As leaders in girls’ education, Oxford High School provides a world-class educational experience for all our girls. Crucial to this is the pursuit of academic excellence, including but going well beyond outstanding examination results, as each girl is empowered with a deep love of learning and agile critical-thinking skills.

Our vision is of a curriculum that inspires as well as challenges, and it is a hallmark of an Oxford High School education that girls approach new knowledge with assurance and skill. When they leave school, they invariably earn places at their first-choice universities and manifest the skills, knowledge, and confidence to make a positive difference in the wider world.

To read the curriculum in detail for each subject and Key Stage, please use the tabs to the left.

Art

In an increasingly automated world, the art student’s marriage of creativity and innovation will be needed more than ever.

British artists and designers are known around the world as a gold-standard for originality and vision. At OHS, we build on this legacy by encouraging our students to make informed and reasoned judgements alongside their development of aesthetic and practical skills. Both in their own work and their appraisal of other artists, craftspeople and designers, our art students find new ways of understanding and responding to the world. In the process, they work with a wide range of traditional and new media including digital photography, animation, sculpture, print-making, illustration and fine art painting and drawing.

KS3

In Years 7-9, girls develop their love of art through a curriculum that balances two-dimensional and three-dimensional work and generates two major projects per year. These theme-based projects are rooted in a variety of art movements, enabling a broad, enjoyable and purposeful experience of the subject and the use of a wide range of traditional and new media. They are further designed to equip students with the formal elements of art, craft and design skills and confidence in the subject.

GCSE

At GCSE, the opportunity to work on long-term projects based on an initial theme/line of enquiry gives students the opportunity to investigate the artistic process with more depth and rigour. Significant personalised learning and support draws out the unique artistic and creative characteristics of each learner. Intellectual curiosity is positively encouraged in order to complement core skills with independent thought and purposeful depth. Students benefit from a wealth of media, facilities and expertise, from Adobe CC software (Photoshop, Illustrator etc.) to the techniques and principles of fine art printing.

A Level

At A Level, girls work in their own studio space with an independence more similar to that of an established artist as they create their own practical portfolio of work. Additionally, students create a sustained, investigative and intellectual piece of written research that supports and aligns with their practice. They live and breathe the subject, immersing themselves in the world of art and design by visiting galleries and exhibitions as well as talking to visiting artists such as OHS Alumnae Amy Isles Freeman and Emma Bridgewater. Skills, knowledge and understanding are taught through personal tutorials, group crits and discussions and workshops inspired by the interests and learning needs of the cohort. Many students pursue an art-related route beyond Sixth Form for which mock interview and portfolio support is given.

Co-Curricular

Without a doubt our most popular co-curricular activity is art club, which runs before school, at lunch and after school. GCSE and A Level students love having a relaxed, supportive environment in which to consolidate their artistic practice, and KS3 girls are increasingly making use of this facility, too. We also run Animation Club, Observational Drawing Club and Digital Photography Club with the help of our expert Art technicians and Sixth Form art scholars. Visits to galleries and exhibitions are offered at GCSE and A Level, local and national competitions are promoted within the Department and OHS Alumnae such as Amy Isles Freeman and Emma Bridgewater regularly come back to give tutorials and talk to the girls about artistic life beyond school.

Classics

Latin and Ancient Greek are not in the least dead at Oxford High. Our department offers a colourful and vigorous introduction to the Classical world that begins with a rigorous foundation in the language and literature of the ancient world. Once the language is grasped, what a treasure trove of beautiful literature opens up. This ranges from Catullus’ love poetry through Vergil and Horace to the plays of Sophocles and the world of Homer; from Cicero in full rhetorical flow to the fantastical histories of Herodotus. We then bring this knowledge to bear in comprehending how Classical knowledge underpins European literature and thought with curricula richly seeded by lectures, visits and performances.

KS3

Every pupil in the school learns Latin in Years 7 & 8, and has the opportunity to make innumerable discoveries: the logic of Latin grammar, the truth about the last day of Pompeii, why the Romans loved to imitate the Greeks, how the Roman army machine conquered the known world and, of course, how Latin feeds into the English and romance languages through philosophy, medicine and science. In Year 8, students can choose to study a ‘Gratin’ course (Greek and Latin), with 67% pursuing this popular option. In Year 9, students follow newly devised courses for both Latin and Greek, comprising Language (Taylor’s Latin), Literature (translations of the Aeneid/Odyssey) and Civilisation (Roman and Greek lives and history).

GCSE

Latin/Greek GCSE provides an excellent preparation for many sixth form courses: the language work is detailed, requiring accuracy and firm application, and the rigour of the subject is widely recognised. We follow the OCR syllabuses because they share the emphasis between language and literature. Literature study begins in February of Year 10 with the verse set book: starting at this point enables girls to revise for a proper literature exam in the summer, which gives them confidence. We complete the prose set book by the end of the Autumn term of Year 11 in preparation for their mock exams.

