Biology

Subject Overview

Developments in the biological sciences are happening at breath-taking speed and will hugely affect the lives of our pupils. The exciting and innovative Stonyhurst Biology Department has a long history of encouraging those with an interest in any area of this fascinating subject and facilitating their pathway to further relevant study or career opportunities. 

Pupils really enjoy their biology lessons and we are proud of the level of their engagement in the subject, evidenced both in their practical work and enthusiastic participation in wider discussion in the classroom. The Biology Society at Stonyhurst is named the Waterton Society after our illustrious OS, Charles Waterton, the eminent naturalist, explorer and taxidermist of the 19th century. Waterton was widely known as a conservationist pioneer, and the first to describe to the Royal Society the precise effects of curare, a fundamental molecule in anaesthetic medicine. We are fortunate to have the Waterton collection as a resource and inspiration for our pupils.

Curriculum

Key Stage 3 (Year 9)

The Biology course in Lower Grammar (year 9) uses the Key Stage 3 section of the National Curriculum as an initial framework and is intended as a sound preparation for GCSE. 

Our students are interested by and engaged in the world around them, enjoying the study of topics such as:

  • Structure and function of living organisms 
  • Cells and organisation 
  • The skeletal and muscular systems 
  • Nutrition and digestion 
  • Gas exchange systems 
  • Reproduction 
  • Health 
  • Material cycles and energy 
  • Photosynthesis 
  • Cellular respiration 
  • Interactions and interdependencies 
  • Relationships in an ecosystem 
  • Genetics and evolution 
  • Inheritance, chromosomes, DNA and genes.

GCSE (YEARS 10 & 11)

Biology uses the same key scientific skills as Chemistry and Physics and indeed, assists in the study of these subjects, whilst also developing mathematical and language skills. At GCSE Biology we follow the AQA course. This is a wide-ranging course which provides a sound foundation to A Level and IB. It also requires knowledge of practical skills, which are assessed in both written papers. 

Our pupils continue to develop their scientific skills, engaging with scientific enquiry in the pursuit of greater understanding of the world and their place in it, through the detailed study of topics such as: 

  • Cell biology
  • Organisation
  • Infection and response
  • Bioenergetics
  • Homeostasis and response
  • Inheritance, variation and evolution
  • Ecology.

AQA GCSE 9-1 (8641 Specification code) 

Assessment is by two 1 hour and 45 minute papers, to be taken at the end of a 2 year course.  Each paper is worth 50% of the total marks. 

A Level (sixth form)

The study of Biology in Higher line is key for a wide range of careers as well as being fascinating in its own right.  It is highly academically demanding, and it would normally be expected that candidates have achieved at least Grade 6 in GCSE Biology before choosing to study the subject at either A level or IB Diploma level. 

At A level, we study the Edexcel Salters-Nuffield Biology (SNAB 9BNO) course at Stonyhurst.  

The A level Salters-Nuffield Biology (SNAB 9BNO) is a context-based approach to teaching science and is favoured because it motivates and interests students. 

Students are expected to be hands-on in the laboratory and need to develop sound practical skills.  They each have their own web account on the SNAB site through which they can access additional support materials. 

Topics are taught through a case-study structure, which include recent updates in biochemistry, physiology, microbiology and genetics. Human biology features quite largely, but ecological studies and plant physiology are also important topics. This provides an excellent context-led approach to the subject with sound content and top-quality interactive internet support.  The course also includes a Practical Competency Assessment. This includes 18 core practicals that cover all the 12 techniques required for the practical competency measure. Knowledge of all core practicals can be tested within the exam papers. Students are required to keep a practical portfolio. 

Assessment 

Assessment is by 3 x two hour papers at the end of a two year course. Each paper is worth 33.3% of the total marks. 

IB Diploma (sixth form)

The study of Biology in Higher line is key for a wide range of careers as well as being fascinating in its own right.  It is highly academically demanding, and it would normally be expected that candidates have achieved at least Grade 6 in GCSE Biology before choosing to study the subject at either A level or IB Diploma level. 

Biology is a Group 4 option as part of the IB Diploma, available for study at Standard or Higher level.   

Standard and Higher Level topics covered include:

  1. Cell Biology
  2. Molecular biology
  3. Genetics
  4. Ecology
  5. Evolution and biodiversity
  6. Human and Physiology.

Assessment consists of 3 written papers (80%) and an individual practical investigation (20%).