Psychology is defined as the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a given context, which is why we aim for students to gain a strong understanding of themselves and the people around them in terms of their behaviour, applying their knowledge to everyday life; and develop a love for learning and researching psychology leading to students wanting to study psychology at further education.

We follow the AQA Psychology A level specification which offers an engaging and effective introduction to Psychology. This specification relates the content to real world scenarios, this allows students to not just learn enjoyable content but also forms well rounded individuals who have a better understanding of the world around them. Students learn the fundamentals of the subject and develop skills valued by Higher Education (HE) and employers, including critical analysis, independent thinking and research. We have chosen this specification over others due to historically having taught the AQA A Psychology specification, the more challenging of the specifications which includes a wider range of topics and application which gives students a better understanding of the people around them in their lives. Our schemes of work and teacher expertise are geared to the AQA specification, which incorporates various topics such as; memory, forensic psychology, relationships, stress and more. Students in year 12 commit to the full 2 year A level course, as they do for their other subjects.


The specification encourages students to:

  • Develop an interest in and enthusiasm for the subject, including developing an interest in further study and careers associated with the subject
  • Develop well-rounded students who have a good knowledge of the world around them and how it relates to psychology
  • Develop essential knowledge and understanding of different areas of the subject and how they relate to each other
  • Develop and demonstrate a deep appreciation of the skills, knowledge and understanding of scientific methods
  • Develop competence and confidence in a variety of practical, mathematical and problem-solving skills
  • Understand how society makes decisions about scientific issues and how the sciences contribute to the success of the economy and society.

At least 10% of the marks in assessments for Psychology will require the use of mathematical skills. These skills are applied in the context of A level Psychology and will be at least the standard of higher tier GCSE mathematics.

Literacy is a focus each lesson as Psychology has numerous key terms which must be learned.

Subject content

  • Social influence
  • Memory
  • Attachment
  • Psychopathology
  • Approaches in psychology
  • Biopsychology
  • Research methods

Option 1: Relationships or Gender or Cognition and Development
Relationships is an engaging topic for the students and they can often relate the topic to their personal lives. Gender is an engaging topic and was taught under the previous specification, however, relationships is deemed more relevant to students being at a point in their lives where various relationships will be forming, this can give them a better knowledge of how relationships are formed, why they are formed but also about breakdown of relationships which gives them a better understanding of why events in their life may be in happening. Cognition and development, whilst a relatively straightforward and short topic, is less relevant for students as they are not typically as interested in the development of children.

Option 2: Schizophrenia or Eating behaviour or Stress
Stress was in the original previous specification as a compulsory unit. Students will suffer from stress whilst studying for their A levels and stress is more likely to be relevant to their lives than the other topics. Eating behaviour tends to relate more to female students as there is a higher percentage of females suffering from an eating disorder, which also adds a potential risk to teaching the lesson content; schizophrenia is heavily based in biology which may be an enjoyable challenge for some students, it is agreed that stress offers another various topic which is relevant to them. On the other hand, schizophrenia is mental health focussed similar to psychopathology therefore limiting the overall range of topics which could be studied.

Option 3: Aggression or Forensic psychology or Addiction
Aggression was taught under the old specification and does interest students, but some aspects of this topic are covered within the forensic unit, chosen because it engages students more and many are interested in studying this or criminology at university which is a common pathway which students come into A-LEVELs looking at. The forensic unit, whilst quite a long topic, encourages revision of previous units such as research methods, attachment and approaches so we can revise earlier work as we teach the topic content. Addiction is an interesting topic, but it focuses on addiction to gambling and smoking and students would typically rather focus on drug addiction, but that is not an option.

Students develop a range of skills throughout the course.  These are to:

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of psychological concepts, theories, research studies, research methods and ethical considerations
  • apply psychological knowledge and understanding of the content in a range of contexts
  • analyse, interpret and evaluate psychological concepts, theories, research studies and research methods in relation to the course
  • evaluate psychological concepts, theories, research studies, research methods and explore ethical issues and how to overcome them.
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of practical research skills and mathematical skills
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of current issues and debates in psychology, approaches to psychology, application and evaluation of same

A-level Psychology includes questions that allow students to demonstrate their ability to:

  • draw together their skills, knowledge and understanding from across the full course of study
  • provide extended responses. For example, sections B, C and D of Paper 3 contain extended response questions. An ‘extended response’ is evidence of sufficient length generated to allow students to demonstrate their ability to construct and develop a sustained line of reasoning which is coherent, relevant, substantiated and logically structured.

Research methods

Students demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a wide range of research methods used in psychology, scientific processes and techniques of data handling and analysis, and are familiar with their use and of their strengths and limitations.

These skills are developed through study of the specification content and through ethical practical research activities, involving:

  • Designing research
  • Conducting research
  • Analysing and interpreting data. In carrying out practical research activities, students manage associated risks and use information and communication technology (ICT).

