- School Life
Art and Design are vital forms of communication and self-expression for individual and cultural development.
The Art and Design department, housed in our beautiful and well-resourced Stable Block building encourages active learning by providing opportunities for creative growth and developing pupils’ ability to think, perceive, make decisions and problem solve. Our results at GCSE reach a high level and our exhibitions of work are diverse and inspirational.
Pupils take Art and Design in their first three years in the Senior School, developing a range of practical and technical skills, techniques and processes through wide-ranging projects:
There is a strong focus on Art History, and pupils are encouraged to write about and express their opinions on art.
Many pupils opt to pursue Art and Design at GCSE level. We offer courses which specialise in Photography and Textiles
Gallery visits are an integral part of Art and Design, providing an enjoyable experience for pupils to feel inspired, expand their learning and raise their cultural awareness. Trips include a Year 10 art trip to Paris, a Year 9 photography trip to Brighton and workshops in Year 11 delivered by a range of exciting artists.
There are a range of opportunities to explore Art and Design beyond the curriculum including an Art Club, our Big Art Week and Fashion Shows. The inspiring annual GCSE Art and Design Exhibition allows GCSE students to showcase their work to parents and the rest of the school.
The Computing curriculum equips pupils with the digital literacy skills, knowledge and confidence to succeed in an increasingly digital environment. This dynamic department is well-resourced, with three ICT suites and a range of technology including iPads [insert other devices/specific equipment available] available to Senior School pupils, enabling practical and theoretical learning through a variety of experiences and relevant assignments. The wider impact of ICT on society, including legal, social and moral issues is also explored.
Topics covered in Key Stage 3 develop theoretical and practical understanding, including:
At Key Stage 4, ICT is offered as a core or optional subject. The core ICT programme currently follows the International Certification in Digital Literacy (ICDL), a vocational qualification that helps to advance computer skills. The optional ICT is the OCR Computer Science at GCSE course, further developing the understanding of computer systems and skills in problem solving and programming.
Programming Club – Lunch
Competitions (i.e. Bebras Challenge; Oxford University Computing Challenge; Cyber Discovery)
Computing Trip to either: The National Museum of Computing or Bletchley Park
Dance is taught at Key Stage 3 and subsequently GCSE level in our Dame Kelly Holmes Sports Centre, with a specialist Dance Studio housing facilities such as barres, mirrors and a fully sprung Harlequin floor. As both a physical and expressive art form, Dance promotes fitness and well-being, supporting the development of confidence, creativity and self-esteem.
Our Key Stage 3 pupils study a variety of dance forms, including contemporary, street, salsa, physical theatre and Lindy Hop. They also develop an appreciation of professional dances including work choreographed by Matthew Bourne and Christopher Bruce and looking at companies such as Rambert, Stopgap and Phoenix Dance.
Pupils experience collaborating in small and large groups to choreograph routines; an emphasis is put on reflecting and refining their own work through analysis as well as developing their own physical skills and learning key terminology.
At GCSE level, pupils follow a theoretical and practical curriculum. The course covers:
Pupils are encouraged to see a wide range of live performances, with trips organised throughout the two-year GCSE course. Dance workshops involving different year groups occur as part of the enrichment programme.
The biennial Gym and Dance Display offers the opportunity for all Senior pupils to perform to a large audience and includes GCSE final examination choreography, classwork, Dance Club items and auditioned pieces.
We also offer a GCSE Dance Club, enabling pupils to further develop and hone their assessed pieces as well as an Open Dance Club for Years 7-11 which is a weekly lunchtime club run by the Dance captains.
Drama provides an enriching, active learning experience, not only improving performance skills, but also building confidence and encouraging effective communication and self-expression.
Taught in our state-of-the-art 200-seat Dame Judy Dench Theatre with dedicated studio, and with unique performance experiences in our outdoor amphitheatre, pupils enjoy practical and theory-based learning. A full-time Theatre Technician is on-hand to ensure the smooth running of top quality productions, and providing pupils with the opportunity to learn technical skills.
