Biology

Biology is the study of life in all its awe-inspiring complexity.  Biology is perhaps the broadest of the sciences in that it can be studied from the level of biological molecules, right up to whole ecosystems.  Biology is a fast moving subject, none more so than in the area of molecular genetics, where the rapid development of new technologies and understanding, such as in the fields of gene and stem cell therapy, routinely offer up new opportunities for exploitation as well as ethical challenges for society.

Biology is taught with a combination of theory lessons and also hands-on practical activities in which students learn to design experiments, work safely and think critically when interpreting experimental data.

In years 9 to 11 students follow the AQA Biology course (8461) with the expectation that all students will gain a GCSE in Biology.

Students in KS5 have the opportunity to participate in the Myelin Basic Protein Project MBP2).  This long-running project has been investigating the proteins involved in the myelination of nerves with a view to better understanding the role they might lay in the development of multiple sclerosis.  Students involved in the project gain hands-on experience of techniques such as cell culture and transformation, gel electrophoresis, protein purification, PCR and the use of restriction enzymes for cutting DNA.  Students in years 11 through to 13 can also take part in the Genome Decoders project led by the Institute of Research in Schools (IRIS).  In this project students are interrogating the recently sequenced genome of the human whipworm to locate and characterise its genes so that scientists may be better placed to develop new ways of treating parasitic infections.

Year 12 and 13 students have the opportunity to take part in the Biology Olympiad organised by the Royal Society of Biology.  Year 10 students can take part in the Biology Challenge competition, also organised by the Royal Society of Biology.

Further information can be found on the Science page HERE

Biology at KS5

In Years 12 and 13, students follow the A level AQA Biology course (7402).

Why study biology? Biology is quite simply the study of life in all its awe-inspiring complexity. We are all part of the improbability of life and as such it holds a particular fascination for each and every one of us but a study of Biology starts to unlock a deeper understanding of how the living world functions at a range of different levels. The diversity with which science approaches biological understanding is part of its appeal; scientists study processes at the level of biological molecule right up to the level of whole ecosystems. Biology is also a fast moving subject and the development of new techniques, such as in the field of molecular genetics, routinely offers up new insights, opportunities for exploitation as well as ethical challenges for society to debate.

The new AQA Biology A level course is split into 8 topics, the first 4 of which are taught in Year 12 and second 4 in Year 13. Subject content is examined for all 8 topics at the end of the Year 13 for the A level qualification. The 8 topics are as follows:

  1. Biological molecules
  2. Cells
  3. Organisms exchange substances with their environment
  4. Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms
  5. Energy transfers in and between organisms
  6. Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments
  7. Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems
  8. The control of gene expression

For the A level course there are 3 written papers. The first two written papers last 2 hours each and cover topics 1 to 4 and 5 to 8, respectively. The third written paper also lasts for 2 hours buts assesses practical technique, critical analysis of experimental data and includes a 25 mark synoptic essay question. Throughout the course students will be assessed on their practical skills and receive a separate endorsement of practical skills alongside the A Level grade at the end of the course. This is reported as a either a Pass or Fail.

It is highly recommended that students wishing to study Biology at A level choose at least one other science, preferably Chemistry, as a supporting subject. Past students who have done so have, on average, performed significantly better in their exams. The ability to formulate and sequence ideas in good English should also not be underestimated as a skill necessary to gain a high grade in A level Biology.