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Academic Program to GCSE

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Westonbirt follow the iGCSE programme followed by A levels in Sixth Form and a selection of BTECs. Westonbirt aims to stay ahead of current curriculum changes so the impact on learning is minimised and opportunity is maximised. Our aim is that every girl who leaves after Year 13 does so as a confident, well-rounded individual prepared to tackle modern day life in a global world.

Years 7 to 9

In Year 7 all girls follow a core curriculum of English, Mathematics, Science, French, Art, Design and Technology, Drama, Geography, History, ICT and Touch Typing, Music, Physical Education (including games and swimming), Religious Education, Textiles and Food Technology. There is also a detailed programme of Skills for Life in addition to tutorial time. From Year 8 Spanish and Latin are introduced they enable girls to develop valuable skills and give them the opportunity to study subjects which they may wish to pursue at GCSE. In Year 9 there is a detailed guidance programme ensuring that sensible GCSE choices are made in preparation for the start of Year 10.

Years 10 to 11

Girls study core GCSEs in English Language and Literature, Mathematics, Science as a double or triple GCSE and Foreign Language(s). In addition they select a number of optional GCSE subjects. This varies depending on the ability and aptitude of each girl. Throughout these two crucial years all girls continue with Physical Education, ICT, and Skills for Life lessons. From Year 11, girls embark on a programme preparing them for entry into the Sixth Form that includes Year 12 taster lessons and Futurewise Profiling.


The English Department at Westonbirt has one mission: to instil a love of literature, enabling girls to understand how language has been manipulated to create a particular effect. Adopting this approach has consistently achieved high grades at GCSEs and the subject has been a popular choice for A Level where grades have been particularly high. Many girls go on to study English at University.

Throughout years 7 to 9 a carefully planned curriculum is followed encompassing modern and classical texts and literacy analysis. Private reading of texts of girls own choice is encouraged either brought to the lesson from home or chosen from the extensive collection in our school library. Increasingly, girls are choosing to use e-readers and we are happy to embrace this approach to reading in our lessons.

In years 10 to 11 an integrated course of English Language and English Literature is studied, giving two separate qualifications at GCSE. Girls study a range of texts including a Shakespeare play plus poetry and prose from the literary heritage.


Geography is everywhere and we encourage the girls to be interested in the world around them gaining a solid academic foundation which is dynamic in its use of topical case studies as they happen. Fieldwork makes geography particularly fun and we aim to take every girl out of school for at least one day's fieldwork per year in Years 7-11. In Year 7, the girls undertake a study of the local settlement of Malmesbury. In Year 8, we usually enjoy a glorious day out on the exhilarating Purbeck coast. We start Year 9 with a study that prepares the girls for GCSE controlled assessment when we visit Weston Super Mare and Bath and compare coastal and city tourism. In Year 10, girls conduct a very detailed and rigorous study of a local river.

Fieldwork is made especially engaging at Westonbirt thanks to our small class sizes. We are able to take the girls out easily on fieldtrips and it is a real strength of the department at all levels.

We embrace the wider world and take part in competitions including the Royal Geographical Society ‘Young Geographer of the Year’, and the Geographical Association (GA) ‘Worldwise Quiz’.


History at Westonbirt is taught with passion and engagement. Girls learn to think for themselves and develop the confidence to voice their opinions on challenging matters to do with the human experience, ideas which change over time and on individuals who have shaped the lives of their contemporaries and the generations which follow. History is all about us; the close tie between the past and the present and the future is never far from discussion. History is taught through original sources, literature, music and art. The story is about humanity; it crosses the traditional boundaries of subjects.

In Years 7 to 9, main events from 1066 to 1945 are covered. We look at key events such as the Battle of Hastings, The English Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, both the World Wars and the dropping of the atomic bomb. We encourage students across these year groups to enjoy History by setting mini projects that include tasks such as building castles or creating a Victorian political party.

At GCSE, girls cover the modern world including a depth study on Germany 1918-1945 and a unit on International Relations between 1919-2000. Each year group has a trip to a relevant museum or site; the Tank museum for example, and a visit to Munich with a focus on Nazi Germany.

