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Ribston Hall High School

Ribston HallHigh School

Teachers:  Mr R Cerullo, Mrs A Heard, Dr K Wakeman,  Mrs C Waters.


'With wisdom we explore, with courage we succeed'.


Key Stage 4       AQA Biology 8461

Students studying the Biology GCSE will learn about the variety found in living organisms as well as the structures and functions of living creatures. The course covers ecology, the environment, reproduction the structure of living organism and how we respond to changes to give a broad knowledge of biological systems.

Key ideas

Key idea 1: Life processes depend on molecules whose structure is related to their function

All life processes depend on biological molecules like sugars, lipids, nucleic acids (DNA) and proteins. Each molecule needs to be taken in, broken down and built up again inside organisms and in the case of DNA, inherited. Human DNA codes for the structure of our proteins which we make in our cells from amino acids created from the proteins we eat and digest. An enzyme with an active site that is specifically shaped to fit a substrate. Distort that shape in any way and the protein will not function. Protein distortions can lead to inherited diseases. But occasionally an improved protein may form, giving an organism an advantage over its competitors by helping it adapt more readily to its environment.

Key idea 2: Life on Earth depends on photosynthesis

Photosynthetic algae and all plants use photosynthesis to synthesise glucose as the primary building block of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. These organisms are therefore the producers of food on Earth. All other creatures in the ecosystem are consumers and the movement of carbon compounds through food chains forms part of the carbon cycle.

Key idea 3: Organic compounds are used as fuels

Sugars and more complex carbohydrates like starch are used as fuel in respiration, a reaction that releases energy that can then drive the other chemical reactions necessary in all life forms. These chemical reactions occur inside cells – the fundamental building blocks of all life.

Key idea 4: The fundamental units of living organisms are cells

Some organisms are single cells. Their large surface area to volume ratio helps them ingest from their environment and excrete waste. In contrast, multicellular organisms have a low surface area to volume ratio. Their multitudes of cells need to specialise for a particular job and work as a ‘team’ with other specialised cells of their type to form tissues. Several tissues can form organs that work with other organs in a system. Several organ systems can create an entire organism.

Key idea 5: Living organisms are grouped as species; each species adapts to their environment and is interdependent on other species in their ecosystem

Organisms with similar characteristics that can reproduce successfully are referred to as a species. The total number of a single species in a habitat is a population. All the populations in a habitat form a community. These communities, alongside the abiotic factors in their habitat, form an ecosystem. Every individual in the ecosystem depends on other individuals for food, shelter, nutrient cycling and so on. This interdependence is so intricate that the loss of a single species in the ecosystem can have a dramatic effect on all the other species.

Key idea 6: Chemicals in ecosystems are constantly cycled

In any ecosystem, carbon is cycled from carbon dioxide in the air to carbon compounds such as glucose (which is used as a fuel in all organisms). Nitrogen is cycled from nitrates in soil into amino acids and proteins in plants. Nitrogen can be released back into the atmosphere by decomposers and denitrifying bacteria. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria can bring atmospheric nitrogen back into biological systems via their mutualistic relationship with leguminous plants. Water is also cycled into biological systems by photosynthesis and released into the atmosphere by respiration, and transpiration.

Key idea 7: Evolution occurs by natural selection

Although life ends for all individuals, it continues for the species. Unless an entire species dies, in which case it becomes extinct. Those species that survive do so because they are better adapted to their environment, because of nature selecting those individuals who have inherited the best genes.

Key idea 8: An organism’s genome helps it adapt to its environment

Genes are the instruction manuals for building proteins. These proteins are involved in transport across cells and metabolic reactions, have structural roles, may be pigments or can provide organisms with different metabolisms, health and strength. Genes are coded for by DNA bringing us back again to our first key idea of biological molecules.  Without these biological molecules, cells and the process of photosynthesis there would not be any life, you would not be here and there would not be a Biology GCSE to study for.

There are 2 examinations in the summer of Year 11. Each is 50% of the GCSE


A Level

Key Stage 5

AQA Biology 7401 / 7402

AQA Biology is designed to follow on from the AQA GCSE biology with seamless progression between qualifications. The specification provides numerous opportunities to use practical experiences to link theory to reality, and equip students with the essential practical skills they need to study undergraduate Biology at University.

We encourage students to become independent learners by providing resources that extend and challenge them and link current scientific research to what the will study in class.

Pupils require a grade 7 in GCSE Biology/Grade 7-7 in GCSE Combined (Trilogy) science and a grade 6 in Maths.

Year 12 Biology:

  • Unit 1: Biological molecules
  • Unit 2: Cells
  • Unit 3: Organisms exchange substances with their environment
  • Unit 4: Genetic information, variation and relationships between organisms.

There are 6 Required practical’s that are completed within this first year.

Year 13 Biology:

  • Unit 5: Energy transfer between organisms
  • Unit 6: Organisms respond to changes in their environment
  • Unit 7:  Genetics, populations, evolution and ecosystems
  • Unit 8: The control of gene expression


We encourage students to take leadership roles in Biology. Our Biology Captains are mentors to the lower years providing support in homework and revision. They also organise and run Year 7 science club between October and December.

Staff run lunchtime help clinics for all pupils who take Biology.

We are developing links with the University of Birmingham and University of Gloucestershire to bring challenging lectures into school and to extend practical skills with lab days.

We have a dissection club for students in years 11 – 13. A biweekly guided session where students learn about the internal structures of animals. This helps students learn how the tissues and organs are interrelated and gives students an appreciation of the complexity of organisms in a hands-on learning environment.