Academic Curriculum

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 enabling 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.

Art is taught in attractive, larACADEMIC LIFE artge purpose-built studios. Girls are encouraged to explore as many areas of Art and Design as possible. Underpinning all work are drawing skills which are taught throughout the years. A particular strength of the department is the History of Art background and Photography. From year 9 girls are taught good sketch book practice in terms of research, visual analysis and experimentation. They expand upon their own ideas and the philosophy of the department is to encourage every girl to develop her own style and approach to this subject.

The teachers are experts in Art & Design, History of Art and Photography. The Head of Department is an experienced examiner and subject committee member for all subjects.

Year 9 start GCSE style projects to enable a smooth transition to GCSE work. All year groups are taught History of Art and we visit major galleries and exhibitions on a regular basis.

The art department has enjoyed a long relationship with the Royal Academy, being one of their pilot schools for the prestigious ‘Outreach’ Workshop. At GCSE we aim to do at least one gallery based project and this really adds a depth of knowledge to their understanding and appreciation of this subject.

The schoolACADEMIC LIFE design technology has a long tradition of offering students a wide and varied number of subjects including Design Technology taught by specialist teachers. All girls in the lower school have lessons in food, textiles and resistant materials. With small class sizes and excellent facilities Westonbirt offers a wide range of opportunities to develop knowledge and skills in each specialism.

Design Technology encourages individuals to use their creativity to discover new talents, as well as to stimulate personal interests. Westonbirt is unique in having a rich heritage of design and architecture in the buildings and surrounding grounds and these provide inspiration and design opportunities for the girls to study.

Many go on to study the subject at GCSE and A Level, choosing one or more of the specialist areas.


Food Technology provides life skills in food preparation and cooking together with an understanding and application of food nutrition, safety, storage and hygiene. Small class size promotes an excellent learning environment for girls to enjoy and explore the subject. Tuition provides a solid foundation of culinary techniques and skills which are applied to a wide range of dishes from around the world. This subject is offered at GCSE level.

For Sixth Form girls wishing to develop their skills in more depth, the department is extremely proud to be able to offer the nationally acclaimed Leiths Basic Certificate in Food & Wine Course.

Pupils are taught a large number of skills and techniques, such as knife skills, vegetable and meat preparation, baking and sauces, as well as undertaking practical tasks such as time plans for each practical session, menu planning exercises for their level of skill, what to look for when buying ingredients, and basic theory associated with the practical skills used in the course.

Resistant Materials

Tuition within this area aims to promote the development of knowledge and skills in traditional and modern technology. Girls have the opportunity and equipment to work with a range of materials including sustainable wood, metals, plastics and electronic components.

Our workshop facilities include a 3 axis computer aided cutter and laser engraving machine. These enable the girls to emulate industrial practices and extend their creativity. The girls have made a wide range of products including jewellery, musical instruments, and even furniture.


Textiles allows girls the opportunity to be exceptionally creative and adventurous as they learn skills in needlework, dyeing and dressmaking. An individual approach is encouraged as is a willingness to experiment.

A diverse range of products are designed and produced using a wide variety of fibres and fabrics. The making of clothing and fashion accessories is particularly popular and past projects include bags, dresses made from recycled materials and ball gowns. This specialism is offered at GCSE and A Level.

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’.

Curriculum outline


At Westonbirt, we consider E-Safety a vital part of a student’s education. Our Year 7 programme of study starts with an E-Safety module where students learn the basics of safe browsing and the correct way to protect passwords and then continue to more complex areas including social networking and being responsible digital citizens. Whilst E-Safety is explicitly taught in Year 7, every available opportunity is taken throughout Key Stage 3 to re-iterate and build upon how to be safe and responsible when using technology.

Programming and Sequencing Instructions:

Over the Key Stage, Programming and Sequencing Instructions is taught at least once in each academic year. In Year 7, we start with some programming frameworks which allow students to create games whilst teaching them programming in the background. Year 8 and 9 move into applying programming techniques to real world situations, then lead in to the fundamentals of programming and learning languages from scratch. Currently, we study HTML, CSS and Python, but there are options to learn more languages.

Presenting Information:

This strand of our curriculum focuses on creating products which are fit for a purpose or an audience. Over the Key Stage, this strand is embedded across all the units we teach. There is a Business Materials unit which deals with the teaching of this skill for publications and other units which focus on different goals, but we are monitoring and guiding students’ presentation of their work in each and every unit.

