Biology is a popular A level – usually around 75 students study at AS and nearly all go on to complete the full A level.

The department comprises three teaching laboratories and four staff:

Mr D McMahon (Head of Biology)

Mr D Hardy

Mrs G O’Mahony

Mrs L Milne


Curriculum summary

Year 8

The ‘Ascent!’ Course is followed although, as with chemistry, pupils are stretched with extension material or topics.  The main areas studied are as follows:

  • Health, diet and the human alimentary canal
  • The human cardiovascular system and CHD
  • Introduction to microbiology
  • Ecology – getting to grips with various tools of an ecologist

Year 9

Pupils start to follow the CIE IGCSE Biology course.

  • Classification
  • Environmental Biology: food webs, nutrient cycles, population growth and human influences on the natural world (pollution and conservation)

During this year there will be a strong emphasis on developing independent learning skills e.g. research skills, and presenting ideas to others in a group or to the whole class.

Year 10

The CIE IGCSE course is continued and topics include:

  • Plant biology: photosynthesis, transpiration and translocation
  • Mammalian transport; heart and blood
  • Homeostasis
  • Drugs in society

Emphasis in this year is on data analysis (graphs and tables) and getting to grips with scientific protocol.

Year 11

The IGCSE will be taken at the end of this year so the final topics are covered by March of the academic year:

  • Genetics
  • Reproduction
  • Cell division: mitosis and meiosis

A fully extensive revision programme is then followed in the run-up to the exam period.

Emphasis throughout the year is on fine tuning practical skills in readiness for a practical skills exam in May.

More detail on the syllabus is available here.

A level Biology (AQA Biology – AS code 1411; A2 code 2411)

Year 12

Units 1 and 2 are covered by April of the academic year.  Topics will include:

  • Heart and CHD
  • Lungs and lung disease
  • Cell biology
  • Enzymes and biochemistry
  • Immunity
  • DNA and diversity
  • Transport in animals and plants
  • Antibiotics
  • Cell Cycles
  • Species Diversity

Biology field Trip

In July after the AS exams there is usually a trip to the Preston Montford Field Studies Council (FSC) centre in Shropshire.  The trip introduces students to the A2 ecology work completed in the Autumn Term of Year 13.

Year 13

Units 4 and 5 are covered, again leaving plenty of time for revision in April and May.  Topics will include:

  • Populations
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Studying ecosystems
  • Respiration
  • Photosynthesis
  • Evolution by natural selection
  • Genetics
  • DNA and protein synthesis
  • Gene therapy and genetic engineering
  • Homeostasis
  • Skeletal muscle
  • Nervous system

Practical work

During both Year 12 and 13 a practical skills unit is undertaken – two pieces of work are completed and the better piece is counted as part of the A level mark.

More information is available here.

General aims of the department

  • To ensure are best placed to tackle their formal exams in Years 11,12 and 13
  • To foster an interest in, and awareness of, the natural world around them
  • To be available to support students through their courses – students are encouraged to contact staff via email if they are not readily available
  • To return work to students within one week (at the latest) to ensure meaningful feedback
  • Offer the Biology Olympiad to interested students in Year 13

Who studies A level Biology?

It is a popular subject for potential medics, vets or dentists; although some students do it in order to secure one science A level. It tests a range of skills: numerical, organisational, practical and written so is a worthwhile subject and qualification in its own right.

We do recommend A level Chemistry is taken with Biology – no top 20 University will accept a student to read biological science without both of these sciences at A level.

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