Curriculum – Biology

Curriculum – Biology

Biology

The Curriculum

Curriculum Intent

Biology in Southend High School for Girls is woven into all aspects of their school life. Our goal is to inspire our students to not only tangibly live and breathe biology, but also to incorporate this into their metaphysical psyche. We wish to engender a desire to critically view all facets of the natural world, from the loss of biodiversity in the World’s jungles to the intricate workings of the human biome. Our intent is for our students to apply this knowledge to carve their own niche in an ever changing, competitive world, so they are at the forefront of these changes if not leaps and bounds ahead of it. Biology will have taken them from clinging, metaphorically, to the mast of apprehension, to standing in the crow’s nest of understanding, looking towards a bright and new horizon. ​

In the Biology Department, we embed an ethos that enables humanity to improve their lives and to understand the world around them in an individual and collaborative basis. Students should be enlightened to understand how, through the ideas of biology, the complex and diverse phenomena of the natural world functions.

In Key Stage 3, we embark on an intrepid adventure to incrementally build on the prior building blocks of knowledge to understand the interrelationships connecting the micro to the biosphere.

As experienced Biologists embarking on Key Stage 4, students will utilise and refine their prior knowledge and skills within a spiralling curriculum whilst having the confidence to tackle novel concepts.

If students desire to pursue biology at A Level, we will continue to build on their secure foundation embedded within the previous key stages. They will have an opportunity to expand their vision by learning new biological processes such as the study of epigenetics, hereditary and advanced immunity.

We intend our students to leave SHSG with the ongoing thirst and enthusiasm that we have for our subject.

What does it feel like to be a student in the Biology Department?

According to a Year 9 pupil, studying biology at SHSG helps you “apply concepts that are learnt to better understand things in everyday life.”.

In lessons, you will be challenged to understand the micro, and this will put you in good stead to understand the macro. You will build on the theoretical concepts that you are learning in lessons through required and formative practicals. You will have support in the form of mentor-ship and open houses to help you achieve your potential.

At the end of lower school, your journey at SHSG would have taken you to looking at cells and understanding how they specialise to form organs. You will also appreciate the variety of life and the role of reproduction and interdependence in life.

At the end of GCSE, you will continue to build on the strong nucleus of information from lower school science. You will delve into the cell and begin to understand complex topics including Homeostasis and Protein Synthesis. You will also begin to use subject specific language and consider some ethical questions on the use of gene technology.

At the end of A Level, you will have understood the complexities of cellular processes such as Respiration and Photosynthesis; and have a deeper appreciation of the tireless and inspiring work of the scientists who traversed the narrow and difficult path of discovery before us.

In addition to the course, you will be challenged to participate in the Biology Challenge at lower and middle schools. The Biology Challenge stimulates curiosity for the natural world and encourages students to take an interest in biology outside of school. At A Level, you will be challenged to participate in the Biology Olympiad. This is an advanced problem-solving competition for A Level students and an entry point for the International Biology Olympiad.

Our students have entered universities and become professionals in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, laboratory science and education.

Please click on the button below to download the assessment policy for Biology.

Journey

Biology Curriculum

At Southend High School for Girls we teach a curriculum that is ambitious and takes students on a learning journey beyond the National Curriculum for biology. The SHSG biology curriculum is what we believe will expose and challenge students to a cultural capital in biology that is the best that has been thought and said in this subject.

Our subject curriculum is carefully organised to take our students from their end of primary school point to the higher outcomes at the end of Year 9.

The biology curriculum is planned and delivered using the intellectual framework of the classical education model, the Trivium:

  • Grammar (Knowledge and skills) knowledge, learning by heart, subject terminology, cultural capital
  • Dialectic (Enquiry and exploration) debate, question, challenge, analyse, evaluate
  • Rhetoric (Communication) essays, speeches, performances, presentations

Year 7 – 9

Pre-requisite or helpful knowledge from Year 6 biology ready to study in Year 7 if applicable
During their Upper KS2 studies as per the National Curriculum, students should have studied topics including ecosystems, organ systems, evolution and inheritance. All of this knowledge is revisited and drawn upon at KS3

The topics below have been chosen as they reflect the ambitions of the National Curriculum, and as a grammar school, also challenge students beyond the National Curriculum. They have been carefully sequenced in this order to build a student’s learning journey to achieve the aims of our biology intent. Along the way students are assessed and topics will be revisited in assessments to keep each stage of this learning journey alive.

