Miss Brown – Head of Department

Science is a core subject in schools and its importance is reflected in the number of lessons that pupils study in a week. At KS3 all pupils receive seven lessons of one hour a fortnight, and at KS4 they have ten lessons of one hour. We believe that pupils should be encouraged to question, investigate and then evaluate their work; consequently the study of Science at Holy Cross is very practical. We believe that lessons should be fun, and enjoyment of science is the key to ensuring that we develop the pupils into the scientific citizens of the future. Science is a successful subject at Holy Cross and we pride ourselves on the large numbers of pupils who extend their scientific studies at college enabling them to follow a scientific career path in the outside world.

Accommodation & Resources

There are eight fully-equipped laboratories complete with interactive surfaces and specialist software. We use the AQA Trilogy software supplied through Kerboodle to support the pupils at KS4 combining it with in-house schemes of learning. All KS4 pupils use the on-line homework package to aid their learning and revision. Practical work is incredibly important to us and so the department has a dedicated full-time technician who services the laboratories.

Curriculum Plan

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Curriculum: Key Stage 3

We teach a two year Key Stage 3 believing that we can give a thorough and detailed grounding of the scientific knowledge needed to enable pupils to progress to GCSE in this time. We use the fully resourced Activate scheme published by Oxford publishing, with pupils all having access to a digital textbook. This we feel is the best of the available published schemes and combined with a unique blend of our own skills, enables pupils to develop their understanding and knowledge to be fully prepared for the GCSEs in Science. We cover the full National Curriculum and fully address How Science Works.

Topics covered in Key Stage 3 are:

Year 7

  • Cells – How we observe cells and the use of microscopes, the different types of cells and their specialisation, how substances move in cells and unicellular organisms.
  • Body Systems – How we breathe, gas exchange and the movement of gases, the skeleton, movement of joints and how muscles are used and attached to the skeleton.
  • Reproduction – The changes in humans during puberty and adolescence, the menstrual cycle, human reproductive systems and how fertilisation and implantation occurs in our bodies, pollination and germination in plants and the mechanisms of seed dispersal.
  • Particles – The particle model and how it links to states of matter, state changes and the effect of temperature, diffusion and gas pressure.
  • Elements, atoms and compounds – The differences between all three terms with experimental evidence of this, chemical formulae and what they tell us.
  • Reactions – Chemical reactions including burning, thermal decomposition and how mass is conserved in reactions. Different types of reaction to include exo- and endothermic reactions and how these are displayed in word and symbol equations.
  • Acids and Alkalis – The differences between them, how we use indicators and pH as a measure, reactions involving them to include neutralisation, the production of salts and reaction with metals.
  • Forces – Drag and friction, stretching and squashing, forces at a distance and balanced and unbalanced forces.
  • Waves – Sound and the energy transfers associated with it, loudness, pitch, and how our ears work, echoes and ultrasound. Light and the eye, reflection and refraction, how cameras work and how we see colours.
  • Space – The Universe and the stars we see our Solar system and the Earth’s place in it, the Moon and how it affects the Earth.

Year 8

  • Health & Lifestyle – Food, diet and bacteria involved in digestion, drugs and alcohol and their effect on our systems, the danger of smoking on the body.
  • Ecosystems – Photosynthesis, leaves, plant minerals and chemosynthesis, the two types of respiration and how the body uses them, food webs and chains, and human’s effect on these within ecosystems.
  • Inheritance and Adaptation – Competition and how animals adapt because of this, types of variation within species and how we measure these things, how you can inherit traits and Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
  • The Periodic Table – Groups and periods within the table, the classification of metals and non-metals, the alkali metals, the halogens and the noble gases.
  • Separation techniques – The definition of a mixture, solutions and solubility, filtration, distillation and evaporation and the technique of chromatography.
  • Metal Reactions – Reacting metals with acids, oxygen and water, how we extract metal from the Earth, types of materials to include ceramics, polymers and composites.
  • The Earth – The atmosphere around the Earth, different types of rocks and the rock cycle, other natural cycles to include the carbon cycle and it’s affect on the climate.
  • Electricity and Magnetism – current, voltage and resistance, different types of circuit, how we make electromagnets and where they are used.
  • Energy – Fuels and food, temperature and it’s measurements, how energy is transferred through conduction, convection and radiation, energy resources and the power derived from them.
  • Motion and Pressure – Speed and graphs associated with this, pressure in solids, liquids and gases, moments and turning forces and calculations to do with all of the above topics.

Year 9

This consolidates the skills taught at Key Stage 3 that are needed for GCSE. We cover various topics with a very analytical eye on data and evaluative skills. After an initial introductory module we progress onto the GCSE.

Curriculum: Key Stage 4

All students study the AQA Combined Science Trilogy GCSE with a number of pupils opting to study in extra detail and convert this to three GCSEs in the separate Sciences. Class sizes in KS4 are normally limited to approximately 24 pupils.