Through our carefully-constructed curriculum, we help pupils to:
Pupils learn to use space, movement and voice with imagination to communicate meaning, developing a range of techniques and skills required for credible improvisation and characterisations, and learn to structure an effective performance through rehearsal and self-evaluation.
Drama is a popular choice at GCSE level, and the department is rightly proud of its consistently excellent examination results.
Curriculum work is supported with regular and varied theatre trips including visits to West End Theatres and provincial theatres such as The National Theatre, The Lyric Hammersmith, Trafalgar Studios and Oxford Playhouse.
There are ample opportunities for those who wish to pursue drama in more depth outside of the curriculum through drama clubs, competitions and productions. The school also offers the opportunity to pursue LAMDA qualifications, which at the higher levels contribute to the UCAS University entry tariff.
The English department aims to inspire a love of language and literature, providing a broad, balanced and exciting curriculum for pupils throughout their Senior School years. We see English as central to all experiences, believing that it empowers the individual. Our mission is to help pupils to become independent thinkers and to find their individual voice. Skills in written and verbal communication are developed from Year 7 until the end of the GCSE course, such that pupils learn to express themselves in the most compelling ways possible, through the power of language and delights of literature. Our rich and varied curriculum caters for all, fostering the creativity, clarity of communication and independent thinking skills needed to succeed across all subject disciplines.
Nurturing talent for analysing texts and writing creatively is a core aim in the English department. All Key Stage 3 classes study a contemporary novel in the Autumn term. The class teacher selects a novel which is lively and interesting to read and also offers a range of topics for discussion, debate and creative activities. Examples in Year 7 and 8 are Room 13 by Robert Swindells and Holes by Louis Sachar. In Year 9 girls read challenging texts such as, The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill and An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley.
Pre 20th century prose and poetry is a crucial aspect of every year group’s study. In Year 7 we study Victorian literature where our students study extracts from Oliver Twist and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens focusing on the role of the child narrator. This study is enriched by our Year 7 trip to the Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury, London. To further add to our study of literary heritage texts, Year 8 students read a range of Sherlock Holmes’ detective stories in the summer term which involves the study of crime fiction genre focusing especially on the character of the sleuth, as well as additional opportunities for creative writing. In the final term of Year 9, students will embark upon a study of their GCSE Modern Drama text, An Inspector Calls, providing a timely transition to the GCSE Literature course.
Poetry is also studied throughout Years 7, 8 and 9. For Year 7 we have a unit which explores ballad poems which doubles up with our study of English Literary heritage, in which our students read, The Lady of Shalott. In Year 8 the poetry unit doubles with our study of Romeo and Juliet where students analyse a previously unseen extract. In this study, our students also embark upon a research project investigating the life and times of William Shakespeare. This enrichment project culminates in a theatre trip to The Globe Theatre or Stratford-Upon-Avon. In Year 9, the poetry unit is cross-curricular. This War Poetry unit focus is on Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon’s reality of war poetry and coincides with the History Department’s teaching of World War I and an annual trip to the battlefields in Ypres.
Pupils follow the Key Stage 4 curriculum in English Language and Literature.
In the English Language specification, pupils will develop the skills to study a wide variety of high-quality challenging texts from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries; they will not however be expected to study set texts for this qualification. There will be increased focus on accurate use of spelling, punctuation and grammar; 20% of the marks for written examination will be allocated for accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar. There are two external examinations consisting of:
In the English Literature specification, pupils will be required to study a range of high quality intellectually challenging, and substantial texts including: at least one Shakespeare play, one nineteenth-century novel, a selection of poetry since 1789 including representative Romantic Poetry, and fiction or drama from the British Isles from 1914 onwards. There are two examinations consisting of:
Untiered examination papers only. 5% of marks will be allocated for accurate spelling.
The English department also offers a broad and exciting co-curricular programme. Regular theatre trips and workshops aim to enrich and expand pupils’ appreciation and passion for literature, together with a variety of clubs including a current affairs group, creative writing and poetry and weekly book discussion groups, and the School Magazine (The Chronicle) editorial team.
