We offer a wide array of subjects across many departments at St Swithuns. Please take a look at the sections below for more information on each.
If you require more information about any subject you may be interested in please contact us.
We offer an exciting and stimulating environment where girls can feel confident in expressing their individual ideas and perspectives. The department has four teachers, a technician and a huge range of facilities. As a team we are able to offer an enormous variety of skills and techniques from ceramics, painting, printmaking, sculpture, textiles and photography to regular life-drawing with the older girls. Art History is taught as a separate subject and is an important part of our sixth-form curriculum. Teaching is vigorous and wide-ranging. We encourage an atmosphere of exploration, experimentation, determination and independence.
In order for our pupils to understand and explore the connections to be made with art and culture, our typical school year will include a wide range of art-related visits, for example: The Big Draw at Roche Court (L6), Berlin (L6), Royal Academy (U4), Pitt Rivers Museum (M5), Modern Art Oxford (U5), British Museum (L5). Our art history students regularly visit London and Venice.
There are regular artist’s workshops and an artist in residence, allowing the girls to work alongside practitioners from a range of art practices. We also enjoy being involved in a range of community-based projects.
We make the most of our wonderful array of facilities which include a general studio, a dark room, a ceramics studio and a sixth-form studio. We also have a history of art classroom and a resources area with a bank of computers and a fantastic collection of art books. We have a gallery space for internal and external exhibitions and throughout the year display the girls' many successes through a diverse exhibition programme.
Life is an extraordinary phenomenon. How is it that this green planet we live on, with its incredible range of organisms, was little more than an accumulated mixture of chemicals several million years ago? How amazing that where there were once only the very simplest organisms, there is now such biodiversity with a fabulous variety of extremely complex living things, each species perfectly adapted to its environment. Most remarkable of all is the fact that we humans, Homo Sapiens, have such a big brain, giving us the ability to reason, innovate, learn, control and understand our environment, yet we still age, succumb to disease and die. This is what makes biology so exciting.
Studying biology is an excellent prelude to studying medical or veterinary sciences, both relying on learning empathetic skills and demonstrating concern for society. It also means you will become a more agile thinker, with an enquiry-led and open-minded approach to the many health issues we face and to be more confident in making decisions about medical procedures. It will also ensure you develop big picture, connection finding and analytical skills, such as critical thinking and complex problem-solving key to understanding environmental issues of the 21st century, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and the long-term effects of climate change on ecosystems, crop production and human populations.
Biology is fascinating because it means you discover how life works, by learning how to self-regulate and develop intellectual confidence, whether at the molecular, cellular, organism or population level. It includes elements of both physics and chemistry but it is also easy to apply to concrete everyday-life examples. It is a highly visual science, but you will also develop the ability to think logically and develop your collaborative communication skills in a scientific context. We discuss some of the most interesting new areas of biology, genetic manipulation and assisted reproduction. Decisions made by governments and individuals. involve using ethics as a tool to make decisions, and so you will learn through practice to see alternative perspectives and apply fluent and flexible thinking evaluate and weigh up opposing arguments.
We make sure we have a very wide range of theoretical and practical activities in our lessons so that there is something for everybody and we complement these with day and residential field trips. The A level biologists have extra lectures from outside speakers, both in and out of school, and can join the Medical, Veterinary or Biological Journal Societies. Sixth-form biologists also have the opportunity to compete in the Biology Intermediate and Olympiad. Girls lower down the school also have the opportunity to enter competitions such as the Biology Challenge.
As a department, we love to come up with ideas and try them out, so we are always looking for new ways to make biology an exciting and rewarding subject to study.
Chemistry has a magical quality for most people. From exhilarating explosions to beautiful colours and fragrances ranging from heavenly to obnoxious, it is a delight to the senses and a wonder to the intellect.
The study of chemistry takes you from the very tiniest level of atomic detail, to global effects of chemical advances. It is at every stage a challenge, a curiosity and a stimulation.
Here at St Swithun’s, we pride ourselves on taking you on a journey to understand and interpret the world around you and to begin to contemplate what contributions you can make to improve our lives in a sustainable future.
By learning through practical work you will develop skills in thinking, planning and physical dexterity. The intellectual challenges we present you will push your creativity, test your logic and improve your self-reliance. You will be captivated by chemistry and we can’t wait to see your reaction!
Where do we come from? It’s a question we all ask almost as soon as we can talk, and there is a plethora of different answers – but one of the most important and rewarding answers can be found in the study of Classics, in our shared cultural heritage of the past of ancient Greece and Rome which has such a huge impact on our lives today. Looking at the past as a society is key to making connections in order to move forward; and some of the biggest of big picture thinking began over two thousand years ago in the ancient world.
Learning to read Latin and Greek (both a joy in themselves for the beauty and precision of their grammar as well as the evocative power of their expression) opens a door into understanding our own society through exploring where it came from and the forces which shaped it. The precision, logical thinking and analytical skills gained from studying these languages has long been recognised by greater minds through the centuries; and the opportunities for flexible thinking and fluency of generating a variety of (correct) answers when translating are multifaceted. Similarly, the power of the ideas from the ancient world which flood into our own is difficult to overstate. It’s hard to think of a more compelling story than the Trojan War, or Odysseus’ long journey home from it. It’s difficult to imagine the world without democracy, first pioneered by the Athenians five hundred years before Christ. It’s challenging to picture society today without drama, where we explore and learn about who we are through watching mimetic representation. It’s almost unimaginable to contemplate a world without science, pioneered by people we now call philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, but who were equally interested in the how as well as the why. And it’s almost impossible to understand the way nations project their own cultural identity and construct their concepts of self and the other without thinking about the exclusivity of Athenian power as contrasted with the inclusivity of the Roman empire.