Year 7

Term 1

Topics

  • Introduction to Science.
  • Introduction to Biology.
  • Organisms 1: Drugs, Musculoskeletal system, Cells- plant, animal, bacterial and their specialisations.

Skills

  • Recognising common laboratory equipment and its uses.
  • Safety in the laboratory – recognising hazard symbols.
  • Know how to use a microscope.
  • Know how to make a temporary microscope slide.

Assessment

  • Diagnostic test before learning takes place to guide lesson pace and progression.
  • Identification skills: Label structure and function of various cell parts.
  • Practice exam style questions- Muscles and cells.
  • Multiple choice assessment of key learning.
  • Curriculum plus: specialised cells.

Term 2

Topics

  • Genes 1: types and causes of variation, human reproduction including structure and function of reproductive systems, menstrual cycle fertilisation, conception pregnancy, pregnancy health and birth.

Skills

  • Sequencing foetal development.

Assessment

  • Diagnostic test before learning takes place to guide lesson pace and progression.
  • Practice exam style questions – variation and fertilisation and pregnancy.
  • Multiple choice assessment of key learning.

Term 3

Topics

  • Ecosystems 1: Flowering plants, plant reproduction, food webs, toxins in the environment, ecological balance and role of insects.

Skills

  • Identification of trophic levels within food webs.
  • Predicting the outcome of removing organisms from food webs.

Assessment

  • Diagnostic test before learning takes place to guide lesson pace and progression.
  • Practice exam style questions – Plant reproduction and food chains.
  • Multiple choice assessment of key learning.
  • End-of-Year Examination.

Year 8

Term 1

Topics

  • Introduction to Biology- different categories of variables.
  • Organisms 2: balanced diet and energy intake, food tests for carbohydrate, protein and lipids, human digestive system enzymes and villi, respiratory system and smoking and respiratory illness.

Skills

  • To safely conduct the four food tests.
  • Plan and carry out an investigation.

Assessment

  • Diagnostic test before learning takes place to guide lesson pace and progression.
  • Practice exam style questions – human reproduction, food test, digestive systems and food webs.
  • Multiple choice assessment of key learning.
  • Curriculum plus: food tests.

Term 2

Topics

  • Ecosystems: photosynthesis and respiration.

Skills

  • Safely carry out investigating photosynthesis practical.

Assessment

  • Diagnostic test before learning takes place to guide lesson pace and progression.
  • Practice exam style questions – breathing, photosynthesis, respiration and microscopes.
  • Multiple choice assessment of key learning. 

Term 3

Topics

  • Genes: genetics, genetic engineering, natural selection, extinction and biodiversity.

Skills

  • Understand how to carry out a genetic cross.

Assessment

  • Diagnostic test before learning takes place to guide lesson pace and progression.
  • Practice exam style questions – DNA, cells, natural selection.
  • Multiple choice assessment of key learning.
  • End-of-Year examination

Year 9

Term 1

Topics

  • Types of cells
  • Microscopy
  • Cell transport

Skills

  • Use a light microscope to observe, draw and label a selection of plant and animal cells. A magnification scale must be included.
  • Investigate the effect of a range of concentrations of salt or sugar solutions on the mass of plant tissue.

Assessment

  • Workbook that contains practice exam questions for all topics.
  • Cell structure test.
  • Cell transport test.
  • Curriculum plus: specialised cells

Term 2

Topics

  • Communicable disease
  • Defence systems
  • Blood
  • Heart
  • Lungs

Skills

  • Investigate the effect of antiseptics or antibiotics on bacterial growth using agar plates and measuring zones of inhibition.

Assessment:

  • Workbook that contains practice exam questions for all topics.
  • Communicable disease test.
  • Heart and lungs test.
  • Curriculum plus:  communicable diseases, microbiology, heart and lungs.

