Hugo Lindsey | 08.08.2022

Inspiring intellectual curiosity: for students by students

Inspiring intellectual curiosity: for students by students

What is the Davies Society?

The Davies Society is an enrichment opportunity for the most driven and capable Year 9 pupils. We meet every half term for a combination of academic talks given by Sixth Formers, discussion groups, and academic mentoring sessions. Since its founding in 2019, it has had 2 years of success led by Dr. Cutler, (Head of Research and an English teacher). As of last year, a new committee of Year 12 students was formed, (Hugo L, Orlando A, Rebecca E, Millie H, George C, Ismay H and Jonah T), who play a key role in planning the content of the meetings and are part of a mentoring system to support the younger pupils in their pursuit of intellectual curiosity.

What are our aims?

The purpose of the Davies Society is to provide an opportunity for students to explore their wider academic interests outside of the constraints of the curriculum. Often school is viewed as a place where you learn things for exams, where ‘academics’ is just about good grades, but our focus is rather different. As A-level students, we realise that learning is so much more than obtaining qualifications. As our own university applications near, we see the huge benefit of reading around subjects and thinking beyond GCSEs and A Levels, not least because this is what the top universities and employers highly value.

There are benefits of developing this mindset well before A Level. As such, we are really passionate about developing intellectual curiosity in younger pupils, and we aim to both inspire and support each pupil in finding their unique interests. We see the utility in nurturing these skills from an early age, and we are motivated to do this partly because, looking back, we wished we had something like the Davies Society when we were in Year 9. That is why our work is focused on preparing the younger students for the future, because we know the journey begins now. ‘

‘Exploring the world beyond the school curriculum’

Davies Society last year: 2020-21

The meetings last year began with a focus on mentoring, with the Year 9s split into smaller discussion groups led by a Year 12 mentor. The purpose of these sessions was to create an atmosphere of camaraderie (which we felt was essential to having intellectual discussions, albeit over Teams!), and encouraging them to reflect on their interests and current intellectual pursuits, as well as giving the mentors a sense of what support each student needed. This approach was motivated by my own memory of being a Year 9 boy, frequently being told to be ‘intellectually curious’ but not knowing where to look. From the feedback, these small-group sessions proved to be successful, as they gave the Year 9s an opportunity to hear about the mentors’ own pursuits outside the classroom, which provided the role-modelling we set out to achieve, as well as an inspiration to be intellectually curious.

After the first few meetings of mentoring and ice-breaking, the Davies Society returned to its tradition of inviting Sixth Formers to present talks. These covered a wide range of topics in daily life: from a talk on US politics given by last year’s Head Girl, Daisy H, to the use of statistics during Covid, by this year’s Head Boy, Orlando A. The feedback was that the Year 9s thought the talks were sufficiently varied in their topics, which shows the Year 12 led approach to planning meetings was successful.

We sought further feedback on a number of data points, to find out: how much the Year 9s enjoyed the talks, how much they inspired intellectual curiosity, and whether the topics catered for their interests. This enabled us to measure the success of Davies Society this year, with regard to our aims. We believe this feedback is an honest reflection of success of the Davies, since the questions were asked in a neutral fashion, and there were no incentives to answer either way.

In terms of improvement, the top 3 areas were: greater input from the Year 9s into the topics/ themes discussed in meetings, to ensure they are engaged and Davies best caters to their interests; sending out pre-reading so the Year 9s are better prepared for the ideas/ discussions presented in meetings; and allocating more time to group discussion, which was the original, pre-Covid aim of the new Davies Committee, albeit made more difficult via Teams.

Looking forwards

This academic year, I am hopeful that, Covid permitting, we can meet in-person again as a group. Operating remotely has brought its challenges, but despite the circumstances, I think it has been a very successful year for the Davies Society. The addition of the Sixth-Form Committee and mentoring system has brought a pupilled approach, which Dr. Cutler believes has ‘transformed the Davies Society’. As the fresh cohort of Year 9s is introduced, I’d like to keep to the same format, with a few improvements inspired by the feedback. Provided Michaelmas brings a return to face-to-face interactions, it will once again enable a sociable and energetic spirit to the society and give the opportunity for higher quality, thought-provoking discussion. I am very excited for the year ahead at Davies, and the opportunity it brings for us as a Sixth-Form committee to give back to a school that we have gained so much from. We look forward to continuing our goal of providing student-led support to younger pupils as they begin their academic journeys exploring the world beyond the school curriculum.