Sedbergh Senior School - Biology Image

introducing biology

From Charles Darwin’s 200th anniversary to swine flu, and from DNA databases to the safety of vaccines, hardly a day goes by without some item of biological interest in the news. Tomorrow’s citizens will need a sound foundation in life sciences.
Our Biology Department is staffed by an enthusiastic and experienced team of four Biology specialists and a technician. Our courses include plenty of laboratory practical work and field visits. All four laboratories are equipped with multimedia projectors linked to the School’s Intranet. We have a thriving colony of free-range South American leafcutter ants (Atta cephalotes) as well as fish, tree frogs, gerbils, orchids, and many other plants. We are fortunate in having grassland, woodland and freshwater sites within the School grounds.

year 9 biology

Year 9 Biology

Science at Sedbergh is taught as three discrete subjects in Year 9 by specialist teachers. Three lessons a fortnight is allocated to each of the subjects and one prep is set each week. There is a considerable emphasis on practical work.

The aim of the Year 9 Biology course is to instil an enthusiasm and spirit of enquiry amongst pupils. The course provides a strong introduction of key biological principles that underpin the future study of the subject at GCSE and beyond.

The course is often practical based and relies upon students to use their own initiative when confronted with a novel task. The analytical skills that the course aims to develop will serve students very well as they progress further up the school, and beyond, in whichever discipline they ultimately choose to specialise in.

The main themes studied in Year 9 Biology include:

  • Cell Biology and using microscopes
  • Life processes and organ systems
  • Human reproduction
  • Breathing and circulation
  • Respiration
  • Photosynthesis
  • Nutrition and digestion
  • Nervous system and responses to stimuli
  • Adaptations of animals and plants
  • Biodiversity and factors affecting the distribution of organisms
  • Sampling techniques in the Sedbergh School grounds
  • Experimental design and data analysis/presentation


Our Biology Department is staffed by an enthusiastic and experienced team of four Biology specialists and a dedicated technician. Our courses include plenty of laboratory practical work and field work. All four laboratories are equipped with multimedia projectors. We are fortunate in having grassland, woodland and freshwater sites within the School grounds.

GCSE Biology provides a sound grounding in a subject which is becoming increasingly important for an understanding of the modern world. This Biology course has a traditional flavour and contains a good deal of practical work. Questions in the written exams will draw on the knowledge and understanding pupils have gained by carrying out practical activities encountered throughout the course. These questions will count for at least 15% of the overall marks for the qualification. This course will also give a solid foundation for those progressing to A-Level Biology.

Summary of subject content

  1. Cell Biology
  2. Organisation
  3. Infection and response
  4. Bioenergetics
  5. Homeostasis and response
  6. Inheritance, variation and evolution
  7. Ecology

Specification link:


Pupils sit two written papers each 1 hour 45 minutes at the end of the course.

The questions range from multiple choice, closed, short answer and open response. The GCSE qualification is graded 9 to 1 (grade 9 being the highest).

GCSE Science pathways

Sedbergh Senior School - Biology


The department teaches the AQA A-Level Biology Specification:

Course overview

The course starts with the study of cells and biological molecules, the building blocks of life. Working up from these basic components, the increasing complexity of cells, tissues, organs and body systems is introduced. The second year of the course builds logically upon these foundations to cover topics on genetics, responses to stimuli, the environment and the biochemistry of respiration and photosynthesis in greater depth. Practical work is a central theme of the A-Level and many new skills will be developed. Those meeting the standard, are certified with a ‘Practical Endorsement’. At least 15% of examination marks will be assessment of practical skills and 10% of the assessment covers mathematical skills. All students are required to complete field work as an essential component of the course. We use a variety of locations, including Bruce Lock- the School’s unique on-site nature reserve. This will provide vital practice for the elements of the Year 13 course involving ecological techniques and the statistical analysis of data. There is no coursework.