A Level

The transition from GCSE to working at A Level contains no unwelcome surprises but plenty of new opportunities. The years of reading synthetic Latin and Greek are past and in Years 12 to 13 our students will read selections from many of the major authors: Caesar, Livy, Tacitus, Horace, Ovid and Virgil in Latin and Homer, Euripides, Plato, Xenophon, Herodotus and Thucydides in Greek. Some of these will be studied in depth as set texts for examinations, some will be read in preparation for unseen translation examinations and some for pure enjoyment, but all will raise as many questions about life in these ancient societies as they will answer. Most pupils find the experience of being taught in a small group hugely enjoyable and many students continue their studies at university, with 16 OHS girls in the past 8 years going on to read Classics at Oxbridge (and one at Harvard).

Co-Curricular

The Classics Department runs a veritable cornucopia of clubs, trips and visits to enrich the learning of our students. These include residential trips to Greece, Sicily and Corinium (Cirencester), visits to the Ashmolean and British Museum and competitions including Oxfordshire Classical Reading, the Euroclassica Latin & Greek Language Olympiad and the Cambridge University Classical Myth Competition. We also enter various Oxbridge essay prizes, run two very popular clubs for Years 7-8 and 10-13, attend the Bryanston Greek Summer School and archaeological digs and attend the Greek plays staged by UCL and Oxford/Cambridge.

Computer Science

A highly relevant, rigorous and creative subject, which develops an understanding and ability to apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science to real-world systems. You will develop the ability to analyse problems in computational terms through practical experience and writing programs. You will need to think creatively, innovatively, analytically, logically and critically. In return, you will acquire the ability to see relationships between different aspects of computer science as well as applying mathematical skills in new ways.

KS3

Girls experience a mix of Computer Science alongside the more generic IT skills required in the Senior School (e.g. an introduction to the use of Chromebooks and Google Classroom). Topics include Cryptography with spreadsheets, patterns with Python, and physical computing with BBC Microbits and a range of other accessories.

GCSE

The GCSE in Computer Science provides an understanding of how computers work, how they store data and communicate, and how they are changing the world we live in. Alongside this students write programs to solve increasingly challenging problems, building on the skills they have developed in previous years. They are introduced to a new programming language and learn to write more robust programs.

A Level

In the Sixth Form students move to developing programmes with a graphical user interface, explore Boolean algebra, data structures and common search and sort algorithms, as well as taking material covered at GCSE to a deeper level. A significant component of the course is the programming project, where students are required to analyse a problem of their choice. The best projects solve real problems and are created to a professional standard.

Co-Curricular

Computing students enter a growing range throughout the year in which they always excel and often succeed. These include the Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge, the TCS Oxford Computing Challenge (for those in top 10% of Bebras competition), the CyberFirst Girls Competition, Cyber Discovery and the British Informatics Olympiad. Our clubs include the Code Club, Pi Club (using Raspberry Pis) and Robotics Club (using Arduinos and run by Sixth Formers). Finally, we team up with the Maths department each year to take Year 8 girls to Bletchley Park and GCSE students to the National Museum of Computing.

Drama

The special thing about drama is that it is as real as life gets. Rich in stories, invention and practice, drama affords girls the opportunity to engage with the dramatic process not merely as actors but also directors, tech crew, set-designers and even marketers. Performance is an integral part of drama at OHS, with many girls choosing to study Drama at GCSE and beyond. It is a lively and collaborative subject that develops teamwork, confidence and presentation, with transferable skills for English, History, Classics, Psychology, Politics, Debating and Law.

KS3

At KS3, drama is explorative. Pupils work together in pairs and in groups on a wide variety of assignments during lessons. Over the course of a year, students undertake different workshops in physical expression, improvisation and extended stage skills. Through creative and constructive teamwork, students also develop a practical knowledge of different types of theatrical genre, show creativity and spontaneity through improvisations and develop physical/vocal freedom and confidence.

GCSE

At GCSE, we follow the Edexcel Drama course, which enables students to develop their creative skills as dramatists alongside an awareness of the social, historical and cultural factors embodied by the plays they study. Girls further hone their creative and analytical skills by directing set plays through rehearsal to performance and by devising their own piece of theatre from a stimulus and document within a Controlled Assessment. Finally, in Year 11, girls sit a written examination based on a set text which they have studied. All Year 11 students are eligible to apply for a Drama Scholarship.

A Level

We follow the Edexcel Drama course at A Level, which has three key elements. First, all students are required to conceive an original devised performance inspired by an original performance text and a chosen practitioner. Second, students write a 3,000 word portfolio, evidencing their journey through the creative process. Third, students conduct an investigation of two separate performance texts from which they must then perform a monologue/duologue and a group performance to demonstrate their theatre-making skills. It is a thrilling, yet well-rounded higher level apprenticeship in the theatre and the perfect platform for further study.

Co-Curricular

All senior girls are encouraged to perform in dramatic productions during their time at OHS, often in mixed-gender collaborations with other schools. Many students choose to help backstage, having learned production skills with our professional Theatre Manager. There exists a wide range of opportunities to produce, write, direct and perform one’s own plays with the support of the Drama department. Finally, House Drama is a vital component of Oxford High School, providing a fun, annual opportunity to devise, direct and perform a self-written play.

