Introduction to Octagon

Octagon_logoWhat type of students is Octagon looking for?

Students are selected on the basis of their academic potential across a range of subjects, although there is always attention given to subject specialists. Students should be highly enthusiastic about learning and ideally have A grade potential in order to be nominated for Octagon membership.


A selection table of student statistics is developed using various methods including information from MIDYIS /ALIS, average effort & achievement scores, staff nominations, information about past academic success and also potential for future success. Emphasis will be placed upon enthusiastic learners who have considerable academic potential.

Normally there will be 8 students from each year group as there are 8 seats at Charles Baring Young’s Octagonal table. The weekly programme will seek to extend student ability to analyse complex problems, teach them how to write and speak clearly and persuasively, and train them how to think creatively.

Vitally there is also a moral dimension to Octagon where students will be given the opportunity to explore ethical and moral areas in order that they may develop their character and have the ability to think ethically, develop in civility and integrity and understand virtues such as wisdom, justice, moderation and courage.


Practically this involves:

  • How to construct essays, exam techniques and style
  • Debating and the art of rhetoric through internal and external public speaking, debating and practising thinking on their feet in quick-fire sessions and interviews
  • Philosophy – thinking skills and how to think logically, credibility of evidence, resolution of dilemmas, and assessing and developing argument.

There will also be visits throughout the year to listen to and engage with lectures, speakers and presentations on a wide variety of subject areas and also to visit areas of cultural and educational significance.

In addition to this Kingham Hill School will seek to host its own lectures every a term and invite other schools and establishments to attend these. There will also be opportunities in each term for internal lectures given by staff and students on a range of specialist subjects.

The Octagon will have a student president and other student officers. All members will be awarded Octagon ties and badges in due course throughout their membership in addition to various other privileges they will receive for being Octagon members.


What purpose does it serve the students and how do they benefit?

In addition to the enhanced benefits of studying the Trivium, Octagon students gain Experience of cultural and academic events, receive their Octagon tie, become part of the Academic elite at Kingham Hill, Receive specialist Oxbridge and top university preparation and attend the Oxford reading party, Experience learning outside of the national curriculum to give them the skills they need to be independent thinkers and to be able to acquire the skills to learn and study independently – skills highly valued in life and valued by the best universities and employers, and have the opportunity to join the Octagon council and experience the skills of board management, planning, event management, journalism and PR.


Lessons over the last year have included:

Philosophy, IQ tests, logic puzzles, topical examinations, book club - literature and comprehension, a study of ethics. Evolutionary psychology, business ethics, cryptology, code-breaking, nature of mathematics and the Fibonacci sequence. We have read War Horse, The boy in the striped pyjamas, The Book Thief,  The Screw tape letters, five people you meet in heaven, The death of Ivan Illyich,  studied - People trafficking, extended projects & IRI, explored philosophical development enquiries, we have watched Up, Avatar, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Gattaca, Breakfast Club, History Boys and Casbalanca. We have also completed ethical research, philosophical questioning about existence and purpose in life, Genetic engineering, Personification, UCAS applications, university choices, debates and linguistics, critical thinking and coping strategies.

And yes… games. Games to make you think, to sharpen your minds, to teach you strategy, thinking tools, to help you cope whilst under pressure, to challenge you in many ways… and for fun!


Extra-curricular - Events over the last year:

G&T study day in Oxford (nanotechnology / law and justice), Politics debate (BNP), Interface between Science and Religion lecture, 6th form ethics conference in Oxford, The Design argument lecture in the science labs, Cultural beer and wine tasting evening at The Chequers, Lecture on the advance in science and designer babies, Oxbridge trip to Trinity College Oxford, Films (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Hotel Rwanda), The lecture on Rwanda and the genocide, the American History lecture, Ashmolean museum, Lunch at Pierre Victoire, Michael Ramsden apologetics lecture, a visit to The Imperial War Museum, London and The play in the school hall on Dr Faustus. There have been student presentations and lectures, our academic staff lecture is their specialist chosen subjects. This term we have visiting lecturers coming in to talk about Science, killer bugs and deadly venoms, William Hogarth and Art as a Social Commentary, and also Town Planning and the 2012 Olympics.


The impact Octagon has had on the School

Aspiring to be in Octagon

  • So many students are asking to be a part of it.
  • Junior years look up to it and want access
  • Parents ask constantly about their children joining it.
  • The buzz of what we do in lessons and at events spreads around the school

Raising academic standards

  • this is show in higher exam grades and better University entry
  • Impact upon life will be immeasurable 

Pursuit of knowledge and love of learning

  • It is the dream job of any teacher to teach the best minds in the school and at KHS this is embodied in our students with the thrill of learning and their ability to adapt to whatever is put in front of them.

ISI report

  • This was a great achievement. To get such high praise was fantastic and was down to the hard work of the students. The lessons observed were excellent and it sends out high the academic reputation of the school for years to come
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