Term 3

Topics

  • Trophic levels
  • Level of organisms
  • Biological cycles
  • Adaptations

Skills

  • Measure the population size of a common species in a habitat.
  • Use sampling techniques to investigate the effect of a factor on the distribution of this species.
  • Investigate the effect of temperature on the rate of decay of fresh milk by measuring pH change.

Assessment

  • Workbook that contains practice exam questions for all topics.
  • Ecology 1 test.
  • Curriculum plus: Cycles in biology, decomposition.
  • End-of-year examination

Achieving outstanding outcomes in Biology – knowing and remembering even more than what is expected in a grammar school KS3 curriculum

In KS3 we assess student progress and attainment against the degree to which students have secured the key knowledge, skills and understanding that have been defined as being essential within each subject for a given year.

When reporting student progress this will be determined by the quality of work being produced at that point within each subject given the context of this selective grammar school.  Progress will be reported according to the following standards:

  • Working beyond expected year standard
  • Working at expected year
  • Working towards expected year standard

To go beyond what is expected of a biology student in KS3 students should:

  1. Read Widely: xxplore biology books, articles, and magazines that go beyond the textbooks used in your curriculum. Look for books within the library or using the Oliver database and find the KS3 science reading list News – Southend High School for Girls Library – Oliver (oliverasp.co.uk).
  2. Stay Informed: follow biology news, subscribe to science magazines, and grasp real-world relevance. ( Science & Environment – BBC News )
  3. Seek Guidance: students should not hesitate to seek help from teachers. Students are also welcome to attend Biology Open House on Thursdays from 12:30 – 13:00.
  4. Participate in external competitions: Biology Challenge is a national competition where curiosity for the natural world is stimulated, and students are encouraged to take an interest in biology outside of school.
  5. Utilise online resources, such as educational websites, YouTube channels, and podcasts, that cover advanced biology topics such as Khan Academy.
  6. Independent Research: if a student has a specific area of interest, they should consider conducting their  own experiments or research projects.
  7. Visit Museums and Zoos: museums and zoos often have exhibits and programmes related to biology. These can be great places to learn about biodiversity and conservation efforts.
  8. Stay Curious: students are encouraged to cultivate their natural curiosity and ask questions about the world around them. They should explore the connections between biology and other subjects like chemistry, physics, and environmental science.

Recommended reading in Biology for Lower School (Years 7 – 9)

  • Sciencemag.org
  • Discovermagazine.com
  • Popsci.com
  • Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
  • Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research
  • Rebel Girls Animal Allies by Rebel Girls
  • The Biology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
  • Horrible Science series of biology book

Useful websites, TED Talks and research for Lower School (Years 7 – 9)

Biology-specific language to master in Lower School (Years 7 – 9)

  • All required technical terminology can be found in the KS3 Glossary on the KS3 padlet

At Southend High School for Girls we teach a curriculum that is ambitious and takes students on a learning journey beyond the National Curriculum for biology. The SHSG biology curriculum is what we believe will expose and challenge students to a cultural capital in biology that is the best that has been thought and said in this subject.

Our subject curriculum is carefully organised to take our students from the end of Key Stage 3 point to achieve higher outcomes at the end of GCSE.

The biology curriculum is planned and delivered using the intellectual framework of the classical education model, the Trivium:

  • Grammar (Knowledge and skills) knowledge, learning by heart, subject terminology, cultural capital
  • Dialectic (Enquiry and exploration) debate, question, challenge, analyse, evaluate
  • Rhetoric (Communication) essays, speeches, performances, presentations

Pre-requisite or helpful knowledge from KS3 Biology ready to study in KS4 if applicable

  • KS3 Biology
  • Cell structure
  • Cell specialisation
  • Ecosystems
  • Photosynthesis
  • Respiration
  • Natural Selection

The topics below have been chosen as they reflect the ambitions of the National Curriculum and the core content of the GCSE specification which for biology is AQA 8461.  As a Grammar school, the curriculum also challenges students beyond the GCSE specification. Topics have been carefully sequenced in this order to build a student’s learning journey to achieve the aims of our biology intent. Along the way students are assessed and topics will be revisited in assessments to keep each stage of this learning journey alive.

