For example, how viruses spread, how medicines work, why elephants have big ears, why we all depend on plants, how our DNA gives us our characteristics, what genetic engineering and cloning are, or why micro-organisms are not all bad. Our curriculum is designed to help students to be inspired, not just by humans or animals, but also plants, micro-organisms and the interactions between them.
Students will learn the key concepts and theories to explain the world around them, but will also learn how this knowledge was established over many years, by many scientists. Our students will learn to critically analyse evidence and claims, spot fake scientific news, explain the importance of peer review and judge the validity of information in the public domain. They will be able to explain how new evidence leads to revision of the established scientific facts. In our biology lessons, students will be explicitly taught how to design, run, and analyse results from scientific investigations, enabling them to transition to university laboratory or field-based research with confidence.
Our challenging curriculum introduces students to these key ideas from day one, and revisits them in greater depth throughout their time at Crossley Heath. Lessons are planned to enable all students to fully internalise the most important key concepts in biology, which are subsequently built on over time. Having a strong grasp of this detailed knowledge from a wide range of topics helps students to draw on the “big ideas” in biology and discuss these with fluency.
Students leave Crossley Heath ready to access a wide range of biological careers, including healthcare careers, for which we provide a lot of support, such as our Medical Students’ Society and work experience. All of our students are better equipped to understand their own bodies, to make informed choices about their health and lifestyle, and the impact they have on the environment. A deep knowledge of biology is vital to understand recent advances in science, such as genetic technologies, and to be able to make an informed contribution to the ethical debates surrounding them.
Biology Curriculum Year 7 – 11
|Structure and Function of Body Systems
|Students learn about animal and plant cells, specialised cells, unicellular organisms and diffusion. Beginning to use a microscope and learning how they work, preparing simple slides, safely handling chemicals and equipment, using basic laboratory equipment e.g. beakers, stopwatches, drawing labelled diagrams.
|Organisation in organisms, gas exchange, breathing, skeleton, joints, muscles. Working out how mass affects the force needed to make a muscle work, using Newton meters, recording data in a simple table, drawing labelled diagrams, using new scientific terminology correctly, measuring volumes.
|Adolescence, internal and external fertilisation, human reproductive systems, fertilisation and implantation, development of the foetus, menstrual cycle, plant reproductive systems, fertilisation and germination, seed dispersal.
Line and bar graph drawing and error spotting, calculating means and percentages, introducing ideas of accuracy and precision, identifying variables in an investigation, beginning to plan simple methods.
|Health and Lifestyle
|Adaptation and Inheritance
|Food groups and healthy eating, energy from food, digestive system, enzymes, drugs, alcohol, smoking. Using a Bunsen burner to burn food, food tests and identifying unknowns, following complex instructions, and discussion of lifestyle choices and their negative impacts on health. This topic includes some more extended writing tasks to develop literacy skills, graph drawing.
|Photosynthesis, structure of a leaf, anaerobic and aerobic respiration, chemosynthesis, fertilisers, food webs and chains, bioaccumulation, population changes and ecosystems. Practical skills revisited including using Bunsen burners and microscopes. New practical techniques of sampling using quadrats, introduction to writing risk assessments, identifying variables, drawing tables. This topic includes some more extended writing tasks to develop literacy skills and drawing labelled diagrams, graph drawing.
|Predator-prey relationships and interdependence, adaptations, variation, DNA, theories of evolution, natural selection and extinction, continuous and discontinuous variation. More extended writing/reading on the history of how scientists worked together to discover DNA, lot of opportunities for discussions and evaluations of scientific theories and evidence for and against them, whilst also gaining an appreciation that there are different religious views too.
|Cell Structure and Transport
|Organising Animals and Plants
|Electron microscopes and general microscopy, eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell structure, specialised cell structures, orders of magnitude, roles of diffusion, osmosis and active transport in the movement of materials within and between cells, adaptations to increase the rate of transport in and out of cells. Using microscopes, microscope drawings, calculating magnification, drawing scale bars, making slides, converting between units, surface area to volume ratio calculations, drawing graphs with negative axis and using lines of best fit to make predictions.
|Blood, double circulatory system, valves, blood vessels, detailed structure of the heart, gas exchange system in mammals and plants, organisation and transpiration in plants. Observation of heart dissection (provides introduction to sharps handling).
|The biochemistry of respiration, effects of exercise, anaerobic respiration, metabolism, the role of the liver in oxygen debt.
