Senior School Curriculum

Overview

The Senior School at Wisbech Grammar School provides pupils with a wealth of opportunities, both academically and in a range of co-curricular activities.


As an independent School, we can go beyond the narrow confines of the curriculum and do not put a ceiling on learning by rigidly adhering to set specifications. Education is about finding an individual’s level – because every pupil is unique.  At Wisbech Grammar School, we go beyond ‘teaching to the exam’ – rather we deepen a pupil’s understanding of a subject and enhance their learning by providing a positive and inspiring learning environment in which each child can thrive.

In the Lower School, pupils receive a broad education: English, Mathematics, History, Geography, French, German, Science, Music, Religious Studies, Art, Technology, Physical Education and Games. The General Science course followed in the first two years gives way to separate teaching of Physics, Chemistry and Biology from the 3rd Form.

In the Middle School, we offer 17 subjects at GCSE. Above core subjects such as English, Mathematics, a Modern Language, a Humanity and at least one Science, three other subjects are then chosen from: Art, Music, Drama, Design Technology, Food and Nutrition, Textiles, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, French, German, Spanish, PE, Religious Studies, History and Geography.

There are seven periods per day, Monday to Friday. Each period is 50 minutes in length; some of these are arranged in double periods, particularly in the GCSE and A-level years.

On Monday to Thursday, Period 5 is given over to co-curricular activities. On Friday Period 5, all pupils have a PSHCE lesson.

More detailed information about the subjects available in the Senior School can be found on the following pages.

Alongside the extensive co-curricular programme, the academic opportunities in the Senior School at Wisbech Grammar School provide pupils with every opportunity to be successful and to become independent, well-rounded and well-qualified members of society. We look forward to working with them and supporting them on this important stage of their educational journey.

Subjects

Art

Art takes place predominantly in the large Girling Art Studio where pupils are encouraged to, and supported with, finding their particular creative strengths. 


There is also a screen printing room with equipment for photographic silk screen printing and a suite of Macs for Graphic and digital artists. Drawing is the basis but there are opportunities to discover painting, printmaking, 3D work, collage or photography and digital graphics.

As pupils move up the school they have more freedom to choose their own topic, but everyone is welcome to attend a range of clubs, from Animation club to Art History club. The work produced by pupils is displayed around the school and there are opportunities to showcase work in exhibitions each academic year.

Visits to major Art galleries are part of the GCSE course and other trips are organised. Excursions abroad include Barcelona and New York.

Biology

“Biology is the study of the complex things in the Universe. Physics is the study of the simple ones.” R. Dawkins


Biology is the study of life; it helps us to understand the world in which we live and reminds us about our interconnectedness with other living things.

At Wisbech Grammar School, we aim to inspire a fascination with the natural world in all our pupils and encourage them to learn about the central role of Biology in our lives.

The Biology Department is vibrant and well-resourced with four experienced, enthusiastic Biologists who combine exciting teaching methods and academic rigour to teach.

Practical Biology lies at the heart of our teaching: 4th and 5th Form pupils investigate numerous molecular mechanisms and dissect a variety of organisms. In 3rd to 6th Forms, there are opportunities to study for the CREST Awards at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels, as well as the Biology Challenge in the 4th Form.

There is a thriving fortnightly Biology Discussion Group that maintains its own independent blog and podcasts its meetings.

Chemistry

Chemistry is universally considered as the “central science”.  Research in ground-breaking areas such as genetics, medicine, materials science, forensics, nanotechnology, drug discovery, and fulfilling the future energy demands of the planet are all driven by chemistry. 


The GCSE course builds upon the concepts studied in the 3rd Form.  However, Chemistry splits into three distinct disciplines – organic, inorganic and physical.  As the course progresses, links between the three disciplines will develop and allow a more thorough understanding of the subject as a whole.

The theory is supported by essential practical work that reinforces the concepts covered during lessons and develops vital skills that include the competent use of equipment, collecting and analysing data, and the construction of conclusions.

The course can be challenging at times, but extremely rewarding. If approached with the correct work ethic, the subject becomes easier as the course progresses as key concepts are revisited and appear in multiple topics.

Computer Science

Our modern world would be inconceivable without Computer Science. The science of processing information by means of computer programs provides the basis for the internet and mobile telecommunications, for airlines and financial transactions, for medical research, for DVD players, televisions and cars – in short: for a functioning world.


