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Coronavirus Updates

Further information about how our Trust and schools are taking necessary precautions since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, can be found in our Trust’s ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) website section’.

For responses to our National Writing Day #247challenge, please see here.

Students joining us in Year 12 September 2020: please see a page of resources for you here. 

Update 03.07.20: For an update from Mr Preston about September Reopening, to Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12, and our incoming Year 7s, please see here.

Update 08.06.20: Year 10 and 12 parents and carers, please see the letter that has been sent out with your student’s bubbles. For FAQs, please see here.

Live Learning Timetables: Please see here for live learning timetables for this term for Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12.

For any key worker whose child is not currently using our childcare facility, and who subsequently becomes unable to provide childcare at home –  you must give the school 24 hours’ notice that you need to use this provision so that we can provide appropriate staffing. This means emailing or calling 03333 602130 by 9am the day before. For Monday provision, please ensure that you contact the school by 9am on the preceding Friday.  Students arriving without giving 24 hours’ notice may be turned away if we do not have adequate staffing. To access this provision, you must also have downloaded and completed the form that can be found here and you must bring it with you to the school when you arrive.

You can access Holcombe Grammar School’s COVID-19 latest update and archived letters for the whole school and year groups, including links to resources at


Subject Leader

Mr G Phillips

Advanced Level



Why study Biology?

Saving threatened species, studying microbes, growing organic plants for food, curing diseases? The 21st Century offers many challenges to biologists. Which ones are you interested in? New knowledge in areas such as genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry, the environment and marine sciences have profound effects on human society and the environment which we inhabit. The world moves quickly and in order to move with it and participate fully people need to be ‘in the know’. Studying A Level Biology at Holcombe Grammar School gives you the skills and opportunities to advance human knowledge and understanding in today’s world, in order to make a difference to tomorrow’s.

How will you be assessed?

(Students will sit 3 papers at the end of Year 13)

Paper 1 (2 hours) a written exam (91 marks) – 35% of the A Level

(76 marks: a mixture of short and long answer questions; 15 marks: extended response questions)

Paper 2 (2 hours) a written exam (91 marks) – 35% of the A Level

(76 marks: a mixture of short and long answer questions; 15 marks: comprehension questions)

Paper 3 (2 hours) a written exam (78 marks) – 30% of the A Level

(38 marks: structured questions, including practical techniques; 15 marks: critical analysis of experimental data; 25 marks: one essay from a choice of two titles)

What will you study?  
Unit 1:

Biological Molecules

All Life on Earth shares a common chemistry providing indirect evidence for evolution. However, despite their great variety, the cells of all living organisms contain only a few groups of carbon-based compounds that interact in similar ways. This unit looks at carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, nucleic acids and water and their role in biological systems.
Unit 2:


All Life on Earth is cellular. This unit looks are the dichotomy in cell structure between prokaryotes and eukaryotes. It also focuses on cell organisation and the control of the movement of materials in and out of cells and its role in cell communication.
Unit 3:

Organisms exchange things with their environments

The internal environment of a cell or organism is different from its external environment. The exchange of substances between the internal and external environments takes place at exchange surfaces. This unit focuses on large organisms, where exchange surfaces are associated with mass transport systems that carry substances between the exchange surfaces and the rest of the body and between parts of the body.
Unit 4:

Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms

Biological diversity (biodiversity) is reflected in the vast number of species of organisms, in the variation of individual characteristics within a single species and in the variation of cell types within a single multicellular organism. This unit looks at the genetic causes of diversity and the relationship between the genome and the environment and the role of mutations in bringing about variation.
Unit 5:

Energy transfers in and between organisms (A Level only)

Life depends on the continuous transfer of energy from producers (photoautotrophs) to consumers (heterotrophs). This unit looks at the energetics and biochemistry of respiration and photosynthesis as well as energy fluxes in ecosystems.
Unit 6:

Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments (A Level only)

This units looks at the role of nervous, hormonal and growth regulator mediated mechanisms for regulating the internal and external environments of organisms with a clear focus on cell to cell communication.
Unit 7:

Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems (A Level only)

The theory of evolution underpins modern Biology. All new species arise from an existing species. This results in different species sharing a common ancestry, as represented in phylogenetic classification. This unit helps you understand how common ancestry can explain the similarities between all living organisms, such as common chemistry (e.g. all proteins made from the same 20 or so amino acids), physiological pathways (e.g. anaerobic respiration), cell structure, and DNA as the genetic material and a ‘universal’ genetic code.
Unit 8:

The control of gene expression

Cells are able to control their metabolic activities by regulating the transcription and translation of their genome. Although the cells within an organism carry the same genetic code, they translate only part of it. In multicellular organisms, this control of translation enables cells to have specialised functions, forming tissues and organs. This unit studies the many factors that control the expression of genes and, thus, the phenotype of organisms. Some are external, environmental factors, others are internal factors. This will give you an appreciation of common ailments resulting from a breakdown of these control mechanisms and the use of DNA technology in the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases.


What will Biology offer you in the future?

Whether deciding on a career in psychology, medicine, genetics, forensics, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, biochemistry or journalism, a biological qualification gives you many skills and increases your career options so you can adapt to the world changing around you.