Curriculum overview

Girls at St Swithun’s benefit from a broad and balanced curriculum that promotes individual choice and achievement. The timetable is designed to enable each pupil to fulfil her intellectual, physical and creative potential through a dynamic range of purposeful lessons and activities.

Whole school

From their first years here girls are taught to examine social, cultural and moral issues so that they can make informed decisions about their own way of living as well as respecting the values of each individual. The PSHEE & citizenship programme is tailored for each year group and is delivered through a range of school activities and specialist speakers.

September 2012 saw the launch of Stretch, a weekly academic enrichment programme for the entire school. The girls in L4-L5 (Years 7-9) follow a compulsory programme of activities such as astronomy, thinking skills, experimental art, discovering the news and the great egg challenge while the older girls will have a choice of courses including ethics and science, Socratic discussion and UK political issues.

All girls also follow our PSHE programme, Thrive, which introduces the girls to the habits conducive to lifelong mental and physical health. One of our aims, both through this programme and more broadly, is to give the girls confidence in themselves so that they do not feel they necessarily have to conform to society's expectations.

Games and PE are taught throughout the school so that girls can participate in a wide range of team and individual sports.  Both in lessons and as recreational activities, the emphasis is on personal enjoyment and the development of a healthy, active life, but all pupils receive expert coaching and the most talented individuals and teams are entered into county, regional and national competitions.

Learning support provides bespoke support for individual girls who may be experiencing difficulties different aspects of their academic studies.

All girls for whom English is not their first language have second-language (known as EAL) lessons either individually or in small groups so that they may enhance their skills in written and spoken English.

Girls in L4 – U4 (years 7 – 8)

All pupils experience the full breadth of the academic curriculum and are encouraged to explore a range of opportunities and skills through studying English, Latin, mathematics, French, German, drama, chemistry, biology, physics, IT, geography, history, art & design, food & textiles, music, RPE( religion, philosophy and ethics), physical education and technology.

Girls in L5 (year 9)

English, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, history, geography, RPE, choice of two modern foreign languages from French, German and Spanish, art & design, Latin, drama, food & textiles, information technology, music, physical education, technology.

Girls in M5 – U5 (years 10 and 11)

A broad and balanced curriculum continues in the middle years when girls take 10 GCSE exams to allow time for other interests and activities.  Everyone takes English language, English literature, mathematics and physical education and then girls choose six or seven subjects from the following: biology, chemistry, physics, French, German, Spanish, history, Classical civilisation, geography, history, religious studies, art & design, resistant materials, food technology, textiles, drama, Greek, Latin and music. There is a recommendation that at least two science subjects and a modern foreign language are included. Girls are encouraged to take at least one humanity or social science (history, geography, religion, philosophy & ethics or Classical civilisation) to ensure a breadth of knowledge and skills.

Sixth form

There is a special section about the sixth form and a separate publication available but in general, girls are offered 22 subjects from which they choose four (five if maths and further maths are chosen).  One of these will normally be followed to AS level only while the remainder are taken through as full A levels. Advice is given about the implications for their choice of university, degree course and career to ensure sensible combinations. Some girls choose to follow courses in subjects which are not offered at GCSE, e.g. politics, economics, history of art. Over half the sixth form study at least one science subject at A level. Some will continue all four AS choices to full A levels.

In addition, all sixth-form girls follow an enrichment programme of taught short courses and lectures from visiting speakers. Areas of study include science and ethics, student survival, money matters, politics, cookery, philosophy, relationship matters, creative skills, first aid and what it means to be English.  All sixth-formers may also choose to do the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). This is worth half an A level and is graded from A* - E.  The qualification gives girls the opportunity to research an area of personal interest. Once the research has been completed the girls will write an essay, construct an artefact or give a performance as well as compiling a log of the process. The final stage is to give a presentation. Topics chosen this year included the migration patterns of early man and notions of the divine in Blake’s poetry. Universities recognise the value of the skills required for the qualification and it attracts UCAS tariff points.