Balanced symbol equations, planning an experiment, analysis of data collected, cardiac output calculations.
|Adaptations and Interdependence
|The role of DNA, chromosomes, genes in a cell, how cells divide by mitosis, differentiation, cloning, stem cells.
|Lifestyle factors, causal mechanisms of disease, cancer, smoking and cardiovascular disease, lung disease and the effect on foetuses, diet, exercise, type 2 diabetes, alcohol and the effect on the liver, brain and foetuses, carcinogens, stents, artificial hearts, valves and pacemakers, statins.
|The role of organisms in communities and ecosystems, abiotic and biotic factors, techniques to measure the distribution of living organisms, factors that plants and animals compete for, examples of the adaptations they have to enable this.
|Microscope drawings, analysis and evaluation of advantages and disadvantages of contentious issues.
Tissues, organs, organ systems, digestive system, structure of biological molecules, role of enzymes in digestion and factors that affect them, bile and the liver. Practical complexity increasing to include multiple conditions and repeats.
|Analysis of relative sizes of different risks to health, analysis of large data sets (population level health risks and effects), interpreting data in terms of correlation versus causation, calculating BMI.
Analysis and application of knowledge to explain various treatments for cardiovascular disease, evaluation of their benefits and risks.
|Use of mean, mode, median, significant figures, evaluating fieldwork methods, calculating index of diversity.
|Reproduction and Inheritance
|Genetics and Evolution
|Key elements of control systems, structure and function of nervous system, receptors, co-ordinators, effectors, reflexes, the brain, the eye and focusing, near and short sightedness.
|Sexual and asexual reproduction, meiosis and variation, DNA and the genome, gene expression and protein synthesis, mutations, rules of inheritance and Punnett squares, inheritance of gender, family trees, polydactyly, cystic fibrosis, screening for genetic disorders.
|The work of Mendel, the theory of evolution by natural selection and the evidence for it, the ideas of Lamarck, Wallace and Darwin, speciation, the formation of and importance of fossils, causes of extinction, antibiotic resistance in bacteria as an example of evolution, classification systems and how they have changed over time.
|Modelling the synapse, evaluation of different methods of measuring reaction times, planning own experimental methods and evaluating reliability and accuracy.
|Analysing texts about sexual and asexual variation, flower dissection (handling sharps), evaluation of benefits and risks of different methods of embryo screening, drawing Punnett squares.
|Evaluation of the strength of evidence to support various theories, analysis of various texts about Darwin, interpretation of complex graphs, considerations of different viewpoints through history.
|Variation and Evolution
|Causes of ill health, types of pathogen, binary fission, aseptic technique, reducing the spread of disease, examples of disease including measles, HIV, salmonella, gonorrhoea, malaria, immunity and the role of white blood cells, vaccination, drug discovery and testing including penicillin, monoclonal antibodies.
|Environmental and genetic variation, natural selection, selective breeding, methods of cloning (cuttings, tissue cloning, embryo cloning, adult cell cloning) and uses of cloning. Producing genetically modified organisms. Ethics of these technologies.
|Describe photosynthesis in terms of reactants, products, limiting factors and conditions, adaptations of leaves, uses of glucose in plants, examples of plant disease including tobacco mosaic virus, rose black spot, mineral deficiencies, plant defence responses.
|Aseptic technique, interpreting data on graphs about health, measuring growth of bacteria, analysing exponential graphs, critical review of the testing of new medicines.
|Calculate bacterial population growth, evaluate advantages and disadvantages of various types of cloning.
|Lines of best fit and gradients, writing risk assessments, balanced symbol equations.
|Organising an Ecosystem
|Revision and external exams
|What hormones are, role of pituitary gland, role of hormones in maintaining blood glucose concentration, diabetes, thyroxine, negative feedback, puberty, reproductive hormones and the menstrual cycle, contraception, treating infertility, plant hormones and responses, uses of plant hormones. The use of genetic engineering to make insulin.
|Feeding relationships and the importance of photosynthesis, predator-prey relationships, decay and the recycling of materials, particularly carbon and water, factors that affect the rate of decomposition, trophic levels and pyramids of biomass, biomass and energy transfers between trophic levels.
