Biology at Glenalmond is a lot more than being in a lab and looking at life, it’s about getting out and about in the environment we live in, being totally open to all aspects of learning and life and above all, sharing a passion which we all have for this exciting and complex subject.

In the Biology Department we all love science and Biology and that’s exactly how we want our pupils to feel. We are open to all and consider ourselves to be a biological haven of learning nestled in the middle of the Science Block. Want to know how you work as a human? Want to push the way in which you think about the world around you? Then come on in.

The Biology department is located on the first floor of a purpose-built Science Centre which was constructed in 2001. There are three general laboratories capable of teaching classes of 24 pupils, a sixth form laboratory for project work, a departmental Sixth Form library and a foyer. There is a large well equipped preparation room and a full-time technician who works for both the Biology and the Chemistry Departments. Biology is a popular subject in the Sixth Form with about 30 electing to study Biology in their Lower Sixth year.


The Department organises a number of trips and expeditions each year. Over the past few years these have included visits to the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, The Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, The Scottish Crops Research Institute in Dundee, The Forensic Science Laboratories in Dundee, The Science Centre in Glasgow, Tennants Brewery in Glasgow; The Biology Department at Dundee University and The Psychology Department at Abertay University.

We also run Medsoc, which is a group of potential Medics, Vets, Dentists (and indeed anyone with a passion for the subject), who meet regularly to discuss current developments in Medicine and Biology, and also to debate ethical issues and current advancements in Science in general.


Dr David Clarke, BSc, PGCE

Mrs Lauren Tosh, BSc, PGCE


Second Form

It’s all about getting used to Biology and getting interested in what makes us tick! The pupils follow a course that prepares them for designing experiments, how to write up what they have found out, using basic lab equipment and getting comfortable with the use of the rather large biological dictionary of key terms. Above all this year is about sparking passion and exploring their scientific interests.

Third Form

This is the year that the Edexcel Double Award IGCSE course begins and the pupils will follow the syllabus set out in preparation for their IGCSE examinations at the end of Fifth Form. The pupils will study life processes, cells, how substances move in and out of the cells, enzymes, classification of life, the digestive system and reproduction, and will end with a topic on the environment and ecological study which sees them out and about around the campus.

Biology is taught as part of the IGCSE Science at Glenalmond.

Science is part of every Glenalmond pupil’s curriculum up to GCSE. From the Third Form to the Fifth Form all pupils receive two periods per week in each of the three sciences and all will study the material contained in the Edexcel Dual award specification. This leads to a double IGCSE award which provides a solid foundation for any of the three sciences at A Level and university entrance beyond that (including Oxbridge, medicine or dentistry). The top science set will aim for separate sciences (a GCSE grade in each science) with additional specification material spread over the two year course. A combined science IGCSE is also available (one GCSE grade across all three sciences) for less able scientists with first examination in 2019. 

Key subject aims

  • To impart a systematic body of scientific knowledge and facts, and an understanding of scientific concepts, principles, themes and patterns
  • To further pupils’ appreciation of the practical nature of science, developing experimental skills based on correct and safe laboratory techniques
  • To develop an appreciation of the importance of accurate experimental work to scientific method and reporting
  • To develop pupils’ ability to form hypotheses and design experiments to test them
  • To sustain and develop an enjoyment of, and interest in, the scientific world
  • To foster an appreciation of the significance of science in wider personal, social, environmental, economic and technological contexts, with a consideration of ethical issues
  • To enable pupils to select, organise and present information clearly and logically, using appropriate scientific terms and conventions
  • To prepare pupils for more advanced courses in each of the three scientific disciplines that comprise this specification.

Assessment for Dual Award

  • Single tier. Examination comprises of three papers, one from each of the sciences Chemistry, Biology, and Physics (each paper is 120 minutes)
  • Graded A*- G in 2017 and 2018. Switches to grades 9 – 1 in 2019
  • Pupils are awarded two IGCSE grades, reflecting study of the prescribed amount of subject content
  • Provides a sound foundation for progression to GCE Advanced Subsidiary and Advanced Level science specifications.

