18 September 2018

Abingdon School hosted the inaugural Pre Senior Baccalaureate Philosophy Conference. While the PSB has been operational for a good number of years now, and run a variety of subject specific courses, this was the first event focused on Philosophy. During the day an array of areas were examined, with particular focus on teaching Philosophy as a pure subject, as well as incorporating philosophical methodology into other subjects. 

Proceedings got underway with an insightful talk from our keynote speaker, Prof Keith Ward, previously Regius Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University. Prof Ward spoke about the importance of Philosophy in education and how our delegates might best go about infusing key principles into their classroom endeavours. Then Dr John Taylor, an assistant head at Cranleigh School, and a key figure in the development of the EPQ, spoke about the use of group work, and how best to include philosophical principles and ideas into extended projects. After some time for group work and feedback, Mike Windsor came and spoke prior to lunch, welcoming our delegates to the school. 

Lunch was walked off with tours of the school site, led by our sixth form Philosophy students, who then enjoyed two seminars with Prof Ward in the afternoon. However, the PSB conference continued, with four members of Abingdon staff giving some excellent example lessons and ideas of how to use philosophical principles in the teaching of other subjects.

Rob Southwell-Sander did a cracking piece of geographical and emotional attachment to place, followed ably by Andrew English who elaborated on an earlier discussion of Zeno's paradox of Achilles and the tortoise. Then Deb Bennison showed some superb insights into sense perception and epistemology through the lens of Psychology, with Helen Wenham building brilliantly on this, looking at how we come to know historical truth (if at all!). Finally, Dr Jon Beale, head of Philosophy at Queen Anne's School, gave us some wonderful insights into teaching Philosophy as a pure subject at prep school level. The final talk of the day was a fusion of Eastern Philosophy, Stoicism and modern approaches to Mindfulness by Henry Barnes, a member of our Philosophy department here at Abingdon. 

Overall the day was incredibly well received by our delegates. Many comments were made about the quality of the conference, the calibre of our pupils when giving tours of the site and also our hospitality. In addition to this, the PSB we immensely happy with the day and how it was delivered. We hope to build further connections with our colleagues from other schools in the future in this respect, as collaboration is always the key to successful educational development. 

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