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 for A-Level is of a curriculum that inspires as well as challenges, and it is the 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.
In the Lower Sixth, our students typically take four A-Level courses, with those taking Further Mathematics potentially taking five. We offer an expanded range of subjects from GCSE, all taught by specialist staff and guarantee to build the timetable around the choices you make, not vice versa, so that many different combinations of subjects are possible.
To read the curriculum in detail for each subject, please follow the links below.
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.
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.
Without a doubt our most popular co-curricular activity is Art Club, which runs before school, at lunch and after school. A-Level students love having a relaxed, supportive environment in which to consolidate their artistic practice. 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.
Latin and Ancient Greek are alive and kicking 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.
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 10 OHS girls in the past 9 years going on to read Classics at Oxbridge (and one at Harvard).
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, the Bay of Naples and Portsmouth (Year 8); visits to the Ashmolean and British Museums, day trips to Corinium (Cirencester) and Bath and to the Greek plays staged by UCL and Oxford/Cambridge. We enter pupils into many competitions including Oxfordshire Classical Reading, the Euroclassica Latin & Greek Language Olympiad and the Cambridge University Classical Myth Competition. Classics students also enter various Oxbridge essay prizes and attend the Bryanston Greek Summer School and archaeological digs in the summer.
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.
In the Sixth Form, Computer Science students graduate 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.
Computing students enter a growing range of competitions 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).
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.
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.
All senior girls are encouraged to perform in dramatic productions during their time at OHS, often in mixed-gender collaborations with other schools. Sixth Form students experience ever more opportunities to help out backstage, learning applied production skills with our professional Theatre Manager. There also 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.
Economics is more than just a subject – it’s a way of interpreting the world. At A-Level, students study microeconomics, how firms and individuals behave and macroeconomics, including unemployment, inflation, taxes, exchange rates and international development. Students go on to study a wide range of courses from Economics and Management at Oxford to PPE and Economics in a wide range of top universities in the UK and abroad.
Students do need a degree of numeracy for Economics A-Level, but only to a GCSE level, such as calculating percentages. The subject is assessed with short answers, data response questions and essays. At degree level, by contrast, Economics becomes very mathematical and A-Level Maths is essential. As a new subject in our Sixth Form, Economics provides girls with a great opportunity to explore something entirely different and of great interest to prospective universities.
As well as entering Economics essay competitions, OHS students habitually lead and run their own Economics conferences for other Trust and local schools, recently on the topics of the environment and economic development. They also have written an Economics magazine. Students also have the opportunity, when possible, to go on annual foreign trips, with the biennial October trip to New York and Washington DC providing a highpoint of the A-Level course, with excursions to places such as the World Bank Museum, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the United Nations. In alternate years, students have the chance to visit a European city or cities to find out about businesses and the running of their economies, such as Prague, Brussels, or Amsterdam.
We are a department that believes profoundly in the universal power of great writing to inspire and move us to a deeper understanding of the world and ourselves. We see girls’ freedom to pursue insights and ideas with confidence as central to their development of creative thinking and critical judgment. By writing in a wide range of forms and genres, engaging in the to-and-fro of questioning and grappling with material that is diverse and challenging, Oxford High girls learn to express themselves with fluency, accuracy and exceptional flair.
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.
Our Sixth Form students celebrate their passion for English in myriad ways. Some contribute to or edit the school magazine, others enter creative writing competitions, others still join the 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!
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.
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.
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 and many students extend their subject interests by entering University essay writing competitions. Finally, Sixth Formers also help run our KS3 Geography Club. Sessions include: exploring new places, GIS mapping projects, treasure hunts and competitions. Geography has strong links with HUMSOC and students from Year 12 each year have the opportunity to be Geography Ambassadors.
‘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.
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.
Sixth Form Historians benefit from a wide range of trips to sites of historical interest both locally and further afield. Of course, the fiercely contested historical cake competition is another highlight for our A Level students.
‘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.
Maths is the most popular A Level subject at OHS. We follow the Edexcel courses for Maths and Further Maths which both balance a core of Pure Maths with Statistics and Mechanics and offer the girls the breadth and depth of mathematical skills required for a huge variety of university courses. 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’ can help them put their knowledge in context) and focus on approaching problems creatively, logically and with an eye for detail.
