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A vital part of a rounded education is the development of students’ personal aesthetic vision, and this is best, although not exclusively, achieved through practical study of Fine Art.
The visual language, like its verbal counterpart, is not elitist and can be learnt, requiring no special aptitude beyond effort and enthusiasm to achieve proficiency. That most important outcome of artwork, self-expression, is best achieved for boys through a training in technical skills and they are encouraged to work as ambitiously as possible.
The purpose-built Art School, opened in 2006, comprises a long gallery, two large teaching studios with north light, a sculpture studio, separate studios both for GCSE and A Level students, a digital-media suite equipped with industry-standard software, a departmental library, and a small studio for installation work. Although it is a Fine Art Department teaching primarily drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpture, students go on to study a wide variety of related subjects such as architecture, product and graphic design and animation.
The Art Department operates an open-door policy allowing students access every break, lunchtime and after school. There are life-drawing classes that are open to Sixth Form artists from local schools, a Sculpture Club, and a General Studies course. Regular art trips are organised to galleries and collections in London.
The Biology Department aims to give the boys at RGS the best and most inspiring introduction to the fascinating world of Biology, while at the same time equipping them with the knowledge and skills to excel in their public examinations.
Practical and investigative work is at the heart of all teaching and, through this, boys gain a sound understanding of how experimental science is carried out. These aims are achieved through the hard work of a highly-qualified, knowledgeable and committed team of teachers who consistently teach beyond the scope of the curriculum to ensure our high-achieving boys reach their full potential.
Biology is studied as part of Integrated Science in the First Form, as a separate subject in the Second Form, as a compulsory IGCSE subject from the Third to Fifth Form, and as an optional A level at Sixth Form. Topics covered at IGCSE include human anatomy and physiology, genetics, nervous and hormonal control, evolution, photosynthesis, digestion, reproduction, ecology, classification, biochemistry and homeostasis. IGCSE students also have the opportunity to undertake an independent research project in the Fourth Form. The academically challenging, rigorous A Level Biology course followed provides a wide-ranging and comprehensive exploration of the main fields in Biology, preparing students for many different fields of study, both within and beyond science. Topics include biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, genetics, biotechnology, ecology, evolution and plant science. Students have the opportunity to engineer their own glow-in-the-dark bacteria and perform DNA fingerprinting.
The Biology Department holds several events during the course of the school year, such as visits to conferences, lectures from experts in a range of fields and fieldwork in Pembrokeshire for A Level Biologists. There is also an active and lively Medical Society, and extra support is offered for candidates applying to Oxbridge or for courses in Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science, and of course, Biology. Biology in the Sixth Form is enriched by the opportunities for independent learning afforded by the School’s Independent Learning Assignment.
The aims of the Chemistry Department are to stimulate enthusiasm and enjoyment for chemistry; help students gain a secure knowledge and understanding of the subject and enable them to apply chemical theories in new situations; develop safe and efficient practical skills; experience the latest in ICT; enable students to communicate chemical ideas and results clearly; and develop an understanding of the importance of chemistry in industry and society.
Experimental work plays a key role in instilling interest into students and the courses are very much practical based. ICT is a valuable tool and there are class sets of the most up-to-date data-loggers and the latest in software. The learning experiences of Sixth Formers are enhanced by offering the extremely challenging Cambridge Pre-U in addition to A Level. The uptake for A Level and Pre-U Chemistry is high and numerous pupils go on to study Natural Sciences, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Medicine at university.
Boys have opportunities to take part in a wide range of enrichment activities. For the Lower School, there is the Junior Science Club and the Festival of Chemistry. Fourth Form students have been selected to attend residential Chemistry Camps in universities. The Senior Scientific Society invites world class speakers to give lectures. Lower Sixth Form students have carried out original CREST Gold research projects. One was told by his supervisor that “he has produced more high quality work in four weeks than some final year undergraduates managed in a few months”. Another received that comment that he could “slot into university research at PhD level with no problems!” The outstanding results achieved in national and global competitions reflect the great enthusiasm of the boys. Just in one academic year, RGS boys have claimed all top eight places in the world for the Under 18s in the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge, nine gold and seventeen silver awards in the Chemistry Olympiad, one Roentgenium and eleven gold awards in the Cambridge C3L6. In addition, the RGS won the Best Sixth Form Chemist County award and were finalists in the National Science and Engineering Competition.
