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Biology

“I think the biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning.” Steve Jobs

Head of Department: Dr G Elliott

Teachers: Ms R Chenery, Ms G Kocjancic, Ms S O’Neill, Ms A Safdar

Technical support: Ms K Barber

The aspirations of the Biology department are that:

  • Students become independent learners with a passion for biology, who make informed, evidence-based judgements which they can articulate eloquently by applying critical reasoning. 
  • Through their knowledge of biology, students make informed decisions to maintain a healthy lifestyle and well-being.
  • By pursuing careers in biological sciences and medicine, students make a positive contribution to society which benefits the quality of life of others.
  • Through their appreciation of the interdependence of life, and as custodians of the planet, students support and engage with sustainable solutions to global issues relating to biology.

The Biology curriculum at the Latymer School

Biology is a multidisciplinary subject, with links to geography through field work and population demographics, mathematics through statistical analysis, and chemistry through biochemistry. It also provides links to A Level philosophy through the medical ethical conference.  

Our curriculum is designed to develop an in-depth understanding of how organisms work, and how they interact with each other and their environments. Students will design experiments to test ideas and use analytical skills to interpret and critically evaluate evidence, enabling them to make informed judgements about the impact of biological advances on society and the environment. Students will explore how biological ideas and theories have changed over time, and how these have influenced, and been influenced by, society. 

We have designed a spiralling biology curriculum, repeatedly returning to the following key concepts in contexts of increasing intellectual demand.

  • Structure and function
  • Interdependence
  • Inheritance
  • Evolution

KEY STAGE 3

The Key Stage 3 curriculum is designed to support students with the transition from Key Stage 2. It revisits familiar content and practicals commonly covered at primary school, but this time employing more complex investigative skills and equipment.

Science is taught as combined science in Years 7 and 8, with biology, chemistry, and physics themes each lasting about a half term. Students are taught in Form Groups and will have the same lab and same science teacher for a year, allowing them to settle into their new school.

The curriculum is heavily practical-based to encourage discovery learning, with practicals carefully designed to challenge misconceptions. Much homework includes creative activities, such as model building and display work, encouraging students who are less confident to consolidate their learning in science with strengths in other subjects such as art, history, languages and English, similar to project work at primary.

Year 7

  • Living things
  • Reproduction

Year 8

  • Food and energy
  • Ecology

KEY STAGE 4

Students at Latymer take triple science in Years 9-11 starting GCSE in Year 9. Biology is taught as a separate subject by specialist biology teachers. Students are taught in mixed groups, based upon their subject options, rather than individual Form Groups, and will have the same biology teacher throughout Years 10-11 to ensure continuity.  

The Key Stage 4 curriculum is based on the AQA GCSE Biology 8461 syllabus, rearranged to provide more consistent themes to develop the four key concepts. There are 10 required practicals spread throughout the course at appropriate points, further developing the investigative skills introduced at Key Stage 3 and consolidating learning. Questions on required practicals may appear in the GCSE written exams. In addition, we provide extra practicals to enrich the curriculum and enhance students’ investigative skills. Opportunities to develop maths skills and extended writing skills have been incorporated into the schemes of learning.   

Year 9

  • Cell Biology
  • Cell transport
  • Organs and systems
  • Health and Disease 

End of year exam

Year 10

  • Infection and response
  • Plants
  • Bioenergetics
  • Homeostasis

Mock exam

Year 11

  • Ecology
  • Variation, inheritance and evolution

Mock exam
External exams

KEY STAGE 5

Biology is a popular subject in the Sixth Form. Almost half of the cohort take biology in year 12, about 90 students spread between five classes. Each class is taught by two biology teachers, each teaching their area of biological expertise. Our curriculum is based on the AQA A Level biology syllabus 7041/2, with minor rearrangements to ensure coherent themes that ensure progression from Key Stage 4. Teachers extend and challenge students by teaching beyond the curriculum, and to encourage students to become independent learners, students are issued with a reading list and the department has purchased student access to the online archives of the Biological Sciences Review Magazine.

External students are welcomed and comprise about 20% of the biology cohort. We provide bridging resources for new students who have studied other exam boards at GCSE so they may integrate easily.

At the end of Year 12 students may choose to drop biology as their fourth subject and take external AS exams. However the majority, about 80 students, continue to study for A Level biology in Year 13. These students sit an internal UCAS exam which, along with other biology assessments throughout the year, contributes to a holistic UCAS prediction. In the Summer term, after the UCAS exam, students study sampling techniques and field work, and employ statistical analysis to determine the significance of their data.

In Year 13 we have five biology classes of year 13 students, again taught by the same two teachers they had in Year 12 ensuring continuity.

Biology is well-equipped for practical work. Students are trained to use A Level equipment with precision and skill. There are 12 required practicals at A Level split equally between Years 12 and 13, along with additional enrichment practicals including opportunities for dissection. Students are assessed on five core practical skills (CPACs) throughout the course to obtain a practical endorsement.

Biology is a multidisciplinary subject, with links to geography through field work and population demographics, mathematics through statistical analysis, and chemistry through biochemistry. It also provides links to A Level philosophy through the medical ethical conference.  

Year 12

  • Biological molecules
  • Genetics and variation
  • Cells
  • Organisms and Exchange

External AS exam(AS students only) or internal UCAS exam (A Level students only)

Field work Preparation and sampling techniques (A Level students only)

Year 13

  • Energy transfers
  • Population Genetics and evolution
  • Gene expression
  • Gene technology
  • Behaviour and response
  • Nervous coordination
  • Muscle contraction
  • Hormonal coordination

External A Level exams

EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES 

  • We enter students for the Biology Olympiad.
  • Various magazines and journals are provided e.g. Biological Sciences Review archives (online).
  • Extra-curricular talks are arranged, delivered by external speakers, usually Alumni or parents working in the medical field, and we have had several prominent scientists in the past, particularly Prof. Steve Jones (UCL) who has given several genetics presentations, and Prof. Steve Delve, retired pro-vice chancellor of UCL for medical applications.
  • Several parents and Alumni working in biological or medical fields volunteer time at the school’s career fair, or act as judges for the Key Stage 3 science fair.
  • Students contribute articles to school science magazines: Examine (all sciences), Medicine today (biology/medicine) used for Latymer EPQ.
  • Student-led societies, such as the Medical Society, Biology Society and Veterinary Society.
  • Students are encouraged to enter for biological essay-writing competitions.
  • Interested pupils are recommended to apply for Nuffield Research Placements to gain valuable insight and experience into laboratory-based work.
  • Interested students are recommended to apply for UCLMS Target Medicine mentoring programs. 
  • Students are invited to attend online “Labster” PCR simulations run by Middlesex University.
  • We provide mock interviews for students to assist in university applications.
  • Dr Rishi Copra, a GP and past Latymer student, gives annual talks to the medical society on applying for medicine.

DESTINATIONS

  • About 20% biology students pursue a degree course related to biological sciences.
  • About 40% of biology students pursue a medical-related degree.  
  • About 7% of biology students pursue a degree in another science.
  • About 4% of biology students pursue a degree at Oxbridge.