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Curriculum Intent

The Biology department at Holcombe Grammar School is passionate about what it does. We believe everyone has an interest in living organisms and the natural world around them, whether it be a fascination with how the human body works or a desire to know the true impact of man’s activities on the biodiversity of our planet. Our aim is to share this passion through our teaching, enthusing and engaging students about the complexity and variety of life and the importance of interdependence.

We seek to place their learning in context, making links with relevant topical issues and instilling confidence, such that all students can fulfil their potential. It matters to us that we equip our students with the ability to make their own informed decisions and judgements, about future scientific issues that will impact them.

We will ensure our curriculum is broad and balanced by providing local contexts such as sampling local wildlife in ecology topics and a visit to Wakehurst Place, in Surrey for Sixth Form students to apply the technique of DNA fingerprinting in a Customs and Excise investigation. Practical work is an important part of students learning and we actively seek opportunities to extend the student experience beyond simply, the core practical work of specifications.

We firmly believe at Holcombe Grammar School that biology is a vital and thrilling science, that not only is the root of understanding our living world, but is the basis for many of the dominant industries of the 21st century.

Key Stage 3 (Years 7-9)

Science is taught with a hands-on approach here at Holcombe Grammar School. The Science curriculum is made up of topics in Biology, Physics and Chemistry. We build upon the students’ experience of Science in primary school and provide fantastic foundations for further learning at GCSE. We strive to spark our students’ curiosity in the world around them so that they can understand the scientific implications that impact on their own lives. We aim to build knowledge, understanding and investigative skills. Students have six lessons of Science per fortnight. Students are assessed on their knowledge during each topic, as well as undergoing constant assessment on how well they apply their scientific knowledge and practical skills.

Year 7

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Organisms – Movement Organisms – Cells Ecosystems – Interdependence Ecosystems – Plant reproduction Genes – Variation Genes – Human Reproduction

Year 8

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Cells – Breathing Cells – Digestion Ecosystems – Respiration Ecosystems – Photosynthesis Genes – Evolution Genes – Inheritance

Year 9

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Combined Topic 1: Cell Biology

Required Practical 1: Use a light microscope to observe, draw and label a selection of plant and animal cells.

Combined Topic 1: Cell Biology

Required Practical 3: Investigate the effect of a range of concentrations of salt or sugar solutions on the mass of plant tissue.

Combined Topic 2: Organisation

Required Practical 4: Use qualitative reagents to test for a range of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins.

Combined Topic 2:  Organisation Required Practical 5: Investigate the effect of pH on the rate of reaction of amylase enzyme. Combined Topic 3:
Infections and Response
Combined Topic 4: Bioenergetics
(Plus Parts of Topic 2)Required Practical 6: Investigate the effect of light intensity on the rate of photosynthesis using an aquatic organism such as pondweed.

Key Stage 4

Course Title

Combined Science – two GCSEs

Or Triple Science – three separate GCSEs in Biology, Chemistry and Physics

Examination Board


All students will study for a minimum of two science GCSEs (Combined Science covers all three Science subjects -Biology, Chemistry and Physics and is worth two GCSEs). In all three subjects the specifications place an emphasis on ‘working scientifically’, teaching science through contemporary issues and communication of scientific ideas. ‘Working scientifically’ involves students looking at how scientific developments progress, the need to use data to support or disprove ideas and why data may not be reliable. The aim is to give the students the ability to analyse complex problems and to decide for themselves what solutions are appropriate using the available data.

The Biology course offers pupils the opportunity to examine how the body responds to the environment, keeping healthy, drugs and their implications, the body’s responses to infectious disease, factors affecting a species distribution and genetic inheritance, endangered species and how humans affect the environment, the effect of enzymes, micro-organisms and internal body systems and control.

The Chemistry course allows pupils to understand atomic structure, structure and bonding, calculations, chemical reactions, electrolysis, energy in reactions, rates of reaction, carbon compounds, the atmosphere and the use of resources.

The Physics course allows pupils to investigate thermal changes, efficiency of energy transfer and loss, electrical devices and circuits, generation of electricity using alternative sources, radiation and its uses and dangers, origins of the universe, how objects speed up or slow down, static electricity, current electricity, turning effects, mirrors and lenses as well as transformers.

Cross-Curricular Links

Students will develop their mathematical skills in practical situations. They will have the opportunity to discuss scientific ideas and controversies and present information using a range of technologies.