The Classics Department is a dynamic and exceptional department that encompasses the teaching of Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation.
The Department aims to fire the students’ interest and imagination through their study of Classics. The teaching aims to foster an awareness of classical heritage and tradition so that students can grasp their cultural roots. Above all, the aim is to enthuse the boys with the significant range of literature, culture, history, drama and archaeology that the classical world has to offer.
All boys study Latin in the First, Second and Third Forms, using the Cambridge Latin Course. Greek is an option in the Third Form, following the Taylor Greek to GCSE books. Latin and Greek are GCSE and A Level options and involve the study of both language and literature. Classical Civilisation is also taught at A Level and the options studied are Mycenaean Archaeology, Greek Tragedy, Art and Architecture and Comedy in the Ancient World. The Classics Department is one of the strongest in the country, with seven teaching staff and high numbers of boys choosing classical subjects at GCSE and A Level. There are a steady number of boys going on to study Classics at leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.
Beyond lessons, many opportunities for extra-curricular learning within Classics are provided. The Department runs trips to Rome and the Bay of Naples for junior classes, and a senior trip to Greece, Sicily or Turkey. There are also UK trips to Bath, Fishbourne, Bignor, and Hadrian’s Wall as well as theatre trips to classical plays. There is a thriving Junior and Senior Classics Society in which boys, staff or external speakers give talks on classical subjects of interest. The Department runs two Latin outreach schemes at local primary schools.
Design and Technology is a central subject in that it is a holistic, cross-curricular and multi-disciplinary subject which fosters problem solving, critical thinking, independent learning and reflective analysis of one's work and effort.
Its main aim is to prepare boys to exist confidently in and navigate knowledgeably the modern world of the human-made environment with all its focus on technology, machines, computers and 'things'.
Its broadness in scope provides a very desirable background in which students can contextualise learning drawn from a range of other subjects. The subject is taught through projects and as such allows the students to develop valuable, transferrable skills such as project management over an extended time period. Design and Technology develops and sustains boys’ innovation, curiosity, initiative, resourcefulness and self discrimination, creativity and ability to recognise and produce high-quality products through stimulating, relevant and enjoyable lessons. The boys gain confidence and experience in identifying, analysing and developing solutions to technological problems through developing positive attitudes of co-operation, citizenship, and collaborative working.
Design and Technology is delivered through Systems and Control Technology, Resistant Materials or Product Design. The School has a very well-equipped and up-to-date set of classrooms and workshops which give students access to a very wide range of high-tech machines, tools and equipment. Extensive materials and resources are available to allow each boy to achieve his full potential.
There are many opportunities for students to enter national competitions and many prizes have been won over the years. The Department offers after-school and lunch-time workshop sessions where students can catch up or work on a speculative project. There is a department Computer Club and a set of four new 3D printers have recently been installed. Outside trips and visits, such as trips to hear lectures from famous designers, enrich the work of the Department. External speakers make presentations to the boys: an example being a talk from a professional prop maker who showed boys the props he had made for contemporary films and television.
Drama at the RGS is a vital, vibrant and energetic part of the life and ethos of the School. Boys have curriculum drama lessons in the Second and Third Form with the opportunity to go on to study the subject at GCSE and A Level. There is a commitment to provide access for all to experience and contribute to every aspect of the creative process from page to stage.