We take advantage of our proximity to the University by attending undergraduate lectures and study days, while eminent mathematicians are invited to speak in school. All Sixth Form mathematicians are encouraged to enter the UK Maths Trust Senior Maths Challenge, with many winning certificates or qualifying for the follow-on rounds, and we also enter students for the Mathematical Olympiad for Girls.
Modern Foreign Languages
There are currently six Modern Languages taught at A-Level: French, Mandarin, Spanish, German, Russian and 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 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.
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.
In addition to our 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.
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.
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.
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 and French-language plays. Sixth Formers, meanwhile, benefit from our Oxbridge French Literature Club, Oxbridge competitions and a Sixth Form French Day outing to Oxford with Alliance Française.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.’
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.
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 alongside 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.
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.
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.
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!
Spanish is a fantastic language to learn: rich and subtle, it offers true academic challenge as well as global relevance as the second most-spoken language in the world. Delving into Hispanic culture offers a window onto a whole new world of film, music, art, history, politics, food and fiestas. Right from Year 8, when they begin learning Spanish, students boost their love of Spanish through the freedom with which they explore this world – whether that’s Year 9 students researching an annual tomato-throwing festival or Year 13 students evaluating whose dictatorship had the greatest impact, Franco’s or Pinochet’s.
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.
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.
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.
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%).
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 Year 12.
Politics is how we manage our own world and the world around us.
At OHS, it’s a popular new subject in the Sixth Form that has many students choosing to opt for it as an Honours degree course or to combine it with other disciplines such as PPE at Oxford, HSPS at Cambridge or International Relations. Politics is a hugely topical subject, encompassing topical issues from Brexit in the UK to the election of Donald Trump in the United States. Students love the chance to debate ideas and to see a subject unfolding in real-time before their eyes.
Politics at A Level consists of UK Politics and Government, US Government and Politics, a comparative study of the UK and US, core ideologies and an optional ideology. Uniquely, we offer students the opportunity to choose their own optional ideology from a choice of anarchism, ecologism, feminism, multiculturalism and nationalism as a guided research project in Year 12. It is assessed by essays and some shorter questions, some of which have stimulus material.
Students have organised and run Politics conferences for other Trust and local schools including ones on Women in Politics and US foreign policy. They also enter Politics essay competitions. OHS students regularly go on Politics trips to the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the UK Supreme Court. They also go on school trips abroad, when possible, including the biennual trips in election years to New York and Washington DC, where the itinerary includes visits to the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Pentagon and the United Nations. In alternate years, students can visit a European city to look at the politics with recent forays focusing on Brussels, Strasbourg, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. Students run a mock election on Open Evening every year which is a very good barometer of political opinion!
“The brain is wider than the sky.” Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
In the fascinating world of Psychology, we explore people, the mind and behaviour. Highly diverse, it interpolates cutting-edge research in neuroscience with more philosophical material from Descartes and Locke and entailing the use of experiments data analysis, debate and discussion. Students who study Psychology do so to gain a greater understanding of themselves and the people around them, seeking to comprehend why we behave the way we do.
The specification that we follow at Oxford High School is AQA A, which will introduce you to some of the fundamentals of Psychology such as the approaches that explains human behaviour from the perspective of different psychologists using current scenarios. The specification is divided as follows:
Paper 1: ‘Introductory Topics’,
Paper 2: ‘Psychology in Context’,
Paper 3: ‘Issues and Options in Psychology’.
The range of topics we explore will give you insights to various aspects of life apart from developing important skills valued by higher education (HE) and employers including critical analysis, independent thinking and research. Scientific thinking is important as at least 25-30% of the overall assessment comes from research methods and ‘how science works’ and another 10% from mathematical skills, which makes Psychology a new science subject.
In addition, OHS Psychology students are asked to undertake a small-scale research project to refine their research skills. In previous years, the research projects have taken place on a range of different areas in Psychology such as an in-depth study of the halo and horns effect, our ability to concentrate under the influence of different types of music, whether there is evidence for similarities in level of attractiveness in married couples, and researching the potential existence of gender stereotyping in children’s literature.