|Investigation planning, interpreting complex graphs, evaluate different methods of contraception, consider different viewpoints on IVF, literacy skills – using key scientific vocabulary. Evaluating the use of genetic engineering to make insulin.
|Interpreting complex graphs, experiment planning, balanced symbol equations, percentage change and efficiency calculations.
|Humans and the Environment
|Regulation of body temperature, removal of waste products, role of kidneys in regulation of blood water and mineral ion content, kidney dialysis and transplants. The use of therapeutic cell cloning as a potential source of kidneys for transplant.
|Importance of biodiversity, how humans pollute the air, land and water, the causes and effects of deforestation, peat bog destruction and global warming, the impact of environmental changes of the distribution of organisms, actions humans can take to protect biodiversity, food security and factors that affect it, methods to increase the efficiency of food production including intensive versus extensive farming, sustainable fishing, mycoprotein.
|Calculating percentage changes, evaluating models, evaluating different treatments for kidney failure, kidney dissection (sharps handling). Evaluating the use of therapeutic cell cloning.
|Data analysis, evaluation of issues surrounding climate change, evaluating the benefits and risks of different methods of food production and genetic technologies, graph gradient calculations, analysis of issues surrounding and evaluation of solutions to global food production.
A-level Biology lasts two years, with exams at the end of the second year. For an overview, please see below.
|DNA and Protein Synthesis
|Energy Transfers in Ecosystems
|This topic introduces various laboratory techniques. The main focus is to secure students’ interest in Biology, and to boost confidence in the lessons. Practical work includes microscopy, food tests, calibration curves, observational and team work skills.
|Students learn about how genetic information is used to make specific proteins in cells, DNA structure, chromosome structure, the human genome project, the stages of protein synthesis and the chemicals involved. Teachers encourage students to apply their knowledge and take an interest in recent developments in genetic research.
|Students study the organisation of ecosystems in terms of trophic levels, how energy is transferred from one trophic level to another, the various mechanisms by which energy is lost between trophic levels, net and gross primary productivity, what intensive farming is and how it increases productivity / profits, and integrated pest management. Mathematical skills are developed, including working with standard form, percentages and conversion of units. Students also practise evaluating data by studying various agricultural practices, taking into account productivity, profit, environmental issues and animal welfare.
|Students learn about eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell structure, units used to measure cells, how electron microscopes work and are used, the size and function of eukaryotic organelles. Microscope and observational skills are focused on, including preparing samples for cell fractionation, observing the results, how to calibrate a stage micrometre with the eyepiece graticule, converting between units, and following instructions for the gram stain procedure. Students also prepare stained slides of root tips from which to record and identify stages of mitosis observed, calculating the mitotic index (the percentage of visible cells in each stage), and use the statistical test chi squared to analyse their results.
|This topic gives students a thorough introduction to infectious diseases with examples, an overview of body defences (specific, broken down into humoral and cell-mediated, and non-specific), phagocytosis, roles of b cells, t cells, helper t cells, cytotoxic t cells, memory cells, and plasma cells in the specific immune response; types of immunity and vaccines; antigenic variability; HIV structure and progression of the disease; monoclonal antibody production and use, specifically in ELISA as a test for HIV. Student continue to improve their data analysis skills by assessing the effectiveness of vaccines / treatments / drugs in preventing / treating infectious disease.
|Students study haemoglobin structure and function; oxygen dissociation curves including those in different species; features of the circulatory system; structure and function of arteries, veins and capillaries; formation and function of tissue fluid; heart structure and the cardiac cycle; transpiration and translocation. Students practise selecting sources and assessing their reliability when researching different examples of oxygen dissociation curves in different species; focussing microscopes; drawing biological images from microscopes; dissection skills and drawing biological images from specimens; using dissection tools safely; analysing data about risk factors (for CHD) and distinguish between correlations and causal relationships; Student’s T test to disprove a null hypothesis; assessing quality of evidence (for translocation).
|Carbohydrates and Lipids
|Populations in Ecosystems
|In this topic students will learn about some of the different types of biological molecules (monosaccharides, disaccharides, polysaccharides, glycerol, fatty acids, triglycerides, phospholipids) and their roles in cells. Students practise following instructions, using a serial dilution to produce a calibration curve, working methodically, developing the ability to ‘multi-task’ (carrying out one test while preparing for the repeat test is a good example of this), identifying the hazards and the risks associated with those hazards, writing a risk assessment, constructing tables and recording data.
