The Eaton Diary of London    2001  

QE's Boys School

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On April 23, I started teaching full time for the 13 week Summer Term at Queen Elizabeth’s Boys’ School, Barnet on the north side of London.

The school was founded by the Royal Charter, granted by Elizabeth I, March 24th 1573

It is a school of about 1100 boys from Year 7 through to Year 13. With such a proud tradition, there is strong competition for places at the school. There are entrance exams each year for boys entering Year 7. About 1100 vie for 180 places. Musicians are able to audition for 20 of the places designated for attracting good musicians to the school. Last year about 80 boys auditioned. Parents are attracted here by the excellent academic record. The school has topped the list of ‘A Level’ results for the last three years, so parents think it’s a sure way to get their boys into Oxford or Cambridge. So a strong academic focus and work ethic seem to pervade much of what goes on, along with a happy atmosphere and clear support structures for discipline issues. Notes in diaries, both of a positive or negative nature, seem to work wonders, because parents show a keen interest in their boy’s progress.

5 coach loads of boys travel each day from distant parts, and I encounter many who come quite a distance on public transport. My ride takes me on at least 2 buses and 2 trains each way, and it has been taking me anything from 1 hr 35 min to 4 hr to make the journey, although I must admit that the 4 hour trip was because I deliberately chose the scenic route. If the threatened tube strikes take place, I’ll either have to stay home, bring a tooth brush and sleeping bag, or allow 6 hours each way. My trip to school is better than my trip home, because in the morning I leave before the rush, but my return brings me into the city right at peak hour, and so when I change trains, it’s one of those sardine deals, and standing up for the remainder of the trip.

There appears to be a more even mix of ethnic backgrounds here than in some schools I’ve visited. I have found the students to be generally very well behaved and responsive. I’m not used to hearing so many “Yes, Sir, of course, Sir, anything you say, Sir’s” in the one day.

Of course I have to be careful how I greet the boys. Quite early on I heard myself say, “Good Morning, Boys!” and cringed at the sound of “Yes, What?” ringing in my ears. (If you haven't had the pleasure of experiencing the classic 1960's radio show "Yes, What?" you'll have to ask someone of my generation to get the correct inflection of "Good Morning, Boys!")

Music is a compulsory subject for all boys in Years 7, 8 and 9, by which time they are required to meet the government’s Key Stage 3 competencies for music. Music then becomes an elective in Senior School, and boys go on to do ‘A Level’ music.

They have a well established curriculum for the progressive years. My role this term is to take the majority of the Yr7-9 classes – some 400 boys in all. The bulk of the work this term is Keyboard based, so I'm working with the classes on 15 keyboards, working in pairs with headphones. They don't have a keyboard Lab as such, so it's a matter of going around to each pair to check on their progress. The Keyboard Labs that I used at Future Music and Golden Grove were much better, but the system here seems to working quite well.



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