Studying Classics at St Swithun’s is about learning the languages of Greek and Latin of course – but it’s also about connecting with the societies which spoke and wrote them; and about using the evidence you find there to begin to articulate your own views, on the societies themselves, their values and the difficult questions that these raise. Curiosity, open-mindedness and, as Aristotle termed it, the desire to understand are all whetted on this keystone of the past. And if you find that the languages aren’t quite for you, for whatever reason, then you can still access this rich and vibrant cultural heritage. You have the chance to explore the ancient world by choosing to study Classical civilisation; you will be able to read the literature in translation, learn about the history and the lessons it can teach us, puzzle at the philosophy and marvel at the art – so you won’t miss out on exploring Greek and Roman society, and how these peoples shaped the world we live in today.
It is widely accepted that we are now in the midst of the fourth Industrial revolution. Data and digital technologies promise revolutionary transformational changes across the full range of industry sectors and spheres of life. This unprecedented digital revolution will impact everyone. It will have extraordinary implications on the range of skills that today’s young people will require in every aspect of their lives.
Computing education must enable young people to continue to keep up with the pace of technological change so that they can remain effective, well-informed and safe citizens. At the heart of the St Swithun’s computing curriculum is the aim of engaging the girls in this exciting subject through traditional and non-traditional topics.
The subject of computing has three distinct strands, each of which is complementary to the others: computer science (CS), information technology (IT) and digital literacy (DL). Each strand is essential in preparing pupils to thrive in an increasingly digital world.
- Computer science strands focus on the scientific and practical study of computation: what can be computed, how to compute it, and how computation may be applied to the solution of problems.
- Information technology is concerned with how computers and telecommunications equipment work, and how they may be applied to the storage, retrieval, transmission and manipulation of data.
- Digital literacy is the ability to effectively, responsibly, safely and critically navigate, evaluate and create digital artefacts using a range of digital technologies.
Students in KS3 (L4-L5) cover a wide range of topics spanning the 3 strands of computing in a constantly evolving curriculum reacting to current educational trends and technologies.
As of 2022 this includes: Minecraft Education (MakeCode), , Flowol (algorithms & flowcharts), Comp Sci Theory (binary, logic, hardware etc), Spreadsheets (Excel), Tech4Learning (iPadOS , OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, network resources), Python (high level programming language), E-Safety (social media, cyber bullying, data security, malware), Multimedia (video and image editing), Computer Ethics (A.I, robotics, digital divide, data & privacy), Emerging Trends (Blockchain, Computer Misuse Act, Online Safety Bill).
Students in KS4 (M5-U5) have the opportunity to continue their studies with a focus on computer science via the Edexcel iGCSE Computer Science course.
Students in KS5 (L6-U6) have the opportunity to continue their computer science journey with our AQA A-Level Computer Science course where they will develop a deeper understanding and experience of computation and the working of computer systems.
Can you imagine life without a mobile phone, laptop or access to the internet? Just 20 years ago it was a reality for most of us – ask your teachers and parents! Technology is all around us. It influences our everyday lives and makes many tasks easier and quicker to perform. However, many of these products are ‘designed to fail’. They have built-in obsolescence because a new generation of products is already being designed and made that has the capability to perform an even wider range of tasks. This in itself presents problems with material resources and disposal – a global issue!
If you ask your parents and grandparents “What are the three Rs?” they are likely to respond “reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic”; you may be more familiar with “reduce, reuse, recycle”. The designer of today has to be aware of environmental issues and has to consider the lifecycle of a product before manufacturing it.
At St Swithun’s we will teach you basic manufacturing skills using hand tools, machines and progressing to computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacture as in industry. You will learn how to evaluate designs, test products and accept that not getting things right first time is part of learning.
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to TRY just one more time.
Thomas A Edison.
You will work on projects individually and as part of a team, manage a budget, and have a good awareness of health and safety and the environment. You will be encouraged to be creative and original, inspired by the work of others. You will have the opportunity to present your ideas to others and will cover a range of presentation techniques. Most importantly you will be applying skills that you learn in other areas of the curriculum to solve technology problems.
Our students are given the opportunity to enter local and national design and engineering competitions and many win prizes for innovative ideas and products. Each year a number of girls compete in the national Greenpower electric car racing challenge, which involves designing, constructing and racing a battery-powered vehicle around motor-racing circuits.
With universities and businesses demanding ever-improving digital literacy skills, we are committed to ensuring girls leave St Swithun’s with the skills and confidence to make the most of currently available technology and are as prepared as they can be for the rapidly advancing technology of tomorrow. In addition, we continually explore how technology might enrich and enhance the learning experience for all girls, while enabling teachers to work with greater efficiency and effectiveness. Our digital learning coordinator seeks to both integrate and innovate, ensuring that we make discerning use of ICT while keeping abreast of the latest developments and opportunities in teaching, learning and administration.
A team of digital leaders spanning all year groups provides an invaluable pupil voice and practical guidance for both staff and students. One of our leaders says "the introduction of digital learning to St Swithun's has made such a difference both in and out of the classroom. Now, instead of stressing about sending links and emailing resources to the class, teachers are able to present their materials to students through the use of OneNote which is accessible to all students through school computers, devices at home and iPads in class. The adoption of this constructive technology has been vital to my studies".
Online training videos and practical workshops help to equip staff with the confidence they need to make the most of the technology that is currently available, while preparing for the potential of future investment. By working together, staff and students are becoming intuitive digital learners, embracing cutting-edge technology so that a St Swithun’s education is as comprehensive, challenging and creative as possible.
We have begun to roll out a programme whereby girls in all year groups will eventually have the use of a personal device to support their learning.
Click here (PDF 305KB) to download our Q&A document about digital learning at St Swithun’s.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on…
....and our imaginations can take us anywhere!