English

‘The only end of writing is to enable readers better to enjoy life or to endure it.’ Samuel Johnson

We believe in the power of literature to inspire, transform and move our students towards a deeper understanding of the world and themselves. On a daily basis we make this happen by empowering girls to write in a wide range of forms and genres, speaking to them as equals in discussion and debate and encouraging them to grapple with material that is diverse and challenging.

KS3

The objective of our KS3 curriculum is twofold: first, we aim to instil a love of literature that will last a lifetime; second, we seek to lay the foundations of excellence for GCSE by introducing the key skills of close analysis, precise expression and reasoned judgement. We also take every opportunity to foster girls’ creativity; a lesson at this point is just as likely to share the experience of ‘pied-ness’ in Hopkins’ ‘Pied Beauty’ through the flavour of lemon drizzle cake as through the minute unpicking of imagery and sound!

GCSE

We follow the CIE 9-1 IGCSE courses in English and English Literature because these provide us ample opportunity to refresh our schemes of work with the greatest canonical and contemporary texts – the ones we know will really speak to the girls. Another advantage of the CIE course is that coursework constitutes 25% of the literature qualification. Language skills and critical literacy, meanwhile, are practised by examining a wide range of fiction and non-fiction texts.

A Level

A popular and academically successful subject, A Level English takes students on a journey of discovery and self-realisation that provides the ideal platform for University study across a wide range of Humanities subjects. We follow the OCR syllabus, which affords each teacher the freedom to share their passion for the subject and engage in rich, seminar-style discussion. Students also benefit from the opportunity to submit two pieces of coursework, including the option of a creative response to their chosen texts.

Co-Curricular

Students celebrate their passion for English in a myriad of ways. Some contribute to or edit the school magazine, others enter creative writing competitions or participate in the GDST’s Chrystall Public Speaking Prize. Others still join the Junior or Senior Debating teams, sign-up for book group, compose poetry in creative writing club or attend talks by visiting academics and authors. A Level students also have the opportunity of going on mind-expanding tours to literary locales such as Brontë country or Woolf and Tennyson’s South Downs, while the biannual writer’s retreat to the Arvon Foundation’s Shropshire hideaway is not to be missed!

Geography

With issues such as migration, human development and climate change dominating the political agenda, there has never been a more important time to study Geography. As a department, we believe that Geography provides a vital forum to further one’s understanding, ask questions and seek answers. Geography’s strength comes from its unique ability to connect the social sciences with earth sciences and unite knowledge from different disciplines to interpret the bigger picture. A roomful of geographers will be confident analysing case studies and data, producing strong written arguments and offering new ideas.

KS3

The objective of the Year 7-8 curriculum is twofold: first, we teach the tools and skills needed for interpreting and appreciating one’s environment and, second, we help girl lay the foundations for the GCSE course. Local fieldwork experience provides a vital part of this process and the girls can be found in Summertown, at the Henley River and Rowing Museum or at Rushall Organic Farm investigating hypotheses.

GCSE

The AQA 9-1 course has a thematic approach, designed to develop an appreciation of the physical and human processes that shape our environment. Key themes include environmental hazards, climate change, glaciers, rivers, rainforests, deserts, urban challenges and development and resource management. There is no coursework, but fieldwork is a vital component and, to this end, we undertake physical and human investigations in Shotover Country Park and London Docklands which are tested in Paper 3 of the exam. There is also the opportunity to take part in our popular biennial trip to Iceland for students in Years 10-13.

A Level

At A Level, we follow the AQA course as this helps students develop a sensitive awareness of the environment whilst complementing any combination of A Level subjects to the benefit of the whole student. Units include physical cycles, changing places, population and the environment, hazards, global systems and governance. Another advantage of this course is that the coursework component (20% of the qualification) enables the girls to devise an investigation that is relevant to their personal subject interests and inspired by our residential fieldtrip to Slapton Ley FSC Centre in Devon.

Co-Curricular

We love competitions and encourage girls to pit their wits against other schools in competitions such as the Oxfordshire Geographical Association’s Worldwise Quiz (which our senior group won in 2018-19) and the Royal Geographical Society Young Geographer of the Year competition. Older students can be found attending monthly Geographical Association lectures by eminent local academics, running the ever-popular Junior Geography Club and entering University essay writing competitions.

History

‘History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.’ Lord Acton

The study of History enables students to understand the origins of ideas and institutions and to appreciate the significance of individuals and groups of people who have helped shape our world. Along with developing invaluable and wide-ranging skills, the subject encourages students to relish the stories of the past and to develop views of their own about events and individuals both famous and lesser known.

KS3

In Years 7 to 9, the curriculum provides a chronological survey of British, European and World History from 1066 to 1945. Year 7 students commence their studies with Medieval England (1066-1485), followed by Reformation and religious change under the Tudors. Year 8 students move on to the Tudor and Stuart monarchies before examining the British Empire and slave trade. In Year 9, students focus on the Industrial Revolution, Women’s suffrage, the First World War and the rise of Dictators prior to WWII.

