Pupils study biology as a separate subject from Year 7 to GCSE level.
All lessons are taught by biology specialists with a wide variety of research backgrounds and interests. Our laboratories are equipped to the highest standards and practical work is central to our teaching of the subject. Each student is trained from Year 7 in the use of microscopes and how to handle a variety of biological equipment, including organic material during dissections.
We aim to:
- Stimulate the natural curiosity of students and develop their enjoyment and interest in all areas of biology
- Enable students to develop the essential knowledge and understanding of concepts along with the skills required to apply their knowledge during examinations
- Enable students to develop a thorough understanding of scientific method and to work independently and safely within the laboratory
- Encourage students to think independently and to question often
- Develop and maintain positive teacher student relationships built on mutual respect and an understanding of individual needs
How much knowledge is assumed when students new to the school start in Year 7 and Year 9?
Very little. At Year 7 level, all science subjects begin with an introduction to the approaches used and the practical methods involved in those subjects. At Year 9 level, we start the GCSE course and teach all of the topics over the following three years.
Do you teach combined science?
No, all science subjects are taught as separate science and are part of the core curriculum to GCSE.
Are all science teachers specialists in their subject?
How much practical work do you do?
Practical work is an integral part of how we teach science and the majority of lessons will include an element of practical work.
What type of practicals?
A mix of traditional and modern. We aim to develop students’ confidence when handling equipment and working individually both to follow instructions and plan investigations.
Do you do dissections?
A variety of dissections are performed in biology. In Year 8, students dissect a teleost fish. At GCSE, a variety of organs are dissected – heart, eye and kidney. No student is forced to take part in a dissection class if they do not want to participate.
Do you run clinics and surgeries?
Yes, there are specific department surgeries as well as drop-in lunchtime sessions where students can ask for help.
How much do you use IT and data logging?
The school is moving over to various online platforms to facilitate learning and we have been making considerable use of OneNote in recent months. It is not uncommon for teachers to set work to be done on class sets of Chromebooks or laptops, but students are more commonly making use of their own devices.
We have a considerable amount of data-logging equipment. It is used extensively in physics, particularly from Year 10 onwards. We use it less often in biology and chemistry but do a few practicals where it is of educational benefit. One particular example is using three sensors to monitor different titrations (e.g. pH, temperature, conductivity).
Is there a science club?
We run several clubs. Lower School Science Club is a weekly club for students to investigate interesting aspects of each of the sciences. Typically there is an enjoyable practical activity each session that broadens students’ knowledge and understanding. Occasionally some investigations are carried out over a few sessions.
Questionology is a science-debating club that runs for Middle School students, focusing on critical evaluation and the presentation of scientific ideas.
Does each student have access to their own microscopes?
Yes, there are enough microscopes for students to use their own during microscope practical sessions as the skills of observation of biological specimens and biological drawing are important.
What are the opportunities for competitions?
Many! We encourage students with particular scientific interests to undertake research projects and some of their projects have been entered into national competitions such as the Big Bang Fair with considerable success.
- Biology – Year 9 and 10 Biology Challenge
- General Science – Perse Science Quiz (for Year 10 students)
What board do you do for GCSE?
Edexcel GCSE for all science subjects.
What is the method of assessment?
All GCSE science exams are externally assessed at the end of Year 11.
- Learning journey - Years 7 and 8
In Years 7 and 8 we give students a wide exposure to different aspects of biology to help them appreciate the wonderful world of living organisms. These courses include as much practical work as possible and students will find themselves examining the histology of cells and making their own cell models, extracting DNA from peas and dissecting a teleost fish.
In Year 7 students cover cells and microscope work, microbiology, plant biology, experimental design and invertebrate biology. In Year 8 the topics cover the study of the vertebrate classes and build on the foundations from Year 7 of experimental design.
- Learning journey - GCSE
From Year 9 students follow the Edexcel GCSE (9-1) biology course. This challenging course enables students to better understand the natural and scientific world in which they live, and to take an informed interest in biotechnological developments.
Students learn the fundamental principles of biology through a mix of theoretical and practical studies. This course provides an excellent level of biological detail and background for A level studies.
In Year 9 students explore key biological concepts, cells and control and genetics.
In Year 10 students study natural selection and genetic modification, health, disease and the development of medicines, plant structures and their functions and animal co-ordination, control and homeostasis.
In Year 11 students complete the course with an examination of exchange and transport in animals and ecosystems and material cycles.
- Providing stretch
Students wishing to take their learning further can carry out one of the optional investigations set each term, from exploring how isotonic drinks work to considering enzyme use in industry.
Students are welcome to access our specimen collection, for interest or to produce biological drawings.
We enthusiastically celebrate Biology Week. From watching chicks emerge on our ‘Hatch cam’ to ‘Dissection lunchtime’, there is something for everyone. Zoolab regularly visits the school, providing a chance to examine live animals and understand the finer points of classification.
All biology students from Years 9 and 10 enter the annual national Biology Challenge competition. This competition tests students’ general biology knowledge and their wider understanding of biological issues, and each year more than 30,000 students enter. In 2019, Perse students received 46 Gold awards, 62 Silver, 95 Bronze, 62 Highly Commended and 42 Commended.
- Beyond the classroom
Biologists frequently come to give lectures as part of our lunchtime 42 society.
Recent speakers include Dr Jem Rashbass, National Director for Disease Registration at Public Health England, whose lecture ‘Blood, pus and stones: a few things you find at a post-mortem’ was not for the squeamish; and consultant neurosurgeon Rodney Laing, who explored the hype and reality that surrounds attempts to fix the brain and spine.
We celebrate Science Week. During the most recent event the theme was ‘light’; Year 9 students performed photosynthesis experiments examining the effects of different wavelengths of light on the rate of photosynthesis and Year 10 students completed an eye dissection.
Ecology Club meets weekly for anyone interested in learning more about the natural world. In 2016 the group took part in the RHS’s ‘Rocket Science’ experiment, in which they cultivated rocket plans from seeds that had been sent to space, to investigate the effect of microgravity.
A weekly after-school club for Years 7 to 9, Science Club provides an opportunity to carry out fun practicals such as identifying what gives fireworks their colour, extracting DNA from fruit, making bath bombs and conducting experiments with light.