Shrewsbury School

Academic Extension Programme

The Academic Extension programme is designed to broaden our pupils’ interests and thinking beyond the strict confines of the specifications in their classroom subjects.  It is open to all year groups and to all abilities. 

Each year the programme is put together with the help of a small group of Sixth Form students who also choose the theme. 

 There are two strands to the programme: current affairs; and themed talks from visiting speakers.

Current affairs

It is our hope and expectation that our pupils have an understanding of what is going on nationally and internationally – and via the Academic Extension programme our aim is to ensure that their knowledge is rounded and deeper than the obvious headline story. 

In the AE programme so far, we have looked into what it is to be human and what lies ahead for humanity via a video-link lecture by Yuval Noah Harari on the topic of his book Sapiens; into the causes and effects of the instability in the Middle East following the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Arab Spring and issues related to Russia with talks from Major General Nugee and the writer and broadcaster Tim Marshall, author of Prisoners of Geography; we have discussed the debate surrounding Brexit; and we have also held General Election hustings at school, when we invited all the Shrewsbury & Atcham prospective parliamentary candidates to present their case and to take questions. 

Parents and the wider Shrewsbury community are welcome to attend the Academic Extension Lectures, which are advertised on the school website and in the weekly eNewsletter. 

Please email Stuart Cowper if you would like to attend –


Themes - 'Controversy', 'Watersheds' and 'Persuasion'

The theme for the 2018-19 Academic Extension Programme was Controversy.

Lectures included  Karen Attwood and Diana Nammi in conversation – ‘Revolution in Iran’

Friday 14th September 2018:  Daniel Kawczynski MP – ‘Russia, Brexit and the political landscape’

Thursday 4th October 2018:  Graham Hoyland – ‘Everest – Death or Glory?’

Monday 29th October 2018:  Dr Helen Pankhurst – ‘Controversy and the disruption of social norms – the story of women’s rights then and now’ – talk followed by Q&A

Thursday 29th November 2018:  Henry Corbett – ‘The Hillsborough Disaster 1989: stories and aftermath’

Thursday 6th December 2018:  Ben Sparkes – ‘Numbers – Man-made or fact of nature?’

Thursday 24th January 2019:  Martin Humphreys – 'Entartete Kunst - the 1937 Munich Degenerate Art Exhibition'

Thursday 28th February 2019:  Dr Gil Greengross – 'Human Biological Diversity - The Concept of Race'

Thursday 28th March 2019:  Martin Cox, John Locke Institute – 'Is capitalism immoral?'



The 2017-18 series of talks was on the theme of Watersheds. It was designed to look at moments where changes in human thinking have led to new understanding of the world we live in and new directions for society.  For this series, in a new and exciting development, Sixth Form students have chosen the themes for individual talks and have also taken responsibility for finding speakers (within school, nationally and even internationally) and organising their visit to the School. 


The watersheds chosen by these students cover cultural, historical, legal / political, philosophical and scientific topics. 

Our Head of Art History, Mr Fergus Reid, looked at artists, photographers and sculptors who have revolutionised notions of beauty and the idealised form. 

Mr Martin Humphreys looked at the momentous events surrounding Martin Luther as ‘the Monk who Changed the World’. 

We were privileged to have Mr Alastair Hignell CBE come to talk with us about his personal watershed moment, when his sporting and broadcasting careers were knocked sideways when he was diagnosed with a progressive and incurable illness. 

We also enjoyed talks on the development of human rights legislation, on breakthrough moments in our understanding of how the human brain works and - of particular relevance to Salopians - on the significance of the work of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace.


 The series of talks for 2016-17 was on the theme of Persuasion.  Talks ranged from the classical origins of rhetoric given by Dr Niall Livingstone from the University of Birmingham, to ‘Influence – the Psychology of Persuasion’ by Joseph Marks from the company Influence at Work, to ‘North Korea Exposed’ by Jeremy Hunter, to ‘Art, Propaganda and War’ by David Boyd Haycock, to ‘The Holocaust’ by Freddy Naftel, to ‘How Dictators Cheat’ by Dominic Howell from Intellitas, to ‘Choice and Corporations’ by Professor Munafo from the University of Bristol. 

This eclectic mix of talks covered many areas related to the formal curriculum but aimed to go beyond and show how the use of language – both verbal and non-verbal – shapes our daily life both at a personal level and beyond into society and world affairs. 

As a result, our pupils ought to have gained a better understanding of how and why they use language themselves and also be better equipped to gauge and to interpret what they see and hear from others.

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