Lesson planning

There are two members of staff in the department and we each see students for five lessons each over a fortnightly timetable.  A typical lesson will recap previous content, deliver new content – with a focus on the key terms and skills needed to do well in the exam, these include discussing key terms within the recap from previous lessons to ensure spaced retrieval is used and students regularly cover older terms. Then we recap the content with some sort of quiz/plenary activity, including exam type questions or application questions – taken from the textbook. There are lessons devoted to assessment where students work under exam conditions and once the work is marked feedback is provided to the class for general comments and then the teachers work with individuals to improve their work, this is responded to well with students reporting a 99% agreement rate that assessments revisit previous content to ensure it is progressed into long term memory. Model answers and/or mark schemes are provided. Throughout lessons we also focus on discussion and applying knowledge to real life situations which gives students the ability to also then apply the knowledge to their own lives and be more understanding of themselves and the people around them, for example having a better understanding of their memory, how attachments form and how sleep cycles work. Students have also reported a 97% agreement rate that the lessons are enjoyable which is showing the positive impact we have on students. 

Within lessons we also take a key focus on literacy skills within the subject where we ensure they learn the correct skills to tailor answers to questions, use correct grammar and focus on the PEEL structure regarding evaluation points (point, example, explanation, link). Literacy skills are also then developed outside of lessons whereby they are tasked with reading full texts of research to improve their understanding of psychological terminology and the high standards which are expected of published journals, this is also working with the focus on reading through the school as we are ensuring students are reading to a high level, university standard, instead of reading below the grade we would expect of them. Key terms are also key within psychology as we push for students to understand and utilise the correct terms throughout the course, for this we start them in year 12 with a key term sheet to give them a starting point with new terms they may not be familiar with but then we build on this throughout the course so that when they finish they are confident on the terminology but then also ready for the specific psychological terms which can be utilised at undergraduate level and beyond. 

Homework of up to one hour is set each night and posted on Google Classroom. Staff teach their own subject areas, but we cross reference the specification at every and any opportunity so that students learn to apply the various topics together when relevant.  Students are also provided opportunities to do independent work within or beyond the specification and this is monitored regularly.

Due to the applied nature of many topics we take opportunities to link psychological concepts to other subjects and/or the world beyond school.  For example, when we teach interviews as a research method, we link this to the world of work and the job application process.

Students can access a textbook in class via the class copies and have access to the digital textbook, which can also be used by year 12 students in lesson using chromebooks. 

SEN provision effectively meets the individual needs of students, ensuring that they have equal access to learning and progress.  Revision guides are purchased for SEN and PP students should they require that extra support.  The choices of our topics are also accessible for all students, ensuring that we implement changes or variations which may be more suitable for certain students should they find a specific optional topic a sensitive area.

For the planning of the psychology course, we are also in contact with the Biology department to discuss the overlapping areas such as; neurons, synaptic transmission processes and the nervous system, this leads to some more confident students while we study this topic and these are then also used to aid other students when working together so that all students have a good understanding of the biological content. 


The A level course is working towards three examinations at the end of the second year.  There are three examinations of 2 hours each, 96 marks and each paper represents 33.3% of the final A level.  The examinations have a range of multiple-choice questions, short answer questions and extended writing.  All sections are marked out of 24 marks with the exception of the research methods in paper 2, which is double weighted at 48 marks.  We carry out regular assessments, approximately 6 per term – 3 for each teacher.  These are approximately 24 marks each, which mirrors the section content in the examinations. There are also classroom tests in November of year 12, more formal mocks in the summer term of year 12 and again in January of year 13.  Student work is robustly marked using secure specimens or past papers.  Constructive feedback is offered and followed up with 1-2-1 conversation by teacher/s to enable students to understand what is required to do well in their examinations. Having a better ability with exam questions, especially application style questions allow them to show a good understanding of applying their knowledge to real life situations in their lives which is a key part of psychology. 

A level Psychology remains a popular subject for our own students continuing into the Sixth Form and for many students new to the school in year 12.  Also, many of our students go on to study related subjects at university including psychology and criminology.  Over the past 3 years we have had over 20 students go on to study a psychology related subject at university or further education, this year alone we have had 7 students leave to go on and pursue psychology related options as their post 18 option.

Students clearly enjoy their lessons and actively participate and engage with the content both in and outside of the classroom.  They are happy to research beyond what is expected, undertaking independent study to develop their knowledge of psychology. 

Students relate various aspects of the course to their own lives, using the techniques learnt to develop their own understanding of the world around them, using the topics with stress to control their own stress, using the memory topic to help develop effective recall and revision strategies applicable to their A level studies generally and to university and the world of work and learn how relationships can start and end which is vital as this is a key time where various relationships will be forming and developing in their lives. 

Students are diligent in revising for assessments and they receive verbal and written feedback on their work from teachers and develop their work as a result.  They engage with staff to do their best which causes a big impact on their attainment.

SEN and disadvantaged students are identified and we liaise with the SEN department to make sure that those students have all they need to do well and achieve their full potential.

Every lesson is linked in some way to the SMSC curriculum and this is evident in our schemes of work and mapped on Grid Maker.   For example, there are different explanations of why people commit crime.  There are links here to the nature / nurture debate and the big question: are criminals born or made?  This maps onto a number of SMSC criteria such as moral codes.

The impact of our intent and implementation is measured using ALPS.  We aim for ALPS 3 or above – excellent.  Such a grading means that we are in the top 25% of the country and students are, on average, meeting or exceeding their target grade.

Exam results for 2019 are: A*-B grades 55% (last year 70%), A-C 80% (96%).  C grades improved 25% (26%).  The department remains above the National Average for Psychology and performs better compared to similar schools.  

Centre assessed grades for 2021: A*-B Grades 63%, A*-C 82% showing that a good majority of students achieve a good set of grades from the work completed over the duration of the course. 

Schemes of Work

Year 12 Year 13