The Social Science Faculty covers three separate subjects and currently offers A level courses in Economics (AQA), Politics (Edexcel) and Business (AQA). The content of all three subjects is fluid – it can change every day and often does! These are subjects then that particularly appeal to boys who are engaged with the world around them and who are interested in current affairs.
Our courses are popular throughout the ability range but especially with those that appreciate discussion. There are few ‘right answers’ in these subjects and boys able to provide strong justifiable opinions, who can also appreciate alternative arguments, inevitably perform well. As a result, boys often combine these subjects with a variety of humanities subjects such as History, English, Modern Languages and Geography, although for many they sit comfortably with Mathematics and Science.
Around two thirds of the boys go on to read a university degree related to them. Candidates are prepared each year for Oxbridge application, to read Economics, PPE, Economics & Management, Human, Social and Political Sciences and Modern History and Politics.
A Social Science Society - which meets once per term - attracts many high profile public figures from the world of business, economics and politics as visiting speakers.
Social Science also runs a regular overseas, ten-day trip in the October half-term. In 2016 the trip visited the United States of America (New York City and Washington DC) with an emphasis on visiting political, economic and cultural establishments. In 2018, China was the destination with Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai offering an oriental perspective on economics and business.
A level Business is a dynamic course which prepares students for the challenges of working in, or indeed running, organisations of the 21st century.
It is a subject of variety: the content is broad ranging, considering diverse issues from how to position a product in a market place to how to manage the workforce, and the skills required are wide, so its students need to be both expressive and numerate, and comfortable drawing their own conclusions from a range of different types of data. Although an academic subject, Business is practical, applied and exciting. Ultimately, it equips pupils with important life skills such as communication, problem solving and decision making.
As a subject focused on the real world, the course makes much use of real-life case study and asks questions of the students about businesses and products they should be all too familiar with. For example:
- Should Marks and Spencer move all of its operations online?
- Why do we need a PlayStation 4 when there’s a PlayStation 3?
- How can Candy Crush ensure its long term growth?
- Why does Virgin sell so many things?
- Why does McDonald’s bother selling salads?
- Why does Tonbridge School continue to provide a single sex education
To succeed in the subject, context is academically reviewed using recognised business models such as the product life cycle and the Boston Matrix; and in reference to significant business thinkers like Michael Porter.
Whether the aim is to pursue an academic career, train for a profession or become an entrepreneur, A level Business provides necessary knowledge and skills. Ultimately, it is a subject for those who enjoy practical thinking; problem-solving; and, importantly, debate because in Business we are not looking for set answers, but the ability to weigh up a situation and provide a well-justified opinion.
The Economics corridor is dominated by a mural depicting economic, political and business developments since Adam Smith. This piece was commissioned using the £10,000 prize money which Tonbridge received on winning the Bank of England Target 2.0 competition.
The mural’s presence reflects the energy within the department: not only very strong academic results but consistent success in securing places at the most respected of universities and an exciting programme of trips and talks. Throughout the Lent and Summer Term, all teachers share their engagement with the subject in the Extension Programme, which aims to go beyond the confines of the A level course, with talks ranging from ‘Will you have a job in twenty years’ time?’ to ‘The Economics of the Clothes Peg’. A trip to China in 2018, visiting leading businesses such as HSBC and Huawei, is the latest example of our attempt to provide boys with a real-life taste of what the subject has to offer.
This is a very popular subject choice at Tonbridge School and those boys who are self-motivated and are seeking particularly high achievement are encouraged to participate in a number of external essay competitions. Titles of late have included ‘To what extent is democracy either a requirement for or result of economic development?’ and ‘Is Universal Basic Income the best way to combat rising inequality?’.
Politics is an exciting and fascinating subject to study because the political landscape is always changing.
Power ebbing and flowing between different political parties, branches of government and political personalities. At the heart of the subject are the great institutions and offices within both GB and US politics: Parliament and Congress, the Prime Minister and the President and both Supreme Courts. While students study the history, functions and powers of these bodies, the joy of the subject is analysing and discussing these ideas with reference to what is going on now in the political world.
Debate is central to the study of Politics and is encouraged within the department. Students study the ideological backgrounds of the main political parties and are challenged to analyse events and ideas from different political perspectives. There is a thriving sixth form political discussion group, led by the students themselves, where any political issue can be raised. Students will hear from a wide range of entertaining and important politicians and academics. Students attend a Politics conference in London where recent speakers have ranged from Chuka Umunna, Anna Soubry, Tristram Hunt to John Bercow, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nick Clegg. Another conference at the British Library enables them to hear from esteemed academics as well as US Senators and Congressmen. There have also been visits to Washington, New York and the Houses of Parliament
Examination results have been consistently strong. Over 1/3 of students in the department go on to study a Politics related degree at university. Government and Politics students routinely submit entries to Oxbridge College prize essay competitions, with several being ‘highly commended’. There are also regular and successful applications to read PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics), HSPS (Human, Social and Political Sciences) and History and Politics at Oxbridge.