The twenty first century is an exciting one for those studying Biology. Rapid developments in genetics, reproduction, biochemistry and microbiology mean the subject is constantly evolving and this new information is finding its way into the classroom very quickly. Some of these developments, such as genetic modification and assisted conception, also have an ethical dimension; just because we can do certain things does it also follow that we have to do them? Biologists are also at the forefront of the debate on climate change and how it will affect us all; learning about this subject has never been so important.

Taught in spacious and well-equipped laboratories, Biology is also fortunate in being able to make use of the beautiful grounds which provide ideal opportunities for fieldwork. There is a range of habitats such as grassland, woodland and ponds that can be surveyed.

Years 7-9

The topics studied provide a sound foundation for GCSE whilst at the same time aiming to promote interest and a questioning approach.

  • Year 7 – Cells, Tissues and Organs; Reproduction; Ecology; Classification.
  • Year 8 – Food and Digestion; Respiration and Circulation; Microbes and Disease; Feeding Relationships.
  • Year 9 – Variation and Genetics; Keeping Healthy; Plant Nutrition and Forensic Science.

The department also contributes to the Junior Science Club where pupils can try out experiments and further their understanding of Biology through activities such as model-making, dissection, films and competitions. An annual visit to places such as the Science Museum in Bristol or Bristol Zoo, is arranged for all pupils in Years 7 and 8.

GCSE

At GCSE level, Biology is offered either as part of the Combined Science option (2 GCSEs equivalent), or as part of the suite of three separate sciences where one whole GCSE is Biology. The exam board studied is AQA and all written exam papers are taken at the end of Year 11. More details can be found on the AQA website.

How long are the written papers? A minimum of 3.5 hours of written exams per GCSE.

Are there separate tiers? Higher (grade 4 to 9) or Foundation Tier (grades 1 to 5).

What will the written papers consist of? 40% Knowledge and Understanding; 40% Application of Knowledge and Understanding; 20% Analysis of Information and Ideas. This includes mathematical skills with the following weighting: 20% in Combined Science, 10% in Biology, 20% in Chemistry and 30% in Physics .

Subject Content:

  • Cell biology
  • Organisation
  • Infection and response
  • Bioenergetics
  • Homeostasis and response
  • Inheritance, variation and evolution
  • Ecology

Students will study the above broad themes regardless of whether they are following the Combined Science or the Biology GCSE course but there are some additional topics within each theme for the Biology GCSE. These include the following:

  • Monoclonal Antibodies
  • The Brain
  • Cloning
  • Plant Disease

Practical Work

Whether a student follows the Combined Science or the separate sciences pathway, she will undertake practical work to stimulate curiosity and develop transferable skills such as modelling, observing, critically evaluating and problem-solving. There are 10 required practicals for the GCSE Biology course and 7 Biology practicals for the Combined Science course. Students are required to keep a lab book containing their work on these practicals and 15% of the written paper marks will assess their knowledge and understanding of this work. This replaces the ‘Controlled Assessment’ from previous specifications.

A Level

At A-Level, Leweston follows the linear AQA Biology specification which builds on concepts and skills that will have been developed during the GCSE Science courses.

In the first year, students study the following:

1. Biological molecules 
2. Cells
3. How organisms exchange substances with their environment 
4. Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms

The second year of study includes:

5. Energy transfers in and between organisms
6. How organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments 
7. Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems 
8. The control of gene expression.

In addition, students learn a minimum of 12 standard practical procedures to investigate the above and how to analyse and evaluate the data obtained.

There is no coursework or controlled assessment. The theory behind the 12 standard practical investigation procedures is assessed in the written exam papers and accounts for 15% of the marks. There is a separate endorsement of a student’s practical skills which is either a ‘Pass’ or ‘Not Classified’, as determined by the teachers as each student’s skills are assessed throughout the course. The final exam questions will be a mixture of short-answer structured questions and questions that require a longer response. In addition, 10% of the marks will examine mathematical skills at the Higher Tier GCSE standard.

The course allows for plenty of additional practical work, including using the beautiful school grounds to carry out sampling methods. A visit to a habitat such as Studland Beach also takes place in order to study a sand dune succession. Other visits to enhance the curriculum include lectures, both locally and in London, and a DNA workshop at Bristol Science Museum. Students are also offered the opportunity to participate in competitions such as the British Biology Olympiad.