Biology at Sir Thomas Rich's

“Remember, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, 'Don’t be too timid or squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better'.” - Elizabeth Blackburn

Biology at Sir Thomas Rich’s aims to empower students with the foundations for understanding the living world and to develop a sense of excitement and curiosity about natural phenomena. The curriculum aims to develop essential knowledge and understanding of different areas of Biology and how they relate to each other as well as the practical skills, competency and confidence to apply this knowledge to unfamiliar situations. Students learn how society makes decisions about scientific issues, for example modern farming techniques, transplants, genetic modification and stem cell research, as well as how Biology contributes to the success of the economy and society, for example medical advances and food security.

The development of practical skills is fundamental to becoming a good Biologist and is an integral part of the curriculum. Practicals help develop students’ problem-solving skills and curiosity through planning, analysing and evaluating. Field work is developed through the Key Stages using the School pond at Key Stage 3, Slimbridge WWT Reserve at Key Stage 4 and Orielton Field Study Centre, Pembroke at A Level. These not only develop ecology techniques but also promote enjoyment and curiosity alongside an understanding of the vulnerability of the natural environment. Experiments and other activities are often carried out in groups in order to encourage collaborative learning. All Biology students experience opportunities to excel; independent learning is promoted and lessons are delivered by enthusiastic and expert teachers, helping students embed and use their knowledge fluently.


Key Stage 3 - Years 8 & 9

Teaching Arrangements: Years 8 and 9 are taught for 2 periods a fortnight.
Homework Guidance: Students are set one homework per week in Biology. Tasks will vary including experiment write ups, a research task, questions, poster or revision.
Assessment Arrangements: Written topic tests are given and there is an end of year examination.
Topics Covered:
Year 8
  • Microbes and disease
  • Food and diet
  • Plants and photosynthesis
  • Agriculture
  • Students usually visit a zoo to study animal behaviour
Year 9
  • Human Biology up to GCSE level, including:
  • Digestion
  • Respiration and breathing
  • Blood and circulation

The Year 8 curriculum builds on the skills and knowledge learnt in Year 7 and covers a broad range of topics giving a good foundation for the work covered at a higher level. The use of practicals and real-life examples contribute to developing enjoyment and interest in the subject. Topics are based on the National Curriculum but our schemes of work have evolved to challenge students and develop their thirst for learning. Studying animal behaviour at Bristol Zoo fosters the students’ curiosity, encourages cooperation and extends the study beyond that of the curriculum. Year 9 concentrates on Human Biology, with topics being taught up to GCSE level.

Teaching Arrangements: 4 periods a fortnight in Year 10 and 5 periods a fortnight in Year 11.
Homework Guidance: Homework will include a range of tasks including past paper style questions, experiment write ups and research tasks. They are also set revision activities for regular tests. Students will be expected to access SharePoint for many of these tasks.
Assessment Arrangements: Students are expected to complete 12 required practicals but their GCSE grade is based on terminal examinations. A range of question types will be used, including multiple choice, short answer and those that require extended responses.
Exam Specification: AQA GCSE Biology (8461) Topics Covered:
Year 10
  • Cells
  • Cell division
  • Metabolism and transport in cells
  • Plant tissues and organs
  • Photosynthesis
  • Plant disease
  • Health Issues
  • Ecology, including fieldwork usually carried out at WWT Slimbridge
Year 11
  • Biodiversity and human interactions with ecosystems
  • The nervous system
  • Homeostasis
  • Excretion
  • Plant hormones
  • Reproduction
  • DNA and inheritance
  • Variation and evolution
  • Genetic engineering and cloning

Year 10 and 11 cover the AQA Biology specification. Students are challenged through the pace, content and application of knowledge questions. Up to date examples and Biology in the news are used to extend students’ knowledge and maintain interest. As well as the practical work carried out in lessons we enthuse students about ecology by taking the whole year group to Slimbridge WWT Reserve.

Entry Requirements: A GCSE Grade 7 in Biology or double award Combined Science is required to study this course.
Teaching Arrangements: Students have 9 periods a fortnight in Year 12 and 10 period a fortnight in Year 13, usually split between 2 teachers.
Homework Guidance: Students are set past paper and practice questions, practical write ups and some research and reading tasks. They are also expected to regularly review the work covered in lessons and revise for tests.
Assessment Arrangements: Students will have to carry out 12 different types of practical activity for the practical endorsement part of their A-Level. Their grade is assessed through three terminal examinations. A range of question types will be used, including multiple choice, short answer and those that require extended responses.
Exam Specification: OCR Biology A H420 Topics Covered:
Year 12
  • Biological molecules
  • Cells
  • Animal and plant transport
  • Exchange Systems
  • Enzymes
  • Nucleic acids
  • Classification and evolution
  • Biodiversity
  • Disease
  • Conservation and sustainability
Year 13
  • Ecosystems and populations
  • Nerves and hormones
  • Communication and homeostasis
  • Excretion
  • Plant and animal responses
  • Photosynthesis
  • Respiration
  • Cellular control
  • Patterns of inheritance
  • Biotechnology and manipulating genomes

Years 12 and 13 are taught using Department-produced workbooks and PowerPoints which are designed to allow students to develop excellent core knowledge and understanding. Students entirely self-assess their work in these books so that they understand that it is for their own development rather than teacher assessment. Regular tests are used to check progress. Years 12 and 13 are also set regular ‘extended study’ homework, for example to read and summarise articles from the Biological Sciences Review Magazine or to research an item of Biology in the news. During the summer between Year 12 and Year 13 all Biology A Level students are expected to read and review a Biology based book that goes beyond the curriculum. Students attend a residential field course in Year 13, allowing them to immerse themselves in ecology and develop an understanding of the complexities of the interrelatedness of environmental factors.

University courses this subject may be required for or lead onto:
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Physiotherapy
  • Veterinary Studies
  • Pharmacology
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Botany
  • Zoology
  • Biochemistry
  • Sports Science
  • Microbiology
  • Forensics
Careers that Biology may lead onto:
  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Physiotherapy
  • Veterinary studies
  • Pharmacology
  • Animal welfare
  • Conservation
  • Agriculture
  • Teaching
  • Nursing
  • Radiography
  • Ophthalmology
  • Forensics
  • Research scientist

"I enjoyed Biology at Sir Thomas Rich's because the teachers always made the lessons fun and interesting. Also I was given the support I needed to keep my work organised and it really helped me when revising."
Praseed, former student
"I enjoy Biology because of the variety it brings: from the reactions that happen inside cells to the interactions between organisms in ecosystems. Everyone will find something that fascinates them. The range of teaching methods used, including practical work and field studies, ensures that the subject is really brought to life."
Matthew, current student
"Biology is an engaging and exciting subject, covering a wide range of topics from DNA replication to biodiversity. It is universally useful. Biology at Rich's is especially good due to excellent teaching and a wide variety of trips."
Sophie, current student

To develop interest in Biology we would recommend visiting zoos, wildlife parks, botanical gardens, natural history museums and science museums.

Associated Clubs / Societies / Trips:
  • Biology support club on Tuesday lunchtimes.
  • Year 8 trip to Bristol Zoo to study animal behaviour.
  • Year 10 trip to Slimbridge WWT to develop ecology practical skills.
  • Year 12 trip to Oxford Natural History Museum to study evolution and classification.
  • Year 13 residential field course developing ecology skills and knowledge.