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Senior
(age 11 to 16)

Curriculum

Strong academic achievement is the ambition for every student at St Joseph's College.

The breadth of the Senior School curriculum is perhaps its most obvious feature – alongside traditional academic subjects we offer opportunities for high achievement in technology, arts and sports. But our curriculum’s real difference lies in its success in engaging and supporting a wide range of students’ interests and abilities.

In Years 7-9, students explore a broad and balanced curriculum to provide firm foundations of study for GCSE. During Year 9 a detailed Options Programme ensures appropriate advice is given to enable them to make sound subject choices to take them to GCSE and beyond.

These options are offered in addition to the compulsory core curriculum that each student follows and which comprises:

  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • Mathematics
  • Dual Award Science
  • Religious Education (non-examined course, with GCSE available as an option)

Further information is available within the Senior Curriculum booklet.

A wide range of visits and trips are designed to enrich the academic curriculum. These include arts visits in the UK and overseas – in recent years we’ve taken students to Amsterdam, Paris and Rome. Regular theatre, industry and fieldwork trips also take place, bringing each curriculum subject to life outside the classroom.

For an overview of our GCSE optional courses please see below under each subject heading. For full details, please consult our Senior Curriculum booklet.

Senior Curriculum Booklet

This is a broad course exploring practical and critical/contextual work through a range of 2D and/or 3D processes and new media and technologies. It is an unendorsed course where students can work in appropriate fine art materials and processes. Students will produce practical and contextual work associated with drawing and painting, mixed media, sculpture, printmaking and photography.

During the two years you will learn to generate and explore ideas using different media. You will have to organise, select and communicate your ideas and responses, presenting them in a range of visual or sensory forms. The subject is assessed partly through an externally set assignment, and substantially through your completed portfolio of work created during the course.

It is a useful subject which helps you develop ‘hidden’ skills of peer reviewing, presentation, and communication; it could lead to a Fine Art A-level or foundation degree or diploma.

This course offers an introduction to important concepts in commerce, looking at the different perspectives of stakeholders in business. Its three units examine the origins of businesses through enterprise and marketing, how they are sustained by people and management, and their detailed operation in the areas of finance, production and responding to the external business environment.

A mix of internal assessment, unseen and case study examinations enables you to demonstrate your understanding of the principles. Your knowledge of the wider issues affecting business and economics in general, acquired through developing an interest in business news media, will help you to add important background information and opinions to your work.

A good, early grasp of the commercial world will help you to contextualise your other academic studies and may assist in developing your ideas about possible career directions and important choices for further study.

Many people think of Computer Science purely as a question of logic, but it demands far greater skills and teaches you to think more widely. In studying the course you will learn to think more creatively and innovatively, analytically and critically in designing programmes and solving problems in computational terms.

The course is a foundation in the principles and fundamental concepts of computer science, including abstraction, decomposition, logic, algorithms and data representation. You will also discover the components that make up digital systems and how they communicate with one another and with other systems.

Success in its two papers, on theory and programming, and the coursework project in programming could lead to further in-depth computer science study, ultimately at degree level.

The Drama GCSE is a practical, engaging and creative course in which you will examine drama and the work of others, explore drama as a practical art form, and work independently to create your own performances, making informed artistic choices.

In developing your performance skills and drama techniques, you will use play texts, poems, music, novels and works of art, to inspire dramatic performances. You will study alternative styles of theatre, the work of influential practitioners, as well as contemporary and classic play texts. You may also explore topical or social issues such as racism and injustice through discussion, debate and role play. Assessment includes an internally assessed drama which you create, an external assessment of performance and a written exam.

GCSE Drama is ideal preparation for A-level Drama and Theatre Studies, which is one possible entry requirement for Further and Higher Education. Drama skills are directly transferable in careers including teaching, sales, retail, marketing and the media. 

The value of languages in an increasingly diverse society is both personal and professional. Studying French at GCSE will provide you with a useful base of linguistic competence as well as obvious benefits in improving communication skills and developing cultural understanding.

The course considers identity and culture, local, national and global issues; and current and future study and employment. Through all subjects you will be using the language to advance your understanding and express your ideas through reading, speaking and writing.

Languages are a useful component of almost any career and are a key element in many of today’s working environments. There are a variety of university courses which combine languages with other disciplines, for example Business, Law, Media and Science, as well as more traditional and academic pure language degrees.

This is an exciting course focused on practical cooking skills to help you develop a thorough understanding of nutrition, food provenance and the working characteristics of food materials.

Whilst practical cookery skills are the main focus, you will also study nutrition and health, food science and safety, and food provenance and choice. Assessment is based on practical, non-examined food investigation and preparation as well as a written paper.

Aside from the obvious health value of the course, it is a useful entry into A-level study of Food Technology and Nutrition, diplomas in hospitality and catering, or apprenticeships in the food industry.

This course does much more than develop your sense of place in physical and human environments. It develops your awareness of differing environments as well as the processes affecting their development, and the ways communities interact with each other and with different environments. Finally, it gives you an understanding of different communities and cultures throughout the world and an awareness of the contrasting opportunities and constraints presented by different environments.

You will study important geographical concepts, beginning with population and settlement, the natural environment and economic development. You will also develop your ability to interpret geographical information including mapping and statistics and put those skills into practice on fieldwork trips.

There are many links between this course and other subjects at both GCSE and A-level, and the skills learned combined with the study of contemporary themes and issues make the course highly relevant and valuable.

The History course is divided into two core sections: understanding the modern world, and shaping the nation. In the first you will study the USA from 1920-1973 (focusing on its rapid economic development and its difficulties with equality), and consider conflict and tension in the wider world between the two World Wars. In the second section you will study important themes in British history including Migration, Empires and the People from around 790 to the present day, as well as taking a more in-depth look into the British historic environment and Restoration England, 1660-1685.

