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Intelligence is based on how efficient a species became at doing the things they need to survive.

Charles Darwin

Biology is the study of life, and now more than ever it is an essential subject in both understanding and tackling the challenges facing us in the modern world. Biology helps us to understand how the human body works and how we can prevent and treat diseases; the relationships between animals and plants in ecosystems and how we can protect these ecological networks for future generations; and how we can provide nutritious, sustainable food for the world’s increasing human population. Studying Biology at GCSE and A-level allows students to build a secure understanding of key concepts across Biology, which is essential both in preparation for a wide range of careers and in becoming informed citizens able to engage with the challenges and opportunities of the future.

Key Concepts

Cells and Organisation – Students learn about the structure of cells, the adaptations of different cells that allow them to fulfil their function, and how cells work together in living things. This then leads on to how different organ systems work in the human body, such as the respiratory system, circulatory system, and nervous system.

Health – Students learn how lifestyle factors can increase the risk of different diseases, and how this links to the health of individuals and entire populations. Students also learn about how a range of different pathogens cause disease, how the transmission of these pathogens can be reduced, and how the immune system responds to infection.

Material Cycles and Energy – Students learn about the importance of respiration and photosynthesis in living things, which leads to discussion of the carbon cycle and its role in important environmental issues such as climate change, deforestation and the use of fossil fuels.

Interdependence – Students learn about the relationships between different species in an ecosystem, and why biodiversity is important both within and between ecosystems. This then links to current threats to biodiversity and how conservation strategies can be used to protect species and habitats.

Genetics and Evolution – Students learn about DNA, its role in inheritance, and how characteristics can be inherited. This then leads to the concept of evolution by natural selection and how this enables species to adapt to their environment, and links to the use of selective breeding and genetic modification by humans.

Key Skills

  • Practical skills – following instructions and using practical equipment safely and correctly
  • Literacy – understanding and being able to use scientific terminology, and structuring ideas logically
  • Numeracy – carrying out calculations, presenting data in graphs and interpreting data
  • Evaluating information and data – developing an enquiring mind and assessing the conclusions that can be reached from data and other sources of information
  • Applying knowledge and understanding to unfamiliar contexts – building the ability to answer questions about unfamiliar biological situations using existing knowledge

What is taught?

Year 9:

Topic 1 – Key Concepts in Biology

  • Microscopes
  • Cell Structure
  • Enzymes
  • Diffusion, Osmosis and Active Transport

Topic 8 – Exchange and Transport

  • Gas Exchange
  • The Heart and Circulatory System
  • Aerobic and Anaerobic Respiration

Topic 5 – Health and Disease

  • Communicable Diseases and Pathogens
  • Non-Communicable Diseases and Risk Factors
  • The Immune System
  • Antibiotics

Topic 6 – Plant Structures and their Functions

  • Photosynthesis
  • Transpiration and Translocation

Year 10:

Topic 2 – Cells and Control

  • Mitosis and Growth
  • Stem Cells
  • The Nervous System

Topic 3 – Genetics

  • Meiosis
  • DNA Structure
  • Alleles and Inheritance
  • Mutations
  • Variation

Topic 4 – Natural Selection and Genetic Modification

  • Evidence for Human Evolution
  • Natural Selection
  • Classification
  • Selective Breeding
  • Genetic Modification

Topic 9 – Ecosystems and Material Cycles

  • Interdependence
  • Sampling Ecosystems
  • Human Effects on Biodiversity
  • Water, Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles

Year 11:

Topic 7 – Animal Coordination, Control and Homeostasis

  • The Endocrine System
  • Regulation of metabolic rate
  • Regulation of the menstrual cycle
  • Regulation of blood glucose concentration
  • Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Classes following the GCSE Combined Science course will have time available for the rest of Year 11 to review topics covered earlier in the course and build associated skills.

Classes following the Separate Biology course will cover the Separate-only content during Year 11, which adds further detail to concepts covered across the course.

Year 12:

Module 1 – Development of Practical Skills in Biology

Studied as an integral part of the course

Module 2 – Foundations in Biology

  • Cell Structure
  • Biological Molecules
  • Nucleotides and Nucleic Acids
  • Enzymes
  • Biological Membranes
  • Cell Division, Diversity and Organisation

Module 3 – Exchange and Transport

  • Exchange Surfaces
  • Transport in Animals
  • Transport in Plants

Module 4 – Biodiversity, Evolution and Disease

  • Communicable Diseases
  • Biodiversity
  • Classification and Evolution

Year 13:

Module 5 – Communication, Homeostasis and Energy

  • Communication and Homeostasis
  • Excretion
  • Neuronal Communication
  • Hormonal Communication
  • Plant and Animal Responses
  • Photosynthesis
  • Respiration

Module 6 – Genetics, Evolution and Ecosystems

  • Cellular Control
  • Patterns of Inheritance
  • Manipulating Genomes
  • Cloning and Biotechnology
  • Ecosystems
  • Populations and Sustainability

Academic Literacy in Biology

Using scientific vocabulary is an important aspect of Biology, and students will be supported to develop these skills throughout their GCSE and A-level courses. There is a significant focus on the accurate use of key words in lessons, and learning tasks allow students to practise using relevant terminology and structuring answers logically. Reading around the subject also helps to improve students’ ability to process scientific ideas and structure answers.

Students are encouraged to extend their interest in Biology by… 

Reading around the subject using the LRC and online resources

Reading Biology-related news stories and considering their implications

Watching relevant documentaries and considering how this links to ideas covered at school

Attending Medicine and Enrichment clubs

Finding out about relevant careers

Enrichment Opportunities

Biology-related books and magazines available in the LRC allow students to find out more about topics they are interested in, as well as relevant career opportunities

Sixth-form Biology Officials run lunchtime revision clubs for younger students

Events run as part of Biology Week and Science Week

Applying for Medicine lunchtime club provided for students interested in a career in Medicine

Biology Enrichment Club provided to enable students to discuss recent news stories and real-life applications of biological concepts

Students are provided with information about opportunities such as summer schools and internships

Information about Biology-related careers is provided to A-level students

The Biology Olympiad competition is available to A-level students, who are encouraged to participate

Students participate in ecological fieldwork as part of the A-level Biology course

Careers Guidance and Support for Biology:




MGSG Careers