Enrichment for the UIV

One of the great things about Wycombe Abbey is that the pupils have the capacity and motivation to grapple with concepts and ideas beyond the scope of the curriculum. 

This year, the UIVs attended a new series of enrichment lectures in which they are introduced to different topics in order to stretch them further beyond their studies. The talks have been delivered by members of the academic staff and have been very well received. Topics ranged from the History of the US presidency, to the Philosophical problem of free will, and the nature and origins of accents and dialects. My thanks go to Mr Murphy, Miss Taylor, Mrs Taylor-Davis and Mr Startup for each delivering such informative and entertaining lectures.  

Running alongside this programme has been the Kathleen Wilkes Essay Prize, a prize named after a notable Wycombe Abbey Senior, philosopher and educationalist. Kathleen Wilkes was an endlessly impressive woman who juggled her time between lecturing at the University of Oxford, smuggling banned books into the Soviet Union and conducting philosophical lectures in secret. She set up several underground universities in the Czech Republic and was awarded that country’s highest honour, the Commemorative Medal of the President of the Czech Republic, for her services to education. She is a most fascinating and inspirational Senior.

To judge our essay competition, we were fortunate enough to secure the services of Sophie Cousens, Wycombe Abbey Senior and bestselling author. Sophie commented, “I was really honoured to be asked to help judge the Kathleen Wilkes Essay Prize, and totally blown away by the standard. I thought the quality of writing and the intellectual vigour with which each question was approached was astounding for this year group.”

I would like to say well done to the 35 pupils who found time to enter. They were required to write a 1500 word essay, choosing from questions such as ‘What makes a book a classic?’, ‘Should we judge people from the past by the standards of today?’ and ‘What is the point of education?’. I would particularly like to congratulate Fiona for winning the competition and Genevieve for being awarded second place.

 Read the winning entries

Read below a report about the Enrichment Programme from Genevieve.

Luke Wildgoose
Head of Upper School

Over the course of both the Autumn and Spring Terms, members of staff from various departments led a series of enrichment lectures on topics that they are both knowledgeable and passionate about. Each lecture lasted an hour and comprised of a presentation and time for questions and answers at the end.

My favourite lectures were Free Will and American Politics. The opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the complex role politics has had in the development of that nation gave me added insight into the study of the American Revolution, which is our principal area of focus in History. I now have deeper knowledge about the seminal moments in American Politics, from independence, through to the Civil War and then to the modern Civil Rights movement.

The lecture on the topic of Free Will was incredibly engaging and inspired me to further research the topic. It is a very intriguing concept and one which crosses over into various educational areas such as philosophy, religion, ethics, and even economics. What I found to be really thought-provoking was that I had never considered whether my actions were in fact my own, or whether they are dictated by the brain and are an auto-reflex as opposed to a choice.

All of these lectures inspired me to enter the Kathleen Wilkes Essay Competition, which challenges the entrants to frame a justified argument around a topic of their choice. I chose the question ‘What is the Point of Education’? I found this to be the most relevant topic that I could write about as I am currently in education. Attending these lectures is an example of how exposure to supplementary subject matter, in adjacent subject areas to those covered during school hours can serve to prompt a re-appraisal of what I had learned and encouraged me to expand my horizons by undertaking independent research. I was therefore able to approach the preparation of my essay with a greater amount of source material to draw from and to structure it in a more sophisticated way than I might otherwise have written it before attending the lectures.

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