan were immensely encouraging and also gave us some interesting things to consider. Inter alia, these include a consensus that we should continue to invest in the development of technology in the School. September will see the launch of our new Technology Course for Key Stage 3 – one of a number of curricular changes that we are making as we take advantage of the freedom afforded us by our status as an Academy. Education Secretary Michael Gove’s recent decision to abolish the current national ICT curriculum marks a widespread recognition that the teaching of computing should be more creative and challenging. Replacing the previous ICT and DT courses, our new course will provide greater academic stimulation. From September, Latin will be re-introduced to the curriculum at QE, building on the success of our extra-curricular Latin. All the new Year 7 boys will begin a three-year course in the language. Our Science Department is currently preparing those in Year 10 for the respected Edexcel IGCSE, while boys currently in Year 9 and below will also be preparing for the IGCSE Mathematics qualification.

My best wishes to all our former pupils for a pleasant Easter holiday.

Neil Enright