Posted: 4th February 2020

Last week a group of Year 10 and 12 students attended the Highly Able and Ambitious Conference at Wellington. The conference was aimed at bright, ambitious pupils who are interested in ideas. The day was led by lecturers from Oxford, Aberdeen and London universities as well as respected educator Julie Arliss. Designed to provide an environment where the students can discuss ‘big ideas’ the conference offered a wide range of lectures as well as the opportunity to participate in “The Big Debate” towards the end of the day. Topics this year included: Science and the Secret of Happiness, Philosophy Love and Relationships and Knowing What you Know and What you Don’t Know.

The annual event is offered to pupils as part of Leweston’s academic extension programme.  Led by Mrs Dencher, the programme identifies pupils who may benefit from additional stretch and challenge inviting them to participate in activities such as the Rhetoric Group for Years 7 to 9; Head’s Essay Society for Sixth Form, Science Olympiads, Oxplore, Public Speaking and Young Writers’ Competitions. This is, of course, in addition to the extension questions and activities that all staff offer in their lessons.

Whilst some pupils are personally invited to participate in these events, Leweston’s commitment to providing every student with the opportunity to flourish means that much of the academic extension programme is open to anyone who has an interest in joining.

Eloise S, Year 10, has written about their experience:

On Friday the 31st of January a small group of Years 10 and 12 were invited to an Able and Ambitious conference at Wellington School. The morning had two lectures, one a Philosophy lecture on Epistemology and Oncology regarding what is real and how do we know? Although complex it was still very interesting! Our second Lecture was about the Four Humours in Shakespeare. This provided an interesting angle on characters in some of Shakespeare’s best-known plays and proved to be one of our overall favourites.

After a quick break, the lectures cracked on with the Science of Happiness. This was interesting as it helped us understand how happiness is measured and how it can be quantified as well as tips to help us become happier.

After lunch we were given our last lecture of the day, a shortened version of Plato’s Symposium that was analysed and compared with more modern Christian teachings about different kinds of love. This was one of the most interesting talks and another of our favourites!

Finally the floor was opened to the debate – ‘Is it better to have a healthy body or a healthy mind?’ and we continued to discuss our thoughts on the way back to the bus!
It was a thought provoking and highly interesting and enjoyable day.

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