Year 10

Term 1

Topics

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Microbiology
  • Drug Development
  • Plant diseases
  • Photosynthesis

Skills

  • Investigate the effect of antiseptics or antibiotics on bacterial growth using agar plates and measuring zones of inhibition
  • Investigate the effect of light intensity on the rate of photosynthesis using an aquatic organism such as pondweed

Assessment

  • Workbook that contains practice exam questions for all topics.
  • Infection & response topic test
  • Drug development and plant diseases topic test
  • Curriculum plus content : Protists (malaria), monoclonal antibodies, antibiotic resistance (evolution)

Term 2

Topics

  • Respiration
  • Nervous System

Skills

  • Plan and carry out an investigation into the effect of a factor on human reaction time

Assessment

  • Workbook that contains practice exam questions for all topics
  • Photosynthesis and Respiration test
  • Nervous System test
  • PPE (pre public examination)

Term 3

Topic 3

  • Endocrine system
  • Plant hormones

Skills

  • Investigate the effect of light or gravity on the growth of newly germinated seedlings

Assessment

  • Workbook that contains practice exam questions for all topics
  • Hormones in humans and plants test
  • Curriculum plus content: plant hormones

Year 11

Term 1

Topic 1

  • Inheritance
  • Evolution
  • Genetic engineering

Assessment

  • Workbook that contains practice exam questions for all topics
  • Inheritance test
  • Evolution and genetic engineering test
  • Curriculum plus content:  the work of Wallace, Darwin and Mendel on evolution and genetics

Term 2

Topic 2

  • Ecology
  • Biodiversity

Skills

  • Measure the population size of a common species in a habitat
  • Use sampling techniques to investigate the effect of a factor on the distribution of this species
  • Investigate the effect of temperature on the rate of decay of fresh milk by measuring pH change

Assessment

  • Workbook that contains practice exam questions for all topics
  • PPE

Term 3

Assessment

  • Past paper practice
  • GCSE examination

Achieving outstanding outcomes in Biology – knowing and remembering even more than what is expected in a grammar school KS4 curriculum

In KS4 we assess students against the core content and assessment objectives as outlined by the relevant GCSE examination board specification.  For Biology this is AQA 8461.  To go beyond what is expected of a Biology student at GCSE and achieve outstanding outcomes in Biology students should relish the challenging nature of Biology and not be afraid of making mistakes; students should recognise that making mistakes is an opportunity for learning. Good mistakes are therefore celebrated. Students can go beyond the GCSE specification in Biology by doing the following:

  1. Using additional resources: explore the textbooks (online and as hard copies), YouTube channels ( GCSE Biology (9-1) – YouTube ) and by participating in biology-based MOOCs on Unifrog ( Topics – Moocs – Student – Unifrog). GCSE Biology padlet can be found here: GCSE Biology (padlet.com)
  2. Study Smart: create a schedule, practise past exams, and use workbook questions which contain topic-based questions.
  3. Stay Informed: follow biology news, subscribe to science magazines, and grasp real-world relevance. ( Science & Environment – BBC News )
  4. Seek Guidance: students should not hesitate to seek help from teachers. Students are also welcome to attend Biology Open House on Thursdays from 12:30 – 13:00.
  5. Participate in external competitions: Biology Challenge is a national competition where curiosity for the natural world is stimulated, and students are encouraged to take an interest in biology outside of school.

Recommended reading in Biology for Middle School (Years 10 – 11)

  • New Scientist
  • A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

Useful websites, TED Talks and research for Lower School (Years 10 – 11)

  • Khan Academy
  • Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell (YouTube)

At Southend High School for Girls we teach a curriculum that is ambitious and takes students on a learning journey beyond the National Curriculum for biology. The SHSG biology curriculum is what we believe will expose and challenge students to a cultural capital in biology that is the best that has been thought and said in this subject.

