The worst of times for some, but the best of times for QE’s young achievers – and so a time to celebrate

The worst of times for some, but the best of times for QE’s young achievers – and so a time to celebrate

In his video address at this year’s Junior Awards, Headmaster Neil Enright acknowledged that, with the disruption, uncertainties, anxiety and “very real pain” caused by the global pandemic, people might feel there is little cause for celebration.

“Yet, despite all of this, indeed perhaps because of all of this, it is hugely important that we take the time to recognise and celebrate your exceptional contribution and performance over the course of the academic year,” said Mr Enright to the Year 7, 8 and 9 award-winners.

With the normal ceremony not possible because of Covid-19 restrictions, this year’s event was switched to an online format. This combined video messages with other innovations such as a message board where teachers have been able to leave messages of congratulations to the prize-winners on the School’s eQE digital platform.

Mr Enright spoke of “the high aspirations and common purpose that drive you, your parents, your teachers and other members of staff [and] the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s who continue to support our endeavours so generously, and our alumni who have been so engaged”.

He said that he hoped that the School would be able to return from what has become the ‘new normal’ to just ‘normal’. He added, however: “Our ‘normal’ at QE is anything but normal or ordinary; we are quite extraordinary. We were before Covid-19, we have been during it, and we will be after it.”

The Headmaster introduced a video address by Guest of Honour Jay Shetty (OE 1999–2006): “He is himself an extraordinary man – an author, a story-teller, a podcaster and former monk with a mission to make wisdom go viral. Having made the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and with 35 million social media followers, he is successful. I thank him for his support at this event.”

In his inspirational address, Jay echoed Mr Enright’s comments about the importance of celebration and said: “Even if today isn’t the celebration that you imagined, take time to celebrate today, make it special, make it important.”

Addressing the boys directly he said: “You’ve had the odds stacked against you; it’s been a difficult year – a tough time. But you’ve shown your courage, your resilience and focus even in tough times and this is an incredible ability that will stay with you forever.”

He recalled his own years at QE, and while acknowledging that he himself had never won one of the accolades or awards, he nevertheless believed the School to be an amazing institution. “I am grateful every single day that I attended QE. I know you may not feel like it now sometimes, it may feel like a long journey ahead, but I promise you, in the future, you will be so grateful to your parents; you will be so grateful to the teachers; you will be grateful to everyone that you went to such an incredible school. And I can’t wait to visit again, and I want to thank each and every single one of the teachers and the staff for making my experience there so open to evolution.”

Jay talked about his podcast, On Purpose, and about the inspirational individuals he has sat down and talked with, including the late Kobe Bryant, Alicia Keys, Yuval Noah Harari and billionaire Ray Dalio. “He [Ray Dalio] shared an equation with me that I wanted to share with you – I know it’s QE, hence the equation! – he said to me: ‘Pain + Reflection = Progress.’

“Now, the reason I love this equation is, if you remove the word reflection, all you are left with is pain, and it’s been a painful year for so many of us, but when we reflect, we find meaning, growth and evolution.”

Jay talked about the importance of reflection and of learning from success as well as failure: “If you reflect when you win, you will know how to do it again. And if you reflect when you lose, or fail, you will know what not to do again.”

He exhorted the boys: “Reflect on why you succeeded this year. Reflect on what you did differently. Deeply reverse-engineer and analyse the growth that you have made. Because when you do that, you’re going to be set up for success.”

He talked about his love of football and recalled the words of his coach when he was growing up in London. “He would always say to me: ‘When you lose, cry for a night and, when you win, celebrate for a night, and then move on.’

“And this is the best message that I can give you today: celebrate today, make it really important and special, but remember, tomorrow has more opportunities, tomorrow has more possibilities, and you’re creating an incredible future for yourselves.”

Pranav Challah, of Year 7, gave the traditional vote of thanks to Jay, saying: “We are sorry we did not get to meet you in person, but your willingness to assist us and the thoughts you have shared give us an insight into what it is really like to be part of the Elizabethan community and how the values of our community can help us thrive in the outside world. We wish you every success in your future endeavours and hope that one day we will be able to emulate your achievements.”

Announcing the Year 7 winners by video, the Head of Year, Tom Harrison, said it was important to understand the magnitude of the honours being bestowed: “In a year of 192 boys, to be the sole recipient of an award is no mean feat; it is a fantastic achievement.” The recipient of the Charles Fitch Memorial Award for Outstanding Commitment – and thus the overall award-winner for Year 7 – was Giuseppe Mangiavacchi.

Saim Khan, of Year 8, won the Rivlin Award for Outstanding Commitment. Head of Year Sean Kelly said: “He has gained an incredible number of merits this year and last year. He has worked conscientiously and is an inspiration for his peers. He embodies that great Elizabethan spirit that we want to see in all our boys.”

Head of Year 9 Rosemary Hall told the boys: “Winning an award is testament to your hard work and dedication to your studies and extra-curricular interests. I am very proud of all of you and all you have achieved.” Darren Lee received the Bob Govett Memorial Award for Outstanding Commitment.

The traditional musical interludes during Junior Awards were performed by:

  • Leo Sellis (Year 7), saxophone – The First Movement of Sonata in G Minor by J. S. Bach
  • Harrison Lee (Year 8) violin – A Trip Down Memory Lane, a selection of Sinfonietta pieces
  • Nathan Woodcock (Year 9) – Scaramouche Movement 3Brazileria by Darius Milhaud

The Headmaster concluded by saying that he missed the usual opportunity provided by the Junior Awards Ceremony to shake the boys by the hand. Nevertheless he offered them congratulations and best wishes for the summer holidays.