ICT & Computing

Westonbirt offers a broad ICT and computing curriculum designed to equip and empower students growing up in an increasingly networked world.


E-Safety is a vital part of all student’s education. Our Year 7 programme teaches pupils about safe browsing, protecting passwords and becoming responsible digital citizens. Every opportunity is taken throughout Key Stage 3 to re-enforce the importance of safety online.

Programming and Sequencing

Programming and Sequencing is taught in each academic year. In Year 7 we start with frameworks which allow students to create games. Year 8 and Year 9 apply programming techniques to real world situations, learning not only the fundamentals of programming but also languages from scratch.


Computer Art is essential for designing and creating new digital material and there is exciting teaching time given to 2D and 3D representation and modelling.

Computer Science and ICT Qualifications

Our GCSE and GCE options provide excellent preparation for higher study and employment in the field of Computer Science and ICT. The courses develop critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving skills through the study of computer programming.


Studying the literature, language and history of the Classical World is a fascinating and enjoyable experience. Latin is also a very impressive academic qualification, which will recommend those studying it to any course of Higher Education in both Arts and Science. It is an excellent support to other subjects, especially English, History, and Modern Languages. It provides girls with the opportunity to develop key skills such as problem-solving, clarity of thought and expression, which are essential to successful employment and underpin independent learning.

At GCSE, girls will be introduced to passages of prose and verse from Latin authors, cover specified grammar and syntax and learn vocabulary from a defined list.


Mathematics is far more than an exercise in arithmetic. It encompasses the study of topics including number, algebra, shape and space and data handling and in doing so encourages the recognition of pattern and insight, helping to develop skills in analysis and problem solving amongst many others. Mathematics is a unique language. Taught by a team of highly qualified mathematicians with many years experience, girls are encouraged to see Mathematics as totally accessible and relevant to all their other subjects. It is also extremely satisfying and can be most enjoyable.

The GCSE course is now started at the beginning of Year 9 to allow students to fully explore the broader and deeper mathematical content of the challenging new maths GCSE. Students can be entered for either the Foundation tier or the Higher tier. All girls benefit from frequent problem solving lessons from the beginning of Year 7 to extend and improve their strategies for tackling tricky problems. Foundation tier students will be able to focus on core mathematical understanding as well as problem solving skills, equipping them for the world of work and non-mathematical further study. Those who enjoy and excel at the subject have the opportunity to attend weekly maths clubs, which help prepare them for the UKMT maths challenges both as individuals and as part of a team.  The team events are particularly good fun.

Modern Foreign Languages

The study of modern foreign languages is a much loved core discipline at Westonbirt.

Two mainstream foreign languages are offered, French and Spanish to GCSE and A Level. All girls are expected to continue with at least one modern language to GCSE standard. Personalised support is offered with conversation classes in very small groups, or on a one to one basis, both at GCSE and A Level.

Languages are popular with our students who recognise their value on CV’s and for future employment with exciting opportunities worldwide. As a result, an increasing number become dual linguists and study two at GCSE and A Level.

Additionally, as the world economy and a global job market evolve, Mandarin Chinese is timetabled as a beginner’s course for all girls in Years 7 and 8.

The Modern Languages Department buzzes with a variety of activity in and outside of the curriculum; including popular trips abroad, personalised exchange visits and the in-house celebration of cultural events.

The cultural contribution from overseas students is highly valued and they are offered the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the English language while also sitting GCSE or A Level examinations in their native tongue; be it Russian, Dutch, Italian, German, Portuguese or Mandarin.

Religious Education

Religious Education is an interesting, relevant and very popular subject at Westonbirt. It is designed to be challenging, enjoyable and entirely accessible to all students, regardless of their academic and religious backgrounds. As well as content, there is focus on skills: particularly how to engage critically yet sympathetically in class discussions and developing depth to their arguments, both orally and in writing.

