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Curriculum Intent

Astronomy is the Science governing the study of the Universe beyond the Earth.  It is taught at Holcombe Grammar School at GCSE level. The intent of this course is to enable pupils to understand how to work with a purely observational Science, where many variables are uncontrollable. Students will be able to then apply skills of logical deduction to produce and evaluate conclusions, using this observational data. There is also a key focus on recall of astronomical terms and definitions, supported by regular retrieval practice and consistent review of previously covered content.

Key Stage 4

Course Title

GCSE Astronomy

Examination Board


Examination and Coursework Details

100% external assessment, with all examinations taken at the end of the course.

Two examinations: each 1 hour 45 minutes with equal weighting.

Pupils are also required to complete and report on a minimum of two astronomical observations throughout the course, one naked-eye observation and one with the use of additional equipment.

Course Outline

Paper 1: Naked-eye Astronomy (50% of qualification)

In this side of the course, students will focus on observations that are possible purely with our own eyes. Students will study the interactions between the Earth, Moon and Sun, including phenomena such as eclipses, the seasons, the tides and time zones. Students will also explore other visible objects in the sky, such as the planets, comets and meteors within our Solar System, as well as the stars in our Galaxy visible from Earth. Using these observations, they will then describe the physical laws that can be derived from their observed motion, as well as their historical importance on the development of scientific theories and other aspects of society.

Paper 2: Telescopic Astronomy (50% of qualification)

In this side of the course, students will study the more distant Universe and the methods we use to observe it, as well as looking in more detail at our own region of it. This will include details of the composition of the Sun and the formation of stars, planetary systems and galaxies. At the end of this unit, students will be able to use information from observations of distant stars and galaxies to investigation the origin and evolution of our Universe.

Cross-Curricular Links

GCSE Astronomy covers many of the same skills used in GCSE Science, as well as requiring a good mathematical underpinning. Students will develop the ability to:

1. Plan investigations and adapt to cope with uncertainties.

2. Carry out observations and record results precisely.

3. Analyse data collected, both graphically and mathematically.

4. Evaluate results, with reference to sources of errors.

5. Use specialised equipment and software.

6. Solve problems both independently and collaboratively.

7. Communicate through appropriate scientific language.

8. Think critically and give evidence to back up arguments.

Sixth Form and Career Opportunities

Pupils who achieve a good grade in GCSE Astronomy will have demonstrated skills and understanding that apply directly to A-Level Physics. These skills are also essential for other A-Level Science courses and apply to any job with a scientific background.

Year 10

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Topic 1 – Planet Earth

Topic 6 – Celestial Observation

Topic 2 – The lunar disc

Topic 9 – Exploring the Moon

Topic 11 – Exploring the Solar System

Topic 8 – Planetary motion and gravity

Topic 5 – Solar System observation

Topic 7 – Early models of the Solar System

Topic 10 – Solar astronomy

Topic 3 – The Earth-Moon-Sun system Topic 4 – Time and the Earth-Moon-Sun cycles

Year 11

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Topic 12 – Formation of planetary systems

Topic 13 – Exploring starlight

Topic 14 – Stellar evolution

Topic 15 – Our place in the Galaxy

Topic 16 – Cosmology Revision GCSE Exams GCSE Exams

Online Learning Support


GCSE Astronomy requires pupils to employ skills that will be relevant to a number of scientific fields, as well as related career paths. Some examples include: Aeronautics, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Climatology, Engineering, Meteorology, Physics and Technical Writing.

The competencies developed through the study of Astronomy are also applicable for a variety of courses not directly linked to Science, enabling pupils to pursue a wide range of career options.

British Values

The Astronomy curriculum allows students the opportunity to discover how the study of the stars, planets, Sun and Moon has impacted the development of society. The historical relevance of Astronomy to different cultures is considered, as well as the contribution of those cultures to our understanding of the motion of our planet and other objects in our Solar System.

Astronomy also focuses on the importance of collaboration between both people and nations in order to investigate the fundamental nature of the Universe, where researchers can share their data and drive forward the discoveries of each other.