Food and Nutrition is taught to all pupils in Years 7–9, with the option to take the GCSE course in Year 10. The subject develops an understanding of the theory of food science, nutrition and healthy eating, and pupils learn to prepare and cook a wide range of foods.
The Food Room is fully equipped with food preparation equipment, an electric oven and gas hob and a sink. Pupils are encouraged to build confidence in their practical skills so as to work as independently as possible. The School provides all ingredients for practical lessons.
Due to the diversity of the subject, the study of Food and Nutrition complements many areas of the curriculum:
The Food Preparation and Nutrition GCSE course further develops practical and scientific food preparation skills and knowledge, with pupils also earning a Level 2 Food Safety and Hygiene certificate.
Year 10 pupils have the opportunity to take part in the local Rotary Chef competition
Year 9 and 10 pupils are able to take part in a Christmas cake club, entering their cakes into the school’s renowned Christmas cake competition.
Geography develops an invaluable understanding and appreciation of our world and its environment. We focus on dynamic learning, teaching a broad curriculum of physical and human geography topics, incorporating technology, topical issues and fieldwork to bring the subject to life.
Geography is not just an academic subject; it aims to impact lives, supporting the School vision for pupils to become ‘active, compassionate citizens who make significant and lasting contributions to others throughout their lives.’ This enthusiasm for making a difference in the world continues to translate to real-life project outcomes; Abbot’s Hill pupils have previously supported sustainable aid projects in Sri Lanka and Madagascar, supplying clean water and sanitation to schools, building a cook house and canteen, and setting up a microfinance initiative, to name but a few.
Our well-qualified, specialist teachers nurture geographical skills in Key Stage 3, teaching pupils to take part in debate and discussion, to write effectively, carry out surveys, represent and analyse data, and include weather and climate, ecosystems, rivers, coasts and glaciation, development, settlement, plate tectonics, and map reading. Fieldwork focuses on rivers, coasts and tourism in Dorset.
GCSE Geography is a popular option; the Pearson/Edexcel syllabus specification builds on the topics and skills taught during Key Stage 3. With a balance of human and physical units, it offers a secure foundation for Advanced Level studies. Fieldwork focuses on rivers and urban settlement in Yorkshire.
Fieldwork takes place within the school grounds, in the surrounding area and as part of residential fieldwork courses. Supporting the topics taught in the classroom, fieldwork helps students to investigate and understand the world around them; it’s fun too!
The study of History at Abbot’s Hill leads pupils on an exciting journey of discovery and understanding of events and periods of time that have shaped our current world. Our passionate, specialist teachers provide thought-provoking and challenging lessons, promoting independent investigation and interpretation of the past.
We aim to get our students to dig and think deeper about the past, sources of information and their own opinions.
The key aim of the History Department is to fire an enthusiasm and curiosity in pupils to find out more, whilst developing a range of historical skills:
In Key Stage 3 pupils investigate the key social, political and religious changes in Britain, from Medieval times to the 20th Century. The course also explores events beyond Britain: migration, Africa, Civil Rights, the Atlantic Slave Trade and World Wars One and Two.
Lessons are enquiry-based and examine the personalities and characters who represented their time, as well looking at key events, trends and changes in history. Excursions to support these topics currently take place (have run in the past) to Warwick Castle, Bletchley Park and the Battlefields of the First World War.(New York and Washington)
The popular GCSE course in Years 10 and 11 is varied and interesting. The Medicine in Britain unit provides pupils with an excellent grounding in chronological and thematic understanding, as well as an opportunity to explore elements of change and continuity in history. Pupils will also undertake a depth study of World War One trenches, focusing on treatment of the wounded soldier. Other units of study include the Cold War / International Relations between 1945 and 1991, Early Elizabethan England and The USA throughout the Vietnam War. Pupils are able to develop their skills in source analysis and evaluation throughout the units of study.
Co-curricular visits provide support and stimulus for the syllabus material. Historical articles and podcasts are shared with students to extend their learning and interest in broader historical themes.
