Interdisciplinary thinking lies at the heart of Bradfield life and is apparent in both our extensive academic curriculum and the breadth and depth of the co-curricular offering. Bridging the gap between the two is a society which not only encourages pupils to be active and curious learners, but also empowers them to lead.

Founded by pupils, with a little help from Head Librarian Emily Stannard, the Diadati Society has flourished since its conception, with pupils joining staff and external speakers to present and lead discussions on a variety of topics from working inside a nuclear reactor and ethical veganism to making it rain in the desert and coping with anxiety. Emily Stannard discusses the origins of the society and how intellectual discussion provides pupils with the skills they need to thrive in their studies at Bradfield and in their lives beyond our boundaries.

The Diadati Society was born out of the intellectual curiosity of a group of Upper Sixth pupils, whose thirst for knowledge went beyond the confines of the A Level syllabus. These pupils spent a lot of time in the Garrett Library, usually writing their debating speeches and arguing passionately over points of interest. I suggested that perhaps we could meet in an informal seminar fashion on a weekly basis, with someone leading the discussion each week on a topic of interest to them. Harry Tanner (F 10-15), one of the founding members, likened the society to the Villa Diodati which was visited every summer by Lord Byron and Percy and Mary Shelley and thus the society got its name. Any suggestions that the Diadati Society is some sort of secret Bradfieldian society where you need a special invitation to join are way off the mark; the discussions are open to all pupils who want to attend.

It brings pupils together and gives them the space and freedom to not only learn but also interact.

The purpose of Diadati is to broaden intellectual horizons through exposure to a wide variety of topics, exposing those who attend to ideas, topics and theories outside of their studies. Many pupils are keen to go deeper into aspects of their academic subjects but restrictions on teachers in relation to time and course content means that they do not always get the chance to do this. Other pupils may be studying Mathematics and Sciences but have a strong interest in History or Economics. And whilst there is a fantastic Minerva Lecture programme to facilitate exposure to a wide range of topics, the Diadati Society is unique in that it brings pupils together and gives them the space and freedom to not only learn but also immediately interact, asking questions of the speaker which are then discussed in a small group setting.

Being able to challenge one another’s viewpoints builds resilience and confidence.

Topics are occasionally contentious, dividing the group, and pupils have to learn to respect one another’s opinions which teaches them to see arguments from different viewpoints. Often, Senior pupils are able to set the Lower School pupils straight about theories and ideas, especially on subjects that do not feature on the GCSE curriculum.

Being able to challenge one another’s viewpoints builds resilience and confidence in pupils who in a larger scale setting might not feel that they can share their opinions. Pupils are also exposed to real world issues outside the independent school setting, bringing them into contact with people who have had vast life experience in a range of different areas.

It is so important to remember that attending Bradfield College is a privilege, and keeping ourselves grounded in reality helps us to remember that we may be uniquely placed to make and take opportunities to change our world for the better.

 

Pupils have moved from a tentative state of mind to a confident can-do attitude.

 

Diadati is not solely focussed on exposing pupils to topics outside of the curriculum as the themes and discussions which occur help attendees become more open-minded and inquiring about subjects they are studying.

Building confidence in a small group has a positive effect on pupils’ ability to speak up in the classroom. In some cases, particularly when external speakers have come in to talk, pupils who have stayed behind to talk to the speaker have felt affirmed and inspired, moving them from a tentative state of mind to a confident can-do attitude.

I specifically witnessed this when a speaker from the Henley Business School’s Centre for Entrepreneurship came to give a talk, and it was wonderful to see the guidance and affirmation he provided to pupils from Diadati.

Diadati engenders deep respect for one another and cultivates some deep and lasting friendships.

Every year I am amazed at the range of topics selected for discussion by the pupils. Quite often they will suggest asking a specific teacher to come and give a talk about something they might have mentioned in passing in class which the pupils want to explore further. This year has been no exception; we have had some fabulous talks from both teachers and pupils on topics ranging from nuclear power and virtual reality to dyslexia and the gory symbolism of public executions in the 1500-1600s. Retired teachers who have been staunch supporters of Diadati since its inception are always keen to come back and give a talk if they can, and just before Christmas we were treated to a talk on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and some fun mathematics (yes, such a thing does exist!) by Colin Burgess. Old Bradfieldians and former Diadati regulars also make an appearance from time to time, passing on knowledge and wisdom gained in their time after Bradfield.

The pupils who attend Diadati never cease to amaze me. Quite often, a pupil will start attending in the Shell and stay the whole way through their Bradfield education. Diadati engenders deep respect for one another and cultivates some deep and lasting friendships, often with shared experiences and amusing anecdotes! It is a huge privilege to watch pupils blossom and mature into confident, well-rounded young women and men whose love for learning and curiosity about the world significantly helps them as they pursue higher education and their own business interests.

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