Humanities at The Abbey School comprises Geography, History and Philosophy of Religion at all Key Stages, and Business Management, Economics and Global Politics as additional options in the Sixth Form. These subjects, in their broadest sense, are all disciplines that study human culture. Each is taught as a discrete subject by specialists in their field and all flourish within the school curriculum. At GCSE and at both A Level and IB the results in all the humanities are impressive, with many students continuing to pursue these subjects at University.

The Humanities provide our students with a plethora of skills which will be highly valued by their employers in the future:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Analysis
  • Research
  • Communication
  • Synopticity
  • Creativity
  • Global Perspective

The departments all enhance their offering with field trips (in the UK and overseas) and talks from visiting experts.

“Business is simple - weigh up the options, make a decision and justify it – so why do so many companies find it so difficult?”  Charles Lovibond, Head of Business and Enterprise

Business Management is offered as part of the International Baccalaureate programme. It involves learning about and applying a variety of business models and tools in the context of the environment in which businesses operate. Not only is the subject highly practical but it also draws heavily on current business affairs to understand how the theory is connected to the real world of commerce.

Perhaps most surprisingly, students have to come to terms with the idea that, in business, there is generally no such thing as THE right answer – rather they must learn to justify their choices and stand by them.

Supported by a framework of notes - but more importantly, their own research - students learn to discuss the uses and application of the syllabus content in the context of Change, Culture, Ethics, Globalisation, Innovation and Strategy.

Assessment takes the form of an Internal Assignment and two written papers at the end of the two years of study.

Beyond the classroom

Regular reading of current business news essential to provide a rounded appreciation of the syllabus

Participation in the Young Enterprise programme provides an ideal opportunity to put ideas into practice and discuss the outcomes objectively

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A subject for those students who are curious about everything that happens around them.

What’s the difference between public debt and deficit? Why doesn’t money really exist? Why are footballers paid more than nurses and why is the success of Ed Sheeran good for the Balance of Payments? These are just some of the questions an Economics student can expect to consider. Whilst not necessarily providing a right answer, studying Economics provides a framework enabling the students to understand the impact of economic decisions both nationally and internationally. It develops analysis, problem-solving, evaluation and essay-writing skills that are transferable across the business sector.

Beyond the classroom

A number of opportunities are available including 

  • attending the ‘Your Future in Europe’ conference in Paris – hear top speakers such as Evan Davis talk about the EU.
  • Be an investment banker for a day and experience a live stock market trading floor at Henley Business School.

Geography is a ‘join the dots’ subject; all those snippets of information whirling around the world waiting to be connected in some way so a more complete understanding can be developed. Carl (2012)

We are a vibrant, knowledgeable department who inspire a love of Geography in our students. In lessons we explore the world through different learning experiences. We aim to understand these concepts in real life by studying ‘Geography in Action’ on our field trips. We have embraced modern technology and use GIS both in the classroom and in the field to collect, interpret and analyse data.

Beyond the classroom

Each year has a field trip

  • Upper III to investigate the River Chess
  • Lower IV to solve the mystery of Barton’s disappearing beach
  • Upper IV to Chessington World of Adventures to decide if it is a successful tourist attraction
  • Plus two days of fieldwork to accompany the GCSE course and four days to accompany the A Level course. 

We also run an enrichment trip every year and have recently been to Iceland and Norway, and are going to Croatia next October!

Read about our trip to Iceland on The Abbey Travels blog

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The twenty-first century has, so far, been characterised by rapid change and increasing interconnectedness, impacting on people in unprecedented ways and creating complex global political challenges. The study of Global Politics enables students to engage critically with new perspectives and approaches to politics, in order to make better sense of this changing world and their role in it as active citizens. It is an exciting, dynamic subject which draws on a variety of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities, reflecting the complex nature of many political issues. The Abbey was proud to be one of the first schools in the world to offer Global Politics as part of the IB Diploma, and our staff and students have been pivotal in the shaping of the course within the wider IB community. Take-up of the subject is high within the IB group, and discussions in lessons are lively, challenging and supportive. 

The study of Global Politics enables students to engage critically with new perspectives and approaches to politics, in order to make better sense of this changing world and their role in it as active citizens. IB Global Politics explores fundamental political concepts such as power, rights, liberty and equality in a range of contexts and at a variety of levels. It allows students to develop an understanding of the local, national, international and global dimensions of political activity, as well as allowing them the opportunity to explore political issues affecting their own lives.The course also helps them to understand abstract political concepts by grounding them in real world examples and case studies. Finally, it invites comparison between such examples and case studies to ensure a transnational perspective.

The core units of the course are linked together by a central unifying theme of ‘people, power and politics’.

Throughout the course issues such as conflict or migration are explored through an explicitly political lens; politics providing a uniquely rich context in which to explore how people and power interact. 

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What? Why? and So What? These are the questions at the heart of studying History at The Abbey.

History equips students with the skills and confidence to face the challenges of the modern world.  It is the core aim of the department to provide a learning environment which will foster a life-long love of the subject in all its many facets but also the ability to interrogate evidence, question received opinion, relish ambiguity and make informed judgements. As a group of our LVI students said in a recent discussion, ‘History at The Abbey offers a really relevant experience which challenges our perspectives’.  From Upper III to Upper VI we encourage students to explore the big questions of the past and through reasoning from evidence, debate and argument, to have the confidence to make their own judgements.

History offers far more than names and dates and through a wide range of activities both in and out of school History is experienced more deeply. In UIII you can explore the Medieval World by acting out the tale of a friendship that goes bad in the story of Thomas Becket and Henry II to an in-depth enquiry into the challenges of being a woman in a man’s world. In Upper IV you can start the year by putting the British Empire on trial and end it standing in No Man’s land in Flanders empathising with the British Tommy fighting his way across the muddy landscape. Invited speakers challenge our sixth form with inspirational talks and our close links with the Museum of English Rural Life mean that many students have opportunities to work in archives, to do work experience in the museum, and engage with History in the community.

In a world that moves at such a fast pace History at The Abbey provides the tools our young women will need to look at the world with a quizzical and an informed eye.

Outside the classroom

Gain new perspectives from respected historians at the Chalke Valley History Festival. Link history and art at the national portrait gallery and explore international history with speakers from Cold War spies to Oxford fellows.

As one of our UVI girls has said, this is “a place to think, feel, question, share and sometimes understand!”

In Philosophy and Theology, girls are offered a unique opportunity to enquire into some of life’s deepest mysteries.

The study of Philosophy enables girls to develop fundamentally important skills such as analytical and critical reasoning and apply these skills to some of the biggest abstract and practical questions posed through history. Theology explores the intellectual basis of some of the major faiths of the world and develops skills of empathy and interpretation as it seeks to understand people of faith and of none. All students study Philosophy and Theology at GCSE level where the focus is on major concepts in the faiths and related philosophical and ethical matters. At A level this is extended further through scholarly enquiry into questions to do with truth, belief and morality. IB Philosophy offers the opportunity to explore a wide range additional questions to do with the nature of existence and personhood.