The specification will appeal to students from all fields of study, as it builds on skills developed in the sciences and humanities, which enables progression into a wide range of other subjects. Psychology explores a broad range of everyday scenarios which is seen as beneficial in a number of careers including business and marketing, human resources, clinical, education, sports, counselling, law and many more. For more information on careers in Psychology, visit British Psychological Society website.
At OHS we hold events for our students and invite external speakers to share their expert knowledge in specialist fields of Psychology. We also take students on visits, such as our trip to the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford; the MSc Poster Presentations at Oxford where graduate students present the findings of their highly interesting research projects; and the Brain Network Dynamics Unit, an open day designed specifically for A-Level students. Psychology students also enjoy a day at Psychology Conference, attending fascinating talks in areas such as anxiety disorders, the psychology of cognitive neuroscience, and the science of laughter and other interesting areas. Our students also take part in the many essay writing competitions, Psychology research competitions and we are proud to say that the OHS Psychology team also won the GDST Psychology Cup for 2019.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Are you a naturally inquisitive person who wants to know more about how living organisms function? Then Biology is the subject for you! If you are inspired by the world around you and often find yourself wondering how our bodies work and why organisms interact with each other, then you are already thinking like a biologist. Biology is a fantastic A level subject that will enable you to develop a wide range of transferable academic and practical skills. It is greatly valued by future employers and provides a firm foundation for the study of Biological Sciences, Natural Sciences, Medicine and other related subjects at university.
Biology is a very popular subject among the Sixth Form students, with approximately 50% of the year group studying for the A level each year. At OHS, we follow the OCR Biology A specification (H420) as it provides an excellent introduction to a wide range of biological principles, and has practical investigation at its heart. Naturally, the theoretical knowledge required is much greater than at GCSE, but it is also more satisfying and interesting, and students relish exploring topics in greater depth. The modules covered during Year 12 include: Foundations in Biology, Exchange and Transport and Biodiversity, Evolution and Disease. The modules covered during Year 13 include: Communication, Homeostasis and Energy and Genetics, Evolution and Ecosystems. Throughout both years we continue to place a strong emphasis on both investigative practical work and independent
learning, developing skills that are highly valued by universities.
The course is covered by nine periods a week, shared between two teachers. The Head of Biology is Miss Zoe Steer. Dr Paul Weeks, Miss Susan Berry and Mrs Maria Whittington also teach A Level. A team of science technicians assists the department and for biology, this is Mr Neil Dighton.
There are numerous excellent co-curricular opportunities on offer for students completing A level Biology. We are always keen to support students with taking the lead and exploring new opportunities whether that be by running a club, inviting external speakers to OHS, participating in research projects or entering local, national or even international competitions. Regular features of the co-curricular programme include STEM outreach, STEM talks, MedSoc, Crest Awards, Biology Olympiad and Go Apiary to name a few. Go Apiary is our OHS beekeeping club led by Dr Weeks. We currently have three thriving hives and regularly extract and sell OHS honey and beeswax candles!
Year 13 also begins with a weekend residential to the beautiful Nettlecombe Court Field Studies Centre in Exmoor, Devon. The field trip focuses on developing a range of ecological sampling skills (including bat detecting!) and culminates in the completion of an independent research project.
‘Chemistry begins in the stars. The stars are the source of the chemical elements, which are the building blocks of matter and the core of our subject.’ – Peter Atkins
Simply put, Chemistry is a beautiful subject, cutting-edge, utterly inspirational. 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. If you want to understand what constitutes the world around you, you are a natural chemist. The clean air you breathe, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, how you communicate, the streets you walk along and the buildings you inhabit are all underpinned by Chemistry. It has become the driving force behind our ability to resolve so many global problems, now and in the future. From clean energy sources to healthcare, from global food production to the safe disposal of waste, it is essential in our fight for sustainability. You will build upon the rules and processes that you have studied at GCSE, delve deeper into more complex models, and build up intricate organic synthesis pathways to discover more about this wonderful subject. Chemistry is by nature a practical subject, with classroom experiments used to illustrate the concepts being explored.
