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Biology is taught as a separate subject to all pupils from Year 7 onwards. In Years 7 & 8, the emphasis is on stimulating enjoyment in the subject, a permanent interest in the living world and the acquisition of the essential practical skills that will form a solid foundation for the GCSE course. A large proportion of this course is spent studying Microbiology and Biotechnology and there is an opportunity to develop some skill integration in a tree project.  

A full and frank coverage of health education, including sex and drug education, is undertaken as part of the course with human reproduction covered in Year 8. The AQA GCSE certificate course begins in Year 9 and, as with Chemistry and Physics, there is no longer any coursework at GCSE for this specification although we have certain core practicals to cover.

Course Specification

A Level 

Biology is one of the most successful departments in the school, gaining excellent results and positive value added figures year after year. However, it is a challenging subject and there is much to cover. Pupils have excellent support over the course but high standards are set and we expect all students to rise to meet these challenges. Certain career choices dictate that it is pretty much essential to study Biology, so for Medicine, Veterinary Science, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Biological sciences to name but a few, you would not be advised to apply to university without Biology (and, indeed, Chemistry).

A grade (or AA in Double Award Science) Biology GCSE is the minimum requirement to study A Level Biology. An A* grade is usually indicative of the ability to access top grades. Warwick School follows the AQA GCE course specification.

This specification should encourage students to:

  • 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.
  • develop their interest in and enthusiasm for the subject, including developing an interest in further study and careers associated with the subject.
  • understand how society makes decisions about scientific issues and how the sciences contribute to the success of the economy and society.

This A Level would suit candidates who are…

  • Fascinated by the living world and wish to learn more about how living organisms interact with the environment and each other, building on what was learned at GCSE.
  • Enjoy working in an independent way as well as in a team.
  • Want to develop experimental and investigative skills.
  • Enjoy studying a subject which is fundamental to all we do and which has become even more relevant to their own lives.
  • Want to develop an informed view of the many important biological facets of today's world e.g. Global Warming, Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering, Medical Technology, Microbiology, Biomolecular engineering, Fertility Treatments, Ageing and many other areas.
  • Either students who want to add breadth to their A Level studies, or for whom it will be an essential prerequisite e.g. Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science, Pharmacy and Biological sciences amongst others.
  • Ambitious to achieve top grades in a successful, popular and high achieving department.

The specification is assessed by 3 papers at the end of Year 13. Questions for these specifications will be set which require students to demonstrate:

  • their knowledge and understanding of the content developed in one section or topic, including the associated mathematical and practical skills or
  • the ability to apply mathematical and practical skills to areas of content they are not normally developed in or
  • the ability to draw together different areas of knowledge and understanding within one answer.

AQA Biology is offered at GCSE and is now an optional subject. All pupils who opt for Biology will sit the subject as a separate science at GCSE. A Double Award option is no longer offered unless there are exceptional circumstances (usually something which would prevent a “normal” entry) and the pupil has selected all 3 science subjects (where pupils study all three sciences separately but are awarded two GCSE’s at the end of the course).

Setting no longer occurs at the end of Year 9 and 10 and all teaching is mixed ability. There is plenty of practical work to cover, in addition to the core practicals. Many of the practical and mathematical skills are common across the sciences.

GCSE study in biology provides the foundations for understanding the material world. Scientific understanding is changing our lives and is vital to the world’s future prosperity, and all students should be taught essential aspects of the knowledge, methods, processes and uses of science. They should be helped to appreciate how the complex and diverse phenomena of the natural world can be described in terms of a small number of key ideas relating to the sciences which are both inter-linked, and are of universal application. These key ideas include:

  • the use of conceptual models and theories to make sense of the observed diversity of natural phenomena
  • the assumption that every effect has one or more cause
  • that change is driven by differences between different objects and systems when they interact
  • that many such interactions occur over a distance without direct contact
  • that science progresses through a cycle of hypothesis, practical experimentation, observation, theory development and review
  • that quantitative analysis is a central element both of many theories and of scientific methods of inquiry

The GCSE specification in biology should enable pupils to:

  • develop scientific knowledge and conceptual understanding of biology.
  • develop understanding of the nature, processes and methods of biology through different types of scientific enquiries that help them to answer scientific questions about the world around them
  • develop and learn to apply observational, practical, modelling, enquiry and problem-solving skills, both in the laboratory, in the field and in other learning environments
  • develop their ability to evaluate claims based on biology through critical analysis of the methodology, evidence and conclusions, both qualitatively and quantitatively

Biology should be studied in ways that help pupils to develop curiosity about the natural world, insight into how science works, and appreciation of its relevance to their everyday lives. The scope and nature of such study should be broad, coherent, practical and satisfying, and thereby encourage students to be inspired, motivated and challenged by the subject and its achievements.

The syllabus is examined in two papers at the end of the three-year period. Both papers evaluate pupils’ understanding of their practical work and methods.

Science in Action 

Science in Action offers pupils the opportunity to undertake some extended science practical work. Ideal for those who love to experiment, investigate and ponder… but without the pressure of any write-ups or exams.

Freed from the confines of the syllabus, Science in Action runs a carousel of biological, chemical and physical science activities, which give pupils the chance to see some of the synthesis, analysis and applied techniques more commonly used in undergraduate laboratories.

Those choosing this course will have the opportunity to work alongside pupils and teachers from other schools and as such develop better communication skills as they form efficient working relationships. There is a degree of responsibility – some of the techniques require careful risk assessment, whilst the quality of products and results will depend upon each pupils' own experimental diligence, as well as their ability to work in a team.

Having undertaken the first year of Science in Action, pupils may apply to carry out an independent research project. With limited places, commitment and aptitude must be shown, but the potential payoffs are huge. Working independently in Warwick School’s research-standard laboratories, pupils have the opportunity to genuinely contribute to the progress of the group’s work and get a privileged insight into the world of scientific research.