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News > Queen's College News > In Conversation with Mr Eric Wilkins

In Conversation with Mr Eric Wilkins

Mr Wilkins has been teaching at Queen's for over 10 years, we spoke to him about his journey to becoming a teacher and how Queen's has changed since he has been here!

Interview with Mr Eric Wilkins, Deputy Head (Operations) 

Written by Emilie Sitlani. 


When did you start teaching at Queen’s? 

I started teaching in September 2011, and there is actually a bit of a funny story about how I came to Queen’s. Before I started my teacher training, I was working as a trainee at a Big Four accountancy firm in Mayfair and realised quickly that it wasn’t for me. I started googling local schools and Queen’s came up, so I just randomly contacted the school and got through to David Willows. David was kind enough to invite me in, he allowed me to sit in on some lessons and he talked to me about what it meant to be a history teacher. And then, six months later, I was doing my teacher training and a job came up at Queen’s, and I thought ‘Wow! I’ve actually been there for a day, and I met David’. So, when I came in for the interview, I wasn’t doing it as a nobody, David had already met me and helped inspire me to train to be a teacher. When I’d left on that first day I’d said ‘I hope I work for you one day’, and a year later I actually had a job here!  


What attracted you to Queen’s when you looked round? 

I think it was the atmosphere straight away – I’ve just always felt like it’s a really wonderful learning and working environment. That very first day when I came in, David was so welcoming and there was such a friendly atmosphere and a really nice learning environment. I think some of it is actually the architecture; I’ve always felt really comfortable here within these four knocked-together townhouses. I always say to parents at offer-holder events and open days that it’s about fit and it’s about feel. It’s not wrong or right. Some 10-year-olds might want bigger buildings but, for some people, this just feels like the right fit for them. And for me it always did; it has always felt like the right fit for me.   


How has your role changed since you’ve been at the College? 

I’ve had quite a few roles at Queen’s but, out of the 12 years I've worked at Queen’s so far, I really enjoyed the five years sandwiched in the middle when I was Head of the Senior College. This involved helping with any pastoral issues, supporting sixth formers’ work towards their A-levels and getting involved in the UCAS and Oxbridge processes. It is quite admin heavy, but it’s so important to get it right. Challenges do come up and sometimes people miss their grades and have to go through clearing, but it mostly goes well for everyone in the end. I think it’s such an important process for the students, as it’s the culmination of all their work here. It's really rewarding seeing them all go off with exciting plans to study something they want to do. 

Now I’m Deputy Head of Operations, I have more of a whole school role working with the premises team, the IT team, organising events, the school calendar and writing the timetable. I have to confess that writing the timetable is the secret thing that I really love doing!  I go off in the May half term and spend the week working into the evenings, 12 hour days doing the timetable – no one ever believes me, but it’s honestly the thing that I really, really love. It’s like a really complicated, weird puzzle that I tackle by myself and solve each year!  


How has the College changed in the 12 years that you’ve been here? 

The College has changed a huge amount. I’ve worked under two Heads, Frances and Richard. They both made some big changes and have had a hugely positive influence in their leadership. It’s almost like in my career here has been in two halves, working under Frances and various other Deputy Heads and then Richard coming in 2017. I think it’s just kept getting better and better to be honest. It’s still got that friendly ethos that people coming in, whether they’re prospective parents, students or staff, have all noticed. Richard has kept the Queen’s values of positivity, openness and inclusiveness alive.  


What do you think you might have done if you didn’t go into teaching?  

Not accountancy! It’s a good question. I don’t know really. My wife changed from being a history teacher to become a civil servant and I think that’s something that has real value. But teaching has always felt so natural to me; both of my parents are in education, I love history, and the change when I moved from accountancy to teaching, it just felt like a natural fit.   


What has been the highlight of your teaching career at Queen’s to date? 

I think it’s got to be the annual Academic Festivals. They’ve only been running for three years, but they have certainly become the highlight of the post-exam summer calendar. The themes so far have been Japan, Space and – coming up at the end of this term - Fashion. It’s such a great day, with pupils completely off their regular timetable of lessons, but it’s still so scholarly and academic. I find it fascinating to think ‘Oh, Japan is the theme - great, let’s plan something around Japanese history’ or ‘Oh, it’s Space this time, let’s look at these amazing female NASA mathematicians’.  It’s fun for me, as a History teacher, to plan something new that’s not to do with the exams and hopefully it’s interesting and exciting for the pupils. I also have to give a special mention to all the amazing music concerts and drama productions over the years, as well as the great sports days and Art exhibitions – they've been real highlights too!  


What were you like at school? 

I absolutely loved school.  When I was a primary school pupil I said, ‘I want to be a primary school teacher’, because I adored my primary school so much. I always wanted to sit at the front, I would always put my hand up and was determined to get 10/10 on the little arithmetic quizzes. Hard to believe, I know!  


We’ve been very impressed with your recent performances in the end of term entertainments.  What has been your favourite skit?  

It’s difficult to pick just one, because there have been so many excellent ones. The most recent video they made at Easter was truly memorable. I don’t know TikTok at all, so I don’t understand all the implications of why it’s funny and I’m sure there are hidden jokes that the pupils aren’t telling us about! For me, what I love is the spirit in which it’s done by the Prefects, year after year. They always want to work with the teachers to make it fun for everyone! 


What has been your favourite thing that you’ve participated in as part of the Queen’s community?  

The event that springs to mind is when I was part of the staff team that ran the Tough Mudder to raise money for the Bursary Appeal. That was really fun, seeing Mrs Shapiro being rescued from that ice bath is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  



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