Drama at St Swithun’s is creative, holistic, challenging and fun! When you study drama at St Swithun’s you will explore diverse genres, see the world from other perspectives through role-play and script analysis, devise original pieces for performance and learn to critique and reflect on your own and other’s work as performers, designers and directors. When you study drama at St Swithun’s you will learn to challenge conventions, break the rules and acquire positive personal, social and technical skills which are relevant in all subjects. At St Swithun’s we believe in ensemble based productions with a strong element of physical theatre. We encourage you to bring your imagination and ideas to every lesson, we encourage debate and discussion, and we encourage you to develop in confidence as a unique individual with a voice.
Drama at St Swithun’s is taught by experienced specialists and is part of the curriculum for girls in years 7-9 before it becomes an option at GCSE and A-Level. Many girls also choose to have speech and drama lessons to further develop their communication and performance skills.
The department is housed in purpose built facilities and all activities including lessons take full advantage of the auditorium, studio theatre and the small performing space in Harvey Hall, the school’s performing arts centre.
Extra activities typically on offer for girls include: junior drama club for years 7 and 8, a lower school production, a large scale senior school production, collaboration with Winchester College productions, theatre trips, show cases, an Oliviers Awards night, and specialist workshops with professional theatre companies and practitioners. We regularly take part in the Shakespeare Schools’ Festival. Performances for A-Level and GCSE examination practical pieces are also open to family and friends.
Although being a performer has undoubted appeal, many girls enjoy learning about the technical elements in theatre, such as design, lighting and sound and thus have the opportunity to work backstage on productions with the support of our superb technical crew. Other girls may explore prop making, costume design and directing or producing plays, and indeed writing scripts. And when the applause has stopped, every girl will have improved her ability to be creative, interpret, work in a team and communicate-skills vital onstage and off.
Economics is the study of how individuals, businesses and countries make choices about how to use their scarce resources effectively to satisfy people’s infinite wants and needs. It covers topics such as how people choose to spend their income, how firms decide the price of their products, how governments deal with inflation and international issues such as trade and development. As consumers and members of society, it is a subject that affects us all.
Economics is available only in the sixth form. You do not need to have studied economics previously to take the A level course but it is important that you have an interest in economic issues and a desire to explore why and how the study of economics contributes to an understanding of the modern world. Two of the particular skills which are needed are the ability to interpret and use data and the ability to write in a clear and effective way.
In the classroom, we try to relate as much economic theory as possible to real life situations and unfolding world events. We use discussion, small group working and visual aids to explore key economic concepts and students present individually or in groups on specific markets or economies in order to improve their research, analytical and presentation skills. All of these aid their performance in public examinations and equip them for their future university studies or career.
There are opportunities to learn outside the classroom including participation in the Royal Economic Society Essay Competition.
"Next day the light of the October morning was falling in dusty shafts through the uncurtained windows, and the hum of traffic rose from the street. London then was winding itself up again; the factory was astir; the machines were beginning. It was tempting, after all this reading, to look out of the window and see what London was doing on the morning of the 26th of October 1928. And what was London doing? Nobody, it seemed, was reading ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. London was wholly indifferent, it appeared, to Shakespeare's plays. Nobody cared a straw--and I do not blame them--for the future of fiction, the death of poetry or the development by the average woman of a prose style completely expressive of her mind. If opinions upon any of these matters had been chalked on the pavement, nobody would have stooped to read them. The nonchalance of the hurrying feet would have rubbed them out in half an hour."
So wrote Virginia Woof in her 1928 extended essay A Room of One’s Own based on a series of lectures she had delivered to the students of Newnham and Girton College where she explored the need for women to forge a space of their own in a patriarchal literary tradition.
In a world where the female experience offers so much more freedom and diversity than that experienced in the 1930s, we might think that these are questions we no longer find so absorbing. But it’s very clear that it is more important than ever for all students to explore the world through the refracted vision of the ‘other’ that Woolf felt so keenly. If we contemplate a world which does not attempt to question why we behave, think or feel as we do – a world in which emotion and reason cannot coexist – the very essence of experience and understanding would be lost. As humans, we have an inherent need to make sense of life through language: words and ideas inspire, devastate, clarify, capture, delight … and the study of literature offers us the chance to learn how to communicate and forge a path through the most difficult questions that life brings to us.
Reading and Thinking
English at St Swithun’s embraces complexity, challenge and opportunity at every stage with varied and exciting text choices and modes of learning. We vary what we teach from year to year as the teachers read and discover new texts alongside the students. Most importantly we want our students to leave us having found their own space in the world of literature and discovered a love of reading that will stay with them for life. Alongside this, we promote a rigorous and disciplined approach to the study of literature and its context which is as technically detailed and precise as it is artistically framed. During their time with us, it is our aim for pupils to become critical and proficient in their analysis, interpretation and use of language and literature, as well as being aspirational and determined in their future lives.
The Harry Potter Room
There is a very special room tucked away in the attics of St Swithun’s which I am sure Virginia Woolf would have approved! The idea for it was conceived by the girls in our ‘reading room’ club a few years ago who wanted to embrace the magic of Harry Potter’s first arrival at Hogwarts as we redecorated a corner of the English department that was looking a little neglected. Our, now legendary, Harry Potter classroom is filled with the ephemera you might find in the Gryffindor Common Room. We have stone walls attired with wonderful portraits of previous headmistresses, trophies and oddities, comfortable sofas, as well as hundreds of beautiful books – and even a sorting hat! Girls are to be found here during their breaks curled up with a book or playing ludicrous literary board games, creating story competitions and also, quite frequently, eating cake! It is also often the backdrop for our events and parties; Oscar Wilde’s birthday tea was a particular favourite from last year as well as the medieval banquet we held to celebrate St Agnes’ Eve. The imaginative impulse for this room however remains with the joy that is our weekly ‘Reading Room’ meeting and the girls involved from all year groups act as our literary ambassadors wherever they are.