Studying the past helps develop your understanding of important world issues such as conflict, the drivers of change and how the past influences the present. How you piece together information through historical enquiry helps you to develop your capacity for learning and reasoning as well as providing context for many other areas of study.

Music is an important subject at St Joseph’s and everyone is encouraged to learn to play or perform. The range of music studied begins with the classics, but mixes contemporary ideas with established traditions. You might study the work of Purcell alongside that of Freddie Mercury, who wrote for quite different Queens! Also on the playlist are musical theatre works, music from film, contemporary world music and jazz.

The course is made up of three elements: performing (you will give solo and ensemble performances), composing (two pieces) and appraising (studying music from the 18th to the 21st centuries).

The study of Music will develop your creativity as well as your ability to think critically and express your opinions and understanding of a wide range of musical styles and traditions. You could continue your study at A-level with a view to developing a performing or teaching career, a role in the music business or in musical theatre.

Everyone with a phone is a photographer these days. But how much more satisfying to progress beyond Snapchat snaps to create memorable portraits, location shots, or studio experiments?

In this thoroughly practical Photography course you will build a coursework portfolio featuring a sustained project based on a set theme or brief, showing the development of your ideas and your understanding as well as your creative response.

The course is enriched by many visits to art galleries and museums in the UK and abroad, photography tours to provide new inspiration, and a purpose built photography suite where you will be able to discover the mysteries of chemical processing as well as Mac-based post-production photo editing.

Photography is everywhere, but good photography is always in demand. The opportunities are very wide in almost any industry or artistic or design-based field, and studying Photography at GCSE is a good introduction in addition to its wider value from a creative standpoint.

There are few better courses than Product Design for enabling you to demonstrate flair, innovation and creativity in design. Its practical focus encourages you to develop ideas, solve problems and work with a team to design products for small-scale production or large-scale manufacturing.

Beginning with a design brief and specification you will use prototyping techniques and model-making to realise your design ideas, which will then be tested, evaluated and marketed in a live pitch.

In addition to the practical side of the course there is time to study the development of design through different eras, paying attention to trends in design and to specific design icons.

The College offers AS and A2 courses in Design and Technology which could lead to a degree in architecture, design or manufacturing and engineering.

GCSE Physical Education encourages you to develop and maintain an active, healthy lifestyle, which can help with your creativity and your decision making. The course also increases motivation, as sports interests can be pursued outside school through coaching and officiating.

During the course you will be able to develop your ability in your three strongest sports, ultimately being assessed in those sports. You will learn sports theory including exploring the relationship between health, fitness and physical activity as well as understanding other current sports issues and promoting healthy living at the College.

The course gives you an opportunity to sample a wide range of activities and is a platform for further study or competition. Many students have progressed to study sports science, coaching and leisure and tourism at UK universities.

Whilst Religious Education forms part of the compulsory core curriculum, this is a non-examined course unless students opt to take the full GCSE course.

This course studies the key beliefs and practices of Christianity and one other world religion, as well as studying Marriage and the Family; Matters of Life and Death; Crime and Punishment; and Peace and Conflict. During the course students are expected to take an interest in relevant current affairs.

The Religious Education GCSE course encourages candidates to develop critical and evaluative skills which will help to form the foundation for further study in subjects including Theology, Philosophy, Law, Sociology, Social Sciences as well as Religious Education. Skills learned will help to build a good platform for careers in many fields including medicine, education, politics and government.

Among the most widely spoken languages, Spanish opens doors all over the world. Studying Spanish at GCSE will provide you with a useful base of linguistic competence as well as obvious benefits in improving communication skills and developing your cultural understanding.

The course considers identity and culture, local, national and global issues, and current and future study and employment. Through all subjects you will be using the language to advance your understanding and express your ideas through reading, speaking and writing.

The recently updated AS and A2 Spanish examinations allow for greater breadth of study post-GCSE. There are many advantages to having language qualifications within the global economy, and when working in international businesses your language skills will make you more attractive to employers. There are a variety of university courses which combine languages with other disciplines, for example Business, Law, Media and Science, as well as more traditional and academic pure language degrees. 

In the Triple Science course you will study for three separate GCSEs in the three subjects. You will develop your knowledge and skills in Biology, Chemistry and Physics, but it is not only about learning facts and theories – there is also plenty of practical work. And you will gain useful transferable skills beyond your knowledge of scientific concepts including how to carry out scientific investigations and how to analyse and evaluate results.

The topics covered in Biology include cell biology, the organisation and systems in the body and in plants, inheritance, variation, genetics and evolution, ecological processes, health, disease and the development of medicines.

In Chemistry you will learn about atomic structure, the periodic table, bonding, structure and the properties of matter, chemical reactions, Earth and atmospheric science, polymers and nanoparticles, alcohols and carboxylic acids.

In Physics you will consider forces, waves, energy, electricity, magnetism and radioactivity, matter and space physics.

Each GCSE also places emphasis on your ability to use mathematical skills within a scientific context. For example arithmetic and numerical computation, handling data, using algebra, graphs, geometry and trigonometry.

This course has a linear structure so all examinations will be taken in the summer of Year 11. There will be a total of six papers, two for each subject. Each of the papers will assess knowledge and understanding from distinct topic areas. The second paper in each subject may include some synoptic assessment in which knowledge and understanding from the first paper can be examined.

The course prepares you for further studies in science such as A-level Sciences, BTECs or NVQs in related subjects. Science is a core requirement for entry to many careers, including medicine, veterinary science, engineering and construction.