Year 10

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Combined Topic 4: Bioenergetics
(Parts of Topic 3).
Combined Topic 4 :Bioenergetics
Required Practical 5: Investigate the effect of light intensity on the rate of photosynthesis.
Combined Topic 5: Homeostasis and Response
Required Practical 6: Plan/carry out an investigation into the effect of a factor on the human reaction time.
Combined Topic 5: Homeostasis and Response Combined Topic 6: Inheritance, Variation and Evolution Combined Topic 6: Inheritance, Variation and Evolution

Year 11

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Combined/Triple Topic 6: Ecology
RP7 (RP#9): Measure the population size of a common species in a habitat. (This may spill over into Term 2)Separate Award Required Practical 10: Investigate the effect of temperature on the rate of decay of fresh milk by measuring pH change.
Triple Topic 1: Culturing microorganisms (Biology only)
Topic 3: Monoclonal antibodies
Required Practical 2: Investigate the effect of antiseptics or antibiotics on bacterial growth.
Triple Topic 5: The Eye; The Brain; Thermoregulation; The kidney; Plant hormones;  Advantages and disadvantages of sexual and asexual reproduction (Biology only)
Required Practical 8: Investigate the effect of light or gravity on the growth of newly germinated seedlings.
Triple Topic 6 –  The development of understanding of genetics and evolution; Theory of evolution; Speciation. (Biology only) GCSE Exams GCSE Exams

Years 12 and 13

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.

Year 12

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Topic 1: Biological Molecules (Biological Molecules) Topic 1: Biological Molecules (Nucleic Acids) Topic 3: Organisms Exchange Substances with their Environment (Exchange) Topic 3: Organisms Exchange Substances with their Environment (Exchange) Topic 3: Organisms Exchange Substances with their Environment (Mass Transport) Synoptic Skills
 Topic 2: Cells (Cell Structure) Topic 2: Cells (Transport across Cell Membranes / Immune System) Topic 4: Genetic Information, Variation and Relationships (DNA, Genes and Protein Synthesis) Topic 4: Genetic Information, Variation and Relationships (Genetic Diveristy) Topic 4: Genetic Information, Variation and Relationships (Biodiveristy) Synoptic Skills

Year 13

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Topic 5: Energy Transfer between Organisms (Energy and Ecosystems) Topic 7: Genetics, Populations, Evolution and Ecosystems (Populations and Evolution/Populations in Ecosystems) Topic 8: Control of Gene Expression (Gene Expression) Topic 8: Control of Gene Expression (Recombinant DNA technology) Revision Exams
Topic 5: Energy Transfer between Organisms (Photosynthesis) Topic 5: Energy Transfer between Organisms (Respiration) Topic 6: Organisms Respond to Changes in their Environment ( Nervous Coordination and Mucsles/Homeostasis) Topic 7: Genetics, Populations, Evolution and Ecosystems (Inherited Change)

Online Learning Support


The wonderful thing about Biology is its immense breadth. Biologists study everything from the simplest life on Earth, like viruses or single-celled amoebas, to the human brain, the most complex object in the known universe and everything in between. 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. Biology is a popular choice at A-level at Holcombe Grammar with many students going on to study biology related Higher Education courses when they leave at the end of Year 13.

British Values

Respect civil and criminal law:

Law is an integral part of Biology. New research into drug design, stem cell technology, genetic engineering all have to follow strict laws that govern their safety and application. From patenting work to following British Safety Standards to destroying a cloned embryo before the cells can specialise, civil and criminal law must be considered by all scientists developing new and existing technology. In Biology lessons students are challenged to understand the reasoning behind such laws and how legislation can differ between different countries and how this may impact upon Britain itself. An example is how the easing of America’s stance on genetic modification research has led to many scientists leaving Britain to get bigger grants in America. We actively promote civic institutions so that students value and appreciate these great assets and that Science has an active role in the day to day functioning of these establishments.

Appreciate viewpoints of others on ethical issues:

Biology has many complex ethical issues from genetic engineering, cloning, drug testing and pollution. Students are expected to weigh up both sides of any argument and provided a reasoned response that underpins their own stance to these issues. This is done through debates and class discussions, Science Week events, examinations and Research tasks.

Acceptance and engagement with fundamental British values of democracy

Biology like the other sciences is a universal language and discipline that can be used anywhere in the world regardless of race, language or religion. At Holcombe we show, through initiatives such as the Human Genome Project, how Scientists collaborate worldwide to share data, theories and conclusions. Through topics such as evolution, biodiversity and variation, we emphasise how we are all the same species regardless of ethnicity, background or beliefs.

Contribute positively to life in Modern Britain:

From Antibiotic development, Stem Cell Transplants, cloning to DNA Fingerprinting no other country has contributed so much to modern life in the 21st Century. The Biology Department promotes this through its teaching and through its elevation of such notable scientists as Charles Darwin, Jane Goodall, Watson and Crick, Rosalind Franklyn and Edward Jenner to name a few. By using these examples and others as role models, we endeavour to support a new wave of biologists who will contribute positively to modern Britain. The underlying principle of Biology and Science is to understand the world in such a fashion to improve the quality of life for all species that inhabit it. We therefore try and promote students to have intellectual curiosity and to question the evidence.