From the beginning of their journey through literary study, girls at St Swithun’s are encouraged to keep the ‘long game’ in view. While we make sure that the texts we choose to read in class are engaging for each particular year group, we also want to challenge them to approach literature in a sophisticated way whatever their current stage and to work on their skills of linking and connection finding as they progress on their journey towards becoming High Performance Learners. We like to keep in mind that in our class of delightful Lower Four girls there may well be someone who will become an Oxbridge English professor or write a Booker Prize winning novel. We are also keenly aware that we will have students whose ambitions lie in non-literary directions but for whom exceptional skills in analysis and expression will nevertheless be pertinent to their high achievement as well as a life-long love of reading which underpins so many aspects of learning and wellbeing. Once they arrive in the Upper Fifth, all girls are invited to attend the Literary Society, meeting weekly to discuss short extracts or full texts with fellow enthusiasts and ably supported by the sixth form literature students. As teachers it is a great privilege for us to help facilitate these discussions or sometimes simply to sit back, listen and feel in awe!
Thinking English Lectures
Alongside the research we do towards our day to day teaching, the members of the English department, of course, all have their own particular areas of interest and expertise and it is a great delight to us to be able to share these with our students on occasion. The ‘Thinking English’ Lectures take place each half term and are an opportunity for students to get a flavour of what it might be like studying the subject at undergraduate level. Our sixth form girls are invited as a matter of course, but it is often the case that girls lower down the school are offered the opportunity to attend – especially if they are showing signs that their future direction might well be a literary one!
The girls really enjoy taking part in our in-house competitions which are often organised by The Reading Room but it is always great to encourage them to submit entries for the many local and national competitions that are on offer. Among our recent competitions are Poetry by Heart, The Foyle Poetry Competition, The Chaucer Heritage Trust and the Winchester Poetry Festival.
Creative Writing Showcase
Every year we like to hold a showcase event where girls from all year groups are invited to share their creative writing. The atmosphere is always magical with a strong sense of progression hearing the development of the written voice as we listen to works from writers ranging from L4 to the U6 and even some members of staff. This venture is an opportunity to celebrate the human creative spirit in all of us.
Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combinatoria of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined?
Italo Calvino Six Memos for the Next Millennium (1988)
The food and textiles department is a vibrant and inspiring place to learn, with an atmosphere of busy and purposeful activities. The department consists of dedicated food and textiles rooms. Both are very well equipped and superbly resourced. Students have access to a wide range of ingredients and materials
Food and textiles are popular subjects and taught to all girls in L4 to L5. Students are encouraged to develop their knowledge, originality and creativity by completing a number of practical projects. They develop and practise lifelong skills such as preparing and cooking a range of sweet and savory dishes, learning to use a sewing machine and making a simple garment. Girls are encouraged to approach tasks with a degree of risk-taking and to persevere to find a workable solution using self-regulation.
Students are able to choose to continue to pursue these areas into GCSE study with GCSE food preparation and nutrition and O level fashion and textiles.
GCSE Food preparation and nutrition
Demonstrate effective and safe cooking skills by planning, preparing and cooking using a variety of food commodities, cooking techniques and equipment.
Develop knowledge and understanding of the functional properties and chemical processes as well as the nutritional content of food and drinks.
Develop an understanding of the scientific principles of how the ingredients you are using work together.
Understand the relationship between diet, nutrition and health, including the physiological and psychological effects of poor diet and health.
Understand the economic, environmental, ethical, and socio-cultural influences on food availability, production processes, and diet and health choices.
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of functional and nutritional properties, sensory qualities and microbiological food safety considerations when preparing, processing, storing, cooking and serving food.
‘O’ level fashion and textiles
By following this theoretical and practical syllabus, learners cover a range of topics including use of textiles, style and choice of clothing, use of patterns, fitting and assembling garments, and how to care for clothing. The aim is to develop learners' creative and aesthetic awareness, stimulating an enjoyment in the creative use of textiles. Through their studies, candidates also develop a discriminating and informed approach to the making of clothes, learning how to assess suitability and recognise quality, in the context of fashion and textiles.
Geography is the subject which holds the key to our future
Geography is all around us. Have you ever looked out of a window and thought about how that landscape got to be there? If so, then you are a geographer!
Geography literally means to study the earth, and it attempts to explain how natural processes and the impact of people have shaped the world around us. As a subject, geography sees the bigger picture and is unique in bridging the social and natural sciences. Geography puts this understanding of social and physical processes within the context of places and regions - recognising the great differences in cultures, political systems, economies, landscapes and environments across the world, and the links between them.
As you study geography you will gain an appreciation of the forces that have shaped our planet and understand the complex interaction of factors that are continuing to shape both the human and physical environment. With the world’s population at over seven billion people, and more than half of us now living in cities, what will our future hold? How can a physically active, dynamic planet and a population that is ever growing, developing and consuming be reconciled? Geography may not have all the answers, but it will certainly help you to appreciate the issues that affect us now, and it will continue to affect our future generations.
At St Swithun’s, we firmly believe that geography cannot be studied without getting out into the real world, and fieldwork is an essential part of its study. In the lower school, there are excursions every year, and at GCSE and A level there is the opportunity to undertake residential fieldwork. The geography department has also been at the heart of organising several major oversees excursions, and we are always planning new adventures.
We see ourselves as a passionate department with a diverse range of specialisms. Hopefully, our enthusiasm will inspire you to look at the planet in a different way. The skills and knowledge that you gain will be very useful in putting together the pieces between the other subjects that you study, and will be highly desired by future employers.
The ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.