  • Essential principles are presented in contexts designed to stimulate the enthusiasm and interest of students.
  • Emphasis is placed on the way scientists work and the contributions of science to modern society.
  • Students will understand concepts and principles whilst developing key advanced level scientific skills.
  • Students’ practical skills will be developed through AQA Required Practical Activities and tasks chosen by the teacher. These will be assessed through the AQA examination papers.
  • Students will be taught using a variety of teaching styles, including the use of IT, as appropriate. They will learn key study skills, which will allow them to take more responsibility for their own learning and progress.
  • The department runs the “Burke and Hare Club” an academic society that provides pupils with the opportunity to give presentations on an aspect of science that is of particular interest to them.
  • The department also support pupils aspiring for degrees in Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science with preparation with the UKCAT/BMAT aptitude tests: a vital part of selection by Universities.

Students who begin this course will be expected to have a keen interest in the study of Biology, and to be well-motivated. You should ideally have achieved at least a grade 6 in GCSE Biology or Combined Science. A good grade GCSE Maths is highly desirable.

A-level Biology Assessment:

3 Examinations (each 2 hours) are taken at the end of Year 13:

Paper 1:

Any content from topics 1-4 above (Year 1). Paper 1 is out of 91 marks (76 marks for a mixture of short and long answer questions and 15 marks for an extended response question) which will equate to 35% of the A-level qualification.

Paper 2:

Any content from topics 5-8 above (Year 2). Paper 2 is also out of 91 marks (76 marks for a mixture of short and long answer questions and 15 marks for a comprehension question) this paper will make up 35% of the A-level assessment.

Paper 3:

Any content from topics 1-8 above (Years 1 & 2). Paper 3 is out of 78 marks (38 marks for structured questions including practical techniques, 15 marks for critical analysis of experimental data and 25 marks for one essay from a choice of two). This paper is 30% of the assessment.


Content studied in Year 12:

Topic 1: Biological molecules

1.1 Monomers and polymers

1.2 Carbohydrates

1.3 Lipids

1.4 Proteins

1.5 Nucleic acids are important information-carrying molecules

1.6 ATP

1.7 Water

1.8 Inorganic ions

Topic 2: Cells

2.1 Cell structure

2.2 Cells arise from other cells

2.3 Transport across cell membranes

2.4 Cell recognition and the immune system

Topic 3: Organisms exchange substances with their environment

3.1 Surface area to volume ratio

3.2 Gas exchange

3.3 Digestion and absorption

3.4 Mass transport

Topic 4: Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms

4.1 DNA, genes and chromosomes

4.2 DNA and protein synthesis

4.3 Genetic diversity can arise as a result of mutation or during meiosis

4.4 Genetic diversity and adaption

4.5 Species and taxonomy

4.6 Biodiversity within a community

4.7 Investigating diversity

Content studied in Year 13:

Topic 5: Energy transfers in a between organisms

5.1 Photosynthesis

5.2 Respiration

5.3 Energy and ecosystems

5.4 Nutrient cycles

Topic 6: Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments

6.1 Stimuli, both internal and external, are detected and lead to a response

6.2 Nervous coordination

6.3 Skeletal muscles are stimulated to contract by nerves and act as effectors

6.4 Homeostasis is the maintenance of a stable internal environment

Topic 7: Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems

7.1 Inheritance

7.2 Populations

7.3 Evolution may lead to speciation

7.4 Populations in ecosystems

Topic 8: The control of gene expression

8.1 Alteration of the sequence of bases in DNA can alter the structure of proteins

8.2 Gene expression is controlled by a number of features

8.3 Using genome projects

8.4 Gene technologies allow the study and alteration of gene function allowing a better understanding of organism function and the design of new industrial and medical processes

Higher education and careers

An A-level in Biology is an essential requirement for some courses and a useful asset for many others. You must check university prospectuses and ask for careers advice if you have a particular course or career in mind. The PSHE programme includes opportunities for specific career advice and to research University options. In the past, students of Biology have gone on to study many different courses including:

Biological Science                   Geography                  Biochemistry

Environmental Studies          Biotechnology            Farm Management

Genetic Engineering               Horticulture               Medicine

Agriculture                                Dentistry                     Forestry

Veterinary Science                  Optometry                  Sports Science

Pharmacy                                 Physiotherapy            Osteopathy

Teaching                                   Forensic Science       Nursing

Radiography                            Dietetics                      Pharmacology

Zoology                                     Conservation              Neuroscience


Subjects that go well with Biology

If you are keen to study Biology then some of the subjects that go particularly well with it are Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics, Psychology and Physical Education. As with any other A-level subjects, enthusiasm and hard work are the keys to success.