Visiting to Bletchley Park helped students to make the link between computers and winning World War Two. Walking on the same battlefields as Soldiers from World War One brings to life lessons learnt in the classroom. Bring home the bravery and sacrifice of those young men who went to fight. Going to New York and Washington brought home the Civil Rights and Vietnam learning; the African American museum is an amazing institution.
Mathematics is a core subject, studied by all pupils to GCSE level and contributing to many other areas of the curriculum, such as Science and Technology. Pupils benefit from small class sizes and dynamic teaching, an environment that ensures each and every one achieves to their full ability.
The order in which students study mathematics and the depth that they reach is adapted to suit each cohort and individual and is supported by a range of digital and physical resources.
Pupils are taught in sets from the start of Year 7. Sets are commensurate with ability and meet individual learning needs immediately.
The Key Stage 3 programme of study follows the requirements of the National Curriculum, including the following areas:
Over the course of Key Stage 3, pupils consolidate their understanding of mathematics, building confidence and taking increasing responsibility for the planning and execution of work. The ability to think and reason mathematically and apply mathematical principles in a wider context is further developed, establishing a firm foundation for further study.
At GCSE level, pupils continue to be taught in sets and follow the Edexcel Linear GCSE, specification 1MA1. They will build on the strong foundations of the Key Stage 3 curriculum and continue to expand their understanding of mathematical concepts. When appropriate, pupils are offered the opportunity to extend their mathematical ability through more advanced qualifications such as Edexcel Awards in Algebra at either Level 2 or 3 depending on their age.
Activities to support the curriculum take place where possible. In the past, pupils have visited Wendover Woods to take part in orienteering and practical mathematical activities and Bletchley Park to discover how mathematics was used to break codes during the Second World War.
Pupils also enter the UKMT Maths Challenges and Team Challenges, can visit Maths Clinic for support at lunchtime and join Mathemagicians where they enjoy a range of activities including recreational maths puzzles, Rubik’s cubes and mathematical YouTubers.
Media Studies is an exciting and interesting option subject that is offered to pupils at GCSE. As different media become part of our everyday lives through television, radio, social networking sites, newspapers and advertising, it is important to appreciate the power and influences these have over us. With a focus on both analytical skills and creativity, Media Studies has consistently proved to be a popular and rewarding subject of choice.
Media Studies is embedded into English lessons in Years 7-9 (Key Stage 3), with the study of different forms and genres, which includes non-fiction texts, how novels relate to their film versions, still image and moving image analysis.
At GCSE, pupils study three components: Exploring the media; Understanding media forms and products; Creating media products. Pupils assess media language, representation, audiences and industries in relation to media areas, such as magazines, marketing (film posters and advertisements), newspapers and radio. As part of the NEA (Non Examined Assessment) which is worth 30% of the final marks, an individual media production project is undertaken in response to a choice of briefs.
Pupils in Key Stage 3 have the opportunity to improve their skills by participating in the annual BBC Young Reporter. This exciting project offers our students the opportunity to produce and present their own written and filmed news reports and articles.
Our vibrant Modern Languages department encourages a love of languages and appreciation of cultures from the start of Senior School, with French and Spanish studied as core subjects at Key Stage 3 (Years 7-9 inclusive). Our passionate department includes several native French and Spanish speakers, and language classrooms are equipped with the latest technology to enhance learning in more visual and kinaesthetic ways.
Pupils begin their language studies in tutor groups, and are then placed in sets from the Spring term of Year 7.
The four areas of language skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing – are expanded in depth following the Key Stage 3 curriculum, and pupils learn to use languages effectively and creatively, whilst gaining insights into their own, and other cultures.
Chromebooks are regularly used to access online resources and media to enhance learning of grammar and vocabulary, and to work independently and collaboratively on creative projects.
In Year 9 we start the syllabus for GCSE in both languages. During the last term pupils choose to continue with one or both languages to complete the course in Y10 and Y11.
