Biology is a rapidly advancing Science with many modern biotechnological and genetic aspects. As a result, the department is constantly adapting to changes in the current state of knowledge within the breadth of specialist areas that come under the Biological Sciences.
The teaching staff have a wide range of interests and experience, which enables the department to provide an inspirational and stimulating environment for students of all ages. We aim to not only increase the biological and scientific knowledge of the students, but also promote their inquisitiveness and develop their experimental and analytical skills. The laboratories are fully resourced and the department is well-supported to provide an environment conducive to a ‘hands-on’ learning approach. Investigative work also takes place outdoors in the relevant sections of the curriculum and we have our own wildlife site, developed some years ago with the help of a team of Sixth Form students.
The department comprises three fully qualified and very experienced teaching members and two dedicated technicians. Between us we have a wide range of interests and specialisms.
Mr Don Clarke recalls that, as early as the age of ten, he was collecting butterflies - pinning them out in rows in mahogany cabinets. He states that his interests in biology “blossomed” at secondary school where a Natural History Society encouraged an interest in all things biological, but particularly Taxidermy and Ecology. Once at university, studying zoology, Mr Clarke also developed an interest in wildlife photography that continues to this day. Indeed, he fairly recently self-studied for an A Level in Photography and now also teaches this at Sutton Valence. Mr. Clarke is long-serving at the school and is also the Director of Studies. He taught the fathers of some of our current Fourth Form students! He is a member of the Society of Biology and a Chartered Biologist.
Mr Andrew Hammersley was originally a research scientist at the University of Cambridge, working on the tropical disease Schistosomiasis and also worked for Cantab Pharmaceuticals. He has taught Biology at Sutton Valence since 2000. Prior to this he taught in Lincolnshire.
Junior Curriculum and Key Stage 3
In the First and Second Form the sciences are taught together in an integrated approach. These year groups have the same teacher all year to ease the transition to Science at Secondary School level. We currently use the Exploring Science resources, which aim to teach both the fundamental ideas of science as well as the key processes of how science works. First and Second Form pupils also have the opportunity to take part in Science Clubs throughout the year, including a Wildlife Club during the Summer Term. In the Third Form the three science subjects are taught separately by specialists, as we lay the foundations for the start of the GCSE courses. In the final term of the Third Form pupils begin work on the first topics of the AQA GCSE courses.
At GCSE most pupils follow the AQA GCSE Science course in the Fourth Form and then go on to pursue the AQA Additional Science GCSE in the Fifth Form. However, the top set in the year follow the three separate science subjects and take GCSE Biology, Chemistry and Physics at the end of the Fifth Form. All the courses are based on completing a number of written examinations and a piece of controlled assessment called the Investigative Skills Assignment (ISA). This ISA is worth 25% of the overall mark for each GCSE. Experimental work (including field work) is therefore integral to the biological content for all these GCSE Science routes. The AQA GCSE Biology course is designed to provide a firm foundation for progression on to the further study of Biology and is taught by subject specialists, as is the biological content of both GCSE Science and GCSE Additional Science.
Students currently follow the OCR AS and A2 Biology specification (from September 2015). In recent years, there have normally been two AS teaching groups and two A2 groups. At the end of the Lower Sixth and after the June series of module examinations, those Sixth Form students intending to continue with Biology at A2 attend a residential field course, covering much of the ecological content of the A2 in an experiential way. Other practical work at A Level is fully incorporated into lessons. This not only adds to the interest of the course, but also prepares the students for the assessment of their practical skills, which involves internally assessed practical tasks, taken under examination conditions. A pleasing number of our students gain places to further their study of Biology in some form at university. This includes students who go on to study for applied degrees such as Medicine and Veterinary Science, as well as those taking pure subjects including Marine Biology and Environmental Science.
Miss Zoe Radford
Head of Department