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Academic

An education at Berkhamsted is about more than exam results.

We have a strong academic focus and achieve excellent exam results every year, but we also believe that opportunities beyond the curriculum are equally as important to develop remarkable people.

 

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Diamond Teaching Structure

At Berkhamsted we adopt a ‘diamond’ teaching structure, combining single-sex and co-educational teaching.

Boys and girls are taught together from ages 3 – 11 at Berkhamsted Pre-Prep and Prep, then separately at Berkhamsted Boys and Girls between the ages of 11 – 16.

Berkhamsted Sixth is co-educational.

Our teaching structure is a true strength of Berkhamsted. While students are taught separately, they share academic trips and visits and co-curricular activities, maintaining an
appropriate level of social contact that means it is possible to develop friendships with their peers across the Senior School.

Our Curriculum

Pre-Prep

From Pre-Prep at age 3, our staff deliver a challenging curriculum that is suitable for the age phase and ability of each child. Our approach is in many ways traditional, with literacy and numeracy remaining the key foundation skills. We adopt the latest educational research and enrich our curriculum accordingly.

Prep

At Key Stage Two, children progress onto Prep, where the curriculum expands to include a wider range of subjects. Some are taught by specialist teachers.

Senior Schools

For the first three years of Senior School (Key Stage Three), all pupils follow a common curriculum of 15 subjects.

The majority of pupils study 11 GCSE courses, comprising the core subjects plus four options from:

 

History Music
Geography Drama
French Art
German Design & Technology
Spanish Physical Education
Latin/Classics Religious Studies

A-Level

At Berkhamsted Sixth our students choose from 27 core A-Level courses:

 

Art, Craft & Design Mathematics
Biology Further Mathematics
Business Studies Media Studies
Chemistry Music
Classical Civilisation Philosophy and Ethics
Design & Technology Photography
Drama and Theatre Studies Physical Education
Economics Physics
English Literature Psychology
English Language and Literature Government & Politics
French Sociology
Geography Spanish
German
History
Latin

 

We encourage our Sixth Form students to study three subjects at A-Level, devoting their time to achieving the highest possible grades in their chosen subjects.

We expect our students to dedicate their time to independent study and wider reading around the core curriculum topics.

We also offer our Sixth Form students their option to attain the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and study for a Mini MBA -skills which will stand them in good stead in the future.

We have a reputation for high academic achievement across a broad range of subjects at Berkhamsted. Our annual exam results are impressive and every pupil is encouraged to progress through to Sixth and on to higher education.

Enrichment

At Berkhamsted, we recognise that intelligence takes many forms and we encourage all our pupils to pursue their talents and interests through the many enrichment opportunities on offer for each age group. These opportunities are available for academic subjects, and extra-curricular topics. For our more academically adventurous, there are a number of avenues through which to fulfil their potential at each School.

At our Prep Schools, pupils are offered the opportunity to complement and expand their traditional curriculum knowledge through topics such as Forest School lessons, mindfulness or to stretch their academic abilities through maths challenges and spelling bees.

The opportunities are wide and varied to ensure every pupil has the opportunity to develop their interests and skills.

From Key Stage Three onwards, we offer wide-ranging enrichment and extension opportunities: debating, the Academic Competition (Year 10) and the Crawford Society (Sixth Form) are among the activities designed to provide academic challenges for our students.

Our student-centred brochure, Horizons, invites pupils to explore the range of enrichment opportunities available in (and beyond) the school; those with an appetite for academic adventures will find reading recommendations, essay competitions, clubs and excursions, as well as conundrums and challenges, within the brochure.

Horizons is a cornucopia of all the additional opportunities we offer pupils at Berkhamsted; by placing the onus on the pupils, it also supports our approach to Building Learning Power and marks a change in our approach to academic enrichment. By creating a culture that celebrates initiative and endeavour, we seek to stimulate, stretch and challenge all pupils at the School. Rather than using such labels as ‘gifted and talented’, we recognise and reward pupils who demonstrate an enthusiasm for learning and who possess a growth mindset. We have a dedicated team of enrichment contacts, drawn from all departments in the School, who continue to shape the school’s approach to enrichment. The departmental contacts are a first port of call for pupils who express interests or passions in a particular subject area. Your son or daughter’s tutor will be able to put them in touch with the relevant contact in each department.