Politics is available to study in the sixth form: you will not necessarily learn the art of fortune telling, but you will gain an insight into the varying systems of government, the ideological beliefs within them and the arguments surrounding them.
This course involves a study of the political systems of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and it considers the role that ordinary people play within these structures. Students will learn about the key systems for governing, including the roles of parliament/congress, the Prime Minister/President and the judiciary. In addition the course introduces students to the ideologies that lie behind the systems of government that operate around the world. Further to the insight that comes from this knowledge and understanding, students will gain an understanding of the political institutions that affect our lives and will make comparisons between different governmental systems and beliefs.
The study of politics helps students to develop further their skills of analysis and critical thinking as well as gaining a greater understanding of the global society in which we live.
Politics is a versatile and exciting subject that never stands still. The A level course will make a dynamic contribution to their overall sixth-form programme of study, as well as providing a pathway to a wide range of career and higher education opportunities.
What is history?
Much debate has surrounded this question but David McCullough, the American historian, defined it thus: “History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”
There are many reasons why the study of history is of great value:
- History helps you to develop the skills to look beyond the headlines, to ask good questions, to engage with society and to work out and express your own opinions.
- History trains your mind and develops critical thinking, teaching you how to process information and pick out salient points, building on existing ideas to create new ones.
- History encourages fluent and flexible thinking by prompting you to question how and why people behaved as they did.
- History enables you to appreciate that people in the past were, just like us, not simply ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but that they were motivated in complex and inconsistent ways, and that there are multiple ways in which events/change can be viewed and understood.
- History helps you find connections between the past and present to understand the origins of modern political and social problems.
- History helps you discover how your world evolves and how certain examples can be abstracted to illustrate broader processes, drawing on holistic concepts and ‘big’ ideas.
- The wide range of material encountered in history helps you to engage with a variety of thinking approaches and can draw on, as well as helping to make sense of, many other subjects.
- History encourages you to develop the skills of analysis and evaluation; of reasoning from evidence; substantiating arguments; reaching incisive conclusions, etc, that employers value so highly.
As a department we aim to encourage a lifelong interest and enthusiasm for the study of history, and to develop skills of enquiry, analysis and the construction of sharply focused and convincing argument.
Learning is achieved through a diverse range of activities and pupils, particularly in Key Stage 3, are encouraged to explore individual lines of enquiry in the pursuit of developing their intellectual curiosity and creative thinking. We aim to give pupils the confidence to implement strategies to expand their historical knowledge and understanding, and their powers of interpretation. History at GCSE and A-level is popular and we offer diverse courses enabling students to experience a wide range of historical periods.
History of art is concerned with how visual communication acts as both carrier and producer of meaning within society. By studying painting, sculpture and architecture, both in class and by means of visits to major art galleries and exhibitions, students will be encouraged to engage critically with challenging ideas and concepts within art.
Students follow the Cambridge Pre-U exam syllabus. They study specific works of art from both the European and non-European traditions from 1200 BC to the present day, Italian High Renaissance art from 1500-1600 in Venice, Rome and Milan, and 19th century painting from 1800-1880. In addition to a focused study on the city of Venice, they undertake their own Personal Investigation.
Students find this subject intellectually stimulating and extremely enjoyable. Engagement with a painting, statue or building can lead to a wealth of cultural, social, philosophical or psychological exploration. The study of history of art also opens the way to a lifetime of pleasurable and meaningful gallery and museum visits and opens the student’s eyes to the visual world around them.
The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even of printing
Information Technology is taught at KS3 and all girls will have one lesson of an hour per week to build and extend their ICT skills with opportunities to develop design and programming concepts and extend creative ideas. We regularly review our curriculum content so students do not sit formal examinations, either internal or external. The aim of the three-year course is to equip the girls with the knowledge, skill and confidence to research and present work independently in any of their GCSE and A level subjects. Most importantly we hope to provide them with the necessary life skills for the future, to work and live in a rapidly changing digital world.
There are clear programmes of study for each of the three years attending IT lessons, but because of the changing nature of the subject, our flexible approach allows us to adapt these at fairly short notice. At times, developments which were not predicted at the time of writing mean that new techniques and projects are introduced in mid-course. The emphasis on the whole is on individual work and our excellent facilities, including access to class sets of mobile devices, enable use of a wide range of Apps to encourage different ways of learning in and outside of the classroom. Most techniques are first introduced through structured exercises, then usually develop on to much freer projects with a cross curricular approach wherever possible.
At the start of the year the girls are introduced to the school network and the code of conduct and emphasis is placed on teaching them to become responsible and safe users of the school’s network. Good practice in terms of file management/use of facilities including WiFi and e-mail is of particular importance. The girls then progress to explore aspects of website design, computational thinking and basic programming, some graphic design work, applying formulae and using spreadsheets, use of Office 365 with emphasis on using cloud storage and their OneDrive account alongside use of OneNote. Digital Class Notebooks are now being widely used by teachers throughout the school. A significant amount of curriculum time is also spent on the issues surrounding internet safety including cyber-bullying, grooming, safe and sensible use of mobile phones and social networking sites, the dangers of posting/sharing photos, live streaming, identity theft and other areas of concern. During the first year, the girls are also enrolled on an on-line touch typing course with the aim of improving their keyboard skills as much as possible as they progress throughout the school.
The learning support department supports the aims of the school by encouraging pupils to maximise their full potential and develop their talents in a caring and supportive environment.
Through the learning, reinforcement and practice of specific skills and knowledge, we aim to underpin the pupils’ academic studies, building on their strengths and supporting any weaknesses. The girls should feel equipped with enhanced skills which they can apply across the curriculum.
