When Sir David Attenborough was asked in a BBC interview about the importance of teaching Biology, his reply was simply, “it’s never been more important, ever, in the history of the world.” This opinion is shared by all members of the Biology department, whose passion is to teach the girls not only to love our natural world, but to be inspired by it. The fascinating relationships and interactions that exist between animals, plants and microorganisms provide the basis of what we teach from Year 7 through to Year 13. Biology is one of the most popular subjects studied at Tormead, with a large proportion of Sixth Formers currently studying it for A Level. We are immensely proud of our success in helping those applying for medical-related careers to obtain their first- choice university offer, supported by the very best grades.
The Lower School curriculum has been specifically designed to introduce fundamental biological concepts, from the classification of organisms and their reproduction, to feeding relationships and the causes of disease. There are increasing demands for students to be competent in practical investigations and so the lessons allow for our girls to develop critical skills and competencies in this area. The aims of Lower School biology are to engage, to stimulate and to prepare girls for the rigours of studying the renowned Cambridge IGCSE.
With an emphasis on human biology, the Cambridge IGCSE Biology syllabus helps the girls to understand the technological world in which they live and take an informed interest in science and scientific developments. The syllabus allows them to develop the skills essential for further study at A Level. Cell Structure, coordination and response, inheritance, biotechnology, ecosystems and the environment are just some of the content areas covered. Girls will be examined at the end of Year 11 via three written exams: a multiple-choice paper, a theory paper and an ‘alternative to practical’ paper.
At Tormead, our specialist teachers share their enthusiasm for the subject with students in small groups. Text books and online resources tailored to the current specifications are provided and regular, relevant practical work in well-equipped laboratories supports the theory and develops skills which are essential for success at the highest level. A residential field trip to Slapton Ley field study centre underpins several aspects of scientific enquiry, including statistical analysis of real and relevant data. There are eight core areas of study as outlined in the examination board specification (see link below). Throughout the course students are encouraged to read widely to gain an understanding of the broader relevance of their studies and are required to apply their knowledge in unfamiliar contexts. Skills and knowledge acquired are extremely useful for Biological and Environmental Sciences, Medicine and other health and clinical professions, including physiotherapy, midwifery, nursing and dietetics, for example. In addition, many skills are transferable and relevant to careers such as law, computing, accounting and teaching.
The KYTOS Biology enrichment programme offers unparalleled opportunities to explore the subject beyond the classroom. Girls can develop their surgical skills in the Dissection Club, enhance the school environment in the Conservation Club and delve deeper into the fascinating world of forensic science and criminal investigation in the popular Forensics Club. Girls can participate in monthly A-Z biology quizzes, annual photography competitions, weekly enrichment sessions looking at topical news stories and a host of themed trips – destinations have ranged from the Old Operating Theatre and Hunterian Museum, London, to an international visit to Costa Rica. We also encourage girls to enter the Rosalind Franklin Prize for Academic Writing, which is endorsed by the Rosalind Franklin Society, New York, who promote essay winners in their global newsletter.
MED:SEM is a programme of dedicated seminars covering a range of topics for those pursuing medical-related careers. The Guest Speaker programme has secured talks from a variety of distinguished professionals, including Lord Robert Winston, President of the Genetics Society Professor Laurence Hurst and wildlife campaigner Virginia McKenna.
Recent additions to KYTOS enrichment include Biology Podcasts, which have been streamed in over fifty countries worldwide and the KYTOS Genetics Society, launched in September 2019.