|Students learn about DNA mutations, cystic fibrosis, the mechanisms that produce variation, natural selection, directional and stabilising selection, antibiotic resistance, the binomial naming system, phylogenetic hierarchy, courtship behaviour, amino acid, RNA and DNA sequencing, index of diversity. They practice using power numbers, aseptic technique, reviewing exponential growth, using logs, and calculating standard deviation.
|This topic includes an introduction in school, and then our Biology Fieldwork Course in North Wales (5 nights, Rhyd-y-Creau Field Centre) with additional input from specialist ecologists at the field centre).
|Proteins and Enzymes
|Populations in Ecosystems
|Students learn that proteins are polymers of amino acids. They study enzymes, which are one class of proteins, and are biological catalysts and speed up chemical reactions in living organisms. Students investigate the factors that affect enzyme action: temperature, pH, enzyme concentration, substrate concentration. Students practise following instructions, working methodically and using the most appropriate equipment correctly, identifying the hazards and the risks associated with those hazards, writing a risk assessment, constructing results tables and recording data in a suitable manner, evaluating their results and suggesting ways to improve their experiments.
|Students study the importance of SA:Vol for exchange of substances within organisms and with the surroundings, features of an effective exchange surface, the structure and function of the following exchange surfaces: fish gills, insects tracheoles, leaves, small intestine, human lungs. Adaptations of insects and leaves to reduce water loss. Digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. We practise calculating SA:Vol, using potometers to measure transpiration, calculating lung volumes in humans using data from spirometers and peak flow meters, dissection and biological drawing skills. Students also apply their knowledge of human lungs and gas exchange to diagnose various lung diseases and their risk factors, including a focus on assessing the reliability and accuracy of data. Use of Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient statistical test
|Students study abiotic and biotic factors and their impact on population sizes with predator-prey relationships and bacterial growth curves as specific examples; theory of different ecological sampling techniques; succession, conservation, in situ introduction to various biological organisms e.g. limpets, moss, lichen, holly leaf miner, xerophytes, freshwater invertebrates. Students develop their understanding of and practise using logarithmic scales, carrying out various ecological sampling techniques (random sampling, transects, mark-release-recapture), evaluating the limitations of each technique, choosing and using statistical tests to analyse experimental data, writing methods, identifying and controlling variables, using a range of equipment to monitor abiotic factors, and using choice chambers.
|Students learn the structure and functions of the plasma membrane, simple and facilitated diffusion, osmosis in terms of water potential, active transport and endo/exocytosis, maintaining water balance and turgidity in cells, absorbing glucose from the small intestine by co-transport dependent on the sodium-potassium pump, oral rehydration therapy. In practical work, students use a colorimeter, considering how to control key variables.
|DNA and Inorganic Molecules
|Students learn the structure of water and its properties, and how this is important for living organisms, the roles of inorganic ions in living organisms, the structure, formation and functions of ATP, the structures of DNA and RNA and an overview of their functions, replication of DNA by semiconservative replication. We further work on drawing biological molecules and identifying bonding types. Students make links to history by using historical experiments to explain our current knowledge – the elucidation of semiconservative DNA replication.
|Responses for Survival
|Students are introduced to the topic with an overview of the flow of energy through ecosystems. They then study in detail compensation points; role of ATP in energy transfers; leaf structure; chloroplast and photosynthetic pigments structure and function; role of REDOX reactions in photosynthesis; light dependent reactions including photolysis, chemiosmosis, photophosphorylation; light independent reactions including Calvin cycle and production of various carbohydrates using glucose; limiting factors for photosynthesis. Students carry out lots of practical work, including chromatography. Students hone various practical skills: writing risk assessments, evaluating various methods for an investigation; selecting sources and assessing their reliability when researching different examples of the products of photosynthesis; drawing complex graphs with curved lines of best fit; calculating rate oxygen production from experimental data; essay skills in Biology.
|Students study phototropism; gravitropism; IAA and other plant hormones; taxes and kinesis; reflex actions and the neurones involved; resting and action potential and the roles of ion channels and the Na+K+ pump; factors that affect the speed of action potentials; the all or nothing principle of action potentials; the refractory period. Students discuss the contributions of many scientists to our understanding of plant hormones; they practise identifying and controlling control variables; risk assessments; using Student’s T test; standard deviation; percentage change; writing conclusions and evaluations.
