At CAST we follow the OCR Biology A specification. The course consists of 6 taught modules and 12 Practical Endorsement Activities.
1. Development of Practical Skills in Biology
2. Foundations in Biology
3. Exchange and Transport
4. Biodiversity, Evolution and Disease
5. Communication, Homeostasis and Energy
6. Genetics, Evolution and Ecosystems
At CAST we begin Year 12 with Foundations in Biology. The course is taught by 2 teachers and the Foundations module is split between them. This topic covers cell structure, biological molecules, nucleotides and nucleic acids, enzymes, biological membranes and cell division. These ideas act as the foundation of all the following topics and are therefore referenced continuously throughout the two year course.
The Exchange and Transport module is then taught by one teacher alongside the Biodiversity, Evolution and Disease module being taught by the other. The Exchange and Transport module covers the circulation of molecules round plants and animals and builds on the Organisation unit from GCSE, as well as linking to the biological molecules topic in Foundations in Biology. The disease topic is taught first in this module by the second teacher as it links with cell signalling taught in the biological membranes topic. It covers how white blood cells function in a lot more detail. Evolution then recaps and expands slightly on what is taught at GCSE. The final topic is Biodiversity. This covers sampling and conservation. Doing this topic last allows it to link with the ecosystems topic from the Genetics, evolution and ecosystems module. It also means it gets done is the summer when the plants are growing.
In the summer term of year 12 the students spend a number of weeks carrying out their required PAG 12 investigation. During this they research, plan, carry out, present and evaluate a practical on a given topic. They produce a scientific paper with correct referencing, a detailed method and statistically analyse their results. These skills have been taught previously in biology lessons, but also as part of their Challenge Projects and Extended Project Qualification.
At the end of year 12 they sit the AS papers internally to check their progress. They therefore need to cover all of the AS topics (modules 1-4) in the first year.
At the start of year 13 the students sit the breath AS paper from the June exams in their first week back. This is to force the students to remind themselves of the content covered in year 1.
The first teacher then focuses on Genetics and evolution. Genetics covers the control, mutation, inheritance and artificial manipulation of genes. This links back to the nucleotide topic in the Foundations of Biology module. The manipulation of genes then flows into the wider biotechnology topic. The second teacher starts with homeostasis, focusing initially on the receptor, modulator, and response loop that is also crucial in communication. The role of hormones in homeostasis links back to cell signalling in the cellular membranes topic. The role nerves in homeostasis is followed by how the nervous system works in a lot more detail. Photosynthesis and respiration are then taught last as they are intrinsically linked together and they are hard topics with lots of detail.
The students then complete a revision program focusing of exam technique.
Two x 2 hour 15min exams (paper 1 Modules 1, 2, 3 & 5, paper 2 Modules 1,2,4 & 6)
One x 1 hour 30min exam (Unifying Concepts – more problem-solving and application of biology questions that comprise elements from multiple modules)
In addition to the exams each student has to complete 12 practical endorsement activities, whilst although not assessed, are a compulsory component of the course.
Minimum entry requirements for A level courses: 7 GCSEs at grade 9-4 (including English grade 4) with double or triple science (grade 6/6) and Maths (grade 5/6 depending on subject choice).
Please see our website for more information - https://cast.education/curriculum/a-level
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