The Master of Scholars from September 2016 is Mr Adam Rothwell, who is also Head of History. Adam has experience guiding Oxbridge applicants in a wide variety of subjects, and has set up and chaired seminar and discussion groups for pupils of all ages. He is the co-author of a textbook for the IB Diploma Theory of Knowledge course (Oxford University Press, 2013) and also supervises the school’s debating teams. He has a double-first-class BA in History and a distinguished MPhil in Historical Studies from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
Scholars at Cranleigh play a vital role in the intellectual life of the school. They take a sustained, serious interest in academic matters beyond the classroom, and work hard in it. As a consequence, they usually end up being our most academically successful pupils, with several being made offers to study at Oxford and Cambridge each year.
We know, however, that scholars’ intellectual development doesn’t happen unprompted. So, to stimulate their interest and to encourage the development of good academic habits, we run regular scholars’ meetings for each year group (details below). By fostering a community among the scholars in each year, and by helping them to develop their ability to enquire through discussion, we lead pupils to read, understand and dispute in a sophisticated and useful way. These meetings are often regarded by pupils as among the most engaging academic experiences they have while at school.
The Purvis Society
Scholars meet regularly for Purvis Society meetings. Meetings take a different format depending on the age of the pupils involved. In the Lower School, the meeting is weekly, and comprises all the scholars (six to eight of them) from the same year-group. In these meetings, students discuss ideas presented to them by teachers, older scholars, or members of their peer-group. The aim of these meetings is to expose scholars to ideas they may not encounter in lessons, and to give them an opportunity to discuss these ideas in a sustained and critical fashion. Lower School scholars also have a weekly lunch with the Master of Scholars or a senior member of staff. These lunches give us a chance to understand the scholars better, and to keep track of their academic progress.
In the Upper School, Purvis Society meetings take a wider range of formats. Once or twice a term, we invite a high-profile academic speaker to address the scholars. Where possible, we follow these meetings with a dinner where we can discuss the ideas raised in more depth. We often then follow up our speakers’ ideas in subsequent Purvis Society meetings. Other meetings are set aside for scholars to present their own research, and to defend and explain their ideas in subsequent discussion; others involve formal debate; while others still are informal opportunities to discuss the wider implications of issues in the news.
Scholars (and any students without scholarships) who wish to apply to Oxbridge, are provided with guidance. Potential applicants meet once a week, and whenever necessary informally with the Master of Scholars, to discuss their applications. Our focus in these meetings is providing students with information about an application process that can seem overwhelmingly complex, and guiding them to the correct decisions. Subject-specific support is then given by the relevant academic department. We do not believe that there is any ‘easy’ way of getting into Oxbridge; and we also know that students who are intensively ‘coached’ into coming across as a certain type of person in their application very rarely meet with success. So, our focus is on encouraging students to make wise choices, and giving them the advice they need to make a successful application.