Biology is a rapidly changing field with new developments frequently in the news. It explores complex life systems ranging from the large (e.g. Ecology) to the small (e.g. DNA technology). Our courses aim to mirror this pattern with students studying all aspects in their GCSE and A level. In lessons we seek to develop a questioning approach in students, so class discussion plays an important role in teaching. Experimental work is also important and is regularly used to explore key concepts. A variety of other methodologies and resources are used in lessons to explain and reinforce concepts. These include role play, sequencing tasks, student presentations and computer animations. We aim to help students become thinking scientists who are able to apply biological principles to new situations.
The Biology Department is housed in the main science building and has three modern laboratories, a large preparation room and department office. It is supported by a very good faculty library. The department is well resourced and much of the work undertaken is based on practical activity. All rooms are equipped with network-linked interactive whiteboards. The staff body is well qualified.
We currently teach AQA syllabuses at GCSE and A level. Both these are up to date specifications with a strong emphasis on ‘how science works’ and the application of scientific ideas. Many of our students are interested in medical careers and these courses were chosen as they have large component of human biology and offer good preparation for medical degrees.
At GCSE (Specification code 4401) many topics are covered including cell biology, animal nutrition, the impact of human activity on the environment, animal and plant transport and homeostasis. Assessment involves three written exam papers of 1 hour each (Units 1, 2 and 3, each worth 25% of your final mark) and a unit of experimental Biology (Unit 4 Controlled Assessment, worth 25%).
All written exams (Units 1-3) are taken at the end of form 5 while the experimental assessment (Unit 4) is taken during the first term in form 5. The practical tasks are prescribed by the examining board and are usually carried out after the related theoretical information has been covered in the course.
At A-level (Specification code 2411) topics include disease and immunology, animal and plant transport systems, genetics, biochemistry, and ecology. The material is divided into 6 units taken over two years. Two of the units are practical based and include experimental work. The other units are taken in the summer (units 1 and 2 in year 1 and units 4 and 5 in year 2). The course is demanding and fast paced, but it allows a range of practical and analytical skills to be developed which are important for biomedical degrees.
Further interest is generated by a number of extracurricular events such as visits to university centres, entries into the Society of Biology events such as the national Biology Olympiad. Students specifically interested in the medicine, dentistry and veterinary science are supported by a staff led program of activities which includes visits to universities, exploration of topics (e.g. the NHS and medical ethics) entrance exam practice and interview skills.