The programme begins with the subject of reading in the Lower Years, with pupils given a dedicated period in the timetable to read for pleasure and record their thoughts. It continues within the curriculum with Oundle’s bespoke Third Form Trivium and the Lower Sixth Form Quadrivium courses that involve cross-curricular explorations of widely expansive topics designed to stimulate pupils’ curiosity about all things, and that lead to researched essays. Many Sixth Form pupils choose to complete the Extended Project Qualification which provides an invaluable opportunity to follow a rigorous programme of independent research that provides a firm foundation for university.
Debating, Public Speaking Societies and Balloon Debates engage pupils across all year groups. The Inter-House debating competition takes place at both senior and junior levels, training pupils to hone their critical thinking and to respond flexibly, articulately, and persuasively, to listen carefully, and to view questions from a variety of standpoints. Pupils also participate in important external competitions, including the ESU Mace Debating and ESU Churchill Public Speaking, the Nottingham Schools and Durham Schools debates where they work in a team to both present a case and respond to counter arguments on key questions of social, ethical, political and philosophical importance.
A rolling programme of assemblies at the start of the day for each year group is led by members of the Common Room who share a taste of the cultural and intellectual riches available to pupils if they explore widely with an open mind. Recent talks on religious belief in John Donne, the art of Caravaggio, and cutting edge developments in science from our Imperial College Fellow have offered plenty for both the liberal arts and science fraternities, while sessions on the importance of critical thinking aim to give the pupils the tools they need to apply their learning to the modern world
Each academic department has its own society which organises evening talks led by an impressive range of visiting speakers who address ideas and issues within and beyond the curriculum. Taking advantage of opportunities to dive deeper into subjects of interest, pupils find satisfaction and success in the academic challenges offered by myriad scientific Olympiads and essay competitions, such as Arkwright Scholarships, Peterhouse, Newnham and John Locke competitions.
Academic Scholars attend evening Colloquia led by teachers, where pupils are challenged to apply knowledge and solve problems with an independence of thought and willingness to take risks and get things wrong. In the senior years, Scholars take more responsibility for the sessions, presenting reviews of their reading or interactive lectures on a topic they have researched. Pupils who have not been awarded entrance scholarships are regularly nominated by their Tutors to attend sessions that appeal to their academic interests, and as they progress through School, pupils are invited to become permanent members of the Colloquium groups based on outstanding performance and clear evidence of wide-ranging intellectual curiosity or an unusual talent in a particular area. Trips to theatres, museums and external lectures augment the scholarship programme.