In the Second Form boys have one lesson a week dedicated to drama which stimulates creativity, ensemble skills, empathy and development of both confidence in presenting and expressing themselves. Boys learn vocal, physical and some technical skills. Third Form boys begin to learn more demanding skills in preparation for those who wish to pursue the subject at GCSE level as well as to enhance their abilities and confidence, should they engage in any of the numerous extra-curricular drama opportunities the School offers. The Department is proud of the excellent academic achievements of the students in Drama and Theatre Studies at AS / A Level and of the high standards they reach in performance work throughout the School. During the last ten years alone, a significant number of students from the RGS have gone on to provide leadership in drama at university level, in such companies as Oxford University Drama Society and the Cambridge Footlights, before pursuing careers in film, television or live theatre.
The discipline, as taught at the RGS, delivers a two-strand approach to study. The first strand addresses the theoretical and cultural / historical aspect of the subject. By gaining an awareness of a wide range of dramatic genres and styles as well as understanding the contribution and approaches of practitioners such as Stanislavski, Brecht, and Artaud, students learn to develop their own approach and critical appreciation of the art of performance. The second strand of teaching focuses on the practical, transferrable skills of creativity, empathy, confidence and social integration that actor training develops in individuals.
Economics is an extremely dynamic subject. The Department aims to equip boys with an ability to view the world with a critical eye. Boys will learn how to tackle some of the world's most challenging problems, and understand that their solution is just one one of many potential options.
The first year syllabus comprises microeconomics where boys learn how markets work, why they might fail and how they can be fixed, and macroeconomics where boys focus on the key forces driving the UK economy and develop policies to improve key indicators such as unemployment, growth and inflation. In the second year boys build on their knowledge to analyse the role of economics in business, considering issues such as competitive forces, business motivation and efficiency. Boys continue with their macroeconomic studies by extending their analysis to the global economy, looking at the forces of globalisation and development.
Each boy will have two economics teachers in each year, learning in a dedicated classroom. Economics students also enjoy access to additional facilities, including a specialist Economics Library packed with the latest books and magazines to stretch the enquiring mind. The objective of academic excellence is closely linked to a range of extra-curricular opportunities designed to appeal to students throughout the year. Team competitions such as Student Investor and Target 2.0 offer a tremendous opportunity to develop knowledge and invaluable career skills. There are also several opportunities for students to prove themselves individually, including the Royal Economic Society, Locke and Marshall Society essay competitions - ideal preparation for the potential Oxbridge candidate. The Department also provides a range of lectures from external speakers, as well as an extensive trip programme; this includes trips to the Bank of England and Mini factory. In addition a bi-annual trip is organised for as many economists as possible which in 2014 was to China, and in 2016 will be to New York / Washington.
The Electronics Department aims to develop and sustain an interest in, and an enjoyment of, electronics and its applications.
Boys develop the practical skills associated with the design, construction and testing of electronic systems. In addition, students develop knowledge and understanding of the principles of electronics, and foster the skills of critical thinking and problem solving. Students are given the chance to become familiar with modern equipment and technologies such as Picaxe and Arduino microcontrollers, and to develop communication skills and the use of ICT. Students also have the opportunity to take part in the student robotics competition run by Southampton University.
The Department firmly believes that electronics cannot be learned simply by reading a book; electronics is about the use of physical devices to perform useful tasks in the real world, and understanding is achieved by building and testing circuits. The course is, therefore, highly practical; students are introduced to state-of-the-art components such as integrated circuit logic gates, op-amps and microcontrollers. The course assumes no previous knowledge and boys quickly learn the principles of the components’ behaviour and how they can be combined to make a complex system. On the way they will meet important techniques, such as block diagrams, Boolean algebra, negative feedback and microcontroller programming using flowcharts, assembly language and higher-level languages like BASIC and C.
There is a coursework element. At AS Level students build and test three simple circuits and write up a short report. At A Level they carry out a more ambitious project: designing, building and testing a circuit made up of at least five subsystems to do a useful job. The Department is proud of its record in public examinations and the fact that many students decide to continue with the subject at university, studying degree courses such as electronic engineering and computer science.
The English Department aims, in its characteristically friendly way, to instil in students those lasting values which derive from a thoughtful and critical appreciation of English Literature and the wide variety of written and spoken language which permeates and surrounds it.
