Foundations for success

More Able and Ambitious

For Senior Students

Big ideas for curious minds



What to expect on the day

More Able students have a special educational need which is now widely recognised.
This need is for high level intellectual input which Academy Learning provides through world class “thinking days” at which students engage with a wide range of topics and a balanced academic programme aimed at stimulating thought beyond the constraints of the curriculum
Asking the right questions is important. The great thinker, Socrates, was called the midwife of people’s thoughts because he asked the right questions and helped people give birth to new ideas. Would we have known that the earth revolves around the sun if it hadn’t been for the inquisitive minds of people like Copernicus and Galileo? Would we have known that light holds energy? This interactive study day will ask students to consider some fundamental questions and offer intellectual frameworks for developing their own ideas
The focus is upon topics which can be approached from many different disciplines so that students begin to see connections between different areas of study and the bigger picture. The content is fast paced and differentiated to meet the needs of highly able learners with a focus on important and enduring concepts. There is no duplication of traditional school topics, and students benefit from a university style of learning in which their knowledge is broadened and their critical abilities up-graded with new thinking tools. All sessions are designed to stimulate student interest with further resources available on the Academy website for follow up independent learning

I hope that you keep offering these conferences. It’s not often that you go somewhere and actually learn as much as the kids.

My boys have come back raving about the day! You opened their minds to Quantum Physics and through all the sessions you once again left an indelible mark on a group of very bright youngsters who will
carry their experience of you onwards into their academic futures.

This is always an inspiring and exciting day. We come every year and wouldn’t miss it.

This amazing day improved and consolidated our philosophical learning while breaking down more controversial topics to test our judgement and opinion-making. I particularly enjoyed the funny and slightly quirky anecdotes The sessions were engaging and very enjoyable to listen to.



Examining epistemology. What can we know exists? What can we know to be the case? How can we be sure of what we think we know? All sense data is processed by the mind, so is knowledge just whatever we think? Or is knowledge different to belief? This session will explore different ways that we might establish knowledge, such as empiricism, rationalism and fallible foundationalism. In addition, there will be an evaluation of the claim that there are some areas of human experience, such as love, which require different tests.


At Oxford and Cambridge Universities admission interview questions are designed to give candidates a chance to show their real ability and potential. This includes questions to test whether a candidate can think laterally and apply their thinking to new ideas and different contexts. There is no ‘right’ answer and the challenge therefore is to show how well you can think. This session will provide students with essential Oxbridge standard thinking tools: some basic rules of logic and ideas for developing high level lateral thinking skills. A number of questions will be considered including ‘How Many Animals did Noah Take onto the Ark’ and ‘Does a snail have Consciousness?’


Can Science tell us about How to be Happy? We all want to be happy, so how is that achieved? Is happiness found in fame and fortune? Or in material possessions: house, car, garden, great job? Or maybe the true secret of happiness is accepting that there isn’t one! What’s your guess? Can science tell us how to be happy? Dr O’Neill will review the scientific literature on the secret of happiness.


The relationship between Big Data and AI. The engine that drives social physics is big data: the newly ubiquitous digital data now available about all aspects of human life. What are the connections between human behavior and the digital bread crumbs we all leave behind us as we move through the world. Who we really are is most accurately pictured by big data which captures where we actually spend our time and which things we buy. The process of looking at this data is called ‘reality mining’. The work of Social Physicist, Alex Pentland, living laboratories, socioscopes and modern-day tribes will be explained and examined as will the potential for artificial intelligence to ‘read our minds’. Students will experience a live debate and be encouraged to contribute and to vote. This is a vibrant session and gives an opportunity for the development of analytical and evaluative skills


A commodity is a useful or valuable thing that can reasonably be bought or sold. Many would argue that people also have an exchange value. For example, in a work environment the employer buys the employees’ time and energy at an agreed price. In a world where everyone and everything has a price, this debate will ask if there is any reason to regard human love any differently?


Julie Arliss

A Farmington Scholar at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, Julie Arliss is a highly accomplished teacher and author. Julie Arliss is a well-known international educator of gifted students with a gift for making the complex simple, and the simple complex. She is committed to the provision of world-class extension activities for these students, to extend their reach well beyond the curriculum to new areas of knowledge. She is on the examining team for Cambridge International Examinations and founder of Academy Learning.

Dr. Christopher O’Neill

Dr O’Neill is a fellow of Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford and is a polymathic thinker. He is a psychologist, registered psychotherapist and trained counsellor. He initiated the large-scale MYRIAD research project in Oxford University investigating resilience and well-being in young people. He has forty years’ experience of working with students and staff in schools and is an exceptional educator

Tour Dates and Venues


Wed 17th May 2023

Servite College


Mon 22nd May 2023

St Andrew’s College


Wed 24th May 2023

Scots College


Thu 25th May 2023

Pinehurst School


Tue 30th May 2023

Genesis Christian College


Wed 31st May 2023

Concordia College


Thu 1st June 2023

Scotch College


Mon 5th June 2023

Ascham School


Tue 6th June 2023




Arrival from 09.00. The programme begins promptly at 9.30 and concludes at 14.30.

Students — A fixed fee of $50 if paid prior to conference. We have access to sponsorship for students wishing to attend but for whom the cost is a significant challenge for their families. Please contact us for further details.
Staff — A fixed fee of $50. Staff attending for professional training $95. One free place with every 12 students, the charge for which will be deducted at checkout.

Staff are warmly invited to join the team for informal discussion over break and lunch with refreshments provided. Students will need to bring their own equipment and refreshments. Please note that we do not allow recordings of the day.

School Booking

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