Biology is a popular subject at St. Mary’s. The atmosphere within the department is friendly and relaxed, but students are expected to make a serious commitment to the subject.

We provide a stimulating environment in which students can study a wide breadth of biological phenomena and we employ a variety of modern and traditional teaching approaches. There are extensive opportunities for ‘hands on’ practical work, together with ICT and stimulating reference materials, which are used to help nurture a scientifically inquisitive mind.

For our older students, we have a weekly subscription to ‘Nature’, the most highly respected of all scientific journals which is also available online. This enables students to develop the independent learning skills which are so vital at university.

We aim to challenge all of our students to achieve their best and have forged close links with learned societies such as The Society of Biology, The Linnean Society of London and The Galton Institute.

Our aim:

The aims of the department are to:

  • inspire students’ interest in and enjoyment of the study of biological sciences
  • equip students with the skills they need to study biology at a higher level
  • enable students to acquire knowledge and understanding of  biological concepts and apply this to explain unfamiliar phenomena and information
  • develop the ability to select and use information from a variety of sources, to form hypotheses, predict outcomes and to solve problems
  • develop the ability to collect, present and interpret experimental and empirical data
  • develop the ability to communicate, in a variety of forms, scientific ideas and arguments logically and concisely
  • enable students to recognise and evaluate some of the social, environmental and economic effects, and political and ideological and ethical implications of the applications of biological science

Key Stage 3:

Biology, like all the sciences at SMC, is taught as a discrete subject for 1 double lesson (70 min) each week. With the advent of the renewed KS3 curriculum we place a greater emphasis on the development of skills, including those involved in designing and carrying out scientific investigations, and presenting and interpreting the results. However, we still believe strongly in the merits of teaching Knowledge and Understanding and this remains the main focus of our lessons and assessments.

Pupils are challenged to achieve in Biology from the very beginning and our new Year 7 Scheme of Work includes topics such as Genetics and DNA Technology, which excites and inspires our younger students through cutting edge scientific developments.  Pupils also learn the fundamental principles of Human Biology, Microbiology and Ecology during their Key Stage 3 years, progressing to GCSE level content in Year 9.

 

GCSE:

At Key Stage 4, many pupils opt to study the separate sciences, leading to three GCSEs in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. For those who choose to study Science and Additional Science, the Biology content is taught by subject specialists and covers the first two units of the GCSE Biology syllabus.

GCSE Biology:

Biology is taught for two double periods per week by subject specialists.
The course consists of 3 written exams and an ISA (Investigative Skills Assignment) - each contributing 25% of the total marks for the qualification.

Examination and Assessment Arrangements:

Unit

Content

When Taken

Assessment

% of GCSE Marks

UMS Marks

BL1HP

Biology Core

Summer Y11

60 min exam

25

100

BL2HP

Biology Additional

Summer Y11

60 min exam

25

100

BL3HP

Biology Separate

Summer Y11

60 min exam

25

100

BL4P

Controlled Assessment

Autumn/Spring Y11

Centre Assessed

25

100

 

GCSE Biology Exam Results :

 

2012

2013

2014

% A* - A

60

60

44

% A* - C

98

94

88

 

Sixth Form:

A Level Biology:

Entry Qualifications:
Normally a grade A*, A or B in Biology / Core and Additional Science.  In addition a grade B or above in Chemistry is an advantage.

Nature of the course:
Students starting the A Level course in September 2015 will be following the AQA Biology 7401 & 7402 A Level.
The course is divided into 8 modules: The AS course and first year of A Level comprises 4 modules:

  1. Biological molecules – studies the common chemistry shared by all life on earth. This unit studies carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids along with ATP and water.
  2. Cells – looks at similarities and differences between different cell types, the structure of the cell membrane and movement of substances in and out of cells, the processes involved in producing new cells and interactions between cells in the immune system.
  3. Organisms exchange substances with their environment – looks at the exchange surfaces in different organisms, digestion in mammals, the role of tissue fluid and mass transport in meeting the needs of cells.
  4. Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms – combines studying DNA as the genetic material with the process of protein synthesis, factors affecting genetic diversity in populations and the process and importance of meiosis, biodiversity and classification.


