At the Mediæval universities, the Trivium of Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric was followed by the Quadrivium of Music, Geometry, Arithmetic and Astronomy. 

Trivium is a Third Form course studied by all pupils in groups of ten. Oundelians are intellectually ambitious and Trivium intends to place learning for its own sake at the heart of our Third Form curriculum. It is vital that pupils do not equate all learning with assessment. Trivium has no syllabus and no prescribed content. It is a course based on ‘interestingness’. The 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 blazon and heraldry, another may be immersed in Gothic architecture, the notion of goodness, the freedom to offend, the politics of Elizabethan portraiture or the art of 1930s Berlin. One set of pupils may be discussing the ethical aspects of technological advance, whilst another is introduced to the poetry of Yeats from a new perspective.

The Quadrivium course involves optional, deeper study of four main topics or disciplines in the Lower Sixth. Each teacher designs a unique course of four linked topics, each of which lasts six weeks. In addition to this, each Quadrivium set takes the initiative of inviting external speakers, acting as a mini-society and hosting professors and other experts in their field. Pupils choose their course purely out of interest, which may serve to supplement their other four subjects, or provide an academic diversion.

Quadrivium pupils are expected to produce four essay papers during the year. In writing their discursive papers for each topic, we reward pupils for evidence of wider reading, individual research and lateral thought. For this reason, Quadrivium is ideal university training, suited to all pupils who wish to engage meaningfully with specific, personal areas of interest that fall outside their examined subjects while still retaining broad and rigorous intellectual exposure. 

In both courses, the close relationship between the teacher and the pupils develops over the year. Small set sizes allow for the classroom atmosphere to be similar to that of a tutorial. Rhetoric and public debate are key features of both Triv and Quad and the department regularly publishes pupils’ work and punctuates the year with several challenges. The philosophy of the course can be summed up by E. M. Forster: only connect.

Mr W D Gunson
Head of Trivium and Quadrivium