IGCSE

The Edexcel IGCSE course provides an opportunity for students to study a number of fascinating and important periods of European and World History, including Germany 1918-45, China 1900-89 and superpower relations, 1943-72. Building on the knowledge and skills of the Key Stage 3 History course, students will develop their essay writing and source evaluation skills. The teaching is lively and discursive and involves debate, group work, audio-visual presentation and textual analysis.

A Level

The Edexcel A Level course focuses on the theme of revolution across a range of periods from rebellion and disorder under the Tudors (1485-1603) to conflict, revolution and settlement in England (1625-1701) and the Russian revolution (1894-1924). In the process, the course develops independent learning skills that will equip students to face undergraduate study with confidence. Greater analysis of primary source material, the study of historiography and the challenging of preconceptions of the past build exponentially on GCSE skills while a coursework element provides scope for extended individual research.

Co-Curricular

We have a thriving Junior History Club for Years 7 to 9 which offers a range of fun activities. Students take part in visits to Hampton Court Palace to tie in with the study of the Tudors and the Black Country Museum to enhance their understanding of the Industrial Revolution. A highlight for A Level students has been the fiercely contested historical cake competition!

Maths

‘The mathematical world is an extraordinary place; it’s worth spending time there’Marcus du Sautoy

Maths is a powerful tool with a huge range of applications. At OHS we believe everyone has the capacity for mathematical success and strive to support the development of essential skills in all our students as well as showing them how this creative, exciting, beautiful subject is relevant to their lives.

KS3

Our Key Stage 3 curriculum aims to lay a strong foundation of mathematical skills in all our students and instil in them the confidence necessary to achieve their mathematical potential. An emphasis on problem-solving encourages the girls to think outside the box and take risks in applying their knowledge to unfamiliar situations.

GCSE

We follow the Edexcel IGCSE 9-1 course which we start in Year 9. Delivering the course over 3 years means there is time to consolidate and deepen the girls’ understanding of the specification, as well as to broaden their perspective by introducing them to areas of Maths that push them beyond what is required. As they develop mathematically, the girls tackle increasingly complex problems and greater emphasis is placed on the need for carefully reasoned arguments and the precise use of notation.

 

 

 

A Level

Maths is the most popular A Level subject at OHS. We follow the Edexcel courses for Maths and Further Maths, which balance a core of Pure Maths with Statistics and Mechanics. Approaching problems creatively, logically and with an eye for detail, they meet a wide range of ideas and concepts from the abstract to the real-world (firing crossbows and analysing the habits of a ‘typical teenager’), providing them with a breadth and depth of mathematical skills suited to a huge variety of university courses.

Co-Curricular

Trips to venues such as Bletchley Park and the Museum of the History of Science enable students to explore real-life applications of their mathematical skills. We also take advantage of our proximity to the University by attending undergraduate lectures and study days, while eminent mathematicians frequently speak at meetings of our STEM Society. In school, girls enter the individual challenges from the UK Maths Trust, with many winning certificates or qualifying for the follow-on rounds.

Modern Foreign Languages

There are currently six Modern Languages taught at Oxford High School: French, Mandarin, Spanish, German, Russian and Italian. In Year 7, our pupils have to do both Mandarin and French. In Year 8, they are given the choice to take up another foreign language and advised to keep either French or Mandarin, although they can, in theory, choose any combination of two languages they want with the exception of Italian. At GCSE, pupils are strongly advised to keep a Modern Foreign Language and many of our girls will go on with two Modern Languages, sometimes in combination with a classical language, which they know will open many doors to them on the job market in the future. Extra speaking lessons with language assistants or teaching staff are offered in Years 11, 12 & 13.  All our languages are offered at A-level.

Chinese

Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, and since 2007 our expert Mandarin teachers have been teaching students about the  language and culture of this fascinating nation from the moment they join OHS. These studies open a window onto a vast, diverse country with a continuous history of over 5,000 years, which has contributed significantly to the progress of human civilization and continues to play a major global role today.

KS3

The aim of the course in KS3 is twofold: we seek to stimulate lasting interest in the language whilst at the same time laying solid linguistic foundations. We achieve this aim by giving the girls every opportunity to communicate in Chinese, including writing Chinese characters on the computer, so as to develop both their confidence and linguistic/grammatical knowledge. At all stages the language will be linked in to the huge variety and diversity of the country’s culture, custom and history.

GCSE

We follow the CIE IGCSE course. Girls study a range of topics related to their daily life and study. They learn to deal with increasingly spontaneous dialogues and to discuss relevant issues, communicating their opinions resourcefully. In Year 11, the girls also receive (in addition to their classroom allocation of three lessons per week) conversation lessons in small groups. Competence in using Chinese-language ICT is an ongoing focus, with students practising typing characters and using both QUIZLET and GOCHINESE to read, listen and speak Chinese.