Our popular GCSE courses achieve excellent results year on year, with many pupils going on to study languages at A level and beyond.
We firmly believe that educational visits to France and Spain form an essential part of learning about foreign language and culture. We offer an exciting and inspiring programme of trips; these currently include short residential trips to the Opal Coast in Year 7, Sevilla in Year 9 and Paris and Madrid in Year 10. Trips are offered at an appropriate stage of learning in order to gain maximum benefit.
We have recently launched a German club as part of our co-curricular programme, to introduce pupils to a third European language.
Making music is central to the culture of Abbot’s Hill; music is a core curriculum subject in Years 7-9 and GCSE option. Our dynamic department aims to fulfil the musical potential of every pupil, whether as a performer or a composer, fostering a love and appreciation for a wide variety of music. Pupils gain the skills and ability to express themselves musically, with regular performances in assemblies, concerts, workshops and recitals a key feature of school life.
The facilities for music are first-class. There are three dedicated classrooms, one of which is fitted with electronic keyboards. One also includes a Mac Suite devoted to computer music, using a range of composing software including the latest Sibelius 7. A number of smaller teaching rooms are available for visiting and resident instrumental teachers and personal practice. The purpose-built Dame Judy Dench theatre has tiered seating for over 200 and a fully-fitted sound control room.
In all years, the courses cover the core elements of performing, composing and listening. A variety of topics is studied, including:
From Year 10, pupils follow the Edexcel GCSE course.
It is expected that those who opt for this course will be conversant with the demands of ABRSM Grade 5 theory and will be able to perform at approximately Grade 5 level on at least one instrument or singing by the time of the examination at the end of Year 11.
There are many opportunities to go on trips to local and West End theatres, workshops and attend other musical events.
We offer a broad range of extra-curricular opportunities including individual lessons on a variety of instruments. There are a number of music ensembles and choirs that regularly perform at school events such as our annual Carol Service at St Albans Abbey and Commemoration Day.
Abbot’s Hill is committed to providing an education fit for the modern world by challenging everyone in our community to be confident in who they are, develop strength of character and to become active, compassionate citizens who make significant and lasting contributions to others throughout their lives.
A programme of Personal Development Education (PDE) is included in the School Curriculum from Year 7 to Year 11, as well as through the many and varied co-curricular activities at Abbot’s Hill.
The aims of PDE are to promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils, preparing them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life in the 21st century. This includes the teaching of Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) as required by the Department of Education (September 2020).
Schools in England must actively promote British values through the curriculum and in co-curricular activities. We therefore also recognise our obligation to actively promote fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.
The range of themes taught in the Senior school are relevant, meaningful and purposeful to the stage of the pupils development and are taught in an age-appropriate manner.
Citizenship education and Careers education is also included within the curriculum and co-curriculum.
Responsibility for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development runs across the whole School, but the Philosophy, Ethics and Religious Studies department makes a significant contribution to the personal development and intellectual growth of all pupils. A wide range of beliefs, values and concepts are explored to teach pupils to think critically and independently; they are encouraged to respectfully listen to and critique others to clarify their own position.
At Key Stage 3, our pupils study Philosophy, Ethics and Religion with a thematic approach; they discuss the values and beliefs relevant to them, as well as a variety of world religions and communities. Pupils learn from each other, recognising common values that cross cultures, respecting differences and developing the ability to form reasoned and informed judgements. As well as exploring beliefs from the main world religions, our pupils are introduced to topics of Philosophy and Ethics; this encourages skills of logical argument and debate. Our pupils are invited to ask big questions about what is right and wrong and philosophical enquiries such as, what is reality?
|Introduction to Philosophy
|Evil and Suffering
|Philosophy of Religion
|Worship and Practices
|Introduction to Ethics
|Key Figures in Christianity and Islam
|Introduction to Christianity
|Life After Death
|Christian Beliefs (GCSE)
|Is Violence Ever Justified?
