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Intellectual Groups

Canford has a varied, active number of academic and cultural societies which complement the whole school theme weeks, enrich school life and aim to develop an enquiring mind, knowledge and skills.  Some are compulsory for academic scholars, some are subject or year group specific, while others are open to every pupil across the school.

A school full of bright ideas ... the whole place fizzes with activity from dawn till dusk.

Good Schools Guide

Current Groups and Societies
Biology Book Club

This  club for Sixth Form Biologists meets once a term in John o'Gaunt's over supper.  Pupils give presentations on a book, paper or essays as a starting point for what is usually an enthusiastic discussion. The aim is to keep our biologists up to date with current research and topical issues in our field but also to expand their reading, spark interest in areas not necessarily 'on the syllabus', and give them the opportunity and time to articulate their ideas and interests. Meetings always open the eyes of the Lower Sixth to the ambitions of the older members and this hopefully encourages them to challenge themselves too!

Engineering Society

The Engineering Society is a group for Engineering enthusiasts in the Sixth Form. Visits are arranged to professional lectures and sites of interest. Recent examples include the RNLI lifeboat build facility and to a prestige construction site in Southampton, with lectures at Bournemouth University and other locations. 

Global Forum

Open to all, the Global Forums provide a platform for pupils to further explore subjects beyond their regular curriculum by debating key global events in recent history. Each forum generally includes a presentation including case studies followed by a discussion. Topics have included ‘Whistleblowing’, ‘Should you be Tested?’, ‘Perceptions of Modern Africa’, ‘Australia – Convict or Conviction? What do events in Sydney tell us about Australia’s place in the World?’ and ‘Should the Whole World learn English?’


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.


Ichthyans is one of many more informal branches of the Chaplaincy work.  Pupils of all years and views are invited to meet socially, listen to a short talk given by an outside speaker and follow it up with questioning and discussion.  Ichthyans has a very relaxed atmosphere, meeting weekly in the comfort of the Sixth Form Centre with plenty of refreshments to enjoy together. 

John O'Gaunt Society

Canford's debating society holds regular debates on a wide variety of topical issues throughout the year. Open to all, from the youngest Shell pupil to the Heads of School. For the past two years, a Shell Debating Activity, which all Shell pupils take part in, has taught pupils the basics of debating and given them experience of taking part in these open discussions. One of the highlights of the John O'Gaunt Society's year is the House Debating Competition, in which teams from all ten of the school's Houses compete.

Journalism and Creative Writing Edit the weekly pupil newsletter 'The Week' or get involved in creative writing for 'The Canfordian', 'Canford News' or perhaps individual department publications.
Junior Heretics

A junior version of Heretics where Fourth and Fifth Formers are invited to present a paper on a topic of their choice as a basis for discussion.

Layard Society

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 are 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.

Physics Book Club

Read a popular science book just for the love of it!   Sixth formers enjoy a social evening of quizzes with members of the Physics teaching staff, both based on the book and some wildcard puzzles too.   Sometimes special guests are invited to dine with us.  A recent visitor was Joss Hawthorne, Professor of Astrophysics, Sydney University.


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. Ann 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 and Michael Hutchins - a lawyer with a specialised knowledge of and interest in EU competition law.

Riverfly Monitoring

The school is part of a scheme which uses aquatic invertebrates to monitor the water quality, in our case in the river Stour on site.  Pupils get involved taking samples and identifying the species to provide records for a national database.

Yellow Hour

The Yellow Hour is an hour set aside twice a term for all Canfordians to perform, for the sheer joy of it, in front of an informal audience of their peers and teachers. On average there are a dozen or so performances, including poems read to improvised musical accompaniment; contemporary songs; a singalong to a Monkeys number (yes!); a cutting edge duologue from two Shell girls; songs from Canford’s answer to Mumford and Sons; a set of pupil poems; piano solos; cabaret songs and more!

Hero Photo Slideshow

Canford Festival of Ideas