A Level

We take the CIE Pre-U Mandarin Chinese course, which equips students with the skills to survive in a Chinese environment. Students are also encouraged to develop their language skills through a critical study of a period of China history and a piece of authentic literature work. Topics of study are organised around Chinese current affairs and the course is complemented by a Pre-U student study workshop run by the GDST as well as talks from scholars and scheduled trips.

Co-Curricular

In addition to weekly Chinese Cultural club for KS3, students are encouraged to regularly participate in national events such as reading/writing and calligraphy competitions. In Year 9, students embark on their annual trip to the British Museum and Chinatown to experience Chinese arts and Chinese New Year festivities. Best of all, we also run a biannual China trip which combines intensive language learning with cultural activities, a school exchange and excursions to some of the most famous sights in and around Beijing and Xi’an.

French

Impressionnisme, Art Nouveau, Existentialisme, Haute Couture and the Nouvelle Vague – these are just a few examples of the individuality, imagination and independence of French culture. To speak French is to be part of something elegant and creative, both exclusive and – given that French is the official language of the UN and the European Court of Justice – universal. That is why we seek to give our students an authentic, topical and profound experience when learning French.

KS3

French is streamed in Year 7 according to how much French the girls have been exposed to at their junior schools. Whatever their level, the principal aim is to introduce students to the information and language that will help them to cope in a variety of situations whilst in France or to have a conversation with someone of their age. This entails a wide variety of fun projects and activities whilst teaching students to be rigorous with grammar and spelling. Grammar work occurs within the framework of topics and is revised and tested on a regular basis.

GCSE

We follow the Cambridge IGCSE specification, which enables us to develop greater fluency and complexity in handling both the spoken and written language. Topics introduced in Years 7 – 9 are revisited, but with the expectation that pupils will be able to express themselves with a complexity and maturity more appropriate to their age. More advanced topics are also covered, such as the world of work and future career plans, modern world issues and new technologies.

A Level

At A Level, we follow the AQA syllabus, which offers an exciting range of topics and a strong emphasis on personal research for the oral. Lessons are enriched through the use of recent resources from magazines, the web and other authentic stimuli, such as podcasts and recordings from French TV and radio. We also host workshops on translation with a professional translator and incorporate a strong emphasis on French cinema as part of the A2 syllabus. Many students go on to read French at top universities as a main subject or as part of a combined course.

Co-Curricular

We offer a huge range of co-curricular activities to enrich our students’ appreciation of French. These include the annual home-stay trip to Angers, lectures by French academics and professionals, a range of clubs, French-language plays and a spelling bee for Years 7-8 and a grammar drop-in clinic for GCSE students. Sixth Formers, meanwhile, benefit from our Oxbridge French Literature Club, Oxbridge competitions and a Sixth Form French Day outing to Oxford with Alliance Française.

German

‘You can have a lot of fun with the German language. You can tease it, play with it, invent huge words…then turn for relief to the pristine poems of Hölderlin or Heine, and remind yourself that German can attain heights of simplicity and beauty that make it, for many of us, a language of the gods.’ This analysis formed part of John Le Carré’s 2017 address to a Prize-Giving ceremony for the Oxford German Olympiad, a competition in which many OHS Germanists participate each year. The value of learning German, then, is not merely that of mastering a major European language but, as Le Carré notes, of ‘helping to balance the European argument, making it decent and keeping it civilised.’

KS3

By the end of Year 9 students are able to write and hold a basic conversation on topics including their friends and family, their school subjects and their plans for the summer. They acquire a broad working vocabulary, which they are encouraged to expand through wider reading. Magazines and readers complement class work, and there is an annual interactive theatre afternoon in German.

GCSE

We follow the Cambridge IGCSE syllabus at GCSE, supplementing text book materials with short stories, video clips, films, and interactive grammar and vocabulary practice with German websites and publications. In Year 11, a weekly small group lesson with a native Fremdsprachenassistent provides an exciting opportunity for girls to practise their speaking. There are reading clubs at lunch times, and in the summer term there is the option to attend German literature classes at Jesus College.

A-Level

The A Level German course aims to develop awareness and understanding of other cultures and civilisations through the study of German society, literature and film, and by means of an individual research project. Students gain a thorough knowledge of German grammar and thus learn to speak naturally and accurately, and to write with clarity and precision. In the past four years, A Level Germanists have gone on to prestigious Universities to read German, often combined with other languages and specialisms such as Law, History and Linguistics.

Co-Curricular

The German Department runs a busy Co-Curricular calendar, including the annual German Exchange to Fürstenried West Gymnasium in Munich, inter-school German-language events, trips to the annual Oxford Liederfestival, competing in the Oxford German Olympiad and producing original artwork inspired by artists and writers of the German Expressionist movement with the Art Department. We also support Sixth Formers in entering the UK-German Connection competition, through which OHS Germanists frequently win places on summer language courses and conferences in Berlin, Bremen, Mönchen-Gladbach and Weimar.

Italian

Considerate la vostra semenza: fatti non foste a viver come bruti, ma per seguir virtute e conoscenza. Dante Alighieri (Canto V, Inferno)

Italian is a fun-filled yet academic subject, and girls who study Italian discover its fundamental place at the heart of western civilisation and modern European culture. Learning Italian develops skills highly valued by employers, including creativity, precision, and communication, and many of our Italianists have found that learning a less ‘mainstream’ language gave them the edge in their professional lives.

