Canford has a varied, active number of societies which enrich school life and develop an enquiring mind.
The Heretics' Society is an invitation-only sixth form discussion group, where the emphasis is on the honing of analytical and discursive skills rather than on the rhetorical flourish and exhibitionist flair that might be found in a traditional debating society. The basis for a meeting is the reading of a paper, sometimes by an outsider, more often by a member of the society; recent topics have ranged from a probing enquiry into the nature and purpose of consciousness, through a hotly contested investigation into the possible justifications for torture, to an inconclusive stab at the proper purpose of education. Chaired by a member of staff, the meetings are conducted in an atmosphere in which ideas can be presented and explored with an openness of mind while at the same time being challenged with benign rigour.
The Layard Society is a lively Sixth Form History society. Visiting speakers and other meetings offer an opportunity for A-level Historians to prepare and deliver lectures themselves.
There occasional Film Evenings, either in school or visiting a cinema: films seen over the past few years include Elizabeth, Regeneration, Zulu, Michael Collins, In the Heat of the Night, The Killing Fields, Reds and Battleship Potemkin.
The annual Layard Society Dinner and hotly contested Historical Quiz Evening is another popular event.
'Politicos' is the departmental society that all AS and A2 politics pupils belong to. The 'Politicos' meets at least twice a term - non Politics pupils are also encouraged to attend.The society invites guest speakers from the political, academic and activist world. Invited guest speakers make presentations on subjects close to their heart, on topical issues or subjects related to the course syllabus.
Past speakers have included The Rt. Hon. Anne Widdecombe, Ian Dale; Political Commentator & MP, Graham Watson; Lib Dem MEP for the South West, Annette Brooke; MP (Lib Dem, Mid Dorset & Poole), Simon Hayes (Parliamentary Spokesman, Conservative for Mid Dorset & Poole); Robert Cranborne (Lord Salisbury), architect of the 'Cranborne Compromise' as part of Stage One of the reform of the House of Lords; Mathias Ginsberg, former Director of 'Der Spiegel' and Liberal MP for the German Bundestag; Michael Hutchins, a lawyer with a specialised knowledge of and interest in EU competition law and Dr Anthony J. Bennett (Charterhouse), an established author and authoritative commentator on US Government & Politic.
John o'Gaunt Debating Society
Physics book club