The A Level Biology course offers a detailed grounding in Biology, supported by fun, practical activities and trips.
Scientific skills of formulating hypotheses, designing experiments, obtaining and recording reliable quantitative data, and analysing and evaluating results are all developed and assessed within the course. The Biology Department also offers two residential trips to complement the A Level classroom teaching. Biennially the Department travels to Cuba for two weeks in July to participate in a marine conservation study. During the Summer Term of the Lower Sixth, the Department spends four days studying a local ecological habitat.
About the Curriculum
AQA A-level Biology Grade A* to E
Pupils opting for Biology A Level follow the AQA Biology specification. Pupils are taught by two subject specialists and have eight periods per week.
Theoretical Assessment: The A Level is made up of eight topics taught over two years, assessed by three written examinations.
- Topic 1 Biological Molecules
- Topic 2 Cells
- Topic 3 Organisms exchange substances with their environment
- Topic 4 Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms
- Topic 5 Energy transfers in and between organisms
- Topic 6 Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments
- Topic 7 Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems
- Topic 8 The control of gene expression
Practical Skills Assessment: This is assessed by teachers and based on direct observation of students’ competency in a range of skills.
At the end of the Upper Sixth all candidates take three two-hour papers in Biology.
Independent learning skills in the Sixth Form are embraced by providing opportunities for pupils to consistently and routinely develop five key practical competencies. These are:
- Following written instructions
- Designing valid investigations
- Using a range of practical equipment and materials safely
- Making and recording observations
- Researching, referencing and reporting
The evidence generated by the students demonstrates that they independently meet the criteria in respect of each competency. Such evidence will comprise both the students’ performance during each practical activity and their ongoing record of the work they have undertaken during that activity, and must include evidence of independent application of investigative approaches and methods to practical work.
During the residential field trip in the Summer Term of the Lower Sixth, biologists will apply their existing knowledge of physiological and metabolic processes to species distribution and the interactions between living organisms in a variety of habitats. They will measure ecological distribution in a variety of habitats and also consider conservation and woodland management. Once they are familiar with a variety of organisms, habitats and ecological techniques, pupils must design and implement their own independent research project followed by statistical analysis of their self-generated data.
Every week the Department runs drop-in clinics, a successful Medical Society for potential doctors, vets and dentists, the Linnaean Society for Sixth Form enrichment and the Darwin Society for Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) guidance.
Sixth Form biologists are invited on a two week summer expedition to Cuba. Isla de la Juventud, the largest island off the coast of Cuba, is an area of significant biodiversity, and its monitoring programme provides valuable data needed to inform conservation management practices across the whole island. The first week is spent completing both the confined and open-water components of the PADI Open Water Dive-Training course. The research objective is then to complete fish and benthic surveys using stereo video surveys of all the reefs of the southern Isla de la Juventud, and to assess the manatee populations by direct observation and side-scan sonar in the mangrove channels.
The Young Medics Society provides a wealth of opportunities to a variety of year groups to explore the issues around the nervously anticipated UKCAT aptitude test and to practise interpersonal and interview skills. In addition, it provides opportunities to hear expert guest speakers and attend medical related seminars.
An example of regular meetings and trips are outlined below:
- Brighton and Sussex Medico-Chirurgical Society lectures on topics such as ‘The History of HIV’ and ‘The Anatomy of Courage’.
- Royal College of Surgeons surgical skills workshop
- Royal College of Pathology ethics workshop
- The Leaf Hospital, Eastbourne cadaver dissection
- The annual Lancing College Medics meal for medical parents and prospective medical students
The support from the Lancing College community is invaluable. OLs and parents are very willing to offer support to the potential young medics for work experience and interview practice. A growing network of medics throughout the country provides opportunities to see inside medical schools in preparation for interview.
Those that choose not to read medicine or pursue a career within a healthcare field always leave the College armed with the necessary skills to read Biology and Biomedical Sciences at top universities. Biology graduates develop formidable scientific nous which, coupled with close analytical skills, organisational skills and attention to detail, make them well suited to careers within research, as a lab technician or within healthcare or education. Industries with demand for biologists include forensic science, agriculture, biotechnology, ecology, genetics, neurobiology, horticulture, food science, marine biology, conservation and wildlife documentary production.
With excellent communication skills and the ability to convey scientific concepts to a non-scientific audience, biologists might also find a suitable place in a wide range of fulfilling jobs including press officer, journalist, presenter, patenting, teacher, policy campaigner and science writer. Those moving into non-scientific fields may find ways to apply their transferrable skill sets to roles in accountancy, finance, marketing, management and sales.