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Devonport High School for Girls

Head of Department

Mr D Blackford BSc (Hons), PGCE

Statement of Intent

The science curriculum at DHSG is designed to support our learners in their development to become scientifically literate citizens of the 21st century. We aim to engage their curiosity; to help them learn how to ask the right questions about the world around them and the society we live in. We will support them in developing the skills and knowledge required to investigate their questions and then to interpret and critically evaluated the answers they find. We achieve this through the study of the three traditional scientific disciplines of Biology, Chemistry and Physics, all of which are underpinned by practical principles and investigation and will include learning about how scientists work. 

We ensure that students have a firm scientific knowledge and skill base to progress with confidence through the Key Stages and finally progress into the wider world with the scientific tools required to pursue their individually chosen further study and future career pathways. We will teach our students how to use mathematics in science and not assume the transference of maths skills whilst ensuring our curriculum is assessable to all. 

In Biology, we encourage students to gain a deep appreciation and understanding of living organisms at every level:

  • at the cellular level, where the importance of the building block of life, and how it meets the different demands imposed upon them, is studied; 
  • at the organism level, and how the different organ systems in both plants and animals produce viable organisms that meet the challenges of survival;
  • at the ecosystem level, where different organisms interact to produce the complex and interdependent food webs found on Earth today. 

This is achieved at each Key Stage: 

  • KS3: Adherence to the National Curriculum for Science (Biology); 
  • KS4: AQA GSCE Biology or AQA Combined Sciences Trilogy (Biology); 
  • KS5: OCR Biology A.

A Level Course Outline

A stimulating and enjoyable course that includes
opportunities for practical activities, both in the laboratory and on fieldwork. The syllabus includes consideration of examples from the development of biological principles through to the most modern gene technologies. The OCR Specification follows on from GCSE Biology or GCSE Triple Science and will build on knowledge, understanding and skills to prepare students for scientific careers.

Higher Education and Career Opportunities

Biology is an essential entry requirement for courses such as Medicine, Veterinary Science, Ophthalmology, Biomedical Sciences, Dentistry, Microbiology, Biological Sciences, Environmental Sciences, and Nursing. It also leads onto Teaching, Sport and Leisure, and Physiotherapy.

Course Content

Examination Board


Full details of the specification and assessment criteria can be found on the OCR website

Biology A - H020, H420

In terms of the course content there are four modules for the AS version of the course and six for the A Level, as listed below. All modules are assessed in the summer via a written examination with a practical endorsement for the A Level version of the course. The AS content is also covered in the A Level content and allows for co-teaching.

AS Level

Unit 1

Breadth in Biology – 50%


Unit 2

Depth in Biology – 50%

A Level

Unit 1

Biological processes – 37%


Unit 2

Biological diversity – 37%


Unit 3

Unified Biology – 26%


Unit 4

Practical Endorsement – Reported separately

Curriculum Programmes of Study 


Cycle Content

Year 12

Cycle 1

14 weeks



   The basic components of living systems
   Microscopy and magnification
   Prokaryotes and eukaryotes
   Ultrastructure of plant and animal cells
   The structure of the plasma membrane
   PAG 5 – Effect of temperature on membranes
   Active transport, diffusion and osmosis
   PAG 8 – Water potential
   The biological significance of water
   The Biochemistry of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids
   PAG  9 – Qualitative testing
   Cells and biochemistry 8 week assessment
   Enzyme action
   Factors affecting enzyme activity
   PAG 4 – Effect of temperature on amylase
   PAG 6 – Chromatography
   The need for specialized exchange surfaces
   Gas exchange in insects, fish and mammals
   Blood and blood vessels
   Tissue fluid
   The heart
   PAG 2 - Dissection

Cycle 2
11 weeks

   The cell cycle
   Mitosis and meiosis
   DNA, membranes, gas exchange and transport in animals 8 week                  assesment 
   Transport of oxygen and the Bohr effect
   Transport in plants
   PAG 5 - Potometer
   Phloem loading and translocation
   Plant adaptations to water availability
   Assessment – all work to this point
   Levels of organization
   Animal and plant pathogens
   Transmission of communicable disease
   Cellular and humoral immunity 

Cycle 3
13 weeks

   Classification and phylogeny
   Types of variation
   Evidence for evolution
   Adaptation to environment
   Chi square, Spearman Rank, Standard deviation, t-test
   Assessment on classification, biodiversity and disease
   Biodiversity and genetic biodiversity
   Sampling and sampling techniques
   PAG 1 – Lung tissue drawing
   AS mock papers
   Field trip to Wembury – PAG 3
   Populations and sustainability
   Competition and predator-prey relationships
   Conservation or preservation
   Ecosystems and ecosystem management
   Biomass transfers through an ecosystem

Year 13


Cycle 1
14 weeks

 Review Ecology and energy flows
Ecology assessment – ch 11, 23, 24
Weekly assessments on AS work
Mutation and variation
Control of gene expression and body plans
Variation and inheritance
Monohybrid and dihybrid inheritance.
Hardy-Weinberg equation
Evolution and speciation
DNA sequencing and analysis
Using DNA in PCR, electrophoresis and genetic engineering
Cloning in plants
Biotechnology and bioremediation
Culturing of microorganisms and PAG 7
Module 6 assessment
Temperature control
The pancreas and the adrenal glands

Cycle 2

11 weeks

   Blood glucose control
   Mock papers 2 and 3
   Urine and diagnosis
   The liver
   The structure of the nervous system
   The action potential and the synapse
   The control of heart rate
   PAG 11 – Daphnia
   The brain
   Autotrophic nutrition
   The significance of ATP
   Aerobic and anaerobic respiration
   Respiration and photosynthesis assessment
   PAG 12 – Elodea
   Plant response to stress
   Plant hormones

Cycle 3

4 weeks

   Tropisms in plants
   Muscle structure and function
   PAG review