School digs deep to save deep thinker

13th June 2003 at 01:00
A SECONDARY school was so anxious to hang on to a star pupil that it has spent thousands of pounds on hi-tech equipment to stop her leaving.

Preet Satiarthi almost quit the City of Leicester school because it did not offer A-level philosophy. But rather than lose the 18-year-old pupil, the school invested pound;4,000 in hi-tech cameras and speakers that link her up to a tutor in Southampton for a weekly discussion.

The course costs another pound;2,500, with money coming out of school funds, with some help from a Leicester City Council fund for gifted pupils.

Preet, whose mother works as a hosiery machinist, is expected to get an A grade and plans to read philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford.

She said one of the main reasons for her love of philosophy is her home environment. "We have always been taught to ask questions. The joy is finding out the answer.

"Thinking deeply about things is very much part of our Sikh religion, and it is something that Ihave always cherished, which is why I love philosophy."

Preet, who is also taking A-levels in economics and English language and literature, is conscious of the lengths the school has gone to so that she could pursue her studies at City of Leicester.

"I have had support and encouragement in every direction. I am also aware that a lot of money has been spent on setting up this link, and I am going to do my very best not to let anyone down."

The idea came from Peter Townsend, head of sixth form, and Preet links up every Wednesday with Bruce Downie, a private tutor, and spends at least five hours a week studying philosophy on her own.

"It was odd at first, because you find yourself staring at a face on a TV screen, with not very good picture quality," she said, "but you get used to it. Discipline really comes into it, because you are working on your own at your own pace. But you know you are going to have an in-depth discussion with your tutor, so you have to be motivated."

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