Gifted & Talented Blue-Sky Thinking for Bright Minds For Students Years 10–13 (Friend’s Meeting House, Manchester)

26th April 2018 @ 9:30 AM – 3:15 PM
Friend’s Meeting House, Manchester
6 Mount St
Manchester M2 5NS
Academy Conferences
07979 524277
What to Expect on the DayThe LecturesThe SpeakersWhat Students and Teachers SayWhy Attend?Details and Bookings

What to Expect on the Day

This year we are looking at some really topical issues. In an era of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ it is ever more important to equip students with critical thinking skills for life.

Experienced gifted educator, Julie Arliss and lecturers from the Universities of Oxford, Aberdeen and London will stretch and challenge your students. This is a unique, not to be missed, opportunity for them.

‘A mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions’

The Lectures

Matters of Life and Death – Julie Arliss

‘An unexamined life is not worth living’.

It seems to be a fundamental part of being human to reflect on our lives and to try to work out how to live and die well. What would a life well lived actually look like? Is there anything fundamentally good about working for a living? Or is the ultimate goal to avoid work. What would it mean to ‘die well’? Is there anything more to life than this, or is it all just a wombat trail? This session will survey a number of the different answers to these questions and give students a map of the territory identifying the key issues that divide those who take up the Socratic challenge to live an examined life.

‘Finding Truth and Logic in a “Post-truth” Post-modern world’ – Professor Tom Greggs

This multi-media lecture explores contemporary shifts in culture in relation to the way in which logic and truth are deployed. The lecture not only explores the role of contemporary social media in shaping the idea of ‘truth’, but also the shifting ways in which logic is deployed. As well as outlining the cultural shift towards ‘post-truth’ and its relation to post-modernism, the lecture will consider the ways in which logic functions, looking particularly at deduction, induction and abduction, as well as the place of logic in post-modern reasoning. The role of logic in the political sphere will also be considered in an age of the dictatorship of twitter-sphere.

Just how free am I? – Dr Stephen Law

You are an animal – a physical thing – and all physical things are in the grip of the laws of nature. Rocks, rivers, and planets aren’t free to wander off wherever they want – they have no choice other than to obey the laws of physics. But then, being a physical thing, so do you. Science shows that every atom in your body is in the vice-like grip of those same laws of physics. So, given enough knowledge about how things were a day or a month or even a decade ago, physicists could in principle predict everything you do today – including what you think are your ‘free’ choices!

So it turns out you are just nature’s puppet, no more free to make and act on your own choices than is a rock, river, or planet. But if that’s true if we have no choice about what we do – how can we be responsible for what we do? How can we justly punish people for what they do? Stephen Law grapples with this and other puzzles about free will and responsibility.

Agony, Ecstasy, Mystics and Miracles – Dr Andrew Pinsent

A Study of the Weird and Wonderful from the Perspective of Science and Philosophy.

Throughout history religious people have claimed to experience altered states of consciousness and miracles, but how do these claims sit with research today? Are these signs of a great unrealised potential of the human mind or to be dismissed as madness? What light do quantum mechanics, neuroscience, and philosophy shed on these issues? Dr Pinsent, a former physicist from CERN, philosopher and priest, will explore such questions in the context of competing views of the ultimate nature of the
universe and our place in it: a thought-provoking and engaging invitation to think more deeply about the limits and possibilities of human knowledge.

The BIG Debate: This house believes that love is not a commodity to be traded

A commodity is a useful or valuable thing that can reasonably be bought or sold. Many would argue that people also have an exchange value. In a world where everyone and everything has a price, this debate will ask if there is any reason to regard human love any differently?

The Speakers

Julie Arliss

Recently awarded a Farmington Fellowship from Harris Manchester College, Oxford, Julie Arliss is a highly-accomplished teacher and author. She is a well-known international educator of gifted students with a gift for making the complex simple, and the simple complex. She is committed to the provision of world-class extension activities for these students, to extend their reach well beyond the curriculum to new areas of knowledge. She is a former principal examiner for Cambridge International Examinations and founder of Academy Conferences.

Professor Tom Greggs

Tom Greggs holds the Marischal Chair, (actually a physical chair established in 1616) at the University of Aberdeen. He previously held a chair at the University of Chester. He has also taught at the University of Cambridge. He was elected a founding member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland, and is an Honorary Professor of Theology at St Mellitus College, London. He has been a visiting research fellow at St John’s College, Durham, and College of Arts and Sciences International Visiting Scholar and Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia. He is the author of five major books and is currently the recipient of a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship. He is globally in demand as a speaker and well known for his engaging wit.

Dr Andrew Pinsent

Dr Andrew Pinsent is a former particle physicist at CERN, being a named author on thirty-one papers of the DELPHI experiment. He is a member of the United Kingdom Institute of Physics. Dr Pinsent also has a second doctorate in Philosophy and is currently the Research Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, a Research Fellow of Harris-Manchester College and a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford University.

Dr Stephen Law

Previous the Junior Research Fellow in Philosophy at Queen’s College, Oxford, Dr Stephen Law is now the Provost of the Centre for Enquiry UK, and Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London. He is the editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy Journal Think, and has published a wide range of literature in Philosophy, and has a gift for producing work that is both academic and popular.

What Students and Teachers Say

“Julie’s conference days are the highlight of our school calendar, and our students’ eyes shine when they hear her name mentioned because they know that they will be in for a day of intellectual stimulation through exposure to new and big ideas. It is such a gift to have the opportunity to bring students to an annual event where they can have their horizons expanded and mix with like-minded peers. These study days spark such imagination and enthusiasm in our students that the ripple effect creates energy and openness to thinking outside of the norm.”

“The conference day was truly inspirational and though-provoking.”

“Both the pupils and the staff who attended thoroughly enjoyed the day.”

“Students continued to discuss it all the way back and I have already been asked how long until the next one!”

“The feedback is that they learnt masses. The content of the talks was brilliant; we all learnt something new.”

“Thank you very much. Students staff and parents all found it inspirational”

“I have attended all Academy Conference GT programmes since 2010. These events are fast paced and relate to current trends, developments and obsessions within western society. An underlying theme to each event enables speakers to show surprising connections between apparently unrelated areas of knowledge.”

“An excellent taster for the ‘examined life.”

Why Attend?

  • University Masterclass
  • Inspired thinking
  • Search for knowledge
  • Challenge beliefs
  • Gain foundational ideas
  • Engage the thinker within
  • Share ideas with like-minded people
  • Meet world-class thinkers

Details and Bookings

Arrival from 09.30. The programme begins promptly at 10.00 and concludes at 15.15.
Note: times for London conference as follows: 10.00 arrival; 10.30 start; 15.45 finish.



A fixed fee of £25 if paid by BACS or cheque prior to conference (£27 if paid by PayPal or credit card). We have access to sponsorship for students wishing to attend but for whom the cost is a significant challenge for their families. Please contact us for further details. Students will need to bring their own equipment and refreshments. Please note that we do not allow recordings of the day.


A fixed fee of £25, if paid by BACS or cheque prior to conference (£27 if paid by PayPal or credit card). One free staff place with every 12 students booked. Unaccompanied teachers attending for CPD to pay £195. Staff are warmly invited to join the team for informal discussion over break and lunch with refreshments provided.


These events fill quickly but we appreciate that it can take time to get paperwork in place and collect money from students. If unable to pay at the time of booking please note that you may secure your places by booking online and making a small deposit of £70 via our online payment system. This will be offset against your final invoice total. The deposit is non-refundable in circumstances where the full invoice is not met, or payment is received after conference.

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