A number of opportunities detailed in the brochure direct pupils towards external courses and experiences. Initiatives like the EDT Headstart courses for pupils interested in STEM subjects can be hugely rewarding for pupils who wish to pursue their passions beyond the curriculum. To support this, we have we have set aside a fund to allow us to award small bursaries (of up to £100) to pupils who apply for external enrichment opportunities (specifically ones which involve a competitive application process). Pupils should speak to their tutors for further information about enrichment bursaries.

HORIZONS 2018-19

Building Learning Power

At Berkhamsted we offer our students the opportunity to study ‘Building Learning Power.’

Building Learning Power (BLP) is a whole-school approach to teaching and learning which is based on the work of Professor Guy Claxton, which in turn builds on the ‘growth mindset’ concept as articulated by Carol Dweck and John Hattie (among others).

The method encourages teachers to place as much emphasis on students’ learning dispositions or habits as they do on content.

BLP helps our pupils to develop their awareness of how they learn and what they need to practice in order to improve each key learning habit.

The starting point of Building Learning Power is that the brain is like a muscle inasmuch as its intelligence grows with exercise: in short, learning is learnable.

The language we use when talking about learning is significant and BLP offers a rich but common vocabulary for talking about what learners do, allowing pupils to make links between different topics and indeed the things they learn, both within and beyond the classroom.

Why do we offer Building Learning Power?

Estimates now suggest that two-thirds of current school pupils will end up working in roles that don’t yet exist. Teenagers today are expected to have had between 10-15 different jobs by the time they are 40.

Where focus exists concurrently, progress will be made. In addition, establishing the concept of ‘learnable intelligence’ will stimulate independent learning, which in turn will allow pupils to develop their resilience and flexibility when confronted with difficulty.

We believe these core skills will benefit our students as they move through the school and beyond, onto university or an apprenticeship then into the workplace.

Our chosen BLP dispositions

We have chosen dispositions which, between them, represent four areas of development:

  • Cognitive
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Strategic

Our chosen dispositions are:

 

Persevere Explore
Notice Plan
Question Review
Link Collaborate
Reason Listen

Each disposition is then further subdivided to provide our teachers with opportunities to provide targeted interventions to help each pupil develop their ability to become reflective, independent and interdependent learners.

After Berkhamsted

Throughout their time at Berkhamsted, our students are offered extensive careers guidance and support. They are encouraged to consider a wealth of information and investigate the wide range of options available to them before making a decision about their future.

Our Sixth Form students receive careers guidance which is designed to equip them with the skills they will need to succeed at university or during an apprenticeship, then into the future as they begin their career.

Careers consultation is a core feature of Sixth, enabling students to reach considered and realistic decisions about higher education and their future careers.

Every Berkhamsted Sixth student is given advice and guidance on how to write their CV, plus techniques to succeed in university interviews.

A wide range of employers visit the School and we offer business skills sessions for all pupils. Visiting speakers address our students in weekly sessions on various aspects of university life, gap year experiences, apprenticeships, employment and career development.

Our annual Higher Education, Careers and Gap Year fair sees representatives from universities and different fields of employment visit the School to offer information and advice to our students.

Each year, we host a Medicine day and a Law day for the benefit of both Berkhamsted students and students at other schools in the area.

All Year 12 students at Berkhamsted spend one week near the end of the school year on a work experience placement.

We also have a policy of offering our current and former students part-time employment opportunities with businesses associated with the school.

Berkhamstedians take up places for the top institutions in the UK and worldwide. The majority of Sixth students go on to study at Oxford, Cambridge and the Russell Group of universities, or other top institutions in the UK and US.