The Science Department at The Downs School is the largest and one of the most successful departments in the school. The department has been teaching in a new, self-contained Science centre consisting of 12 purpose built laboratories, two preparation areas and three breakout zones of eight computers.

All Science staff at The Downs School are committed to providing a balanced science education to students of all abilities, from age 11 years to age 18 years. Every student receives a thorough and rounded education in Science and is given encouragement to succeed to his or her potential. The department comprises 11 teaching staff and four technicians. The staff work as a team and carry out responsibilities across the department.

Biology topics are covered throughout the school as part of Key Stage 3 Science, based on the QCA Schemes of Work. The highest achievers at Key Stage 3 are offered the opportunity to study the separate sciences, Biology, Chemistry and Physics, at GCSE (Key Stage 4).

Key Stage 4

The options at Key Stage 4

A significant number will study the three separate science courses of Biology, Chemistry and Physics, leading to a separate GCSE for each of these three. This will be an accelerated course and therefore offered to higher achievers at KS3. All other students will study Science A and then Additional Science course during Year 10 and 11 respectively, leading to separate GCSE qualifications in each.


The Science Department adopted a new and exciting course for study at GCSE. This is based on the AQA syllabus. The link to the exam syllabus appears below:

Assessment in Year 10

Towards the end of Year 10 or the beginning of Year 11, students will complete their Investigative Skills Assignment (ISA), which is worth 25%. This is an internally assessed piece of work, requiring students to research, plan and carry out a practical investigation, followed by an analysis of data. The ISA includes two examinations, completed under controlled conditions. There are no externally assessed examinations in Year 10 as this course is only examined at the end of the 2 years.

Assessment in Year 11

Is via 3 externally assessed examinations, taken at the end of the course, in June. These examinations are based on structured and closed style questions and will include some questions where the quality of written communication is assessed. Each of these examinations is worth 25% and they cover units B1, B2 and B3 respectively of the course material. The GCSE Biology qualification will be obtained at the end of Year 11.

Advanced Subsidiary/Advanced Level Biology

At Key Stage 5 students can study any of the separate sciences, described separately, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology or Applied Science.

If studying Biology, Course Aims:

  • to stimulate an interest in Biology;
  • to develop knowledge and understanding of Biology and the skills needed to study it,
  • together with an appreciation of their significance;
  • to emphasise social and applied aspects of Biology;
  • to be educationally useful and complete for students who will not study Biology at higher level;
  • to provide a foundation for higher education;
  • to encourage a respect for all forms of life.

Entry Requirements - BB grade in GCSE Double Science or a grade B in Biology if taken as a single science, C grade in GCSE Mathematics for ‘A2’.
Course Content:

Advanced Subsidiary (‘AS’)

Unit 1: Lifestyle, Transport, Genes & Health  

  • Topic 1 Lifestyle, Health & Risk: structures & functions of Biological molecules and the circulatory system; the importance of lifestyle choice.
  • Topic 2 Genes & Health: structures & functions of DNA, RNA, cell membranes.  The principles of inheritance, gene therapy and genetic screening.

Unit 2: Development, Plants & the Environment

  • Topic 3 The Voice of the Genome: animal cell structure & function.  Cell division & differentiation. The roles of genes and environmental influences
  • Topic 4  Biodiversity: plant cell structure & function.  Plant tissues and the importance of plant products, species diversity & natural selection.

Unit 3: Practical assessment & research (coursework)

Advanced Level (‘A2’)

Unit 4:  The Natural Environment & Species Survival

  • Topic 5 On the Wild Side: The importance of photosynthesis.  The effects of human activities on the environment. Population changes and evolution.
  • Topic 6 Infection, Immunity & Forensics: The genetic code & DNA profiling.  Structures of micro-organisms and their roles in recycling and infection. The immune response and effects of antibiotics.

Unit 5:  Energy, Exercise & Coordination

  • Topic 7 Run for your Life: Muscle structure & function.  Energy production through respiration. Homeostasis and the effects of exercise on the body.
  • Topic 8 Grey Matter: Detection & response to the environment. Structure & function of the nervous system; disorders of the nervous system. The Human Genome Project and the use of GM organisms.

Unit 6:  Practical and Investigative Skills (coursework)


  • Units 1 and 2 are externally assessed with a 90 minute examination.
  • Units 4 and 5 are externally assessed with a 90 minute examination. Each of these four units contributes 20% to the whole course.
  • Units 3 and 6 are internally assessed and each contributes 10% to the whole course.

Career and Higher Education Opportunities - Biological Sciences: e.g. agriculture, botany, horticulture, marine biology, microbiology, soil science, biotechnology, zoology, forestry, oceanography. Medical Sciences: e.g. pharmacology, environmental health, genetics, nursing, nutrition, veterinary work, medicine, bacteriology.

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