The biology curriculum is planned and delivered using the intellectual framework of the classical education model, the Trivium:

  • Grammar (Knowledge and skills) knowledge, learning by heart, subject terminology, cultural capital
  • Dialectic (Enquiry and exploration) debate, question, challenge, analyse, evaluate
  • Rhetoric (Communication) essays, speeches, performances, presentations

Pre-requisite or helpful knowledge from KS4 Biology ready to study in Year 12 if applicable

  • Cell structure and transport
  • Digestion and Enzymes
  • Immunity
  • Genes and DNA
  • Hormones in Plants
  • Hormones in Humans
  • Photosynthesis
  • Respiration
  • Movement in Plants
  • Nervous System

The topics below have been chosen as they reflect the ambitions and the core content of the A Level specification which for biology is AQA 7402.   As a Grammar school,  the curriculum also challenges students beyond the A Level specification.  Topics have been carefully sequenced in this order to build a student’s learning journey to achieve the aims of our biology intent. Along the way students are assessed and topics will be revisited in assessments to keep each stage of this learning journey alive.

Year 12

Term 1

Topics

Side A

  • Biological Molecules
  • Proteins and Enzymes
  • Nucleic Acids
  • Mitosis

Side B

  • Maths in biology AS
  • Cell structure
  • Transport in Cells
  • Cell recognition

Skills

  • Investigation into the effect of a named variable on the rate of an enzyme-controlled reaction
  • Preparation of stained squashes of cells from plant root tips; set-up and use of an optical microscope to identify the stages of mitosis in these stained squashes and calculation of a mitotic index
  • Production of a dilution series of a solute to produce a calibration curve with which to identify the water potential of plant tissue
  • Investigation into the effect of a named variable on the permeability of cell-surface membranes

Assessment

  • Question pack for every topic
  • Biological molecules test
  • Cumulative assessment
  • DNA and mitosis test
  • Cell structure test
  • Cell recognition test

Term 2

Topics

Side A

  • Protein Synthesis
  • Meiosis
  • Genetic diversity by adaptation
  • Species and taxonomy

Side B

  • Digestion
  • Gas exchange
  • Mass transport in animals
  • Mass transport in plants

Skills

  • Dissection of animal or plant gas exchange system or mass transport system or of organ within such a system
  • Use of aseptic techniques to investigate the effect of antimicrobial substances on microbial growth

Assessment

  • Question pack for every topic
  • Protein synthesis test
  • Meiosis test
  • Gas exchange test
  • Mass transport test

Term 3

Topics

Side A

  • Biodiversity
  • Populations in Ecosystem
  • Energy and Ecosystem

Side B

  • Nutrient cycles
  • Survival and response

Skills

  • Investigation into the effect of a named environmental factor on the distribution of a given species

Assessment

  • Question pack for every topicPPE (pre public examination)

Year 13

Term 1

Topics

Side A

  • Maths in biology A2
  • Respiration
  • Inheritance
  • Speciation

Side B

  • Nervous coordination
  • Photosynthesis
  • Muscles

Skills

  • Investigate the pigments isolated from leaves of different plants, e.g. leaves from shade-tolerant and shade-intolerant plants or leaves of different colours
  • Investigation into the effect of a named factor on the rate of dehydrogenase activity in extracts of chloroplasts
  • Investigation into the effect of a named variable on the rate of respiration of cultures of single-celled organisms
  • Investigation into the effect of an environmental variable on the movement of an animal using either a choice chamber or a maze

Assessment

  • Question pack for every topic
  • Respiration and energy test
  • Inheritance and cell division test
  • Speciation and genetic diversity test
  • Nervous coordination and stimulus test
  • Photosynthesis and gas exchange test
  • Muscles and protein test

Term 2

Topics

Side A

  • Gene expression
  • Gene technology

Side B

  • Nervous coordination
  • Photosynthesis
  • Muscles

Skills

  • Production of a dilution series of a glucose solution and use of colorimetric techniques to produce a calibration curve with which to identify the concentration of glucose in an unknown ‘urine’ sample

Assessment

  • Question pack for every topic
  • Gene expression test
  • Gene technology test
  • Homeostasis and biological molecules test
  • PPE