Students in Years 7 to 8 receive 70 minutes of Religious Education each week, delivered by a specialist teacher. The key stage 3 course follows the new Gloucestershire Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education, and includes exploration of fundamental questions such as:

  • ‘Should Christians be greener than everyone else?’
  • ‘Does the world need prophets today?’
  • ‘What is so radical about Jesus?’
  • ‘What is good and what is challenging about being a Muslim teenager in Britain today?’
  • ‘What difference does it make to be an atheist or agnostic in Britain today?’

In Years 9 and 10, all girls study the OCR Short Course GCSE in Religious Studies. They have an allocation of four lessons per week – 140 minutes. This exciting course explores the religions of Christianity and Islam, as well as a variety of ethical and philosophical topics from a Christian perspective.

Students can also choose to take Religious Studies (OCR) at A Level. Content is broad, and includes study of Philosophy, Ethics and developments in Christian thought.


Society is becoming more and more scientifically advanced and it is vital that the next generation have a strong grasp of scientific concepts as we debate the effects our increasing population is having on the Earth. Should we spend millions of pounds travelling to Mars? What are the implications of cloning and how can we find alternatives to our rapidly diminishing supplies of fossil fuels? The next generation needs a sound scientific grounding in order to understand the big questions affecting our lives.

Science lessons seek to engage and develop girls investigative and analysis skills. Planning, observing and drawing conclusions are skills not only vital to science, but useful for any future study. At Westonbirt, girls learn an equal balance of Biology, Chemistry and Physics. In year 9 reporting is divided between the subjects to reflect this balance. In year 10, pupils choose to study Combined Science and gain two science GCSEs covering all three science subjects, or Separate Science and gain individual grades in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. The GCSE courses are designed to give girls an idea of ‘Working Scientifically’, where girls are exposed to a wide variety of practical work.

Westonbirt Science Department is passionate about using extra-curricular opportunities to inspire our girls. We take part in citizen science projects wherever possible, invite guest speakers, and enter competitions. In March we celebrate National Science and Engineering Week, we also run a popular Key Stage 3 Science Club.

BTEC- Level 1/Level 2 First Award in Children’s Play, Learning and Development

Who is the qualification for?

This qualification is a Technical Award equivalent in size to one GCSE. It is designed for pre-16 students working at level 2 who want to include a study of children’s development in their broader Key Stage 4 curriculum. It provides an introduction to some of the key themes within the early years sector, enabling students to develop and apply their knowledge while also developing a range of relevant practical, communication and technical skills. The content enables students to apply their knowledge in new and practical industry-related contexts.

What does this qualification cover?

This qualification is based on recent thinking and research in the sector and provides an engaging and relevant introduction to the world of early years. It incorporates aspects of child development from birth to age 8, exploring play as a route of children’s learning, forming the basis of early years frameworks, such as the Early Years Foundation Stage (England), and includes a study of inclusive practice and empowering children.

This qualification consists of three mandatory units:

· Unit 1: ‘Patterns of Child Development’ is externally assessed through a written exam paper featuring mini case studies. Students will learn about children’s growth and development: physical, cognitive, communication and language, emotional and social and how these areas are linked.

· Unit 2: ‘Promoting Children’s Development through Play’ is internally assessed through assignments. Students will explore how play promotes children’s development in early years settings, gaining an understanding of how play is structured.

· Unit 3: ‘The Principles of Early Years Practice’ is internally assessed through assignments. Students will explore the key principles that are reflected in best practice in early years.

What knowledge and skills will the student develop as part of this qualification and how might these be of use and value in further studies?

The assignment-based approach to assessment will support the development of communication skills such as extended writing and drafting, critical skills of analysis, team working, planning, working from a prescribed brief, working to deadlines, presenting information effectively, accurately completing tasks and processes and study skills such as research and time management. All these will support study at level 3 in any course chosen.

By developing the sector knowledge and skills outlined above, students will be well prepared for progression to a level 3 academic, applied general or technical level qualification in early years or a related area such as psychology. Students might also consider an apprenticeship.

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Westonbirt Schools

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Westonbirt Schools

Tetbury, Gloucestershire

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Prep: +44 (0)1666 881400 Senior: +44 (0)1666 880333

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