Through regular screening, staff or parental referral we identify pupils who may be experiencing difficulties with their academic work. We may further assess a pupil in more detail before determining an appropriate programme of support. We also encourage girls to seek advice, reassurance or practical help if they perceive a need. We liaise closely with subject teachers, form tutors and house staff to ensure everyone on the team is aware of a girl’s particular learning profile and any support being provided.
Everyone in the first year group at St Swithun’s receives organisational and study skills advice delivered as part of the Stretch programme. Each girl is issued with a book: Study Skills The Complete Guide to Smart Learning by Elizabeth Holton, which will remain useful right throughout their school years.
Bespoke programmes may include any of the following:
- Phonic knowledge
- Reading skills (decoding, comprehension, inference and speed)
- Spelling (knowledge, strategies for improvement and practice)
- Grammar and Punctuation
- Note taking
- Planning skills
- Development of written work
- Essay writing
- Memory skills and techniques
- Revision skills and strategies
- Examination technique
Why study mathematics? At St Swithun’s, we believe that mathematics is an intriguing and exciting subject that gives you the tools to tackle many of the challenges of later life with confidence. Students often start in L4 thinking mathematics is all about “sums” but by the end of their time at the school, they have been introduced to the wonders of algebra, geometry, calculus and the like. Students will tackle challenging puzzles and problems, they will learn how to construct a coherent logical argument, they will play mathematical games and hopefully they will find that mathematics is fun!
What do our mathematics teachers at St Swithun’s aim to achieve with their students?
After learning mathematics at St Swithun’s a student should, most importantly, really enjoy the subject. They should look forward to challenging themselves on tricky problems, always wanting to know why, not just how, and be prepared to stick at it until they are successful. A student should be rigorous in their explanations and solutions but also creative and inventive in their thinking. They should be a good advertisement for women in STEM subjects, have confidence in their ability and inspire those who are following behind.
Enthusiasm for and enjoyment of the subject.
The ability to communicate mathematics on paper effectively.
The willingness to tackle unfamiliar problems and take satisfaction in finding an elegant solution.
Students should be able to confidently approach any mathematical problem – even if they struggle resolving it. Students should have positive feelings about mathematics. Students should be independent and intellectually curious.
After learning mathematics at St Swithun’s, we hope that students would not be afraid of mathematics and that they would not be the type of person who always starts any conversation involving mathematics with the phrase “At school, I was always rubbish at maths...”.
I would like to think that when presented with a problem our students will have the skills to make a start and the confidence to have a go, that they will draw a diagram, create an equation, do a calculation, think it through and sense check any answer. We would love it if they had a love of algebra and were confident enough in their mathematical knowledge to have a healthy scepticism when presented with statistics, if they could get a joke that involved mathematics on a satirical show and recognise when mathematics is being used incorrectly in the media.
Mathematics at St Swithun’s consists of three stages:
Transition - opening up the world of mathematics from arithmetic to other areas. Developing the use of more abstract ideas and creating building blocks for the future.
IGCSE - content driven and supported by the transition years with a chance to recognise the overlap of science and mathematics.
A-level - where the subject expands and the beauty of the subject can really be seen.
Students participate in this journey with practice, encouragement, making notes, making mistakes, moving forward, satisfaction when they know their answer is correct, making connections and joy. We hope!
Studying mathematics at St. Swithun’s, a student will learn both foundational understanding and the skill to apply and scrutinise this understanding in a collaborative setting.
This will make them effective problem solvers with a robust work ethic. The ability to scrutinise their own work will help them to streamline the processes they use in their later life and give them an eye for the small details.
A student who has learned mathematics at St Swithun’s should be a flexible and fluent problem solver who tackles even the hardest of questions with a positive attitude. The student will use their knowledge and ingenuity to try to achieve a solution, learning from any errors made. The student will be able to communicate, orally and on paper, the steps in their progress to an answer, using correct mathematical vocabulary and notation. The student will be inspired by the applications of mathematics.
A successful St Swithun’s mathematics student should be intrigued, determined and inquisitive. They need to be prepared to learn skills and think about how to apply them to different contexts and consider how they might link to other concepts. They need to be able to describe, and possibly write, their ideas coherently, so that others can follow their logic. They should be willing and able to make a start on a problem, even if they don’t know how they might ultimately solve it. They might recognise direct uses for their knowledge or simply appreciate the beauty and potential for some of the mathematics.
Modern Foreign Languages at St. Swithun‘s
The many cognitive benefits of learning languages are undeniable. Students who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhanced concentration, ability to multitask, and better listening skills. They switch between competing tasks and monitor changes in their environment more easily than monolinguals, as well as display signs of greater creativity and flexibility.
Language is the most direct connection to other cultures. Being able to communicate in another language exposes us to and fosters an appreciation for the traditions, religions, arts, and history of the people associated with that language. Greater understanding, in turn, promotes greater tolerance, empathy, and acceptance of others—with studies showing that children who have studied another language are more open toward and express more positive attitudes toward the culture associated with that language.
At St. Swithun’s we embrace all the above benefits, harnessing them through our teaching and learning, at the centre of which is the belief that all students are high performance learners.
It begins at Key Stage 3 with the introduction of German and French in L4 and the addition of Spanish in L5. At Key Stage 4 there is the expectation that every girl does at least one, if not two modern languages at GCSE. Italian is offered as an additional GCSE subject in the Sixth form.
Learning a language is fun, lively and engaging, even if it means moving out of your comfort zone. The upside is the amazing sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when conversing with someone in their native language, for example on the M5 German exchange trip to Königstein near Frankfurt, the U5 French and Spanish study trip to St. Raphaël and San Sebastián, or the popular U6 cross-curricular trip to Berlin.
