Biology is truly a land of unlimited possibilities. We may expect it to give us the most surprising information, and we cannot guess what answers it will return in a few dozen years…. They may be of a kind which will blow away the whole of our artificial structure of hypothesis.
As developments in biotechnology, embryology, genetics and evolution proceed, the importance of Biology in society is increasing and career opportunities are likely to multiply, particularly in research and ethical and legal aspects.
In addition, the study of Biology imparts vital skills that are highly valued by university admissions tutors and employers.
At Key Stage 3, all students follow a two-year science course based on the National Curriculum. The course is taught in modules of Biology, Chemistry and Physics, so the students obtain a feel for each of the individual subjects. There is an emphasis on literacy, scientific method and independent research, which encourages students to explain, apply and evaluate concepts, rather than rote learning them. Biology topics include: Cells, Reproduction, Food and Digestion, Microbes, Health and Studying Living Organisms.
This skills-based learning provides a platform from which to move on to the GCSE courses in Form 3, giving three years to fully explore all the concepts and allow time for investigative skills to be developed. Form 4 and Form 5 students follow the AQA specification and either study Triple Science (all three sciences, to give three separate GCSEs in Biology, Chemistry and Physics) or Double Science (a mixture of all three sciences, to give two GCSEs in Science and Additional Science). Both options are comprised of 25% coursework. The course is stimulating and varied, allowing students to partake in a range of practical activities, from outdoor fieldwork to dissections and model building. Attainment levels are high and many students are inspired to continue studying the subject at A level.
In the Sixth Form, students in both years follow the OCR A specification, in which there is no controlled assessment. Instead, practical work that is undertaken to support teaching of the content will serve to cover the requirements of the practical skills module (Module 1), and this is assessed in the written examinations and through the Practical Endorsement. At this level, it is also important that students begin to take responsibility for their own studies and maintain an awareness of the current popular media topics. The Department has a strong history of many of its students going on to pursue Biology-related degrees at university.
Extra-curricular activities are a vital part of the study of Biology, as they allow students to experience the theory in reality in the world around them. During Key Stage 3, students are taken on a day trip to Whipsnade Zoo, where the emphasis is on animal adaptations. During GCSE, students attend lectures, listen to visiting speakers and take part in the Biology Challenge. At A level, students go on a field trip for three days to North Yorkshire, where they study succession and compare barnacles living on two different sea facing rocks. In the AS year, they go on a field trip to Heartwood Forest. Both years attend Biology in Action lectures and the most able students are entered in the Biology Olympiad.
Within the Department, regular clinics are offered for support, revision and assessment preparation across all Key Stages. Social media in the form of a Twitter account is used as one means of helping to provide the wider knowledge required by A level Biologists.