Term 3

Assessment

  • Past paper practice
  • A Level examination

Achieving outstanding outcomes in Biology – knowing and remembering even more than what is expected in a grammar school Year 12 and 13 curriculum

In KS5 we assess student against the core content and assessment objectives as outlined by the relevant A Level examination board specification.  For biology this is AQA  7402.  To go beyond what is expected of a biology student at A Level and achieve outstanding outcomes in biology students should:

  1. Engage in advanced reading and research: explore the textbooks (online), YouTube channels ( The Whole of AQA A-Level Biology | Exam Revision for Papers 1, 2 and 3 – YouTube ) and participate in biology-based MOOCs on Unifrog ( Topics – Moocs – Student – Unifrog). Use the Hodder A level review subscription available in the library.
  2. Study Smart: create a schedule, practise past exams, and use topic-based question packs which contain exam style questions. Use the following link for extra resources on the A level padlet: A Level Biology (padlet.com)
  3. Stay Informed: follow biology news, subscribe to science magazines, and grasp real-world relevance. ( Science & Environment – BBC News )
  4. Seek Guidance: students should not hesitate to seek help from teachers. Students are also welcome to attend Biology Open House on Thursdays from 12:30 – 13:00.
  5. Teach Others: tutor peers and younger years.  Students could also create educational content to reinforce their own understanding and demonstrate their mastery of the subject
  6. Deepen Mathematical Skills: Biology at A-level often involves quantitative analysis, so strengthening maths skills as they apply to biological concepts is essential. The following link will help with understanding of core mathematical concepts in A level biology. A-level Biology Maths skills – YouTube .
  7. Attend Workshops and Summer Programs: participate in biology-related workshops, summer programs, or internships to gain hands-on experience and further students’ knowledge.
  8. Participate in external competitions: Biology Olympiad is a national competition where curiosity for the natural world is stimulated, and students are encouraged to take an interest in biology outside of school. Participate in essay competitions such as the ones found on here Science Essay Prizes — Libra Education .

Recommended reading in Biology for Upper School (Years 12 – 13)

Popular Science books on Biology

  • Biology The Chemistry of Life (Steven Rose)
  • Language of the Genes (Steve Jones)
  • The Wisdom of the Genes (Wills)
  • Life on the Edge: Quantum Biology (Al-Khalili and MacFadden)
  • The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype (Dawkins)
  • Junk DNA (Carey)
  • Life Ascending (Nick Lane)
  • Great Myths of the Brain (Jarrett)
  • How We Live and Why We Die (Wolpert) Honeybee Democracy (Seeley)
  • Genome by Matt Ridley
  • Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem [on the topic of advantageous diseases/mutations]
  • The Germ by John Waller [on the discovery of microbes and their role in disease]
  • The origin of life by Paul Davies
  • The outer reaches of life by John Postgate [on microbes in extreme environments and how they survive there and have evolved]
  • The Double helix by James D Watson
  • One renegade cell by Robert Weinberg (on the topic of cancer)
  • How We Live and Why We Die: the secret lives of cells by Lewis Wolpert
  • The greatest show on earth by Richard Dawkins (medium difficulty)
  • A short history of nearly everything by Bill Bryson

Popular Science books on Medicine and related topics

  • Blood & Guts by Roy Porter [excellent book on the development of medicine over time]
  • The Doctors’ Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis (Great Discoveries) by Sherwin B. Nuland [book describes a time in medicine when the importance of bacteria in infection was realised]
  • Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery by Richard Hollingham
  • Trust Me, I’m a (Junior) Doctor by Max Pemberton [a humourous and informative book on the first year of a doctor in the NHS after qualifying]
  • Soul Made Flesh: How the Secrets of the Brain Were Uncovered in Seventeenth Century England by Carl Zimmer
  • The Medical Detective: John Snow, Cholera and the Mystery of the Broad Street Pump by Sandra Hempel

Useful websites, TED Talks and research for Upper School (Years 12 – 13)

  • Khan Academy
  • Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell (YouTube)

Biology-specific language to master in Upper School (Years 12 – 13)

Whole School Production Chicago Ticket Sale information here