Data Handling:

The Data Handling strand allows students to explore the application of ICT techniques to data and figures. Everyone will learn a range of skills and techniques for manipulating data and numbers whilst using spreadsheet and database management software. This strand is introduced in Year 7 and built upon in Years 8 and 9.


Another use of ICT in the real world sees us learning techniques for representing information and images in 2 and 3 dimensions. Computer Art is essential for designing and creating new digital material and there is teaching time given to 2D and 3D representation and modelling as well as photo editing and image manipulation.

Year 10 and 11:

The Year 10 and 11 option provides excellent preparation for higher study and employment in the field of Computer Science and ICT. The increasing importance of information technologies means there will be a growing demand for professionals who are qualified in this area. Students who’ve taken a GCSE in Computing and who then progress to study the subject at A Level or university will have an advantage over their colleagues who are picking up the subject at these levels. The course will develop critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving skills through the study of computer programming, giving you a fun and interesting way to develop these skills, which can be transferred to other subjects and even applied in day-to-day life.

Software Used:

Alongside the Micrsoft Office suite, we make use of a number of Adobe programs as well as Microsoft Kodu, MIT Scratch, Flowol and Google Sketchup. Many of these programs can be downloaded at home for free.

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.

At A Level, Mathematics and Further Mathematics are very popular as girls are inspired to continue with subjects which are not only very rewarding but also extremely highly regarded by universities and employers. The content of the modules studied can be tailored specifically to the individual, with Business/Economics pupils generally choosing to study Decision Maths and Statistics and Engineering/Science pupils generally opting for Mechanics and Statistics.

All girls have the opportunity to enter the UKMT Maths challenges as individuals and as teams and we have enjoyed considerable success in both arenas.

Music at Westonbirt is enjoyable, practical and inclusive. Our aim is to encourage creativity and to develop confidence and self-esteem through a variety of performance opportunities. In Years 7 and 8, pupils participate in 2 double music lessons per week, including a Singing and Performing Arts session. In Year 9 girls receive 2 music lessons per week.
Music lessons at KS3 incorporate performing, composing and appraising as well as the study of different musical genres from Baroque and Classical, to Musical Theatre, Reggae and Popular Music. Composition work is carried out using the software Sibelius and GarageBand in our Music Technology Suite.
Concerts and services are regularly scheduled in the school calendar and musicians and singers from the school frequently perform within the local community. Singing evensong at Gloucester Cathedral is a prestigious annual event and one which involves all vocalists within the school, whilst the Mid-Somerset and Cheltenham Festivals offer all performers an opportunity to compete against pupils from other independent schools.
Whilst performing is at the very heart of the school we also believe in enhancing pupils’ musical experience by offering trips to local concert venues and theatres throughout the year.
Girls wanting to further their studies at GCSE level are expected to take at least one individual instrumental or singing lesson each week and attend at least one musical ensemble at school.

DAILY LIFE chapelReligious 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 religious backgrounds. As well as content, there is also a lot of focus on skills, particularly how to engage critically, yet sympathetically, in class discussions, and on developing depth to arguments, both orally and in writing.

Students in Years 7 to 9 receive 70 minutes of Religious Education each week, delivered by a specialist teacher. The key stage 3 course is due to be updated shortly, on publication of the new Gloucestershire Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education (Summer 2017).

Year 9 students who have opted to study the GCSE in Religious Studies begin the course in the summer term of Year 9. The GCSE course followed is the OCR (Full Course) in Religious Studies, focusing on the religions of Christianity and Islam, and philosophical and ethical issues.

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.

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.

Drama is taught as a discrete subject where year 7 to 9 girls receive one double lesson a week. In the first year, the focus is on exploring theatrical history from the Greeks to Shakespeare and Commedia Dell’arte to Silent Movies. The aim is to build confidence, empathy and teamwork amongst the students.

Year 8 begins to experiment with realism and storytelling in performance and developing a theatrical voice when performing from scripts. Year 9 begins preparation for GCSE with units relating to scriptwork and devising. In the first half of the year, they are introduced to both Stanislavski and Brecht and the summer culminates in a performance that reflects on their learning during the lower school.

