‘Trivium Trippiums!’
26th February 2015

On Friday 6 February, as part of their Trivium course, Third Form (Year 9) pupils from Oundle School went out and about on ‘Trippiums’. Designed to place learning for its own sake at the heart of the curriculum, Trivium is a new course, based purely on ‘interestingness’. It complements the School’s already extensive Voluntaries programme and Extended Project Qualifications (EPQs), encouraging pupils to extend their learning beyond subjects for academic assessment.


Each Trivium set of ten pupils enjoyed a different day trip around the United Kingdom, linked to their course: some to Oxford or Cambridge, others to London, some to Suffolk, whilst others ventured as far as Devon. 


Some sets visited renowned museums or quirky, off-the-beaten track institutions where tourists do not venture. Some undertook a special workshop using the ancient printing presses of the Bodleian library in Oxford whilst others competed in a philosophers’ treasure hunt through Oxford, or hunted down specific pieces of architecture in Cambridge.  


Head of Trivium and French teacher, William Gunson commented, “Pupils uncovered the unknown history of London between St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey as well as enjoying excursions to Greenwich and the Science Museum in search of lost time. One group undertook the T. S. Eliot walk from Oundle to Little Gidding; another a pilgrimage to Snape Maltings and Aldeburgh on the trail of Benjamin Britten. One group of pupils enjoyed an overnight residential look at the purely democratic Sands School, where all decisions are put to a full school vote.”




William added, “Trips were chosen to stimulate that ‘idle intellectual curiosity’ which Trevelyan identified as the lifeblood of civilised society, and the indulgence of which crosses specific subject boundaries: hence the Trivium approach. Accordingly, pupils were encouraged to dig more deeply into the spirit of places visited than a sightseeing or tourist excursion might have required.  Photos from the day show pupils mucking in and discovering new interests all around the country.”


The events were summed up well by one boy in an email afterwards - “Dear Sir – a very big thank you for today – it was so good just to go and do something for its own sake. I spent the whole night dreaming about new things.”


Further information on Trivium:

Twenty teachers at Oundle are involved in the Trivium course, and their brief is to educate; to introduce pupils to ideas and culture, to sow seeds and to broaden the educational experience. The topics explored vary from group to group; whilst one class is studying the works of Koestler, another is immersed in the art of Berlin.  One set of pupils is discussing ethical aspects of technological advance whilst another is being introduced to the poetry of Yeats. 

Oundle’s Director of Studies, Ben Evans, commented “Our Trivium course is studied by all Third Form pupils in groups of ten for four lessons per week. Oundelians are intellectually ambitious but it is vital that they do not equate all learning with assessment. ‘Triv’ has no syllabus and no prescribed content.”

Many of the Trivium themes will overlap, and this is important: appreciation of a work of art is enhanced by an understanding of historical context.  What links all the sets in this course is the method of teaching – Trivium’s ‘traditional three ways’ of GrammarLogic and Rhetoric. Oundle provides a modern Trivium, but expects that these three disciplines will remain central to the teaching.

The close relationship between the teacher and the pupils develops during the course of the year, with small set sizes allowing for the classroom atmosphere to be similar to that of a tutorial.  The philosophy of the course can be summed up the words of E M Forster: only connect

Ben added, “Oundle’s GCSE results are exceptional.  The raw results have placed us 30th in The Times’ league table for the past two years.  The Value Added per pupil has improved steadily for the last ten years whilst the academic ability of the average Oundelian has remained remarkably consistent. 

The evidence suggests that the results have reached a peak, and the new challenge is to maintain standards, especially against a backdrop of falling GCSE top grades nationwide.  If we assume that we have reached a zenith in terms of teaching towards examinations, we should investigate further ways of improving the educational experience whilst still maintaining the rigour involved with preparing pupils for GCSE.

We wish to sow seeds for the future by providing intellectual stimulation from the off.  Our aim should be to create something akin to a ‘colloquium for all’.”

Oundle’s extension programme is strong, with academic societies, extension courses, Voluntaries and EPQs all offering many opportunities for intellectual challenge.


Fifty eight Voluntaries courses are open to First to Fourth Form (Year 7-9) pupils including photography, mah-jong, climbing, origami, astronomy, palaeontology and yoga.

Ben commented, “Voluntaries represent the chance to broaden pupils’ academic horizons, and to explore artistic, literary, cultural or sporting activities without ever having to be tested on what they have learned and experienced.  Voluntaries are an opportunity to delve deeper into things that really interest pupils, or they could be a chance to have a go at something that they have never done before.  Above all, they are supposed to be fun. “

Extended Project Qualifications (EPQs):


In addition to traditional A levels and Pre-Us, pupils may choose to produce an individual project in an area of particular interest rather than opting to follow a taught course for their Sixth Form extension. 


 The final project will be completed by the end of the Lower Sixth, and may take the form of a 5000 word report or a ‘product’ (which may be a CD, DVD, crafted object, original composition, work of Art) with an accompanying 1000 word report.  Each project will be assessed to gain the AQA Extended Project Qualification. 


Last year saw the introduction of EPQ Level 2 Projects at Oundle, which requires a high level of independent work and original thought. It is a stand-alone qualification completed in one year where pupils can gain an A* grade equivalent to half a GCSE.


Background Information on Oundle School

Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.


The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.


At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion due to open April 2015. 


There are currently 1100 pupils on roll at Oundle School, with 850 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children aged 4 to 11. 

You may also be interested in ...