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General Studies

A vibrant programme that stimulates debate.

We firmly believe that General Studies encapsulates ‘Education’ in its broadest and truest sense: it opens the students’ minds to the range of possibilities that the world offers in terms of interests, careers, political views, religious beliefs, philosophical outlook, higher education, health and life skills. The fact that the subject is not examined at Notre Dame means that a spirit of genuine exploration can be generated, rather than a rigid or functional approach.

General Studies takes place weekly and, although the content varies from year to year, these examples from the last twelve months will give a flavour of the range and quality of the speakers that we are lucky enough to attract, thanks to our convenient location, adjacent to the motorway network:


Politics and Citizenship

  • Notre Dame was delighted to play host to Sixth Formers from a variety of  local Sixth Forms for a ‘Question Time’. The panel included Prospective Parliamentary Candidates from all the main parties, including a Shadow Minister, and was enlivened by the views of a Sky Sports Presenter as the ‘non-politician speaking for the ordinary voter’! Questions were taken on a variety of subjects, not least the parties’ various attitudes toward university funding and tuition fees, a subject close to the heart of this audience.
  • A visit by a local councillor to talk about the importance of voting, ensured that our students played their part in the General Election; Although national statistics for 18 year olds exercising their right to vote may be worrying, the interest and enthusiasm generated by our ‘Question Time’ and the councillor’s explanation of the mechanics of voting did the trick!
  • Lord Dholakia visited the Sixth Form as part of the ‘Peers in Schools’ scheme to explain the workings of both Houses of Parliament and specifically the House of Lords.
  • Magistrates from the Staines Bench ran a workshop for the girls in which they learned about the work of a JP and how sentencing is decided.

Life Skills

  • Kingston Citizens’ Advice Bureau gave a talk on Financial Management, to help students prepare for university life, renting houses and paying bills
  • The local HSBC Bank Manager came to talk about the mechanics of setting up bank accounts, overdrafts and standing orders

Health and Well Being

  • Year 12 benefitted from a stress management session in which an expert taught them breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.
  • A local osteopath came to train the girls in good posture and how to wear high heels or carry their bags without straining their backs.
  • A Sexual Health Nurse holds annual sessions with the girls to offer advice and information.
  • The local Community Police Officer talks to the girls annually about Personal Safety.
  • All students attend ‘Safe Drive Stay Alive’, a Surrey Fire and Ambulance Service presentation for young drivers, once in their Sixth Form career and we receive visits from a retired Police Driver Trainer who gives additional new driver training in school.


  • Sian Walter, Daily Telegraph Travel Guide of the Year and alumnus of the school, introduced the girls to the delights of History of Art, with her fabulously illustrated talk about ‘Women in the Renaissance.’
  • In the lead up to Christmas, ‘Magical Makeovers’ give the Year 12 training about skincare and party make up.
  • Gap Year talks take place each year from major providers like Project Trust, the Company of Mary’s own ‘Helping Hands’ scheme (see website link) and others.


  • Garry Richardson of  BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and Radio 5 Live talked to the girls about careers at the BBC and in the Media generally.
  • A local NHS recruitment manager explained the range of careers available in the Health Service.
  • A level Scientists asked a range of careers questions to a panel of experts who had built their career on Science: a GP, Government Veterinary Scientist, a Research Chemist from GlaxoSmithKlein and a Petroleum Engineer working on contract with Esso.

Religious and Ethical

  • ‘War no More’ is a campaign run by Pax Christi is a catholic organisation that promotes world peace. One of its leaders, the charismatic Bruce Kent (former leader of CND) came to speak to the Sixth Form and challenged them to make our society one that celebrates peacemakers.
  • James Lawford Davies, a lawyer specialising in high profile legal cases in the area of medical law, who also lectures at Durham and Newcastle Universities, helped the girls explore the legal and ethical issues surrounding IVF treatment and Embryo Research.
  • Reverend Diana Thornton, a local Anglican Vicar, came to talk about the role of Women in the Anglican Church.

Higher Education Courses

  • Surrey University and the University of East Anglia provided a range of speakers on aspects of university life, choosing courses and the application process. Some were for students only, others included parents.
  • We organise an Oxbridge Information Afternoon with a speaker from the Admissions Service of one of the universities, every other year. This is also attended by other local Sixth Forms, which guarantees an interesting range of questions.

This list can only give a ‘flavour’ of what General Studies has to offer but it is clear that we have had a busy and fascinating twelve months. The more the students involve themselves in General Studies sessions, the more they derive from them. Recently some highly motivated students have followed up by arranging work experience with guest speakers.