The beginning of their grand stories? Senior Awards guest speaker urges prize-winners to be “micro-ambitious”, expect the unexpected and take some risks

The beginning of their grand stories? Senior Awards guest speaker urges prize-winners to be “micro-ambitious”, expect the unexpected and take some risks

The President and Principal of King’s College London had some inspiring and very ‘relatable’ advice for the prize-winners at Senior Awards – one of the highlights of the Queen Elizabeth’s School calendar.

The formal ceremony in the Main School Hall was this year held in its full format, following the pandemic-restricted event of 2021, with Professor Shitij Kapur the Guest of Honour.

Pupils from Years 10-12 were awarded a total of around 80 prizes covering all the academic subjects, as well as a range of other areas, including academic excellence, debating & public speaking, contribution & responsibility and chess. In addition to a number of speeches and the prizegiving, the evening was punctuated by a series of musical interludes performed by the boys.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “It was very good to be able to invite everyone to Senior Awards this year – and what a return to form! Professor Kapur was a wonderful guest speaker, and I was so pleased that parents, governors and other friends of the School were all able to join us to see some of our brightest and best receive their awards.”

Professor Kapur, who was accompanied by his wife Sharmistha, spoke about his career path, which has seen him work in academic environments in five countries across four different continents.

Interlacing the account with words particularly relevant for the boys, he urged them to be brave, ready to take risks and prepared for sudden changes of direction. He recounted being invited by King’s College London to join them for the first time when he was living in America. His wife’s response was “Well, why not?” – and that, he said, is the attitude we need if we are to embrace new opportunities.

He urged the reading of books, rather than blog posts or articles, and also spoke about how we make decisions in context, pointing out that unpredictable events and developments often govern that context.

“Show a passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals,” he said, an attitude he characterised as being “micro-ambitious”.

Alluding to the famous maxim of Apple’s Steve Jobs – “you cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward” – Professor Kapur concluded: “Start plotting the dots, and your life will be a grand story that will only make sense in hindsight.”

The idea is that you’ve got to be able to accept that and roll with it, being ambitious in terms of shorter-term goals and doing whatever you are doing now with pride, he explained.

In his speech, the Headmaster highlighted a number of qualities of effective leadership, including bravery, hard work, high standards, low tolerance of bad behaviour, and kindness.

Examples of poor leadership are legion, Mr Enright said. “This is why images of President Zelensky on the streets of Kyiv, or Her Majesty The Queen sat alone, socially distanced, at her husband’s funeral, have resonated, moved and inspired so strongly.”

Turning to the prize-winners, he added: “Boys, you’ve set your own high standards, so endeavour to stick to them or raise them still further.

“Your awards recognise past performance, so try to earn them again each day. Ensure that you remain worthy role models and leaders for your peers.”

Guests included the Deputy Mayor of the London Borough of Barnet, Councillor Saira Don, who also spoke during the ceremony.

The current School Captain, Theo Mama-Kahn, gave the vote of thanks.

Music performed by the School’s senior musicians included works by Handel and the Renaissance Italian composer, Gastoldi.