Academic standards are outstandingly high, but the remarkable pass rates are complemented by the attention to developing boys’ accuracy, clarity, sensitivity and confidence in their self-expression.
In the first three years in the classroom, the main concern lies in ensuring that, while a thorough grounding is established in the core skills of writing and oral English, an enduring love of literature and an enthusiasm for reading are developed. During the Fourth and Fifth Forms, boys work towards Cambridge IGCSEs in First Language English (0500) and Literature - English (0486). In the Sixth Form, they follow the OCR AS (H072) and A Level (H472) courses in English Literature. A Level teaching is orientated towards sophisticated critical analysis and an understanding of how this country’s great canon of literature can be understood across its genres and its history. In the Michaelmas Term, moreover, boys receive extra preparation for Oxbridge entry.
Apart from the importance of accurate writing and critical self-confidence, the aim in English is to ensure an enduring understanding of this subject’s vital cultural and creative aspects. The English Society, for example, encompasses any number of enjoyable activities such as debating, public speaking, delivering academic papers, symposia, rehearsed readings and a popular, informal annual celebration of Robert Burns. Junior boys have the opportunity to participate in the Junior English Society as well as dedicated reading groups, such as that which shadows the award of the Carnegie Medal. There is also a keenly-contested annual House Reading Competition and creative opportunities, with appropriate prizes, exist at all levels, from the most junior through to Oxbridge entry. Outside school hours, the Department organises frequent theatre trips, mainly to Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and London. Distinguished visiting speakers also feature regularly on the co-curricular programme. For older boys, there is the opportunity to attend residential trips to places such as Stratford and Dublin.
The Department aims to foster an interest in, and an enthusiasm for, the world around us and to help the students to make sense of the world by understanding the interaction of people and their environment.
Geography serves vital educational goals: thinking and decision-making with Geography help the boys to live their lives as knowledgeable citizens, aware of their own local communities in a global setting. In addition, Geography deepens their understanding of many contemporary challenges such as climate change, sustainability, food security, poverty, energy resources and hazard management. The relevance of the subject is summarised in the following quote from Dr Rita Gardner, Director of the Royal Geographical Society: “Geography prepares young people with the knowledge, skills and understanding to make sense of their world and to face the challenges that will shape our societies and environments at the local, national and global scales.”
The Department has seven members of staff who teach across all year groups. Junior boys have the opportunity to study a range of different topics including: plate tectonics, international development, extreme weather and climate and the human and physical geography of the oceans. Geographical skills are developed each year, with a particular focus on the application of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to aid decision-making and processing of data. This creates a good platform for further study of the subject at GCSE and A Level.
Learning in the great outdoors is at the heart of Geography. Each year group has the opportunity to carry out fieldwork. In recent years, trips have run throughout the local area to study local ecosystems and geology; river processes on the Tillingbourne; flood management of the Wey; and urban issues such as traffic management. At GCSE there is the opportunity to travel to Iceland on a four-day exploration trip to the land of fire and ice to look at the unique landscape. At AS Level, the Department runs a trip to Stratford to look at regeneration and a four-day residential trip to Dorset to investigate tourism and coastal geomorphology. At A Level, the Department runs a five-day trip to Tenerife, where the boys study volcanic hazards, ecosystems and water resource issues.
“Balanced people used to working on practical problems”:
GR Elton’s view on what a historical education should produce neatly encapsulates the essence of the Department’s ambitions at the RGS. The aim is to teach boys historical perspective, understanding and judgement, and regard the subject as central to the values of a liberal education. Beyond this, of course, the Department also wishes to inspire a similar passion within the boys for the past and enlighten them as to the fascinating stories and events that make up the history of both this nation and other parts of the world. History should be both difficult and intellectually challenging, but also fun!
