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4th February 2020

Digging deep into FOSIL at Oakham

Last year nearly 600 Oakhamians directly benefited from the explicit teaching and learning of FOSIL. Ahead of Friday’s Tes Awards evening, where FOSIL and the FOSIL Group have been shortlisted for the ‘Strategic Education Award Initiative’, here’s an insight into FOSIL in action at Oakham School.

Pupils in Lower 1 (Year 6, age 10) through to Form 7 (Year 13) experience FOSIL in their curriculum at Oakham.  “FOSIL is an entirely adaptive approach that can be introduced to, and fully understood by younger pupils, whilst also growing with them as they progress through school,” says Oakham’s Head of Upper School, Simone Lorenz-Weir. “It can be built upon, to help pupils become more detailed, selective and discerning in their approaches by the time they reach their Extended Essay or EPQs, so that they are fully ready for university level inquiries.”

FOSIL-based inquiry approaches are embedded in many subjects such as Computer Science, where pupils in Forms 1 to 3 (Years 7-9), learn the entire Computer Hardware schemes of work via FOSIL-based inquiries. One simple example is that they learn how to define a computer by researching and answering the question ‘is my brain a computer?’

To demonstrate how this works, here is an example of a Form 1 Inquiry undertaken last year at Oakham.  Pupils were asked to investigate the question: ‘Why couldn’t they cure the Black Death in the Middle Ages?’ They were given a series of FOSIL resources to work through the inquiry to the conclusion of presenting their findings in a report.  These resources are showcased below:


Alison Petit, who teaches Lower One at Oakham, explains why she created these resources using FOSIL: “When pupils join us in Lower 1 (Year 6) they have a tendency to jump in too quickly and default to asking Google.  FOSIL helps them to quickly realise, for themselves, that this isn’t a good way to approach finding things out for themselves.”

After being introduced to the FOSIL cycle, all of our Form 1 (Year 7) pupils undertake an inquiry into science fictional futures where they research what is currently possible in the field of Artificial Intelligence before embarking on a creative writing piece where they invent a future that we cohabit with AI.  Here are two examples of this project, in full, to showcase how FOSIL and the FOSIL resources are used:

Form 1 pupil workbook on science fictional writing 1

Form 1 pupil workbook on science fictional writing 2

FOSIL is also used in many other areas across the curriculum, notably in the Upper School, where Form 6 (Year 12) actively use FOSIL for their IB Diploma Extended Essay (EE) and EPQ.  

All Form 6 (IB and A-level pupils) are (re)introduced to the FOSIL cycle in their first week when they are challenged to identify an intellectually interesting topic, which is related to their subject choices, to investigate in our ‘Independent Research Task’.  This short task ‘kick starts’ their academic year, focusing their minds on the full range of scholarly resources available to them in and through the Library and inspires them to read around their subjects more widely.  Many of Oakham’s IB Diploma students find FOSIL to be a great support when writing their Extended Essay. 

Parents at Oakham can see more examples of pupils’ work, read Extended Essays and see FOSIL in action at Speech Day, where there will be work on display in the library.  Teachers who are interested in accessing FOSIL resources for their pupils to benefit from, can join the FOSIL Group here, to access them freely.

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