Seven Year 10 members of the Phoenix Society spent the week at Cambridge University researching academic topics, exploring the city and meeting University fellows. Maria Page (R) reports on the visit. 

Arriving by train in Cambridge station on Sunday, we walked out into a haze of sunshine, busy streets and a hailstorm of bicycles; which basically sums up our stay – plus the daily five hours of hard yet interesting work that was an unavoidable side effect of our visit.

We have spent the past few days saturating our brains with our individual favourite forms of knowledge in the mornings, followed by afternoons wandering the energetic city of Cambridge. The sheer majesty of Trinity College alone inspired our hopes and dreams for the future, while our trip to the Fitzwilliam Museum was awakening to the past.

This trip has been a really amazing experience, both productive and enjoyable, and we would just like to thank Mr Hollingbury for making it the trip that it was. 

The group lodged at Fitzwilliam College, the alma mater of Deputy Head Dan Harrison, and the group met with admissions tutor and Lecturer in History Dr Rosemary Horrox, who talked to the pupils about the application and interview process. They also visited the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, where Dr Phil Howell talked about the ethics of GM Crops and led a tour of the facilities. On their final day, the group went punting on the River Cam –in the safe hands of a pro-punter!

Pupils on the visit were: Harriet Bramwell (CH), who researched the differences in brain structure and activity in those with Dyslexia; Freya Metcalfe (CH), who looked into autistic spectrum disorders, considering neurological explanation and how such disorders may have different effects depending on gender and age; Charlie Papworth (E), who used Orwell’s Animal Farm as a starting point for research on the use of allegory as a literary device; and Maria Page (R), who built on her work last year on human motivation and success – physical and in terms of our cultural and mental progress.

Will Ross (S) researched the science behind Cancer, hoping to discover something about the medical facts but also to challenge some of the ways we refer to it in our everyday lives. Joy Stanley (L) explored her interest in non-verbal communication, analysing how psychologists measure and track body language and facial expressions in those who are lying and George Thomas (H) asked the question of how consciousness influences reality.

Classics Teacher Andrew Hollingbury, a graduate of Oriel College, Oxford, said: “The opportunity to research a topic outside the normal school curriculum is all too valuable, as we know from the success of the School’s Extended Project programme in the Sixth Form.

By giving our younger pupils the chance to do so at one of the world’s greatest universities, they gain a taste of academic life beyond school and, hopefully, an understanding of whether a university such as Cambridge or any other highly regarded institution is somewhere they would aspire to study.

All those we have met, from admissions tutors to research geneticists, have been impressed with the curiosity and sensibility of our pupils on the trip, and their findings and opinions on their chosen topics should prove very interesting.”

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