The Department is well-resourced with four dedicated classrooms at the heart of the School buildings; one of these is a specialist History Sixth Form Seminar Room. The First and Second Form course follows a broadly chronological path through the key events and periods that shaped Britain and its place in the world, from the Romans in Britain through to the Industrial Revolution. The Third Form follow a more global programme of study and investigates the making of the Modern World. The IGCSE course is focused on the trials and tribulations of the Twentieth Century with especial focus on the turbulent histories of Germany and Russia. The Sixth Form boys study Early Modern British and European history alongside an independent investigation more focused towards the Modern World and possibilities for academic enrichment, including formal Oxbridge preparation, are sought at every opportunity.
The Department firmly believes that History is best perceived and understood when one is in the thick of it and thus the provision of field trips to further the boys’ interest and knowledge form a core part of their education. Established study visits offered include the First Form visiting Bodiam Castle and Battle, the Second Form to the Black Country Museum, a Fourth Form residential visit to the First World Battlefields of North-Western Europe and a Fifth Form trip to Berlin. History is all around and the intention is constantly to draw the boys’ attention to it in whatever way possible.
The Department adopts a hands-on, discovery-learning approach to First Form Science with a real focus on practical work.
The aim is to instill a sense of excitement in all the lessons and give the boys an inspiring introduction to the world of Science. The aims are achieved through the hard work of a highly-qualified, knowledgeable and committed team of teachers from all three science disciplines who consistently teach beyond the scope of the curriculum to ensure the high-achieving boys reach their full potential.
Topics covered in the First Form include the Bunsen Burner, Brownian motion, cells, amoeba, fish dissection, light and sound, separation of mixtures, photosynthesis, respiration, excretion, electricity and electrostatics, alternative sources of energy, electronics, reproduction, chemical and physical changes, density and streamlining.
Experiences outside the classroom and visits serve to illustrate and bring to life much of the work covered in the classroom. The Integrated Science Department runs regular field trips during the course of the year; recent trips have included Kew Gardens, Silent Pools, Pewley Downs and the Chantries.
The Department has four main aims: to give students the opportunity to appreciate the power and beauty of mathematics as a subject in its own right, promoting clarity of thought and logical reasoning; to demonstrate to students that Mathematics is the only effective language for the analysis of problems and communication of results and ideas in all forms of Science, Engineering, Technology and commerce; to foster problem-solving skills and emphasise the importance of the precise use of appropriate language and notation; and to encourage and help all students to achieve their full potential in mathematics.
Moreover, a key part of the Mathematics teaching at the RGS is continually to provide stretch and challenge to the students. This has led to over 60% of the cohort sitting IGCSE a year early which, in turn, has meant that there are regularly large numbers opting for Mathematics at AS and A Level, including over 40 students opting for Mathematics and Further Mathematics at A Level. Consequently many then go on to study Mathematics at university and the Department has been particularly effective at helping large numbers of boys obtain places at Oxford, Cambridge and other Russell Group universities.
There are many opportunities at the RGS for students to engage in Mathematics outside of the classroom. On a national level, boys in all years are entered for various Mathematics competitions, with several regularly progressing to the latter stages of the UKMT Challenges and winning medals for high ranking. At a local level, each year group enters a team, often with great success, for the local Guildford Schools' Mathematics Competition. Other activities include an annual trip to the Mathematics Inspiration Lectures, participation in the Surrey Schools AS Mathematics Challenge and two internal Mathematics problem-solving competitions.
The Modern Languages Department at the RGS has a strong academic tradition with excellent examination results and a healthy Sixth Form uptake.
An increasing number of the students choose to carry on studying their language at university in combination with business, law courses or as their main subject. The Department is composed of 16 members of staff from five different countries and three Language Assistants from France, Spain and Germany.
The Department aims to teach students to communicate effectively and confidently in the foreign language, whilst inspiring them to extend and pursue language learning outside the classroom. The objective is for the students to become fluent in the language or languages they are studying which provides many fundamental benefits for further study and future careers. It is also firmly believed that exploring cultural aspects such as films, history and the press is crucial; all of these are fully incorporated to lessons. All courses are geared towards purposeful language for students to feel able to tackle real life situations.
