Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School for Boys (often shortened to QE Boys) is a boys' grammar school in Barnet, North London, founded in 1573 by Queen Elizabeth I. It is one of the most academically successful yet one of the most controversial secondary schools in England.
The school was founded in 1573 by Queen Elizabeth I, petitioned by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and assisted by local alderman Edward Underne. Elizabeth I's charter of 1573 describes the school's purpose thus:
"...the establishment of the Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth in Barnet, for the education, bringing up and instruction of boys in Grammar and other learning and the same to continue for ever."
The original Tudor building was close to St John the Baptist's Anglican Church and is now part of Barnet College. It was outgrown during the late 19th century, and the school moved to its current red brick building.
During the 1960s, QE Boys became a comprehensive, and remained so until 1994. Under Eamonn Harris as headmaster, it returned to its previous selective grammar school status in 1994, and in the 1990s it went on to become England's top state school for 'A-Levels'. However, it was initially students from the non-selective years who were achieving the record results.
In 2007, Q.E. Boys came first in the A-Level league table for state schools, and twelfth in the GCSE league table for state schools.
Since 1999, the Headmaster has been Dr John Marincowitz, who commissioned a new swimming pool, opened in 2006. A new hall is being constructed and is due to be finished in late 2008.
Second Masters: Mr E Houston, Mr C Price
Senior Master: Mr J Dhondy
Head of Year 7: Ms C Kay-Russell
Head of Year 8: Mrs J Thompson
Head of Year 9: Mr M Lewis
Head of Year 10: Mr I Benjafield
Head of Year 11: Mr T Bennett
Head of Year 12: Mr D Ryan
Head of Year 13: Mr L Hargadon
Queen Elizabeth's School is divided into six houses, named after famous old boys and school governors. They are Broughton, Harrisons, Leicester, Pearce, Stapylton and Underne. There are many inter-house competitions, from rugby to creative writing, but interest in these has fallen over the past few years, and there has recently been a drive to boost participation, particularly in years 7 to 10. The inter-house debating tournaments, for all years, take place at the end of the year and are probably the most fiercely contested non-physical inter-house competition.
Rugby union, played during the Winter and Spring terms, is compulsory for boys in their first four years at the school, as are cross-country running and most other school sports, which include orienteering, swimming, basketball, tennis, cricket, Eton Fives and athletics. A particularly boggy part of the cross-country route, suitably named the 'Elephant Dip', due to its depth, links Barnet Rugby Club and the north-west gate of the bottom fields. When it has been raining, this area can become extremely muddy and sticky.
There is much competition in the Summer term when frequent competitions between houses are held before the summer examinations begin in June, including the QE Sevens Tournament which takes place in the school for the U14's and U16's it is normally held at the end of the Spring Term.
The Year 12 numbers for 2008-09 are 151, compared to 145 in the previous year.
The clubs have been criticised for giving the impression that they are strong and vibrant, while the reality is that most are no more than a gathering of a few boys. This criticism has been noted by year 7 parents who have found the variety of clubs an attraction. To increase participation in extracurricular activities, a lot of students are forced to attend something in order to keep the school's reputation up.
All Year 7 boys must attend the church service, unless they have a very good excuse. The governors also attend, as do most teachers, in academic dress. The head boys, past and present, are readers at the service, and the school choir sings. The boys then troop back to the school along Wood Street and prepare for the roll call. This is again compulsory for all of Year 7, with five boys from each house attending from all other senior years. In the past, this was compulsory for the whole school. The boys troop in from the two wings of the main building and form three lines stretching across the School Field. The boys of each house sit together, although traditionally they had to stand.
The Fete itself is attended by some three thousand people every year, and is a source of funds for the school. In 2007, more than £19,000 was raised.
In addition to this, the school has strong links with charities through the House system, and each house holds at least one event a year to generate funds for its associated charity.
Controversially, from the 1990s on, the school frequently gave leave-or-be-expelled ultimatums to boys in trouble for misdemeanours, suggested to be aimed at passing lower-performing students on to other schools without blemishing the school's own expulsion record. This led in the mid 1990s to QE Boys becoming national news, with this practice dubbed ‘Eamonn’s Hit List’, referring to the head teacher, Eamonn Harris. Most notably, The Times Education supplement ran a front page with a sizeable cartoon of Mr Harris.
In addition, students and parents have been concerned by the school's other actions to keep up its position in academic league tables. Students unable to keep their grades up to the schools high standards may face expulsion or be excluded from the opportunity to enter the Sixth form, regardless of participation in the extracurricular life of the school. The school is accused of only allowing students to enter the Sixth form if they are expected to get an A grade.
It is also claimed that the school does not respond well to students with special needs, preferring to focus on those who will maintain the schools academic standing. However, the new swimming pool was designed with a disabled lift to reach the upper viewing gallery and there is a disabled toilet in the main building.
One of the most controversial things about the school is how it pressures parents and students to contribute to school funds, via compulsory raffles and "voluntary" monthly donations. Raffle tickets are distributed at Christmas and Summer and pupils are required to sell them or visit their head of year and explain why they have not. The further up the boys go in the school, the number of raffle tickets each boy must sell reduces.
Parents of boys not admitted to the school have protested and appealed against the school's policy of so-called merit-based admissions -- but such cases are rare. Some have come about because the prospective boy's parents have moved to the area assuming a place will be guaranteed, when this is not the case. The school also has strict rules banning camera phones and confiscates them if they are found. The pupil found with the camera phone will most likely be given a Saturday morning detention.