Key Stage 3

At this stage students acquire a basic knowledge of Italian by studying topics concerning everyday life, seasonal events and topical experiences. From the outset, independent learning and rules for working out are encouraged, developing essential theoretical tools for understanding grammatical categories. Life in Italy, as well as Italian history and civilisation, are used as constant underlying themes throughout the teaching.

GCSE

We study the AQA syllabus at GCSE, which comprises a paper each on reading, listening, writing and speaking. Girls become confident in the use of tenses and in developing accuracy in the active and passive application of the language. Translation to and from Italian as well as speaking practice in realistic scenarios equips girls for exam success – but we also make time for music, history and current affairs so as to cultivate an appreciation of Italian culture.

A Level

Studying the Edexcel A Level syllabus, students deepen their knowledge of Italian language and culture through a diverse range of topics including changing families, immigration and the media, as well as historical subjects like Fascism, the Resistance and its relevance to the foundation of the EU. Students also study literary works and cinema such as Pirandello’s Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (‘Six Characters in Search for and Author’) and Tornatore’s Nuovo Cinema Paradiso – both of which provide excellent springboards for developing interdisciplinary awareness and general knowledge.

Co-Curricular

While studying Italian, students are encouraged to seek and develop interdisciplinary links to other subjects and interests from Music to Art, from English to Science, from Classics to Geography, from History to Religious studies. Their learning process is supported whenever possible through educational visits to galleries, museums, theatres, cinemas and lectures, as well as exchange trips to Italy and social events usually involving pizza!

Russian

OHS is proud to retain one of the leading Russian departments in the UK. The subject thrives within the school, with strong exam results and girls reading Russian at Oxford, Cambridge and many other Russell Group Universities. Teaching and learning is enhanced through a wide range of IT and multimedia to encourage pupils of all abilities to fulfil their potential. The department is headed by Mrs Ekaterina Solovyova, a graduate of Moscow State University and the author of many Russian teaching materials.

KS3

Students can choose to do Russian as their additional language from Year 8 and lessons at this stage are filled with fun, yet highly challenging activities which rapidly draw students into the world of beautiful Cyrillic handwriting, Slavic accent and Russian culture. By the end of the first year the girls can converse freely on a number of basic topics, such as food, family, personal information, and holidays.

GCSE

Following the Edexcel syllabus, students rapidly acquire a deeper command of grammatical structure and vocabulary through topics on the Environment, Media and Entertainment. Conversation skills develop rapidly through regular sessions with native speakers and our popular Russian Exchange offers a unique opportunity for students to stay with a Russian family for a fortnight and consolidate their learning. Some of our “Russianists” are offered work experience placements in Russian companies and even at the Russian department at BBC.

A Level

Russian is a popular option in the Sixth Form, with a broad spectrum of cultural, cinematic and literary study engendering deeper understanding of the nation’s language and culture. The girls achieve fluency by the end of the A-Level course, enabling them to hold conversations with native speakers across a plethora of topics. The girls participate in the Sixth Form Russian Conference organised by OHS, where they encounter University-style workshops and attend the lectures of leading Russian academics and cultural commentators.

Co-Curricular

Beyond the curriculum, we run theatre and ballet trips, lectures, clubs and various exciting events to support our students’ passion for Russian language, culture, history and literature. Our girls participate in various national Russian language competitions, including the Russian Essay Competition, with OHS girls often winning the top prizes.

Spanish

KS3

The Year 8-9 course offers a lively, communicative approach underpinned by clear grammar progression. Students are introduced to at least one past tense (the preterite), the immediate future tense and the concept of compound verbs. They become confident through using Spanish in imaginative ways, such as role plays and creative writing, which helps prepare them for the oral, listening reading and writing components at GCSE. Students further enrich their learning by conducting research projects on Spanish and Latin American culture, sampling Spanish food and enjoying Spanish films.

GCSE

We follow the Edexcel IGCSE, which is ideal for developing greater confidence and fluency in the language as well as cultivating knowledge and understanding of the culture and communities in which Spanish is spoken. In Year 11 students have an extra lesson per week in small groups with the Spanish Assistant: these lessons with a native speaker allow extra oral practice and help students to feel much more secure when speaking Spanish.

A Level

We follow the AQA A Level, which permits students to study two works of literature and learn about artistic culture, regional identity, political life, and multiculturalism across the Spanish-speaking world. Students also deepen their love of Spanish by conducting a research topic of their choosing, which is presented as part of the oral exam at the end of the year. Together, these elements enable students not only to flourish academically (generally several students each year go on to study Spanish at universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and UCL), but also to communicate fluently in Spanish so they can use their language skills in later life.

Co-Curricular

We offer a Beginners’ Spanish Club for those who wish to get a taste of Spanish as well as a Drop-In Club for those who want a little extra help. Outside the classroom, we host a Spanish-language play once a year and students in Years 9-10 compete in the recently launched Oxford University Spanish Writing Competition. We have run study trips to Spain in the past (Madrid and Barcelona), and plan to offer further such trips in the future.