The Department offers French, Spanish and German as part of the main curriculum; however, students can also have the opportunity to study Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Arabic in addition to the language they have chosen. In addition, the Department runs a range of extra-curricular activities aimed at fostering students’ wider interests in languages. These are the Junior Film Society, the Senior Society, Foreign Language plays, day trips, conferences, competitions, and the Debating Society.
The Department also runs a range of trips across the year groups. The aim of these trips is to boost students’ confidence and motivation by allowing them to practise the foreign language in real-life situations and to experience at first-hand the culture of the country where the foreign languages are spoken. The expectation is that, for each of the languages on offer in the curriculum, boys will have the chance during their school life to visit the foreign country at least twice, if they so wish. Recent destinations have included Nice, Nîmes and the Normandy region in France; Madrid, Barcelona and Salamanca in Spain; and the Rhineland region and Berlin in Germany.
The music curriculum at the RGS aims to foster a life-long enthusiasm for music in every pupil, whether he is a boy that does not consider himself to be particularly musical through to the most talented musicians who wish to pursue music in further education and beyond.
All boys in the Lower School study a curriculum which aims to broaden and deepen their understanding and appreciation of music at all levels through a series of projects and practical activities that focus on the three key skills of performing, composing and listening. Boys study a wide range of musical styles which encompass aspects of the western classical tradition, popular and world music. Each of the projects which the boys undertake build upon each other enabling each student to review and consolidate their prior knowledge while furthering their understanding through challenging yet approachable musical tasks. Classes in the Lower School are streamed according to musical aptitude ensuring that each boy is able to develop at their own pace and achieve their own potential.
The GCSE course is similarly extensive in scope and encourages boys to undertake a broad yet coherent course of study. Here, boys engage actively in the study of music while developing their own musical ability and interests as practical musicians alongside an intensely academic programme of study. At A Level students are provided with the opportunity further to expand their understanding of the western musical canon alongside musical traditions from other world cultures. The academic course enables boys to develop their aural and analytical skills while the practical aspect of the course encourages them to develop their practical skills, both as a performer and a composer, to the highest level. Boys also undertake a course in harmony and counterpoint, which is an integral part of the syllabus.
The new Music School, excellent facilities and resources, as well as accomplished talented musicians within the Department, all combine to inspire the boys to broaden their musical repertoire and experience, and to gain a life-long appreciation of music.
At the RGS, the boys benefit from the excellent facilities which provide scope for boys to flourish in a range of sporting disciplines.
The Department comprises talented coaches, a number of whom have national recognition in their chosen fields. The School prides itself on its levels of student participation and the diverse curriculum attempts to challenge and enthuse every boy regardless of his individual talents and skills.
All boys experience one timetabled period of Physical Education each week. This gives boys the opportunity to try out activities of which they may have no prior experience such as weight training, volleyball and softball. Classes are taught in mixed-ability groups and all boys get the opportunity to take part in health-related fitness, basketball, swimming, striking and fielding, and athletics. These lessons are designed, as well as developing a strong skill-set and competence, to promote a balanced and healthy lifestyle, and to complement the boys’ understanding of well-being.
Each individual’s sporting competencies develop over their time at the RGS and the Department hopes to provide all boys with the knowledge and physical aptitude to play, train and most importantly think independently. Encouraging, understanding and participation are central aspects which enable the boys to feel comfortable to take on new sporting challenges at university and beyond.
The fostering of intellectual curiosity and the acquisition of a deep understanding of the natural world are key aims of the Physics teaching, across all year groups.
The material explored in the syllabus ventures some way beyond the National Curriculum at every level, in recognition of the ability and ambition of RGS students, and ensures that every boy is given a broad and deep understanding of the subject. A highly-qualified, motivated team of staff with diverse interests offer exceptionally well-resourced lessons to ensure that boys are impressively well prepared for public exams. Boys are equipped to compete on a national and international level for sought-after places at university and take with them a lasting passion for the subject.