Topics covered across the Sciences are:


  • Cells and Organisation – How microscopes are used, prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, specialised cells, diffusion and osmosis.
  • Cell Division – mitosis and meiosis, the cell cycle, stem cells and their use.
  • The digestive system – enzymes, the structure of the digestive system, how the digestive system works, efficiency of the digestive system.
  • Organisation in animals and plants – Blood and blood vessels, the heart and how it works, breathing and gas exchange, transport systems in plants, transpiration and how it can be affected.
  • Disease – communicable diseases, pathogens, viruses and bacteria, fungi and human defences.
  • Preventing disease – Vaccination, antibiotics, painkillers, how we make drugs.
  • Non-Communicable Diseases – Cancer, smoking, diet, exercise, alcohol and other carcinogens.
  • Photosynthesis – How it works, how we change the rate of photosynthesis, how plants use the products of photosynthesis.
  • Respiration – Aerobic and anaerobic respiration, the differing products, use of fermentation, metabolism and the liver.
  • Nervous system – Homeostasis, structure and function of the nervous system, reflex actions and how they help us to survive.
  • Hormones – How they help us, control of blood glucose, diabetes, negative feedback loops, reproduction, the menstrual cycle, infertility and its treatment.
  • Reproduction – types of reproduction, DNA and the genome, inheritance and genetics, inherited disorders.
  • Variation – Variation and evolution, natural selection, selective breeding, genetic engineering, ethics.
  • Ecology –  Importance of communities, distribution, competition, adaptation in plants and animals.
  • Ecosystem – Feeding relationships, recycling, the carbon cycle, human populations, pollution on land and in water, air pollution, deforestation, global warming.


  • Atomic Structure – Atoms, chemical equations, separating mixtures, fractional distillation, history and structure of the atom, ions, atoms and isotopes, electronic structures.
  • The Periodic Table – Development of the periodic table, alkali metals, halogens, trends in the table.
  • Structure and Bonding – States of matter, ionic bonding, giant ionic structures, covalent bonding, simple molecules, giant covalent structures, fullerenes, graphene, bonding in metals and metallic structures.
  • Chemical calculations – RAM and masses, equations and calculations, balancing equations and concentrations.
  • Chemical Changes – Reactivity series, displacement reactions, extracting metals, making salts, neutralisation and the pH scale, strong and weak acids.
  • Electrolysis – Introducing electrolysis, changes at the electrodes, extraction of aluminium, electrolysis of aqueous solutions.
  • Energy Changes – Exothermic and endothermic reactions, energy transfers and reaction profiles, bond energy calculations.
  • Rates of Reaction – Collison theory and the effects of temperature, surface area, concentration, pressure and catalysts, reversible reactions and dynamic equilibrium.
  • Crude Oil – Hydrocarbons and fractional distillation, burning fuels and cracking hydrocarbons.
  • Chemical Analysis – Substances and mixtures, chromatograms, testing for gases.
  • Earth’s Atmosphere – History of atmosphere, greenhouse gases, global climate change, atmospheric pollutants.
  • Earth’s resources – Finite and renewable resources, potable water, treating waste water, extracting metals from ores, life cycle assessments, recycling.


  • Energy Conservation – Work, GPE, kinetic and elastic energy, energy dissipation, efficiency, electrical appliances, power.
  • Heating – Conduction, specific heat capacity, insulating buildings.
  • Energy Resources – Demand, wind and water energy, solar and geothermal energy, big energy issues.
  • Electric Circuits – Current and charge, potential difference and resistance, component characteristics, series circuits, parallel circuits, alternating current, cables and plugs, power and potential difference, currents and energy transfer, efficiency.
  • Molecules and Matter – Density, states of matter, changes of state, internal energy, latent heat, gas pressure and temperature.
  • Radioactivity – Atoms and radiation, discovery of the nucleus, changes in the nucleus, alpha, beta and gamma radiation, activity and half-life.
  • Forces – Vectors and scalars, forces between objects, resultant force and centre of mass, parallelogram of forces and resolution of forces.
  • Motion – Speed and distance-time graphs, velocity and acceleration, velocity-time graphs, analysing motion graphs.
  • Forces and Motion – Forces and acceleration, weight and terminal velocity, forces and braking, momentum, elasticity.
  • Waves – Nature and properties of waves, reflection, refraction, diffraction.
  • Electromagnetic waves – the EM spectrum, light, infrared, microwaves, radio waves, communication, UV waves, X-rays and gamma rays, X-rays in medicine.
  • Electromagnetism – Magnetic Fields, magnetic fields of electric currents, the motor effect.


Key Stage 3

All pupils at Key Stage 3 are assessed at the end of each module. Assessment will take the form of summative assessment based on past SATs-style questions which are then assessed and formative (investigative and more open-end tasks involving practical and evaluative skills). These assessments inform teaching, progress and setting arrangements.

Key Stage 4

Pupils are taught in module blocks and at the end of each module there is an in-house summative assessment task based on past GCSE examination questions. In addition to this all students must complete the required practicals which are set by the examination board and are completed in school hours.

The GCSE consists of six externally assessed examinations (each is worth 16.7% of the final mark), two from each separate Science, sat as terminal examinations at the end of year 11.

Each externally assessed unit is tiered and the head of department will decide which is most appropriate for individual students.

Extra Curricular Opportunities

Revision classes are offered to students preparing for examinations and there are always teachers on hand to give support with required practicals and preparation for assessment tests in KS3. The STEM club is thriving; it is a place where pupils can take part in exciting and innovative science that is not normally covered in the normal curriculum and as pupils design their own experiments it can change every single week. We endeavour to get as many pupils as willing to achieve their bronze, silver and gold CREST awards which involve scientific investigation both at home and in school.

Science trips and lectures on scientific topics are attended by many pupils. We run a Year 5 competition and all staff undertake work with the feeder primary schools with the pupils attending Holy Cross for a full day of Science each year. The science staff also assist in school productions and the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Pupils have taken part in numerous activities relating to science and sports. The Science staff have developed the schools ecological approach and have spearheaded the campaign for recycling and sustainable schools. We are currently educating pupils and staff on how to reduce carbon emissions both at home and within school. The department has the use of a purpose-built wet classroom and glasshouse which is extensively used during the school year as part of the curriculum.

Useful Websites