In Biology, you will be taught by experienced, specialist staff. The Biology department was graded as outstanding in the last OFSTED inspection.
Students work through interactive packs of notes in lessons. They find the packs very useful as having pre-printed notes allows them to concentrate more in class, the packs help students to organise their work better and the questions within the packs allows students to apply their new knowledge to exam-style questions. Regular practical classes allow students to develop laboratory skills which will be assessed (leading to a practical endorsement) and experimental knowledge will be tested within the written exams.
Students who are applying for competitive courses such as oxbridge, medicine, veterinary science and dentistry have a dedicated staff mentor who will guide them through all stages of the application process from admission tests, through to personal statements and then to mock interviews.
Extra “Interested and enthusiastic” sessions are offered to those students who wish to go beyond the subjects taught within the A-level specification. Students are encouraged to enter the Biology Olympiad and other competitions throughout the year. Some of our students have taken part in the Microverse Research project as part of the citizen science initiative organised by the Natural History Museum.
Many extracurricular trips are run each year and this year included visits to the University of Southampton, Reading and Portsmouth where students had the opportunity to perform experiments in the University laboratories. Other trips included attending the “Biology in Action” lectures at the Institute of Education in London, and attending interactive workshops run by the Royal College of Pathologists and Anaesthetists. Every two years a marine ecology field trip is taken abroad in the summer to give students the opportunity to learn to scuba dive and take part in ecological research under the guidance of University staff; in July 2015 our students took part in a marine biology expedition in Greece.
All of the Biology staff are experienced extended project supervisors and Biology is a very popular subject area within which students choose their research projects. Those students who have interviews at University find the research skills they gain from the extended project invaluable.
There is a lot of factual knowledge to learn in Biology. Students need to develop their revision techniques from GCSE to cope with this and they are given regular end of topic tests to ensure that they are learning the material as they progress through the course and that they have understood what is taught. There is a comprehensive support system for any students that find the step-up from GCSE challenging. Extra lessons take place each week to target those students who need a little extra help. There is also an extensively used peer mentoring system in place. The open door policy ensures that any student needing extra support can drop in to see their teacher when they are free. Students are encouraged to work in the science study area near to the teaching laboratories.
Students need to be organised in their approach to independent work and be committed to at least five hours extra per week on this subject. This will involve weekly reading of the relevant text book chapters, preparing revision notes, practicing past exam questions and other homework such as writing up practical experiments.