Opportunities for careers within Computer Science are varied and there is a very high demand for qualified professionals, particularly within Cambridgeshire. However, this subject is not just for those seeking to follow this career path; the skills learnt in problem solving (identifying, breaking down, designing and ultimately creating solutions) to practical problems are highly prized in professions as diverse as Medicine, Law, the Armed Forces and Manufacturing.

Design and Technology


The new GCSE has been developed by the exam board working alongside a group of industrialists (or DT stakeholders as they are called) headed by Sir James Dyson and the Engineering Council. This is an exciting course as pupils who gain this experience and can demonstrate these skills can expect to branch out into a vast range of career opportunities. They can be confident in the knowledge that their course and the skills they have learnt are fully approved by industry.

“Design and technology is a subject of fundamental importance. Logical, creative and practical – it’s the only opportunity that school pupils have to apply what they learn in maths and science – directly preparing them for a career in engineering.”

“Engineering is the foundation of our economy. Almost £500bn is the gross value added of sectors where engineering is an important component – about a third of the economy – and yet there’s a shortage of engineers. We’ll need about 1m more scientists and engineers in the economy by 2020.”

Drama

Why study Drama?  Because, as Alfred Hitchcock said


Drama is life with the dull bits left out!

Drama is not just about acting and theatre; it is a chance for pupils to explore what makes them and others tick in a supportive and creative environment. Drama is also a subject that gives pupils the chance to work collaboratively with their peers, thus aiding their communication skills.

Where can it lead?

It goes without saying that a career in the performing arts is an option but there is not a career that does not involve or require communication in some form and so Drama will help whatever career path is chosen. Having said that the most popular professions students of Drama go onto are the likes of Law, Journalism, Media and Psychology.

English

English is central to the curriculum and the medium of speech and thought. English is core up to GCSE and hugely important beyond that. Whether interpreting literary works, analysing non-fiction texts or producing their own pieces of writing, students of English engage with, and develop, a range of skills of benefit to academic work and life in general.


The Key Stage 3 course is focused on building these skills and preparing for external examinations: novels, plays, poems and articles are explored. For GCSE, pupils work towards qualifications in both English Language and English Literature. They study a number of texts, including a play by Shakespeare, a 19th century novel and a selection of poetry. They answer comprehension questions on a range of material (both literary and media-based) as well as produce their own writing.

By the end of the course, pupils are equipped to work independently, think critically and express themselves in a style appropriate to whichever audience they happen to be targeting.

Food and Nutrition

The country has a shortage of food skilled people. The food industry is one of the biggest and includes areas such as agriculture, manufacturing, retail, sports science, product development, journalism, dietetics, to name just a few. 


It not only teaches lifelong skills, but it is also relevant to our society with problems discussed such as dietary disease and food poverty. The IGCSE is science based and overlaps with many other subjects such as chemistry and biology.

We follow the CIE specification with topics such as nutritive value of foods, digestion and absorption, dietary guidelines, composition of foods, cooking methods, raising agents, food hygiene and kitchen planning. We study for a theory paper, but we also carry out a practical every week in preparation for a practical examination where five skilled dishes have to be cooked and served in two and a half hours. Through the practical lessons we learn to make sauces, pastries, breads, cakes, meat handling, fish handling, vegetable preparation and biscuits. In addition we undertake the CIEH Level Two Food Hygiene Examination.

IGCSE Food and Nutrition offers an excellent step into A-levels and into the many food linked courses at University. There will always be jobs in the food industry.

Geography

The Edexcel Certificate International GCSE specification gives pupils an opportunity to study traditional topics which are updated to provide a contemporary and relevant understanding of the world in which we live. 


It has a strong focus on developing practical enquiry skills to underpin geographical knowledge and understanding.  Pupils will investigate our dynamic planet, its processes, people and interactions between them.

Choosing Geography enables pupils to construct useful A-Level combinations in preparation for University and beyond. In addition to a breadth of knowledge, critical skills are developed through the evaluation of written, numerical, graphical and cartographical information.

In the 4th Form, we study units on Rivers, Natural Hazards and Fragile Environments, linking the physical processes to challenges we face in the world today, for example water scarcity and hazard management. The 5th Form curriculum focuses on Economic Geography and Urban Environments, covering topics such as the rapid urbanization of mega cities and impacts of deindustrialisation.

Fieldwork is a compulsory element of each topic and accounts for 25% of the final grade. Pupils choosing Geography are expected to attend a residential field trip to a Field Study Centre during the half term break in the Michaelmas Term of the 5th Form.

Pupils are assessed through two final examinations covering the physical and human topics and fieldwork.