As our students move up through St. Swithun’s MFL learning environment, we hope to see them become more confident and therefore less risk-averse. Their learning is collaborative and student-led, yet expertly supported by passionate, dedicated and knowledgeable teachers. Our students thrive in making connections between different grammar and syntax systems compared to their mother tongue(s); they will become masters in self-regulation and strive for ever greater speed and accuracy in their vocabulary re-call.
Our A-level students develop their critical thinking skills with weighty political, historical, cultural and artistic issues, ever continuing to improve their ability to evaluate, analyse and debate in a foreign language.
Many co-curricular activities are on offer to broaden the cultural horizon further and supplement the syllabus teaching of GCSE and A-level languages, such as play-reading or foreign-film clubs, foreign language essay and translation competitions, visits to lectures at nearby universities, the linguistics olympiad or symposia with Winchester College.
In order to prepare St. Swithun's students for their future career; be that the next generation of entrepreneurs, consultants, diplomats, pedagoggues, scientists, engineers, the MFL department creates a learning environment that promotes multilingualism and which will help to improve job prospects and advancement opportunities.
Music is an integral part of St Swithun’s, forming an important part of our sense of community and allowing our many talented girls to express themselves in a variety of different ways. Each day begins with the entire school singing a hymn and there are over thirty ensembles rehearsing each week. Over 65% of girls have instrumental or singing lessons from a choice of twenty-five instruments. From formal concerts in Harvey Hall to rock concerts with lasers and smoke machines, we provide the opportunity for musicians of all standards and styles to flourish. The musicians are busy and ambitious: the choirs regularly sing for services at the cathedral, take part in concerts with professional musicians in London, attend masterclasses and workshops provided by top class coaches, and go on tours to Europe and the Far East. Some of our top musicians also play and sing in county and national ensembles.
Music as an academic subject is also very strong, with students regularly achieving the top grades at GCSE and A level and many going on to study it at university. Our lessons are designed to promote the development of High Performance Learning skills, encouraging an enquiry-based approach to discovering music. Lower down the school girls are taught to appreciate many different styles of music from all over the world and from different historical eras. They are taught to analyse, compose and perform from an early age.
Our aim as a department is to encourage, enthuse and support our young musicians whilst maintaining high standards. We have a plethora of different groups they can be involved in on a weekly basis, an annual music competition for soloists, a flourishing music scholars programme, and many collaborations with other schools and professional groups. Below is a list of some of the ensembles we have on offer, each one coached by one of our team of 39 staff.
• Swithun Choir (senior choir)
• Chamber Choir
• Phoenix (lower school choir)
• Symphony Orchestra
• Jazz Band
• String Orchestra
• Wind Band
• Wind Ensembles
• Saxophone Ensemble
• Clarinet Ensembles
• Flute Ensemble
• Flute Quartet
• Double Reed Ensemble
• Harmony Choir
• Baroque Ensemble
• Rock Groups
• String Ensembles
• Brass Ensemble
• Horn Ensemble
• Percussion Ensemble
The main aims of the physics department are to foster an interest and enthusiasm for the subject in every year group, to promote an understanding of fundamental principles and consolidate ideas by providing a stimulating environment where students can learn, investigate and develop their sense of wonder of the world around them.
Studying physics develops knowledge and skills which last a lifetime, including excellent analytical and quantitative skills, a practical approach to problem solving and the ability to communicate well. You will learn to look carefully at what happens around you, to question what you observe and to link your observations to physical laws. Physics requires a creative approach to connecting numerical approaches, data analysis and written explanations. You will also learn to be open minded when dealing with the many counterintuitive theories in physics.
You will explore the fundamental laws that govern natural phenomena. These are at the heart of everything, pervading every part of the world of science, technology and engineering. Our reliance on technology in modern society is plain for all to see and many of the technologies continually transforming the world we live in can be directly traced back to important physics research.
The study of physics gives you a greater understanding of the universe you live in. After all, who has not asked themselves the question ‘What is this world I live in and how does it all work’? Physics teaches you a method of systematic thinking and the theories necessary to allow us to find an answer. It provides you with an understanding of space, time, matter and energy, the fundamental particles from which everything is made and how the universe began and how it could possibly end.
Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Religion, belief and spirituality form an important part of the human experience and RPE at St Swithun’s aims to guide pupils through this complexity, developing the intellectual confidence to analyse the abstract and be open-minded about alternative perspectives in the world they live in and a whole range of world views, faiths and philosophies. In the classroom pupils will encounter a number of different faith traditions (the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as well as the eastern traditions) and consider the way religious belief can affect lifestyle and ethics. As a department we promote inclusivity and collaboration, believing that by developing an understanding of religious traditions pupils’ eyes and minds can be open to the diversity that exists around them and the origins and key beliefs of different faith and philosophical traditions. We seek to broaden the girls' understanding of contemporary ethical and social issues, and to increase their awareness of the values and ideals that underpin other cultures. From an academic point of view it develops and extends their analytical skills and ability to evaluate complex issues.
We hope that pupils will find that their RPE lessons give them space and time in which they can consider alternative perspectives: we aim to create an environment where you can feel free and comfortable to communicate your own beliefs and opinions, think critically and imaginatively, building intellectual confidence by challenging ideas and raising questions. We want our teaching to be exciting and varied and we employ a range of different methods in the classroom. Wherever possible we invite members of faith communities to talk to pupils on a variety of religious and ethical questions.
In RPE pupils will have the opportunity to critique many great thinkers and religious teachers including ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, modern scholars such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell, religious teachers like Jesus and Mohammed and theologians such as Thomas Aquinas, as well as social reformers such as Martin Luther King Jr and Fela Kuti. Pupils are encouraged to develop their own opinions and ideas whilst looking objectively at questions of religion and faith. Pupils will learn how to create coherent arguments and how to support and justify their ideas. We seek to ask the fundamental questions of life which impact upon all of us from ‘What happens when we die?’ to ‘What is beauty?’ and ‘Why do good people suffer?’ Whilst RPE does not attempt to give definitive answers to these questions we hope that over the course of their study girls will have developed a greater understanding of themselves and what they believe.
