There is a misconception that Academic Enrichment in general is about elitism or that it is simply an extension activity for the exceptionally able. This is not the case at Canford. We want our pupils to explore, to engage, to discover, to analyse, to criticise and to interpret. We want them to think creatively and to innovate within their own specialist spheres. We want them to have every opportunity to pursue their academic ambitions (at any level) and to do this not for the mercenary reward of an exam result – though these are of fundamental importance – but because they enjoy and are passionate about their education.
At Canford, every pupil is entitled to an enriching experience of education that begins in the classroom but extends well beyond it. Linking into the personal passions and interests of each of our pupils, the Enrichment Programme is a tailored and varied pathway to independent learning that aims to inculcate a love of learning for its own sake which remains a critical aspect of a Canfordian’s identity long after they have left in the Upper Sixth.
Throughout their time at Canford our pupils are offered numerous opportunities outside the classroom to develop the intellect and imagination: we do everything we can to encourage the view that life of the mind and the emotions forms a part of the daily life of a school like ours. Some opportunities invite a mass audience while others cater for small groups of enthusiasts, so in any given week there may a group of fewer than ten students heading down to the Lighthouse in Poole to hear a symphony played by the outstanding Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra while the whole of a year group might hear a talk on a philosophical or cultural subject from one of the many outstanding outside speakers who visit the school, some of whom will stay on to run seminars or workshops.
Highlights of the annual programme are the Festival of Ideas in October and the post-GCSE ‘Cultural Immersion’ for the Fifth Form (Year 11). The festival, which runs for up to five days, picks up on a different theme each year: so far we have had Truth and Beauty, The Song of the Earth, A Question of Identity and What is Intelligence? The theme enables us to tap into key contemporary concerns and to invite speakers from across the whole range of disciplines. The Fifth Form programme happens in the dead space after GCSE exams are finished and tries to provide a complete antidote to the exam room experience by dividing the students into small groups lead by dedicated teachers who explore exhibitions and shows in London and in our immediate vicinity. The experience is completed by multi-media presentations given by the students in our own Layard Theatre.
Other intellectual challenges abound, some formal, others much more relaxed. So pupils might attend Heretics or its new junior version one week and Yellow Hour the next. Heretics is a discussion forum where a pupil, teacher or visitor gives a short paper on a challenging theme followed by a chaired discussion which encourages careful listening as well as the ability to think on the spot. The Yellow Hour happens about three times a term and is a gathering where pupils and staff can perform or read absolutely anything they want: so we have poems, stories, classical and contemporary songs, instrumentals, juggling and much more.
Further encouragement to furnish the minds of pupils comes from The Year of Wonder, a weekly on-line bulletin prepared by pupils and the journal The Week both of which include essays and features on school, national and international issues. A similar concern to broaden our students’ horizons comes from the Global Forum where students give talks on the international issues that matter to them personally.
It would be difficult for pupils to attend absolutely everything on offer, although some do, so house staff will encourage them to try out something new. It soon becomes clear that when something interests you, it seems so much easier to remember and recall the information. If we can foster live, enquiring minds, then the challenge of exams becomes much more manageable. In the end however, what drives the Canford programme is a belief that the world into which our students will move is both exciting and demanding and that, with live minds, verbal confidence and an openness to ideas, they will be so much better placed to thrive and make the most of their lives.