History

Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it

This quote says it all; History is a highly relevant subject. Whether on a personal, local, national or international level, both our identity, values and what we hope for in the future are largely defined by what we have been in the past.

Our pupils develop a solid understanding of the past and an enquiring attitude into the causes and consequences of past events through examining many of the great and dramatic events in History, such as the Battle of Hastings, the French Revolution and the building of the British Empire. We examine heroes like Lord Nelson to dictators and tyrants like Hitler and King Henry VIII. Alongside the famous, we consider the lives of the ordinary and downtrodden with studies on medieval peasants and African slaves. The horrors of the 20th century are explored, in considerable depth, including both world wars and the Holocaust.

Pupils engage in a range of exciting activities, including role play, debate and the handling of artefacts. Out of classroom learning enlivens understanding of the subject, so pupils enjoy many field trips. 1st Form pupils visit Castle Rising to experience the Middle Ages. 3rd Form students visit battlefields in France and Belgium to enhance their understanding of Britain’s role in the Great War.

Mathematics

We follow the OCR J560 GCSE Mathematics specification. This focuses on problem-solving in Mathematics and pupils will also be expected to prove results such as circle theorems. In many subjects, a good grasp of Mathematics and the ability to apply it is essential.


In addition to the lessons, pupils will have the opportunity to attend Numeracy Club and Maths Help and, for those who wish to stretch their mathematical abilities, there is Maths Challenge Club.

The specification is tested by three 1.5  hour exams at the end of the 5th form. There is no coursework.

Pupils will have the opportunity to study Mathematics and Further Mathematics in the 6th Form. Mathematics with Further Mathematics counts as 2 A-levels and is most suitable for strong mathematicians who will take a mathematical course (e.g. Engineering) at a university. To study Mathematics at A-level we advise at least grade 7 at GCSE. Mathematics at A-level is a very popular choice with approximately 20 pupils choosing this subject each year.

Modern Foreign Languages

In the Senior School, all pupils study French, German and Spanish in rotation for the first two years. In that time, they get a flavour for each language and the culture associated with it, before choosing two languages in the 3rd Form and at least one to carry on to GCSE.


In the 1st Form, the first week is dedicated to evaluate pupils’ aptitudes in languages. In order to do so, we use the University of York Language Aptitude Test and the pupils are divided up into one of the three classes. This setting is reviewed by the languages teaching team at the end of each term.

Typically, around a third of all pupils are dual linguists and study two languages at GCSE, and some even carry on with all three languages. Most teachers are native speakers and bring a passion for the language and culture of their country. We offer an array of trips to pupils of all ages, from Christmas markets to Chateau trips, exchanges to Germany, France and Spain as well as cross-curricular trips to ensure that the learning of Modern Foreign Languages is relevant, enjoyable and brings 21st century employability to pupils.

Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own

Music

Music can change the world because it can change people.

Bono

Making music is at the heart of our approach. Lessons are available on orchestra instruments, guitars, drums and singing. Concerts throughout the year, both in school and the wider community, showcase pupils’ talents. An exciting recital series, which invites professional musicians into school, enriches the musical experience of all of our pupils.

Pupils in 1st and 2nd Form receive one lesson per week. In the 3rd Form music is offered as an option within the Creative Curriculum. The Steinway Model D piano is the centre piece to many recitals.  In addition to computer score writing and sequencing software, pupils experience African drumming, steel pans, ukuleles, guitars and the colourful sounds of tuned and untuned percussion.  Pupils become well grounded in music theory and develop their composing and performing skills.

Pupils opting to take GCSE Music follow the Edexcel specification. This programme of study offers pupils an excellent and broad musical experience through critical listening, composing and performing. Through study of a varied repertoire of pieces, from Purcell to Queen, there are abundant opportunities for pupils to develop their musicianship.

Physical Education

For those with a keen interest in sport who want to know how to improve performance, and develop knowledge and understanding.


The GCSE course consists of 60% theory, 30% practical performance and 10% coursework where pupils design and implement their own training programme.

In theory lessons pupils learn how exercise affects the body and how training can help improve performance. Other topics include: applied anatomy and physiology, injury and rehabilitation, the use of performance enhancing drugs, movement analysis, fitness components, fitness testing, training methods, diet and how performance can be improved using sports psychology.  Theory is assessed through two externally set examinations which last 1hr 45 mins and 1hr 15mins respectively.