Avoid becoming a mere recorder of facts, but try to penetrate the mystery of their origin.
Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)
Psychology seeks to understand how people think, feel and behave. It is essentially about people and why they behave as they do. Psychologists investigate the causes of behaviour employing scientific techniques. As a result, psychologists have learned much that can help people to fulfil their potential as human beings, and increase understanding and functioning in all aspects of life.
The psychology department follows the AQA Psychology course. The specification is designed to encourage students to engage with the subject, by introducing new, contemporary topics, as well as allowing candidates to demonstrate the ability to utilise scientific methodology in the context of psychology and to develop their critical thinking skills.
Assessment is linear and for the A-level course, the students are required to take three examinations at the end of the two year course. The examinations involve a mixture of multiple choice, short answers and extended writing. The course enables students to develop a broad knowledge and understanding of the core areas of psychology through a range of topics such as cognitive psychology (memory), developmental psychology (attachment), research methods, biopsychology (brain, stress and sleep), social influences, psychopathology and approaches. In the second year, more specific topics are studied in greater depth such as issues and debates, aggression, gender and schizophrenia. Theories will be examined for each topic and research evidence critically considered. Psychology requires a blend of creative and logical thinking, and is suitable for students with a keen interest in evaluating psychological material in an objective and analytical manner. Apart from testing psychological knowledge, understanding and application, 25-30% of the assessment focusses on research methods and 10% on mathematical skills. Confident use of English language, science and mathematics is required due to the amount of written work, biological content and statistics used. There is no coursework in psychology; instead students will have the opportunity to carry out replication studies and small research projects.
Psychology is a fascinating and stimulating subject, however, students need to be prepared to work hard, make a contribution and above all, come with an open mind; human behaviour is complex. It is unlike any subject you will have studied before. It promises to be interesting and relevant to all aspects of everyday life.
St Swithun’s strives for excellence in all aspects of sport from performance and achievements to involvement, cooperation, leadership, teamwork, competition etiquette and respect for the individual. We value effort and sportsmanship as much as winning and are proud to run A, B and C teams in lacrosse and A, B,C, D and E teams in netball. We teach students how to deal with success and failure, how to be self-disciplined and how to communicate with one another. We are dedicated to providing meaningful opportunities so that all girls can find at least one sport or activity to equip her with a lifelong enjoyment of physical exercise.
Lacrosse, netball, athletics, cricket, tennis and swimming are our major competitive sports followed by football and cross-country. We run several teams per year group and we have regular fixtures with other schools. Many girls represent their county and region with a handful of girls training with national development programmes. Inter-house and inter-form competitions are also organised to give everyone an opportunity to play in a competitive environment.
Curriculum PE for L4 to L5 (Year 7 to Year 9)
Autumn and Spring Terms L4-L5
|Summer Term L4-L5|
|Competitive Swimming, Diving, Water Polo, Synchronised Swimming||Swimming|
|Gym, Dance, Trampolining||Cricket|
Curriculum PE for M5 to U6 (Year 10 to Year 13)
In M5, girls are introduced to additional sports. In U5 to L6 girls choose an activity for their compulsory PE lessons. In U6 girls have one compulsory lesson and may choose to take another session if their study schedule allows. Curriculum sports are:
|Autumn and Spring Terms M5-U6||Summer Term M5-U6|
|Sports Leaders Award||Sports Leaders Award|
Competitive Sports Teams and Fixtures
Team practices are usually scheduled after school. Netball matches take place after school on practice nights or during Super Saturdays when netball and lacrosse are played against the same opponent on the same day. Lacrosse matches are usually on Saturdays with some tournaments taking place on Sundays. All parents are welcomed to matches to support the teams.
The PE department runs teams and fixtures in the following sports:
|Autumn and Spring Term Sports Teams||Summer Term Sports Teams|
Sports Performance Programme
All girls joining St Swithun's are enrolled into the Team Orange Performance Programme which provides an individually tailored pathway for each girl to achieve her full potential at whatever level that might be: from being motivated to love a healthy and active life to achieving elite athletic performance and everything in between.
All pupils undergo athletic profiling and develop SMART targets in consultation with teachers and coaches. Alongside advice and support to achieve these targets, girls in years 7 and 8 receive education in the fundamentals of the physiological aspects of sport and physical activity, psychology and technical skills.
From year 9 onwards, girls will choose to follow one or more of the programme pathways: sports scholarship; coaching; performance; umpiring; creative arts; well being; participation.
Talented and Committed Sportswomen
Keen and committed sportswomen can participate in up to 10 hours of physical activity a week during curriculum PE lessons, team practices, additional clubs and coaching and match fixtures. St Swithun’s endeavours to support talented students who pursue sport out of school and has strong links with local clubs. The school also runs a tennis academy in partnership with Delgado Tennis which provides expert individual coaching opportunities for the girls within the school day and after school. We have a number of students participating in sport at international level including lacrosse, equestrian events and fencing.
The co-curricular programme provides the opportunity for girls to pursue a number of additional sports including karate, polo, squash, yoga, self-defence, judo, cheerleading, horse-riding, golf, sailing and Pilates. For a full list of co-curricular activities, please click here.
Sports Tours and Talks
We run regular lacrosse tours to the USA and an annual tennis tour to Barcelona.
There are regular sports talks during lunchtimes to inspire and inform students from experts in competing, health, fitness, nutrition and sports psychology.
Sports Camps in the Holidays
We frequently run sports camps during the school holidays including beginner and advanced level tennis, netball, lacrosse and athletics. Keep checking here to see what is coming up next.