The English department is currently in its first year of the Associate Department Scheme. Their research project focuses on improving the learning experience and attainment of its most able learners through a new initiative called the Viva Voce Society. This society will exist to support pupils in becoming independent researches, confident public speakers and enquiring learners.
The Viva Voce Society is a new gifted and talented in English society based on the way PhD students are awarded doctorates. For the inaugural year, our topic of study is 'Disillusionment and Race Relations in America'. Over the course of this academic year, students will be taught by subject specialists from across the school. This will take the form of university-style lectures and seminars to provide them with a cross-curricular learning experience.
The society is primarily about giving bright students from less privileged backgrounds the opportunity to really expand the scope of their studies, and foster an environment in which they can do this. Also, it is designed to enrich students’ cultural capital, their knowledge of the world and their place in it, which is vital for success at GCSE and beyond.
In addition, through the formation of committees, which act as the foundation for democratic learning, students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning and that of the rest of the group. Each Viva Voce Society student is a member of a committee to which they were democratically elected through a process of nominations; there are four students in each group thereby giving the student a direct say in how the group is run.
The committees are as follows:
Finance: The students in this committee are in charge of what we spend and buy in the English department at St Bonaventure's RC School.
Design: This committee is responsible for designing the logo (for school ties, badges, pens, rulers, ring binders etc.) and getting these designs off the ground in terms of production. The photo below shows a current pen design that has been created by the Viva Voce Society Design Team.
Fundraising: The Fundraising Committee explore ways to raise money for trips, stationery and books for the English department.
Blog: The Viva Voce Society Bloggers are responsible for establishing a blog and writing a bi-weekly piece on what's happening at St Bonaventure's RC School.
Trips: This committee researches and proposes trips that will be of educational benefit to the members of the Viva Voce Society and the English department more broadly.
The Viva Voce Society meets once a month where each committee has to report back to the group on what they have done or what they propose to do. Everything is voted on, and no proposal is passed unless a majority vote is returned. It is St Bonaventure's hope that this initiative instils a love of learning and by doing so, broadens students' ideas of what education is, and indeed can be.
The English department at St Bonaventure's RC School is a keen member of the PTI. They have been an active member for over four years, having recently begun the Associate Department Scheme following the completion of the Schools Programme.