Beyond A-levels: QE launches Sixth Form academic symposium with leading girls’ school

Queen Elizabeth’s School is broadening the range of academic opportunities for its senior pupils with a new Sixth Form symposium arranged under a partnership with a leading independent girls’ school.

Thirty Year 13 boys and 30 girls from North London Collegiate School (NLCS) took part in the first symposium, which was hosted by QE. The event, which was timed to coincide with university interviews, will now be held annually. It follows a similar joint event for Year 10 pupils that NLCS held during the summer.

The symposium focused on a wide variety of subjects: History, English, Political Science, Medicine, Economics and Natural Sciences. For each of them, the groups are led by teachers from both schools, but it is the students who are expected to drive the discussions.

""Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We aim to stretch our pupils well beyond the level required in their normal A-level studies; promoting opportunities for academic discourse with students from other high-achieving schools is one important means of achieving that aim. We therefore hope to collaborate further with NLCS, as we are doing in a similar way with Henrietta Barnett.”

Tahmer Mahmoud, who is QE’s Head of Academic Enrichment (and Head of History), said: “These symposia develop students’ ability to generate and articulate sophisticated thinking in response to a given issue, as well as encouraging cooperative yet critical communication between students.

“At the first one, students took the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the nature of the academic disciplines that were selected and to broaden their knowledge of subject matter within those disciplines.”

""The topics discussed at the symposium included:

  • History – the secularisation of Europe; why intellectual movements emerge
  • Economics – the eurozone crisis
  • Medicine/Natural Sciences – the Human Genome Project; nano-technology; obesity
  • Political Sciences – the limits of liberty; the nature of the human mind; the future of Higher Education in the UK.

Students were sent a pack of high-level sources a week prior to the day and were required to analyse them in order to contribute to the discussion effectively. Two students from either school led on one of the sources, bringing in the rest of the group for discussion.

""The first session consisted in examining four sources. During the second, the students examined a set of new unseen sources and were given only half an hour to master the material.

“This first Sixth Form symposium with the girls from North London Collegiate School went very well,” the Headmaster added. “The teachers involved report that the event successfully challenged students to justify their thinking over sustained periods of rigorous questioning.”