Photography GCSE is offered to all pupils from Year 10 demonstrating interest and enthusiasm for the subject. Introduced at Abbot’s Hill in 2021, this practical and theory-based course covers a range of technical study areas including:
The course provides pupils with a greater sense of visual awareness, equipping them with skills such as:
Beyond the curriculum
The Abbot’s Hill PE and Games programme is rich and varied, aspirational and inclusive, true to our School vision ‘to engage each individual in physical education to develop self-confidence, resilience and a lifelong love for physical activity’.
Our exceptional on-site sporting facilities, coupled with the dedication, experience and high calibre of our teachers and coaches enable each pupil to follow her sporting ambition and to flourish and excel in her chosen field. Many pupils are chosen to play at county, regional and national level.
Pupils entering the Senior School will be amazed at the opportunities on offer. We introduce a wide variety of sports and games, with core lessons including:
In Years 10 and 11, we offer a wider variety and allow pupils to select the sports they take part in to engage them more in physical activity. In Year 11, external coaches teach self defence, pilates, fencing and zumba as part of the weekly leisure option.
Many pupils opt for the full GCSE Physical Education course, studying the theory and practice of the curriculum and furthering their knowledge to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.
Year 10 pupils also have the opportunity to take the level 2 sport leaders qualification within their PE lesson, giving them great opportunities to learn life skills.
Abbot’s Hill is renowned for its impressive and varied co-curricular programme (link to Senior co-curricular), creating a culture of aspiration and teamship. We offer a large number of sports clubs, catering to all passions and talents.
The Elite Athlete Programme (EAP) is offered to YX pupils as part of its enrichment. The EAP programme includes a series of monthly workshops and talks to support our county, regional and national sportswomen. This includes workshops on nutrition for sport, gait analysis, psychology and high level performance, plyometrics and more. We also welcome elite athletes to come and talk to all pupils in the school about their journey and experiences in sport. The EAP is in its ninth year and has supported many high level athletes from regional pathways to international sporting careers in sports from swimming and lacrosse to equestrian and taekwondo.
We are very fortunate to have extensive facilities here at Abbot’s Hill, and our generously-sized grounds provide unrivalled opportunities for outdoor and indoor sporting endeavours. These include the purpose-built Dame Kelly Holmes Sports Centre, housing a large Sports Hall with county netball court, full volleyball court, four badminton courts and a basketball court, and a dedicated Dance studio. Outdoor facilities include an athletics track, four rounders pitches as well as four lacrosse pitches, five full-size netball courts and one junior court, five tennis courts, an orienteering course and a swimming pool with retractable roof covering for use all year round.
Science is studied as a core subject, with Biology, Chemistry and Physics taught separately by subject specialists at Key Stage 4. We deliver a teaching and learning scheme that provides well-designed studies of exploratory and investigative Science, and gives a valuable educational experience to all pupils.
In Years 7 and 8, pupils study a two-year Key Stage 3 curriculum and are taught natural and physical science. The work is practical, experiment-based and lessons take place in purpose-built, well-equipped laboratories in small groups. The Science department has laptop computers and data logging equipment to enhance learning.
Pupils begin their GCSE Science courses in each of the three disciplines of Biology, Chemistry and Physics in Year 9.
The top set follows the three individual Science GCSEs at an accelerated pace, and other pupils study the Combined GCSE Science (trilogy) course, in which pupils are still taught content across all three sciences but receive two GCSE grades rather than three; there is less content compared to the three individual sciences. All of our pupils therefore gain either two or three GCSEs, with both routes feeding into AS Science courses in Sixth Forms.
Pupils from Year 7 have the opportunity to enhance their scientific studies and passion for individual subjects through the variety of co-curricular clubs available. These include Science club and 3-D printing for Y7 & Y8, Young Engineers for Y9, Y10 and Y11.
Classroom learning is further brought to life through educational trips such as the Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair that showcases the exciting and rewarding work opportunities available, as well as visits to the National Space Centre in Leicester and GCSE Science Live Conference in Oxford.
In addition to curriculum trips, pupils regularly represent the School in competitions and challenge events, such as the Salters’ Festival of Chemistry.