Octagon Academic Society Annual Dinner

The annual dinner of the Octagon Academic Society took place on Friday 15th March in Top School Hall. Around 150 guests were treated to a splendid evening of food and academic discussion. We were thrilled that a large number of parents were able to join us for the event which has become firmly established as one of the highlights of the school year. Octagon pupils also asked members of the Common Room to attend: they had the opportunity to invite a teacher who had inspired them to join them at the table with their family.

The occasion is modelled on a traditional Oxbridge college dinner with gowns, toasts and speeches. It is set in the beautiful, oak-panelled Hall, surrounded by the portraits of former Headmasters and the names of previous Heads of School. The Dinner is an opportunity to showcase the Society, which exists to encourage and foster intellectual curiosity in our pupils.

This year we were honoured to be joined by our Guest of Honour, Professor Kamal Mahtani from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Services at the University of Oxford. A well-respected practitioner, Professor Mahtani effortlessly explained to us the importance of evidence in making decisions. His speech was something of an eye-opener to the uninitiated: one would assume that all medical decisions are taken on the basis of evidence! What he showed us was the benefit of taking a holistic view of all the research available on a given subject, assessing the evidence in each study against the potential for bias and ulterior motive, in order to come to the best, most informed conclusions possible. He engaged us all thoroughly and gave us much food for thought.

Alongside Professor Mahtani, the outgoing President of the Society, Charlotte Bond, gave an excellent vote of thanks in which she reminisced about her seven years in Octagon and paid tribute to many teachers who had helped her to become the impressive young woman we had the pleasure of listening to on that evening.

According to tradition, Mr Williams, the Head of the Society named the new President in his speech. In September, Luke Smith will take on the responsibilities of the position.

In honour of last year’s Guest of Honour, the ITN Health and Science Editor, Emily Morgan, Mr Williams announced the institution of a new prize to be awarded at Speech Day each year: the Emily Morgan Prize for Intellectual Curiosity, which will be open to all pupils in the School and will reward a pupil we consider to have shown exemplary intellectual curiosity.

Amid the gowns, gavels, candles and toasts, it was wonderful to hear the buzz of conversation and a shared joy in the acquisition of knowledge rebounding from the oak panels of the Hall. We are already looking forward to next year’s dinner, which will take place on Friday 28th March, 2025.