In the First Form, boys study Integrated Science to develop both a keen interest in the subject and crucial practical skills. From the Second Form, the boys study Physics as a separate discipline and are presented with a broad sweep of the subject. In the Third Form, a formal groundwork is laid of many key models and methods to ensure the students are equally well-versed in core Physics and primed for IGSCE study. The Fourth and Fifth Form years establish the body of knowledge and skill-set necessary to excel in the IGSCE exams and, in going beyond the syllabus, provide plenty of stimulus for the able student. The Sixth Form boys study the AQA A Level syllabus, which proves an excellent grounding for the most competitive degree courses. Specialist coaching for Oxbridge students, tailored for Natural Sciences, Physics, Engineering and Earth Sciences, has an outstanding track record of success.
The lively interest of staff and boys alike ensures a thriving co-curricular programme: there are societies for every age group; trips to NASA, CERN, a high alpine observatory, a hydro-electric power station and a cutting edge nuclear fusion research centre; awards in a wide variety of national and international competitions; and independent research assignments. The rich opportunities available in Physics reflect as well as cultivate the excitement of all involved in the subject.
Politics is an intrinsically dynamic subject: in its broadest sense, it concerns the way in which people interact to reach decisions and settle disputes.
Day-to-day, individuals engage with politics every time they watch the news, read a newspaper or visit a current affairs website. The study of Politics at A Level, therefore, has several core aims: to enhance an existing interest in current affairs and encourage active participation in the political process; to enable boys to formulate their own considered, political viewpoints; to develop analytical skills and construct logically consistent arguments; and to appreciate the fundamental ideas that underpin modern political thought.
At AS Level, the boys focus on the UK political landscape; they develop an understanding of the ways in which people can engage with the political process, as well as finding out about the structures which combine to build our political system. At A Level, the boys then turn their attention to the philosophical origins of political thought. They consider the grand ideologies of conservatism, liberalism and socialism, and then assess the relevance of alternatives to these such as anarchism, nationalism, feminism, ecologism and multiculturalism.
The Department has a dedicated classroom, a growing departmental library, and makes extensive use of resources beyond the trusty textbook. This includes multiple online subscriptions to political journals, enabling boys to access the latest in academic discourse about the subject. There is a wealth of opportunities beyond the confines of the Politics curriculum. Sixth Form boys lead the Politics Society, offering fortnightly debates and termly guest-speakers, as well as participating in the annual European Youth Parliament debating competition and Dicey Conference at Trinity, Oxford. Every year, the Department visits the Houses of Parliament and the Supreme Court, organised via the local MP’s office – Anne Milton MP also conducts a Question and Answer session about life in Westminster Village. Boys are also encouraged to enter a wide range of competitions to explore elements of the subject beyond the syllabus.
Religious, spiritual, philosophical and moral education is about providing students with the tools to make their own informed decisions about the answers to the questions of life and its meaning that have challenged humanity since the dawn of civilization.
The ultimate aim is that the boys should learn to question and to think for themselves and so be assisted in growing towards a true maturity – intellectually, morally, socially and spiritually. In this way, they will have been encouraged and assisted in the search for their own coherent world-view on which to base their life choices.
The Department delivers four distinct curricula. Religious Studies is the study at GCSE and A Level of ethics and philosophy in the context of religion. Religious Education is the Key Stage 3 investigation of the beliefs, practices and philosophical underpinnings of the major world faiths. General Religious Education is a compulsory, non-examined course, for all boys in the Middle and Senior School (except those who take four A Levels) that involves the investigation and discussion of issues of moral, social, personal and philosophical significance. Thinking and Reasoning Skills is a course taught to the Second Form that introduces the practices of critical thinking and creative reasoning.
Beyond the classroom, the Department runs two very popular clubs, the Junior and Senior Philosophy Societies, where boys are able to participate in debate as well as hear and deliver papers from their peers and staff. The Department also has a strong relationship with Dr Peter Vardy, formerly vice-principal of Heythrop College, University of London, who delivers a series of extension lectures to boys across the age range during the year. Boys are actively encouraged to participate in the many essay competitions run by external organisations and universities, a recent impressive success in which saw a student win a trip to New York having produced a video essay on how 9/11 had changed the world.