Biology is the study of organisms and their interactions between each other and their environments. It ultimately provides us with an understanding of our bodies, food production and how life sustains itself.
Biologists learn not just the rapidly increasing knowledge base of life, but the methods by which we can experiment to learn more about organisms and ethical issues surrounding various aspects related to biology. The department aims to teach by experimentation, thus developing good practical and lateral thinking skills. This involves developing good communication, observational, research, predictive, statistical, analytical, evaluative, critical and planning skills.
“Biology – Without this department, I wouldn’t be at Oxford.”
Tanadet Pipatpolkai (W 2010-’13)
Biology is still seen as a core academic subject due to its complexity, detail, numerical and written skill base. As a Sixth Form subject, it is regarded as essential for entry into medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, physiotherapy, nursing and most aspects of biological science – biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, zoology, marine biology, genetics, cell biology, ecology – the list is endless. Current OGs are reading biologically related courses/health courses at UCL, Leeds, Peninsula, KCL, Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Imperial and Cardiff.
The Biology department runs a very active enrichment programme for all year groups. In Years 9 and 10, all pupils take part in the national “I’m a Scientist/Engineer, Get me out of here” competitions, and the most gifted biologists enter the Biology Challenge. Year 10 pupils also attend a Health and Life Sciences Careers Convention at the John Innes Centre.
As pupils move through Year 11 and into the Sixth Form, they are encouraged to attend the Hodgkin Society meetings. Named after Alan Hodgkin, OG and Nobel Prize Winner, the Hodgkin Society is a pupil-centred society, where pupils are encouraged to do presentations of whatever format they wish to enrich their peers’ understanding, interest and knowledge of biologically-related matters. Trips are run to talks at UEA, JIC and further afield.
The department runs a field course around the North Norfolk Coast for all Sixth Form biologists. This focuses on zonation, succession, biodiversity, habitat management, adaptations and distribution. Habitats include dune land, saltmarsh, rocky shore, heathland and rivers. Visits to local zoos allow further studies in conservation and animal behaviour and tours of the Stody Estate focus on socio-economic, conservation/biodiversity and food production methods. Our top A Level and IB students annually enter the national Biology Olympiad.
All pupils are given the opportunity to discover more about anatomy or the unique habitat of North Norfolk’s chalk rivers through the Saturday morning enrichment programme, which also provides our senior pupils with a chance to teach their younger colleagues.
The programme provides a solid grounding in key biological principles and experimental techniques whilst also beginning the journey towards the IGCSE options.
Years 10 and 11
All pupils are given the choice to study biology as a standalone qualification (Edexcel IGCSE) or as part of a Double Award science course (AQA IGCSE Certificate) in conjunction with chemistry and physics. Both courses allow for the development of knowledge and practical skills and are assessed without coursework. Although the separate award course provides better support for studying AL/IB sciences, it is still possible to study AL/IB science after the double award course.
Biology is offered at A level and both Higher and Standard Level for the IB Diploma. All courses build on previous learning, including a greater study into cells, biochemistry, genetics, evolution, physiology, behaviour and ecology. Significant practical investigative work is carried out on all courses and the major difference between them is how they are assessed.