The A Level course, “AQA A-Level Biology 7402” is taught in a linear fashion, over the course of two years, and is assessed by three terminal written examinations (260 scaled marks). There are 3 objectives assessed within these papers:

AO1: Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, processes, techniques and procedures

AO2: Apply knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, processes, techniques and procedures:

AO3: Analyse, interpret and evaluate scientific information, ideas and evidence      

Over the course of the 2 years there are 8 topic areas taught which are tested in a variety of contexts in all 3 terminal papers:

  1. Biological Molecules
  2. Cells
  3. Organisms exchange substances with their environment
  4. Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms
  5. Energy transfers in and between organisms *
  6. Organisms respond to changes in their internal and external environments*
  7. Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems*
  8. The control of gene expression*                                                             * taught in year 2


A “Science Practical” endorsement element which covers experimental work also covered (this involves “12 core practicals” which are externally moderated). This part has no influence on the marks or final A Level grade but a pass or fail in this section is recorded on the pupil’s A Level certificate alongside the grade.


Lower Sixth A-Level Year 1 Course Description

Biology is taught in ten teaching periods per cycle and uses the AQA Biology A-Level Year 1 specification. In the Lower Sixth we teach the first 4 out of the 8 topic areas which have to be covered over the two years. During the course of the year six key practical experiments which support the learning also have to be carried out


Upper Sixth A-Level Year 2 Course Description

Biology is taught in ten teaching periods per cycle and uses the AQA Biology A-Level Year 2 specification. In the Upper Sixth we teach the final 4 out of the 8 topic areas which have to be covered over the two years. During the course of the year six key practical experiments which support the learning also have to be carried out which will complete the 12 required in total.


Recommended Entry Requirements

It is recommended that candidates should achieve the minimum of Grade AB (Double Award Science) or Standard Grade A in Biology and Chemistry or Individual Science passes in both Biology and Chemistry at a minimum of Grade B. 


Subject Combinations

Biology combines well with all the sciences and particularly well with Chemistry. In the past, Biology and Geography has also been a popular combination. It is regarded as a useful subject for those contemplating a career in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, biochemistry, pharmacy, molecular biology, biotechnology, nursing and applied biology. Biology also works well as a standalone science in that it shows breadth of study when combined with the classically “non-science” A Levels.

Purpose of the course

The Higher Biology course offers a broad and up-to-date selection of concepts and ideas relevant to the central position of life science within our society. Learners develop a deeper understanding of the underlying themes of biology — evolution and adaptation; structure and function; genotype and niche — and the scale of topics ranges from molecular through to whole organism and beyond. Learners develop scientific inquiry and investigative skills, scientific analytical thinking and evaluation skills, and the ability to understand and use scientific literacy to communicate ideas and issues.


Comparison with A Level Biology


The course specification contains greater breadth than A Level Biology but significantly less depth at each stage which allows scope for exploring more. At A Level, 8 topics and 12 required practicals are completed over two years:


Topic 1: Biological Molecules

Topic 2: Cells

Topic 3: Organisms exchange substances with environment

Topic 4: Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms

Topic 5: Energy Transfers in and between organisms

Topic 6: Organisms respond to change

Topic 7: Genetics, populations, Evolution and ecosystems

Topic 8: The control of gene Expression


Higher Biology is composed of 3 encompassing Chapters:

DNA and the Genome

Metabolism and Survival

Sustainability and Interdependence


With less depth there is greater scope to study the wide ranging topics within these three.


SQA Higher assessment structure


The SQA Higher Geography is assessed by one terminal examination and an assignment totalling 120 marks.

The terminal paper consists of 100 marks and will have 2 sections:

  • Section 1 is the Objective Test and is multiple choice worth 20 marks
  • Section 2 contains restricted and extended response questions worth 80 marks

Marks are spread equally across the 3 chapters.

The assignment is designed to assess the application of skills and scientific enquiry. It represents an opportunity to explore science in the wider world and is led by the student. It is worth 20 marks.


Breakdown of the course

DNA and the Genome:   Structure and replication of DNA, Control of Gene Expression, Cellular Differentiation, Mutations and Evolution and Genomic Sequencing

Metabolism and Survival:  Pathways and their control (respiration and rate), Metabolic Conformers and Regulators, Metabolism and Adverse Conditions and Genetic Control of Metabolism

Sustainability and Interdependence: Food Supply and Productivity, Plant and Animal Breeding, Crop Protection, Animal Welfare, Symbiosis, Social Behaviour, Mass Extinction and Threats to Biodiversity