At GCSE level, the largely practical based course investigates a range of dramatic styles, including physical theatre and Theatre In Education (T.I.E) Recent performance projects have included the use of Trestle Masks, devised work based on world events and a performance of ‘Goodnight, Mister Tom’ to the prep school. Work is both inspired and complimented by a range of theatre trips to Cheltenham, Bath, Bristol and London and students learn to write analytically about work they have seen and performed in.

For more information about the Drama, please click on the link to visit the Drama Department Blog

History 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.

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.

The study of Modern Foreign Languages

The study of modern foreign languages is a much loved core discipline at Westonbirt School. The staff are passionate about their subjects and all the girls are encouraged to develop their communication skills from Year 7 well into GCSE and A Level. The department is a friendly and exciting place to be, with excellent modern resources and facilities with which to engage all pupils and enrich their personal learning experiences at every level. 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. French and Spanish are taught from Year 7 to all our pupils and it is at the end of Year 8 that they make their choices for GCSE. We also provide much appreciated support and personalised help in the form of conversation classes in very small groups or even on a one to one basis, both at GCSE and A Level.
Languages are popular with our students who recognise their value on CVs and for future employment with prospects of new and exciting perspectives worldwide. As a result, an increasing number take the option to become dual linguists and study two at GCSE and A Level.
Additionally, as the world economy and a global job market dictate, Mandarin Chinese is now firmly set as a beginners’ course on the timetable for all the girls in Years 7 and 8. The cultural contributions our overseas students bring to our community are valued highly and they are offered the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the English language with extra lessons in English and the option to sit the GCSE or A Level examinations in their native tongue, be it Russian, Dutch, Italian, German, Portuguese or Mandarin.
The Modern Languages Department is usually buzzing with many activities within and outside the curriculum. These typically include established and popular trips abroad, personalised exchange visits and the in-house celebration of cultural events. These are a highlight for all the girls who look forward to showcasing their talents in plays, songs or poems.
Finally, ICT plays a large part in day to day teaching and the regular use of up to date online resources such as Kerboodle provides excitement and immediacy in the classroom, projecting the pupils’ textbook learning into the reality of the present.
These incentives create enjoyable and memorable experiences and enhance students abilities to communicate. They invariably increase personal confidence in speaking a foreign language and motivate the girls to embark on advanced courses, often learning more than one language.

    Student View:

“I thoroughly enjoyed studying languages for A-Level and would recommend it to anyone thinking about it! The course was so interesting and we had incredible support throughout our studies. I managed to get a far better grade than I had ever wished for and can’t thank the MFL department at Westonbirt enough for this. Learning French has helped me immensely since leaving school, I got to live in Paris for 5 months and thanks to my language skills managed to get a job nannying immediately. I am now fluent in three languages which will help me with everything I will go on to do. ”

Amelie Sievers
Psychology Student at Exeter University, March 2017

Westonbirt School enjoys an enviable reputation for producing highly successful individual and team performances in a wide variety of sports. A range of different Physical Education activities are offered to from years 7 to 9 in accordance with the National Curriculum.

The schools major competitive sports are lacrosse, netball, swimming, tennis, athletics and rounders. In addition the school boasts an equestrian and a fencing team. Fixtures are played throughout the academic year against other independent schools and many of the girls compete at county, regional, national and international level.

As a school we seek to develop the girls competitive performances and in 2013 we developed a pentathlon team. This event has seen girls competing in duathlons across the country with some selected to compete in the new London Olympic Aquatic Centre.

The schools grounds provide the perfect platform for sporting excellence with 210 acres of beautiful countryside incorporating a nine-hole golf course, lacrosse, hockey, football and rugby pitches as well as netball and tennis courts.

Year 10 pupils can choose to take Physical Education as a GCSE and they can participate in different types of physical activities and roles, such as player/participant, leader/coach and official.

At Westonbirt we strongly embrace the ethos of the older girls assisting the younger ones to develop their skills in the sporting arena. The GCSE is the perfect platform for this and currently many of our girls assist in teaching the Prep School lacrosse sessions and swimming sessions.

Our aim is to inspire and challenged pupils by following a broad, coherent, satisfying and worthwhile course of study whilst developing an awareness and appreciation of their own and others, physical activity leading to a healthy and active lifestyle.

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 in 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.