Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Headteacher Violet Walker
Founded in 1888
Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School is a comprehensive school
and converter academy for students aged 11 to 18
years old. Based in Barnet, north London, it has made
significant progress in recent years and helped bridge the
attainment gap between the least and most disadvantaged
students. Headteacher Violet Walker joined the school in 2015
having studied at the school in her youth and has overseen
a transition from “requires improvement” to “good” in their
last Ofsted inspection. Violet tells the
more about the
changes she has implemented.
We have high standards and high expectations and aim to help each and every
student to succeed. Developing a deep love of learning in our students is our
priority, and our pastoral system supports girls in their academic and personal
growth. Our calm, caring and purposeful learning environment is often commented
on by visitors and we feel it helps our students to achieve beyond expectations and
to be challenged to improve on their personal best. We aim to develop confident,
independent, flexible, self-disciplined and considerate young women. Our girls are
provided with a range of opportunities, in and out of the classroom, that aim to
help develop their academic, sporting, creative and leadership qualities.
Channelling our potential
I was thrilled to re-join the school where I had studied when I was younger
as Headteacher in 2015. It was a thriving grammar school at that time
but most recently had declined to a low point. The school had received a
»Headteacher: Violet Walker
»Founded in 1888
»Based in Barnet, north London
»Type of school: Girls’
»No. of students: 1,100
»No. of staff: 140
Queen Elizabeth’s
Girls’ School
Highlighting best practice
“requiresimprovement” grade from
Ofsted in 2014. When I took on the
headship, there was a significant gap
of 39 per cent between outcomes for
non-disadvantaged and disadvantaged
students. During the first year of my
arrival, with implemented changes
and tremendous support from the
school’s leadership team, middle
leaders, teachers and every member
of the support staff, the school made
rapid progress so that within a year
the gap closed to eight per cent
and Ofsted judged the school to be
“good”. The progress made in a short
period of time was noted. QEGS was
my first headship but I could instantly
see the potential. With 29 acres,
eight tennis courts and an indoor
swimming pool, it was clear that the
school had the possibility to provide
a truly outstanding and well-rounded
education for its students; it just
needed to channel its resources in a
more efficient way.
In four years, the attainment gap has
significantly reduced so that there are
no underperforming groups, while in
the new benchmark measure, Progress
8, we score 1. Our catchment area has
also changed, with the school now
serving the local community more
actively, and all of the students joining
the school now living within a one-
mile radius of the school. We are now
oversubscribed and have 180 students
in each year group, with a waiting list
of a similar size.
Culture of success
One of the key changes I looked to
enforce was the creation of a culture
of staff and student improvement.
Staff play a crucial role in setting the
tone and offering an example for
students to follow and by improving
the way they worked, progress in other
areas followed suit. I quickly noticed
weak areas of practice and started
focused professional development
sessions with staff built around
meeting their individual needs. We
have a large number of students from
disadvantaged backgrounds and as a
result it is essential that we tailor our
provision around them and give them
that little extra, appropriate support.
While we focused on our low prior
attainment students, this did not
neglect the higher achievers and in fact
we saw school-wide benefits. These
practices have since been thoroughly
embedded in our daily curriculum, and
a self-fulfilling success culture has been
perpetuated. Processes are simpler and
I believe that staff and students are
empowered to achieve what may have
previously been seen as impossible.
We serve 15 different ethnic groups
at the school and have become better
at reflecting our diversity through
the development of a more inclusive
culture. We are keen to emphasise to
all of our girls that there should be no
limits placed on their potential because
of their gender, ethnicity or any other
characteristic, and the impact has
been encouraging to see. We have
taken steps to increase the interest of
young women in STEM subjects and
aim to provide our girls with the skills
to tackle a wide range of careers. As
Proud of our diversity
We are keen
to emphasise
to all of our
girls that there
should be no
limits placed
on their
our communication strapline states, we
are: “Educating women of the future”.
Raising efficiency in the face
of adversity
Schools across the UK are facing
challenges in terms of funding and
we are keen to ensure our staff are
not short-changed with respect to
their own development. Maximising
value has been an arduous process,
but I now monitor expenditure closely
in order to guarantee that we are
only investing in schemes that benefit
our staff and students. I have looked
at staffing levels to ensure we are
working at maximum efficiency,
changing roles and job descriptions
so that we are only hiring staff with
diverse skill-sets. This also extends
to the leadership team where all of
our senior leaders fulfil additional
administrative roles to raise efficiency
and cut costs.
Social issues and the manner in which
they are discussed and distributed on
social media are also creating new
challenges for schools that were not
previously present. The pastoral side
of education is now considered to
be far more important, but it is often
difficult to manage as societal tensions
increasingly enter into schools. All staff
therefore have to be ready to deal with
them. When the school is surrounded
by current London issues relating to
racism and crime, we have to act as
a safe place for students to learn and
express themselves.
With social media, the way young
people communicate is by creating
new styles of conflict that are far less
visible. The issues that we deal with
are often unrelated to events on the
school site and this can present real
challenges. What we hope to educate
our students about are the ways in
which you can act in a mature and
responsible way online. While the
burden can sometimes fall heavily on
our shoulders and we hope to see
more done by the local authorities,
we are working hard to develop our
young people in a way that helps their
academic progress, and also their
emotional and social development.
We are
working hard
to develop our
young people
in a way that
helps their
progress, and
also their
emotional and
A key focus on
developing STEM


This article was sponsored by Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development