Music

All human beings are musical. Our vision is to help girls develop their musicality to the utmost in whatever form suits them best.

Research shows that the best learning in Music comes from practical engagement with sound. As such, singing and playing are central activities in most of our classroom lessons. Many girls also enrich their classroom learning with instrumental or singing lessons from our outstanding teaching staff. Opportunities to perform are ample, thanks to a wide range of choirs, orchestras and other ensembles which expose players to a huge variety of styles and cater for all standards.

KS3

In Years 7 and 8 Music forms part of the ‘Circus’, and is rotated with other subjects. Project work in Year 7 introduces fundamental concepts such as rhythm, pulse, key, melody and how to link musical ideas to stories and emotions. In Year 8, pupils learn about chords, chord sequences, scales and improvisation in a project based on the Blues. Music is optional in Year 9, and features a range of topics including Baroque Music, Opera, the Origins of Pop and Fusions, all of which provide scope for individual research and composition.

GCSE

Pupils who opt for Music at GCSE follow the Edexcel specification. This comprises three units:
(i) Performance – one solo and one ensemble performance which account for 30% of the marks;
(ii) Composition – two individual compositions, which account for 30% of the marks; and,
(iii) Appraising – a listening paper based around eight set pieces, which accounts for 40% of the marks. This course provides a lot of scope for pupils to pursue their own interests in Music, rewarding both creativity and academic thoroughness.

A Level

Music A Level develops the ability to explain and link complex concepts, master technical vocabulary and display both creativity in composition and communication in performance. This combination of skills provides an excellent foundation for other subjects at degree level as well as for studying Music itself. At A Level we follow the Edexcel specification which breaks down into the following elements:
(i) Performance – an 8-12 minute recital of music of at least Grade 7-8 standard (30%);
(ii) Composition – advanced harmonisation and an extended piece of composition (30%);
(iii) Appraising – a critical evaluation of set works testing students’ ability to write accurately and incorporate context (40%).

Co-Curricular

Our Music Department is a buzzing hive of voices, instruments and harmony, offering a packed calendar of choirs and orchestras for all ages and standards of player as well as smaller groups such as string quartets, chamber choirs and a cappella groups. Each term we present a major Lower School and a major Senior School concert, using venues such as Oxford Town Hall, the Sheldonian Theatre and a number of Oxford colleges. There are frequent chamber concerts and tea concerts, Open Mic nights, masterclasses with guest artists and a biannual whole-school musical staged in conjunction with the Drama Department. Music scholarships and exhibitions are available on entry to Years 7, 9 and 12.

Religious Studies, Philosophy and Ethics

Why are we here? What is it to be good? What does it mean to be a person? What is real? How do I know anything? What shapes people’s view of the world? What is my ‘blik’? Religious Studies, Philosophy and Ethics afford us the possibility of examining these fundamental questions in an academically rigorous way, drawing upon centuries of spiritual, ethical and philosophical contemplation.

KS3

At KS3, we have created a well-rounded curriculum that includes the topics of justice, looking for God, ancient religion, places of worship, spirited arts, Lao Tse, Confucius, the Buddha and Jesus. We also debate current issues and tackle contemporary non-literate beliefs, Creation, the numinous, festivals, karma, mysticism, pilgrimage, relationships, religion and art.

GCSE

The Department currently follows the OCR J625 Religious Studies GCSE (9-1) course, which includes papers in Christianity, Hinduism, Philosophy and Ethics. “Religion is playing an increasingly important role in state politics, international relations, and social actions. The fostering of religious understanding has immense implications for individual, national and international well-being. By developing your knowledge of religions, you will take valuable skills into whatever career you choose”. (University of Cambridge)

A Level

At A Level, the Department follows the Edexcel 9RS0 Religious Studies course, which includes papers in Philosophy, Ethics and Theology. The skills developed in philosophy, ethics and theology are those that employers and universities value most: those of analysis, textual criticism, empathy and an ability to clearly express one’s own opinion in order to persuade others of your point of view. Mastery of these skills represents a clear benefit when entering the adult world and, furthermore, our students will be exploring life, the fundamental and ultimate questions in the process. It’s really quite fun.

Co-Curricular

The Department organises opportunities for foreign exploration and local visits, whilst visits to Amsterdam, New York and Washington are planned, as are more local visits to the Oxford University Centre for Hindu Studies and Christ Church Cathedral.

 

Sciences

Science is all about questioning, asking the how and why, and trying to answer these questions through practical investigation and empirical observation. Our focus is not simply about learning facts and the repetition of these, it is about developing the skills that will enable pupils to become scientifically literate throughout their life. These skills are based on imaginative problem-solving, creative thinking and a development of experimental design.

KS3

Our Key Stage 3 syllabus covers all three sciences and has been designed with experimentation in mind. We use these two years to develop students into young people who are willing to take risks and not afraid to make mistakes. To see that the experiment they planned did not work, and, rather than feel defeat, look at the problem and explore ways in which to make it work. Experimental design is therefore at the heart of what we do.

