Biology

Find out more about studying Biology at Westminster

Biology

  • About
  • Curriculum
  • Enrichment
  • Staff
  • After Westminster
  • About

    Biology is an expansive science that often draws upon an understanding of Chemistry and concepts in Physics and Mathematics to construct theories and models of all aspects of life on earth. Recent decades have seen significant advances, not least in molecular biology and gene technology with their increasingly important applications in medicine.

    From quantum biology to ecology, Biology at Westminster equips pupils with a comprehensive understanding of the core principles of this science. Pupils can expect to study recent discoveries such as CRISPR cas9 alongside long-established theories such as evolution by natural selection. Creativity, communication skills, practical skills and the application of the scientific method are all highly valued by the department.   

    Department Contact Dr Paul Hartley
    paul.hartley@westminster.org.uk
  • Curriculum
    Lower School

    In the Fifth Form (Year 9), pupils have one double Biology lesson per week, which often involves practical work. For example, pupils work with flat worms to observe their regeneration when studying stem cells, and they utilise meal worms and germinating seeds when exploring the chemical process of respiration. Weekly prep compliments concepts introduced in practical lessons, enabling those who are so inclined to explore much further. Topics studied include: microscopy, cells, biological molecules, transport across cell membranes, respiration, gas exchange and photosynthesis. 

    In the Lower Shell (Year 10), pupils have one double and one single Biology lesson per week, with doubles often involving practical work. For example, pupils induce pollen grain growth when exploring sexual reproduction in flowering plants and dissect barn owl pellets when studying energy transfer between organisms. The single lesson enables deeper exploration of concepts and again is complimented by a weekly prep that allows pupils to reach far and wide. Topics studied include: reproduction in flowering plants, transport in plants and humans, human nutrition and digestion, microorganisms and food production, ecology, reproduction in humans. 

    Upper Shell (Year 11) pupils have one double and two single Biology lessons per week. The entire first term is given over to the concepts of genes, inheritance, evolution and gene technology. During the second term pupils explore pathogens, the function of the human immune system, the human nervous system and a variety of homeostatic mechanisms. A weekly prep provides an opportunity for pupils to explore concepts in more depth before eventually giving way to public examination preparation. 

    Syllabus & Code
    Edexcel IGCSE 4BI1 Biology
    Upper School

    In the Sixth Form (Year 12), pupils have two double lessons, two single lessons and one seminar class per week. Many of the double lessons involve practical work. For example, pupils prepare garlic root tips to observe mitotic cells under a light microscope and immobilise yeast cells in alginate beads when exploring the biochemistry of enzymes. The Sixth Form Biology curriculum reaches far beyond the syllabus, and a weekly seminar enables pupils to develop knowledge and skills that are particularly valuable at university. These include, for example reading books and scientific papers and writing essays tailored to a pupils’ own interests (be that molecular biology, medicine or psychology etc.), and developing statistical skills pertinent to Biology and exploring the scientific method, including how to devise and construct a research project. During the second term pupils independently plan their own research project, which they carry out in the third term. This is an immersive and especially rewarding component of our curriculum. 

    The depth and breadth of the A2 Biology course is demanding. Remove (Year 13) pupils have three double lessons and two single lessons per week. One of the three double lessons involves a weekly practical. During A practical pupils might, for example, employ thin layer chromatography to separate photosynthetic pigments and work with fruit flies to explore inheritance. With support, guidance and feedback, pupils are expected to work independently beyond lessons in preparation for both public examinations and university application.  

    Syllabus & Code
    CAIE A Level 9700 Biology
    Sixth Form Entry
    Subject requirements for the course
    Candidates should ideally be on track to achieve a grade 8 or 9 at (I)GCSE in Biology and Chemistry (or Double Award), and in Mathematics too.

    Entrance Examination

    The Biology examination is a written exam that assesses knowledge, problem-solving skills, communication skills and a pupil’s interest in the subject. Candidates are not expected to have knowledge beyond (I)GCSE level. Candidates are encouraged to read regularly and to watch relevant documentaries or videos.

    Overseas Candidates
    There is no (I)GCSE requirement for those who attend schools overseas that do not prepare pupils for (I)GCSE examinations. Candidates will be considered for a place based on their performance in the School’s entrance examinations and a transcript of results from their current school.
  • Enrichment
    Upper School

    In addition to the Sixth From Biology research project and essay writing, pupils will often prepare and deliver talks at Huxley, the pupil-led science society, and attend external talks such as those offered by the Royal Institution. Some pupils write articles for our school science magazine, Hooke, and many participate in the Intermediate and British Biology Olympiads. All pupils are required to read popular science books and magazines and to watch relevant videos that pertain to Biology.  

  • Staff

    * denotes Head of Department
    † denotes Housemaster

    Dr Paul Hartley (PAH) — Head of Biology  *
    Dr Miranda Jones ( MJ) — DoE Award Scheme (Gold)
    Ms Susan Joyce (SMJ) — Phab Coordinator  †
    Mr Jeremy Kemball (JJK) — Deputy Head (Boarding, Diversity and Inclusion, Partnerships)
    Mr Chris Kingcombe (CMCK)  †
    Mr Rob Morgan (REM) — Director of Platform and Widening Access
  • After Westminster

    A substantial number of our pupils go on to read Medicine or a life science, such as Natural Sciences (Bio), Biology, Biochemistry, Neuroscience or Biomedical Science, at university. Some pupils also take degrees in Psychology, Veterinary Medicine and Dentistry. 

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