|Student study negative feedback, thermoregulation in endotherms and ectotherms; blood glucose regulation by insulin, glucagon and adrenaline; second messenger pathways; diabetes; kidney structure and function including Bowman’s capsule, proximal convoluted tubule, loop of Henle, distal convoluted tubule; collecting duct; role of ADH in regulation of blood water potential. Students practise selecting sources and assessing their reliability when researching different examples of endotherms and ectotherms; dissection skills; using sharp instruments safely; calibration curves; risk assessments; using colourimeters; referencing research; handling biological specimens appropriately.
|Gene Expression and Technology
|Students learn about monohybrid and dihybrid inheritance; codominance; inheritance of blood groups; sex-linked genes; autosomal linkage and the effect of phenotype/genotype ratios; epistasis; gene pools; allele frequencies; Hardy-Weinberg formula; continuous and discontinuous variation and their causes; natural selection; stabilising, directional and disruptive selection; allopatric and sympatric speciation; genetic drift. They practise drawing genetic diagrams; interpreting pedigree diagrams; chi2 statistical test; usinge the Hardy-Weinberg calculation.
|Students learn about the causes and types of gene mutation; regulation of transcription by transcription factors, oestrogen and siRNA; totipotent and pluripotent stem cells; sources of stem cell; cell differentiation; epigenomics; oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes; genome sequencing; proteomics; recombinant DNA; in vivo cloning; transformation; PCR; genetic screening using DNA probes and DNA hybridisation, genetic fingerprinting. Skills that students will work on in this topic are aseptic technique; using sharp instruments safely; discussing ethics of genetic technologies in medicine and research; interpreting data on gene expression; essay skills in biology; understanding the contributions of many scientists to genome sequencing and how methods have changed over time; ethics of genetic screening.
|Students learn the macro and micro structure of muscle; function of neuromuscular junctions; mechanism of muscle contraction; differences between slow and fast twitch muscle fibres. Students further work on using microscopes with oil immersion lenses; drawing biological images; modelling muscle function and analysing models.
|Receptors to Effectors
|Students learn about the nitrogen cycle including the bacteria involved; phosphorous cycle; natural and artificial fertilisers; eutrophication, indicator species. Skills that are practised include aseptic technique; writing risk assessments; essay skills in biology.
|Students learn about generator potentials; Pacinian corpuscles; rods and cones in the eye and the structure of the retina; control of heart rate involving chemoreceptors and baroreceptors; structure and function of synapses; the effect of drugs on synapse function. Students practise their dissection skills; using sharp instruments safely; presenting skills; selecting sources and assessing their reliability when researching different examples of drugs which affect synapses.
|Students learn the structure of the mitochondria, stages of respiration to include glycolysis, link reaction, Kreb’s cycle, oxidative phosphorylation; role of ATP and REDOX reactions in respiration; anaerobic respiration in animal, plant and fungal cells. In practicals, students practise using respirometers; working safely and ethically with living organisms; modelling respiration and evaluating these models; comparing respiration and photosynthesis; essay skills in biology.
Destinations of former A Level Biology students
- Veterinary science
- Marine biology
- Oncology studies
The enriched curriculum
We underpin our Biology lessons with a wide range of extracurricular activities.
- Competitions such as the KS4 Biology Challenge and KS5 Biology Olympiad enable pupils to explore topics beyond the limitations of the curriculum. Our students who score highly in these competitions are encouraged to attend the awards ceremony in London.
- We have a student-run MedSoc group. This group discuss medical and ethical issues and support each other with their applications to university.
- Our Environmental and Wildlife Club encourages a love of nature alongside a consideration of the environment in which we live.
- We have a mentoring system where students are able to support younger pupils with Biology work, developing their understanding and removing misconceptions.
- We look for role models to help our students discover career pathways they may not have considered, for example “Science Live” where students are able to listen to cutting edge scientists talk about recent discoveries and their work.
- Students are encouraged to take part in the after-school Journal Club, where they are able to give presentations and discuss any science topics they are interested in, from dental stem cells to sleep deprivation.
- We expand students’ horizons, introducing them to the complexity of ecology during a residential field-trip to Wales in Year 12.
- We nurture and support relationships with past students, acknowledging their accomplishments. We encourage former students to return and work with our MedSoc group and present at our Journal Club, alongside our own students.