GCSE

At GCSE, all students study the Edexcel International GCSE. All students start this in Year 9, with Biology, Chemistry and Physics being taught by subject specialists. Most students at the end of Year 9 will commence the triple award, which culminates in sitting three separate science IGCSEs. Some students opt for the dual award, giving them the option of taking an additional GCSE to increase the breadth of their subjects. Both courses provide a solid foundation for science study at A-level.

A Level Biology

Biology is a popular subject at A-level, with over half the cohort in Years 12 and 13 choosing to study it. We follow the OCR A specification as it provides a good introduction to the range of biological sciences, and has practical investigation at its heart. Naturally, the theoretical knowledge required is much greater than at IGCSE, but it is also more satisfying and interesting, and students relish exploring topics in depth. We continue to place a strong emphasis on both investigative practical work and independent learning, developing skills that are highly valued by universities.

A Level Chemistry

Four words describe chemistry: practical, inspirational, cutting-edge, beautiful. Chemistry is the ‘universal bridge’ across the sciences, underpinning and complementing both Biology and Physics. It comprehends molecules, nanostructures, chemical reactions, organic and inorganic processes, and drives the materials, green, pharmaceutical, biological and physical science fields. At OHS, we follow the AQA syllabus as this provides an excellent range of both physical and organic chemistry. The ability to think logically, express ideas coherently, and gain competency with a range of key practical techniques is also at the heart of this course. Chemistry is essential if you wish to pursue a medical-related or science-based career.

Pre-U Physics

From September 2019, OHS will be offering the Cambridge Pre-U course in Physics. This is a highly respected course amongst universities, due to its added depth and rigour, and emphasis on practical and mathematical skills. The Pre-U course includes a large Practical Investigation in Y13, allowing students to plan, prepare and undertake a series of experiments in an area of interest of their choosing. These investigations go far go beyond the syllabus, encouraging genuine scientific exploration and curiosity and the whole course is a superb preparation for further study of physics or engineering.

Co-Curricular

The Science Department offers a wide range of clubs, including Go Apiary (the school bee-keeping club), Ecology Club, Junior Science Club and Whipworm Club, which trains girls how to use genomic curation software. We also compete in a wide range of competitions, including the annual Salters’ Festival of Chemistry, the RSC Top of the Bench and Chemistry Challenge and the Biology Challenge. For trips and visits, we take advantage of our proximity to the University and science parks to run day-trips to locations such as the Rutherford Appleton Science laboratories, while annual residential trips to sites such as Cern are a high-point of the scientists’ calendar! Our participation in programmes such as the Ionic Liquids IRIS project and the bronze, silver and gold CREST projects is complemented by our BioMed and STEM Society, which invites prominent speakers from fascinating scientific fields to give pupils a taste of the scientific life beyond school.

Textiles

 ‘In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different’ – Coco Chanel

If, like fashion designer Coco Chanel, you dream of becoming an irreplaceable icon of fashion or design, then look no further than the OHS Textiles Department. Here, amid richly coloured materials, textured fabrics, decorative embellishments, and elaborate constructions, you will create the fashion designs of the future, encounter costumes inspired by the past and enjoy fabric art and textile adventures.

KS3

At Key Stage 3, students follow a creative course that allows them to experiment with different approaches through a variety of processes, such as printing, machine stitching, dye work, appliqué and embellishment. Themes will encourage research imagery and can be inspired by the natural world, stories or views of a landscape. Findings will be developed into a variety of textile outcomes such as cushions, puppets, bags and fabric panels.

GCSE

In Years 10 and 11 students produce a coursework folio accounting for 60% of the GCSE. Sketches, personal photographs and observational studies document personal creative investigations, and ideas are refined via experimentation with different working methods and visits to galleries and museums for inspiration. Costume pieces, accessories and fashion designs are always popular, but there is also scope to work in a conceptual way through wall hangings, panels and 3D textile forms. In Year 11, a timed practical accounts for the remaining 40% of the course.

A Level

At A Level, students present their studies, research and design developments through worksheets as well as annotated sketchbooks. Themes are selected that focus on personal engagement and ideas are explored through analytical observation and individual study. Technical skills are extended and honed, while materials are used in inventive ways in a variety of personal responses. An extended essay of 3,000 words explores an aspect of textiles, costume or fashion relating to the individual creative journey. All work is exhibited at the end of the course with 60% of marks allocated to folio work and 40% to a timed personal project.

Co-Curricular

The studios are open for students to use both before and after school, during lunchtimes and private study lessons. This provides additional time for work on existing or diverse projects and allows for the development of complex technical skills, as well as the opportunity to attempt work on a larger scale. A number of students continue their studies to degree level in Fashion, costume or textile design. Others work in a wide variety of creative industries across the world.

Where Next?

Come and see for yourself

We are always happy to welcome you for a visit to our school, so that you can see for yourself how our girls learn, flourish and excel. Check for the next open morning or get in touch.

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