Beyond the Curriculum: How to support your child’s intellectual curiosity

Beyond the Curriculum: How to support your child’s intellectual curiosity

With an increasingly compartmentalised approach to education forcing young adults to specialise and make subject choices years ahead of university applications, students can often be left with a blinkered approach and a lack of general curiosity for subjects beyond their curriculum. However, for university and beyond it is essential for students to engage with the world around them, explore what really excites them and develop their broader intellect. Here are some tips for how to support your child’s extra-curricular development and encourage them to further their interests.


Podcasts are a great way to expand your knowledge of a chosen subject area and are perfect listening material for journeys to school. Some excellent options include:

In Our Time, Radio 4

Weekly episodes in which Melvyn Bragg hosts a panel of expert guests for a fast-paced discussion on a chosen topic, ranging across science, religion, culture and history.

The Guardian Books Podcast

This podcast discusses authors both living and dead, framing them within wider literary trends and schools of thought to leave you tickled – each episode’s reading list is the perfect follow up activity!

The Documentary Podcast – The BBC

This series investigates the latest global developments, issues and affairs to help you go beyond the headlines. 

Essay Competitions

An excellent way to really get stuck into a subject is to participate in an essay competition. The questions are designed to provoke in depth reflection and help students to hone their independent research and writing skills. For example:

The Lloyd Davies Philosophy Prize

Opening in April, this essay competition is open to students in Year 12/Lower Sixth. It is intended to give students an opportunity to develop their abilities for research and thought in Philosophy, and past questions have included ‘Is anything special about the present moment?’ and ‘Can one be mistaken about one’s own state of mind?’.

Look out for more essay competitions like this (in various different subjects) hosted by Oxbridge colleges.

BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words Competition

‘500 Words’ is the UK’s most successful short story writing competition for children between the ages of 5 and 13. To enter, you must write an original story of no more than 500 words and submit it online. It can be about anything, from robots to grannies to insects. The competition culminates in a broadcast extravaganza of live music and storytelling in the summer, at a special venue.


Another option is attending the many events and lectures that take place on a regular basis in London. For example:

The Royal Institute

The Royal Institute hosts a jam-packed programme of accessible science that is perfect for adults, children and families, right in the heart of London. Some upcoming events include ‘What does it take to be an inventor?’ and ‘The world according to physics’.

Gresham College

 Gresham College hosts around 130 free lectures per year on topics across the arts and sciences, and recorded lectures from the past 40 years can be found on their website. Upcoming lectures include: ‘George IV: Radical or Reactionary’ and ‘Great Mathematical Myths’.

Recommended reading

Of course, journals and newspapers are a fantastic resource for students to engage with current affairs. Young adults should be encouraged to read opinion pieces as well as shorter, snappier content in order to practice digesting and engaging with the news in a thoughtful manner. If your child finds a news story interesting, encourage them to read a selection of articles on the topic to appreciate the variety of angles and opinions. Some resources include:

The Economist published weekly in print, five articles per month accessible free of charge or unlimited for a subscription

New Scientist published weekly in print, accessible behind a pay wall for a student subscription

The Guardian published daily in print, accessible free of charge

The New York Times Opinion section is particularly useful for students to gain exposure to intellectual and well informed debate that enhances the quality of news and information.


By Eileen Maguire, Partnerships and Outreach at U2Tuition.

u2 has a team of 600+ expert tutors and are specialists in extra-curricular learning, nurturing students’ intellectual curiosity to guide them through their studies. Our new initiative, The Caroline Club, offers extra-curricular opportunities for female students, including courses on debating, coding, current affairs and world literature.

Released On 27th Jan 2020


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