The second year of A Level comprises a further four modules:

  1. Energy transfers in and between organisms – studies the biochemistry of photosynthesis and respiration and the efficiency of transfers between living organisms.
  2. Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments – looks at the role of specific growth factors in controlling response in plants, the structures of receptors and how the nervous system enables animals to respond to their environment including control of muscle contraction.  Mechanisms of homeostasis are studied including control of blood glucose and water.
  3. Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems – this unit covers patterns of inheritance of one and two genes including use of the chi squared statistic, gene pools and allele frequencies and the Hardy-Weinberg principle, and how evolution may lead to the production of new species. The factors affecting the sizes of populations including abiotic and biotic factors are also studied.
  4. The control of gene expression – looks at the effect of mutation on the production of a polypeptide, and how gene expression is controlled by the regulation of transcription and translation, including the role of tumour suppressor and oncogenes in the development of cancer. The uses and potential of advances in genetic techniques and knowledge including recombinant DNA technology, genome and proteome databases and genetic screening are considered.

 

Additional Information
Unlike previous specifications there will be no internally assessed practical elements of the course. Instead students will undertake at least 12 identified practical activities across the two year course. Students will be asked questions on these practical activities in the examinations, with the questions making up 15% of the total assessment. Most of the questions will be in one section in Paper 3.Overall, at least 10% of the marks in assessments for biology will require the use of mathematical skills.These skills will be applied in the context of biology A-level and will be at least the standard of higher tier GCSE mathematics.


Examination and Assessment Arrangements:
Assessments for the full A Level course – exams are taken in the summer of Year 13

Paper 1              2 Hours               91 Marks            35% of A Level
Any content from topics 1–4, including relevant practical skills
Questions
76 marks: a mixture of short and long answer questions
15 marks: extended response questions

Paper 2               2 Hours               91 Marks            35% of A Level
Any content from topics 5–8, including relevant practical skills
Questions
• 76 marks: a mixture of short and long answer questions
• 15 marks: comprehension question

Paper 3               2 Hours               78 Marks            30% of A Level
Any content from topics 1–8, including relevant practical skills
Questions
• 38 marks: structured questions, including practical techniques
• 15 marks: critical analysis of given experimental data
• 25 marks: one essay from a choice of two titles

Students who study for the AS course will take shorter exams in the summer of Year 12. These will cover material from the first four units and will have similar questions to the full A Level but with a lower level of demand.


Paper 1               1 hour 30 mins           75 marks                50% of AS Level
• Any content from topics 1–4, including relevant practical skills
Questions
• 65 marks: short answer questions
• 10 marks: comprehension question


Paper 2               1 hour 30 mins           75 marks                50% of AS Level
• Any content from topics 1–4, including relevant practical skills
Questions
• 65 marks: short answer questions
• 10 marks: extended response questions

 

 

Current A Level Students (2014)

Students currently in Years 12 and 13 are following the AQA Biology (2410) specification. The A level course is divided into 4 taught modules. The first two, taken in Year 12, contribute towards the AS Level and the next two taken in Year 13 contribute towards the A2 (AS + A2 = A Level). In addition an internally marked practical assessment (ISA) is taken each year.


Unit

Content

Assessment

% of A-Level Marks

UMS Marks

1

Biology and disease

1 hour 15 mins exam

16.67

100

2

The variety of living organisms

1 hour 45 min exam

23.33

140

3

Internally Marked Practical Assignment

centre assessed

10

60

4

Populations and environment

1 hour 30 min  exam

16.67

100

5

Control in cells and in organisms

2 hour 15 minute exam

23.33

140

6

Internally Marked Practical Assignment

centre assessed

10

60

 

A Level Biology Results:

 

2012

2013

2014

% A* - A

46

50

47

% A* - E

100

100

100

 

 

Beyond the Classroom:

We believe strongly in enriching the curriculum beyond normal classroom activities. From Year 7, students are encouraged to undertake Crest Awards in Science Club and we organise different field trips relevant to each Key Stage. In the past, these have included trips to Wales and the Lake District for KS5 students and Science Live conferences at KS4. We have taken students as far afield as Cuba and are in the midst of planning an expedition to the Galapagos Islands. Students are also encouraged to enter the Biology Challenge in Years 9 and 10 and the Biology Olympiad in Sixth Form.