Our intent in Biology is to provide a high-quality education providing the foundations for understanding the Natural world.
The outbreak of the Pandemic thrust Biologists into the forefront, critical understanding of Biology has become vital as has forming rational conclusions. For this reason, our students are stretched above the national curriculum at KS3, going into greater depth to encourage deeper thinking. We follow the Edexcel specification for Biology GCSE and OCR specification for A-Level, but use teacher expertise to stretch and challenge, for example looking at the science behind gender at KS4 and KS5.
At all key stages, they will build foundational knowledge through each stage. Procedural learning takes place and so they feel confident approaching unfamiliar or new learning.
We hope to ensure everyone leaves the school having had a fulfilling Biology education, that prepares them to take their learning further to university and the workplace, and to close gaps in disadvantaged groups in STEM careers.
Biology is the study of living organisms, divided into specialised fields of morphology, physiology, anatomy, behaviour, and distribution. Students study each area in varying degrees through each key stage. Successful learners of Biology must be able to make links between the different specialisms to truly understand the complexities of life.
Our curriculum follows the aims of the National Curriculum; ‘develop a deeper understanding of a range of scientific ideas in the subject disciplines of biology’. Also, ‘students are encouraged to relate scientific explanations to phenomena in the world around them and start to use modelling and abstract ideas to develop and evaluate explanations.’ (National curriculum in England, 2014 DfE). The purpose of the KS3 curriculum is to develop practical skills and increase knowledge of the living processes. For many of the students coming into the school, this is their first opportunity to work within a laboratory environment, so the KS3 curriculum has been designed to introduce concepts gradually, and to show students how to use different equipment. Our intent for this coming year is to increase the practical availability to students, as KS3 were the ones most affected by the restrictions. We intend to run a STEM club for KS3 students in the coming year.
At all key stages, the intent of our curriculum is to instill passion and enjoyment in Biology, and this is achieved by having teachers who are passionate about their specialism. Our students gain more than the knowledge of the National curriculum. We teach new emerging technologies and encourage students to be critical of new Scientific ideas as they emerge. An example of this is where we discuss clinical trials and how the new Covid vaccines came to public use so quickly, or how new measures are being introduced to tackle climate change and extinction. We hope our students finish their Biology curriculum with an appreciation of all living systems and are able to be analytical of new emerging Biological techniques.
By the end of KS3 they are able to develop their own analytical skills by planning and evaluating their own experiments. Exam skills are also introduced at KS3 through regular assessments using foundation level GCSE questions. Biology at KS3 is challenging and has already introduced GCSE topics, so the students are already very familiar with the content and exam style.
At KS4, teachers follow the objectives dictated by the exam boards, but how the teachers deliver the content is flexible. The KS4 curriculum requires more specialist vocabulary which is developed over the two-year course. Practical skills are honed through the core practicals that are requirements of the course.
As already mentioned, our KS4 curriculum goes beyond the demands of the Edexcel specification. There are many opportunities to understand in greater detail how Biology impacts their day to day existence. For example the disease topic generates many discussions about drug trials, infectious diseases and what it really means to be healthy. We discuss mental and social health here as well. The aim of KS4 is to prepare students for the external exams they will sit, but to also develop a passion for Biology, STEM careers, and to think critically.
Again, the KS5 curriculum is flexible in that teachers will cover all specification points, but how they do this is up to them. Our specialist Biology teachers have a range of experience, and so are able to deliver challenging lessons to our highly capable students. There is the expectation that students will work independently in their study time to help them understand the complexities of Biology, rather than regurgitating facts. KS5 gives us even more scope to discuss new emerging technologies, and go into greater detail than we can at previous key stages. Students are encouraged to research Biology in the news to produce display boards, as well as research influential scientists from a variety of backgrounds to better understand how our scientific understanding has been shaped.
Guidance is given to students at the end of KS3 to help them make decisions as to whether to study combined or triple award science. Progression onto the A-Level course requires at least a grade 7 in combined or triple science.
The students will study the content from published specifications and the National Curriculum, but they must also be able to apply mathematical skills fluently to handle and manipulate data. Students must also be able to apply their chemistry and physics knowledge throughout.
There are certain principles that are essential to a successful Biology learner, these are:
- To learn from experience rather than passively listening. Where possible, practical investigations are carried out to prove phenomena. We have trained technicians to help us develop investigations, but also use guidance from CLEAPS, SAPs, and the Nuffield foundation. All investigations are assessed for health and safety.
- To be curious and ask questions; students are encouraged to ask ‘Why and How?’ when met with new material.
- Knowledge should be transferred to the long-term memory through practice and repetition; content is therefore revisited often. Content is either covered directly (aim of lesson) or indirectly (building upon previous content).
- All our students are unique, and so lessons are adapted to meet the needs of all the students.
- Summative and formative assessments are implemented consistent with the school’s policy.
Intrinsic cognitive load is managed by designing a curriculum and sequence of study that ensures students master the fundamental basics before moving to complex theories.