This is a long-standing, successful subject that routinely attracts a high number of students, who have chosen a diverse range of other subject choices in combination with this one. This is a rigorous A level which develops skills and assets greatly valued by future employers, such as team working, problem-solving, presentation, practical and mathematical skills. It naturally builds on concepts already covered at GCSE, with practical investigation being at the heart of this specification. We follow the AQA Chemistry A level course (7405), providing an excellent foundation in organic, inorganic and physical chemistry that lends itself naturally for a superb preparation to continue studying Chemistry, Natural Sciences, any of the sciences themselves, or a related subject such as Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Biomedical Engineering, or Psychology. It is essential for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Sciences. This also marries well with Law, Economics, Politics, Geology and Architecture to name just a few. Above all else, however, we would like you to study Chemistry because you enjoy it. We love our subject and hope that you will appreciate and enjoy this just as much as we do.
Modules covered in Year 12 include: atomic structure, amount of substance, bonding, energetics, kinetics, equilibria, redox, periodicity, group 2 and 7, and organic. These are built upon in Year 13, which also includes: acids and bases, thermodynamics, rate equations, electrode potentials, transition metals and aqueous ions, biochemistry and analytical techniques. Throughout all are key required practicals needed for the practical endorsement part of the course. Practical work is also examined within the paper, hence making sure pupils have a clear understanding of not only how to do, but also why this is being done. The course is covered by nine periods a week and shared between two teachers. The Head of Chemistry (and Head of Science) is Dr Emma Regardsoe. Dr Mark Rushton, Mr Jack Sobey, Mrs Nikki Westwood and Dr Ed Batchelar all teach A level. A team of science technicians assist the department and for Chemistry this is Miss Catherine Droungou.
Pupils are continually encouraged to explore the material covered in the course in more depth, and we are always here to support pupils to take ownership of their learning and interests. Pupils enter the RSC Chemistry Olympiad and L6 Cambridge Chemistry Challenge, opportunities that set their learning in unfamiliar settings, related to real-world challenges, giving pupils a taste of the world beyond the confines of the curriculum. We have many successes with these but it is the inspiration behind the questions that is most important. Pupils enter a range of essay competitions, such as Newnham College, Peterhouse, and Immerse Education essay competitions to name a few. Students have taken on their own independent research, for example through Gold CREST awards, and the Armourers and Brasiers TATA Sixth Form Materials Prize. Numerous opportunities in terms of STEM-outreach, STEM discussion groups, and STEM seminars provide leadership opportunities as well as a chance to explore their own interests, as does our student-led magazine, The Medical Myriad. The Year 12 Chemistry day is always a particular highlight during the year.
‘Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think’ – Werner Heisenberg
A level Physics is where you can really take your first steps in exploring the true weirdness of the universe. As well as the traditional classical Physics, we look at topics not seen in GCSE such as special relativity and quantum mechanics. These can show us not only the rigour of explaining relatively simple phenomena in detail, but also encourage us to look beyond our limited everyday experience to consider the universe at its most extreme. From sub-atomic particle physics to cosmology and astrophysics, we really do cover the full range!
Physics continues to grow in popularity at OHS. We follow the AQA A level syllabus which gives an excellent grounding in the most important content and skills, as well as offering an option topic which will be chosen by class vote in Year 13 from Astrophysics, Medical Physics, Engineering Physics, Turning Points in Physics and Electronics. The course encourages students to develop their practical skills as well as their problem-solving ability and offers a high level of challenge for all. It is possible to study Physics without A level Maths, although we recommend that students take both as Maths will help significantly with the understanding of some of the more complex topics later in the course.
We encourage students to take part in external competitions such as the British Physics Olympiad, in which we have had considerable success in recent years. Many students also achieve highly in various national essay competitions and any students interested in engineering are supported and encouraged to apply for an Arkwright Scholarship.
We aim to offer at least one trip each year, often to the Particle Physics Masterclass at Rutherford Appleton laboratories or A level Physics Live! in London. We also aim to offer our regular trip to CERN in Geneva. Within school, the STEM society regularly has outside speakers and Sixth Formers have the option of joining Astronomy club.
‘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.
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, whilst 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.
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.