On Friday 6 February, as part of their Trivium course, Third Form (Year 9) pupils from Oundle School went
out and about on ‘Trippiums’. Designed to place learning for
its own sake at the heart of the curriculum, Trivium is a new course, based purely on ‘interestingness’. It
complements the School’s already extensive Voluntaries programme and Extended
Project Qualifications (EPQs), encouraging pupils to extend their learning
beyond subjects for academic assessment.
Each Trivium set of ten pupils enjoyed a different day trip around the
United Kingdom, linked to their course: some to Oxford or Cambridge, others to
London, some to Suffolk, whilst others ventured as far as Devon.
Some sets visited renowned museums or quirky, off-the-beaten track
institutions where tourists do not venture. Some undertook a special workshop
using the ancient printing presses of the Bodleian library in Oxford whilst
others competed in a philosophers’ treasure hunt through Oxford, or hunted down
specific pieces of architecture in Cambridge.
Head of Trivium and French teacher, William Gunson commented, “Pupils uncovered the unknown history of
London between St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey as well as enjoying excursions
to Greenwich and the Science Museum in search of lost time. One group undertook
the T. S. Eliot walk from Oundle to Little Gidding; another a pilgrimage to
Snape Maltings and Aldeburgh on the trail of Benjamin Britten. One group of
pupils enjoyed an overnight residential look at the purely democratic Sands
School, where all decisions are put to a full school vote.”
William added, “Trips were chosen
to stimulate that ‘idle intellectual curiosity’ which Trevelyan identified as
the lifeblood of civilised society, and the indulgence of which crosses
specific subject boundaries: hence the Trivium approach. Accordingly,
pupils were encouraged to dig more deeply into the spirit of places visited
than a sightseeing or tourist excursion might have required. Photos from
the day show pupils mucking in and discovering new interests all around the
The events were summed up well by one boy in an email afterwards - “Dear Sir – a very big thank you for today –
it was so good just to go and do something for its own sake. I spent the whole night
dreaming about new things.”
information on Trivium:
teachers at Oundle are involved in the Trivium course, and their brief is to
educate; to introduce pupils to ideas and culture, to sow seeds and to broaden
the educational experience. The topics explored vary from group to group;
whilst one class is studying the works of Koestler, another is immersed in the
art of Berlin. One set of pupils is discussing ethical aspects of
technological advance whilst another is being introduced to the poetry of
Director of Studies, Ben Evans, commented “Our
Trivium course is studied by
all Third Form pupils in groups of ten for four lessons per week. Oundelians
are intellectually ambitious but it is vital that they do not equate all
learning with assessment. ‘Triv’ has no syllabus and no prescribed content.”
of the Trivium themes will overlap,
and this is important: appreciation of a work of art is enhanced by an
understanding of historical context. What links all the sets in this
course is the method of teaching – Trivium’s
‘traditional three ways’ of Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric.
Oundle provides a modern Trivium, but expects that these three disciplines will
remain central to the teaching.
close relationship between the teacher and the pupils develops during the
course of the year, with small set sizes allowing for the classroom atmosphere
to be similar to that of a tutorial. The philosophy of the course can be
summed up the words of E M Forster: only connect.
added, “Oundle’s GCSE results are
exceptional. The raw results have placed
us 30th in The Times’ league table for the past two years. The Value Added per pupil has improved
steadily for the last ten years whilst the academic ability of the average
Oundelian has remained remarkably consistent.
The evidence suggests that the
results have reached a peak, and the new challenge is to maintain standards,
especially against a backdrop of falling GCSE top grades nationwide. If we assume that we have reached a zenith in
terms of teaching towards examinations, we should investigate further ways of improving
the educational experience whilst still maintaining the rigour involved with
preparing pupils for GCSE.
We wish to sow seeds for the
future by providing intellectual stimulation from the off. Our aim should be to create something akin to
a ‘colloquium for all’.”
extension programme is strong, with academic societies, extension courses,
Voluntaries and EPQs all offering many opportunities for intellectual
eight Voluntaries courses are open to First to Fourth Form (Year 7-9) pupils
including photography, mah-jong, climbing, origami, astronomy, palaeontology
commented, “Voluntaries represent the
chance to broaden pupils’ academic horizons, and to explore artistic, literary,
cultural or sporting activities without ever having to be tested on what they
have learned and experienced. Voluntaries are an opportunity to delve
deeper into things that really interest pupils, or they could be a chance to
have a go at something that they have never done before. Above all, they
are supposed to be fun. “
Project Qualifications (EPQs):
In addition to traditional A levels and Pre-Us, pupils may choose
to produce an individual project in an area of particular interest rather than
opting to follow a taught course for their Sixth Form extension.
The final project
will be completed by the end of the Lower Sixth, and may take the form of a
5000 word report or a ‘product’ (which may be a CD, DVD, crafted object,
original composition, work of Art) with an accompanying 1000 word report.
Each project will be assessed to gain the AQA Extended Project Qualification.
Last year saw the introduction of EPQ Level
2 Projects at Oundle, which requires a high level of independent work and
original thought. It is a stand-alone qualification completed in one year where
pupils can gain an A* grade equivalent to half a GCSE.
Information on Oundle School
School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about
90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the
21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which
is, to a large extent, its campus.
The School’s history dates back
to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers
and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar
School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided
the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants
of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In
2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of
Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.
At the beginning of the 20th
century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by
its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation
as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still
renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science
complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now
embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well
as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the
Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the
development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering
and philosophically, enabling pupils to
move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the
achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will
upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years,
including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion due to open April 2015.
There are currently 1100 pupils
on roll at Oundle School, with 850 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the
Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children
aged 4 to 11.