In the practical unit, pupils must show three separate performances in any sport of their choice and show understanding of their best sport through a critical analysis. In the past, pupils have chosen not only the obvious team games played in School but also Sailing, Golf, Skiing, Ice Dancing, Contemporary Dance  and even Horse Riding. Pupils can also choose whether to physically perform these sports as players or take on the role of official/referee.

Physics

How can things be in two places at once? Is time travel possible? What are the most fundamental building blocks of the Universe? How do every day machines work? 


The world is a bewilderingly complex place but, amazingly, it can be understood by using a small number of fundamental principles, particles and forces that govern their interactions.  Physics is the study of these principles.  Physics is truly all around you, in your ipod or mobile phone, in the stars you see at night and the sport that you watch on television.

Pupils study a broad range of topics from the detailed intricacies of the atom to the spectacular nature of the wider universe we live in. They learn about the way we interact with the world around us and how, in return it interacts back.

As well as being a theoretical subject, Physics is also a very practical subject. A large part of the work involves carrying out experiments, and so all the lessons will be in a Physics laboratory. It is true to say that there is quite a large mathematical content in GCSE physics, but the calculations necessary are relatively straightforward and cover no more than basic arithmetic, using and rearranging formulae, and some simple trigonometry.

Religious Studies

At GCSE pupils study a range of highly relevant ethical topics, from the perspectives of two religions, Christianity and Islam.  They are challenged with questions about belief, values, meaning, purpose and truth, and are encouraged to develop their own, well-informed, attitudes to religious and moral issues.


Pupils gain an appreciation of how religion, philosophy and ethics form the basis of our culture and develop analytical and critical thinking skills, the ability to work with abstract ideas, leadership and research skills.  All of these attributes are highly valued by further education establishments as well as prospective employers.

We study AQA GCSE Religious Studies. The topics we cover are:

  • Beliefs, teachings and practices of Christianity and Islam.
  • Religious beliefs concerning sex, marriage and divorce, families, and gender equality.
  • Religious beliefs concerning the Value and Origins of Life, abortion, animal experimentation and euthanasia.
  • Religion and Peace and Conflict, including violence, terrorism and pacifism.
  • Religious views on Crime and Punishment.

GCSE Religious Studies is one of the fastest growing subjects in the UK in terms of pupil uptake.  We teach subject material that is highly relevant to life in today’s society, and help equip pupils with the rigorous, high order, academic skills that are so much in demand in the current employment market.

Textiles

Textiles is taught firmly within a design context with individual expression and experimentation encouraged.


A range of techniques are explored in the lower years including screen printing, batik, tie-dye and collage alongside cultural research, fashion and interior design. Pupils have the opportunity to experiment with Photoshop and Speedstep

Many pupils study Art and Design Textiles at GCSE with the department achieving outstanding results these past years. The practical development of initial ideas and use of media is ambitious. Techniques such as stitch, print, weave, dyeing, felt-making and fabric painting are explored alongside less conventional materials such as paper, metals and plastics. This is supported by making connections with the work of artists and designers in order to create impressive outcomes.

Further creative opportunities can be explored during co-curricular activities and afterschool.  There are also regular trips to museums and Art galleries both in this country and New York.

Pupils have won local and national awards; regular exhibitions take place in School.

Beyond School, pupils pursue Textile Design, Fashion and Marketing, Surface Pattern, Interior Design and Buying courses at University. Many former pupils work in the Fashion and Textile Industry and in other creative fields.

Enrichment

The skills learnt in our dedicated Enrichment Programme support pupils’ studies and well-being to prepare them for life beyond the classroom.


The programme includes a series of lectures designed to challenge, inspire and broaden horizons. Approximately 15 talks are presented by visiting speakers each year on subjects which fall outside the boundaries of the curriculum and cross disciplinary boundaries. Speakers include local MP and Government Minister, Steve Barclay, Old Grammarian and CEO of ‘One Water’ Duncan Goose, Head of Research and Development at Jeyes Dr Claire Jackson and Mike McKay, Master Chief Intelligence Specialist in the USA Navy and Nato.

The benefits to our pupils are enormous and encourage the development of informed and well-rounded individuals with the tools required for their onward journey.

Wisbech Grammar School
Upcoming Events

Whole School Open Morning, Saturday, March 23 2019, 1000 – 1230

From Kindergarten to 6th Form

Easter Egg Hunt, Saturday 27 April, 2019

For children aged 3-6

Senior School Taster Day, Saturday May 11 2019, 0930 – 1500

For children currently in Year 5; experience what it’s like to spend the day in our Senior School