Essays and Societies
“Pupils have excellent communication skills and are highly articulate speakers in a range of contexts. They value the numerous opportunities they have for speaking in public, in lessons, in the academic and scholars’ societies where they present papers, and in the range of competitions on offer including poetry speaking.”
- ISI Inspection Report 2018
Pupils are prepared with care for examinations and university, and are encouraged to develop independent thought and inquiring minds.
In addition there is a programme of academic activities and events to stretch and widen the horizons of ambitious candidates and academic high-flyers. All enthusiasms are catered for by departmental societies, speakers and events.
The Pelican Society
The Pelicans are the academic award holders in the lower school. Our Third and Fourth Form pupils meet weekly though most terms and Fifth Form pupils convene regularly for Scholars’ Supper. Other academically-successful pupils are also invited to join the society at appropriate stages. The weekly interaction with peers in different year groups is stimulating to pupils’ academic and personal growth, and allows an element of mentoring. Combining intellectual activities with a social element (including an annual Pelicans’ trip devised by Fourth Form Pelicans) helps promotes cohesion and integration as well as debate among the scholars. Quiz events, including the Schools’ Challenge Quiz against other schools in the area, are popular and keenly contested.
Meetings often take the form of exploration of various topics from between and beyond the curriculum, such as current-affairs, logical problems or ethical debates. Presentations given by senior pupils – such as A level students discussing aspects of their current courses or interest – or by the Pelicans themselves, help broaden horizons. Pelicans undertake an extended project annually, exploring a topic of personal intellectual interest, developing the skills of research, structuring an argument, and presentation of findings, on paper or orally. This independent study practice has proven excellent training for the writing of prize essays and EPQs in the Sixth Form, while the research itself has often led through to university applications. Specific feedback and guidance on academic skills helps individuals develop beyond what might be possible through the classroom curriculum.
Recent Pelicans trips include those to various museums in Oxford (2015); to Portsmouth and Winchester in 2016; to the Pallant Gallery, Tangmere Aviation museum, the Arundel Wetlands area, and Salisbury Cathedral in 2017, and in 2018 Chepstow Castle, the Welsh Folk Museum, the Big Pit and Tintern Abbey.Topics of individual research projects this year have included among many others, Confucianism, Scientology, early humans domesticating animals, why the Carolingians became so powerful, the treatment of disease in 1900, early transplant technology, fluorescent proteins, or the significance of the West Country in literary movements from the Romantics to Poldark.
The Phoenix Society
Meeting regularly, this interdisciplinary group offers individual pupils to present papers on subjects which interest them and take part in scholarly discussions on challenging and topical subjects.
The Adam Smith Society
Business and Economics
To enhance their studies, pupils attend lectures, visit local industries and participate in competitions such as the Bank of England Target 2.0 challenge, the Royal Economic Society Essay competition, the IFS Student Investor competition, and the BASE management competition.
The Adam Smith Society is the school's economics and politics society, which provides pupils with the chance to debate current economic and political issues. Both subjects give a great introduction to the workings of the real world; economics develops a critical way of thinking, while business studies provides the skills needed for most aspects of the business world.
Now in its fourth year, the society is going from strength to strength. Chaired and driven by Upper Sixth pupils, it is open to all pupils with an interest in economics and politics.
In 2015, we had the excitement of our inaugural debate between four members of the Keynes Society (now the Adam Smith Society) and a group of Bristol Grammar School economists. The motion posed was: 'This house agrees that the UK should remain in the European Union.'
Speakers include both pupils and external experts on subjects ranging from income inequality and game theory, to Corbynomics, the nordic model, and African economics.
The Erasmus Society
Names after famous theologian Desiderius Erasmus, the Erasmus Society held their inaugural meeting in September 2015. The newly founded society was set up by Mrs Cruttenden, Head of Modern Languages at King’s, in order to attempt to bring together all the students who study a Modern Foreign Language, as well as Classics, to a group where they could be interested further in not only the language they learn, but also the culture of the countries from which the languages stem.
Talks have included the difficulties of accurate translations and how a direct translation from a foreign language does not always make sense in English, and a look at the origins of a number of languages.
The Jacobians Society
The Jacobians is King’s oldest society and is open to all Sixth Form mathematicians. Meetings are held once or twice every half term, with the final meeting of each term traditionally being a pizza evening.
Meetings could take the form of a short talk, activity or presentation, a puzzle evening, pub quiz, or a mathematically-themed theatre trip. Recent meetings have included talks entitled The Art of the Infinite, The Language of Mathematics, and The World of Partial Derivatives.
The Keegan Society
The Society exists to promote discussion and lively debate about a wide range of historical matters. Meetings have been addressed by a variety of outside speakers in recent years, including leading historians Sir John Keegan and Richard Holmes, and ancient historian (and Mayor of London), Boris Johnson. Sir John Keegan, who sadly died in August 2012, after whom the Society is named, was an eminent military historian, BBC Reith Lecturer and former pupil of King's. Sixth Form historians also present papers at the Society, and recent speakers in 2015 have included Henry Cole on the Mormons, Pippa Smith on Punishments in Tudor England, Henry Biggs on Berlin and Harvey Dryburgh on the Knights of St John.
The 2015 Keegan Essay prizes, generously funded by the Joan Sewell Bequest, have been awarded to: Henry Biggs, Henry Cole, Pippa Smith, Jack West and Cameron Smith.
Sir John Keegan had many insights into the past in classic books such as ‘The Face of Battle’, including:
“Good men who exercise power are really the most fascinating of all people."
"The great Chinese classics have always said that it's better not to fight; that the clever man achieves his ends without violence; that a battle delayed is better than a battle fought."
"The leader of men in warfare can show himself to his followers only through a mask, a mask that he must make for himself, but a mask made in such form as will mark him to men of his time and place as the leader they want and need."
The Howard Society
The Howard Society is a biology society run by Sixth Form students, which aims to enthuse and engage pupils interested in pursuing future careers in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science or biology.
Activities range from exploring medical ethics, to dissection, examination of microscope specimens, practical activities beyond the GCSE and A-level curriculum, discussion of current biological news and articles, and practicing medical suturing.
In recent years, our pupils have entered a number of prestigious essay competitions run by various colleges at Oxford University and Cambridge University.
Please find below a collection of these essays and some background information about the competitions and those awarded with prizes.