Biology at Epsom has a rich history due to the Royal Medical Foundation origins of the College. As such, we have been highly successful in both the International GCSE and A-level.
Teaching is highly practical-based and every student is able to access all that the subject has to offer both in lessons and outside the classroom.
Students are taught by subject experts, all of whom have a wealth of teaching experience and come from a variety of biological backgrounds.
Many have been involved in post-doctoral research and their expertise ranges from plant science and zoology to cancer studies and developmental biology.
The quality of the teaching within the Department is excellent. A fact that is reflected in the strong performances in the International GCSE and AQA A-level over recent years.
The department provides many enrichment activities. There are several thriving societies run by members of the Department, which students of all ages are able to access.
These include the Junior Science Society in which biology and other STEM-based practicals are carried out. We also run a number of Extension sessions. In these, students prepare for the Biology Olympiad, and discuss academic papers. Students can also take part in the Medical Society and the Curie Society, which discusses biological and other scientific phenomena in a seminar-based forum.
Students are encouraged to enter the Biology Challenge in Years 9 and 10. In the Sixth Form there is the opportunity to take part in the Intermediate Biology Olympiad and British Olympiad. Over 7,500 students throughout the UK took part in the 2018 British Biology Olympiad. Forty-nine students from Epsom’s Sixth Form took part: 15 were commended, seven highly-commended and ten received medal awards.
The Department has a registered museum, which contains diverse and amazing examples from the animal kingdom, including an elephant skull.
Follow the links below to learn more about Biology at Epsom College.
In Year 7, pupils follow an Epsom-specific biology course that covers essential core material from the Key Stage 3 curriculum and Common Entrance syllabus.
The course is designed to develop investigative skills and as such is heavily practical-based.
Topics covered include:
- Digestion and Food
Pupils also makes use of iPads for data logging, recording data and research.
As they enter Year 8, pupils build on what they have learnt and continue to follow an Epsom-specific course covering essential core material from the Key Stage 3 curriculum and Common Entrance syllabus.
The course is designed to enthuse pupils with a love of biology and an interest in the living world, while also developing key skills such as data presentation, research and investigation. Topics covered this year include:
- Environment and Adaptation
- Lungs and Gas Exchange
- Inheritance and Variation.
All Year 10 and 11 students follow the Edexcel International GCSE Biology specification and have three 50-minute lessons each week. This follows on from the foundations set in Year 9.
The IGCSE is an academically rigorous course and it offers an excellent grounding for those who wish to continue studying Biology at A-level.
Once again, there is a strong practical bias and students have the opportunity to take part in numerous dissections along with practical investigations.
The Biology IGCSE covers five basic themes:
- Nature and the Variety of Living Things
- Structures and Functions in Living Organisms
- Reproduction and Inheritance
- Ecology and the Environment
- Use of Biological Resources
The course also aims to sustain and develop an enjoyment of, and interest in, the study of living organisms.
Students will evaluate, in terms of their biological knowledge and understanding, the benefits and drawbacks of scientific and technological developments, including those related to social, environmental and economic issues.
Pupils sit two examinations at the end of the course, during the summer term. There is no coursework content. Both papers contain questions designed to assess the students’ practical skills.
The A-level course follows the Edexcel B syllabus and looks at four core topics in each year.
Practical work is at the heart of the course and this involves both lab work and fieldwork to encompass the ecological nature of the A-level course.
The Lower Sixth year focuses on core topics 1-5, and the Upper Sixth on Core Topics 6-10:
- Biological molecules
- Cells, Viruses and Reproduction of Living Things
- Classification and Biodiversity
- Exchange and Transport
- Energy for Biological Processes.
- Microbiology and Pathogens
- Modern Genetics
- Origins of Genetic Variation
- Control Systems
Exams are at the end of the Upper Sixth and there are three papers:
- Paper 1 (1hr 45m) covers content studied topics 1-7
- Paper 2 (1hr 45m) tests the content from topics 1-4, 8-10
- Paper 3 (2hrs 30m) tests content on any of the topics from the two-year course.
Students are also expected to carry out 16 core practical experiments that are identified in the content.
Throughout the Sixth Form, the Biology department provides plenty of opportunities for delving beyond the A-level syllabus through the Biology Extension sessions, Biology Olympiad, Medical Society, field trips, visiting speakers and also visits to laboratories and sites of biological interest.
The Biology Department is housed in its own building consisting of six practical laboratories and two prep rooms, supported by a team of dedicated Biology technicians.
There is also a registered museum, which provides a wealth of fascinating teaching resources, many dating back to the College’s medical foundation.
Each laboratory is equipped with an interactive whiteboard, media player and class sets of optical microscopes. There are also two dedicated IT rooms with 20 PCs for students to use and a meeting room for clubs and societies.
There is a range of new educational software packages used for teaching, such as the Boardworks suite, which is used in conjunction with the interactive whiteboards in each laboratory.
Reading is an important part of science and we subscribe to Nature and the Biological Sciences Review to keep students up to date with findings in biology.
The Department is well-resourced and is continually updating its equipment to keep up with the rapidly changing world of genetics and biochemistry.
Latest additions have included a PCR machine and gel electrophoresis tanks.
It also houses a greenhouse and a range of animals such as a panther chameleon, praying mantis, Madagascan hissing cockroaches and a large marine fish tank.
Biology is all about experiencing the world around us and as such the Department runs regular trips.
Examples include field trips to Juniper Hall and Nower Wood nature reserve, along with attending the Science Live talks at the Dominion Theatre, and visiting the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition.
Potential medics undertake a trip to the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland where they are fortunate to take part in a number of immersive lectures and simulations. The visit enables the students to develop skills well beyond a school-based curriculum with them learning how to insert naso-gastric tubes, draw blood and take vitals. This was combined with lessons in human factors such as informed consent and patient history.
Every two, years a conservation expedition takes place, in conjunction with Operation Wallacea.
In 2016 this was to Ecuador and the Galapagos. In 2018, we undertook an Operation Wallacea conservation expedition to South Africa. We are looking forward to visiting Madagascar in 2020.
Biology is one of the most popular A-level subjects in the country. Many students enjoy the subject so much they eventually choose a biologically-related degree course.
Others go on to careers in law, computing, accounting or business. Biology is a very rewarding and challenging course, which develops many of the skills essential for a successful career.
Many of our pupils go on to study for degrees in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, physiotherapy, pharmacy, optometry, nursing, zoology, marine biology or forensic science.
Medicine is historically a highly significant subject at Epsom.
The School maintains its historic association with The Royal Medical Foundation and the Biology Department continues to prepare a significant number of candidates for entry to leading medical schools through UKCAT and BMAT preparation and interview practice amongst other things.