Academic Curriculum

Developing a love of learning for life

Through our A Level curriculum, we believe in developing a love of learning for life, in stimulating intellectual curiosity and in enabling students to follow their passions and grow in independence, resilience and courage so that they can look forward to life’s challenges and opportunities with confidence.

Berkhamsted students are encouraged to aim high by setting themselves challenging goals, to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses and to work with teachers and pastoral staff to review their progress and realise their potential.

We pride ourselves on the consistently high academic performance and results achieved by our Sixth Form students every year, with the majority of students at Berkhamsted Sixth studying three core linear A Levels.

Our Sixth Form students are encouraged to develop the ability to self-regulate, to be resourceful, creative, adaptable and independent young adults who are able to rise to and relish the challenges of the modern and ever-changing world.

We also offer our students the opportunity to undertake an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).

Each option provides students with an understanding of themselves as individuals, developing their teamwork and independent study in order to develop the skills they will need to succeed in the future.

Insights into Sixth

Ella – Berkhamsted Head Girl (2023/24)

“At Berkhamsted, education extends far beyond the classroom, offering the opportunity for everyone to flourish holistically. There are so many things you can get involved in both inside and outside of the classroom, there is honestly something for everyone! If you come with an open mind and an enthusiasm to face new challenges, your time at Berkhamsted will be a fulfilling experience.”

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Learning at Berkhamsted Sixth is not constrained by the bounds of the classroom or by academic ability. Across all subjects, students are encouraged to embrace a range of super-curricular pursuits.

Weekly Careers talks delivered by external speakers stand alongside the student-led Crawford Society, where pupils develop valuable soft skills through presenting on topics of interest. For me, a particular highlight has been co-running the Academic Ambassador Programme for scholarly Sixth Formers with a desire to Serve Others. Through the Programme, students pursue academic initiatives which encourage pupils of all ages to discover the pleasure that learning can bring.

Sixth Form itself is no walk in the park; your teachers will continually stretch and challenge you. But this is what has made my Sixth Form years the most enjoyable of my life! By being allowed to struggle at times, I have been able to experience the satisfaction of a hard-fought breakthrough in understanding. And at each breakthrough, my teachers have always been there to share that moment of fulfilment.

At Berkhamsted, teaching methodology stems from novel pedagogic research, which has student-led learning at its heart. So you can expect your teachers to guide you towards the right path, but allow you to traverse it freely. For example, I have had the opportunity to independently design and create a hydroelectric generator through completing the Extended Project Qualification. It is these independent pursuits that allow Berkhamstedians to develop the cognitive elasticity required by the jobs of tomorrow.

Academic opportunities are in an abundance at Berkhamsted. Bring an open mind, an attitude of curiosity and a readiness to seize these opportunities and your Sixth Form journey will be exciting and rewarding.

Hear from our 2023-24 Head Boy and Head Girl

Listen to this podcast to hear more from from the 2023-24 Head Boy, Dan, and Head Girl, Ella. They will be discussing what they’ll need to do in these positions, how they’ll balance this with their academic work and what they think they might be doing once they leave school.

A-Level Options

At Berkhamsted Sixth we offer our students a choice of 27 A Level subjects plus the option of an EPQ (extended project qualification).


Art, Craft & DesignBiologyBusinessChemistryClassical Civilisation
Computer ScienceDesign & TechnologyDrama and Theatre StudiesEconomicsEnglish Literature
English Language and LiteratureFood and NutritionFrenchGeographyHistory
LatinMathematicsFurther MathematicsMusicReligious Studies – Philosophy & Ethics
PhotographyPhysical EducationPhysicsPoliticsPsychology

*An EPQ is equivalent to 1/2 an A level in applications to University

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At Berkhamsted 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.

In some instances there may be some students who can take four A Levels or in rare circumstances, more than four. Prospective students will have the opportunity to discuss their options before joining the Sixth Form.

We aim to inspire students to show a passion for their A Level subjects that goes beyond the curriculum by promoting wider reading, by encouraging participation in internal and external academic competitions and by offering a number of further enrichment opportunities such as involvement in academic societies.

We believe our system maximises our students’ chances of achieving their potential of the highest grades at A Level, enabling them to secure a place at their chosen university or on a respected apprenticeship scheme.

The majority of our students earn a place at their first choice of university, taking up places at the top institutions in the UK including Oxford, Cambridge and the Russell Group universities.

We also provide substantial individual careers advice for those who are interested in choosing a professional pathway immediately after Sixth Form.

Curriculum Guide Entry Requirements


Curriculum Statement

How many A Levels can students take?

Universities require three good grades at A Level and are typically more interested in depth of knowledge than breadth.

We encourage our Sixth Form students to devote their time to studying three core subjects at A Level, focusing on achieving their highest possible grades through wider reading around their subjects, attending lectures and entering competitions.

Our system maximises our students’ chances of achieving the highest grades and securing a place at their first choice of university.

The majority of our students take three A Levels, but some take four. In rare circumstances, students may take more than four A Levels. Students will have the chance to discuss their study options with our Head of Sixth before joining Berkhamsted Sixth.

Under what circumstances could students take four A Levels?

If a student at Berkhamsted Sixth is taking Mathematics and Further Mathematics, they will be expected to study four A Levels.

Students may be able to study for four A Levels if they are highly academically motivated and enjoy independent study and wider reading. Such students are likely to have an outstanding academic record and would feel that achieving three A or A* grades at A Level would not challenge them sufficiently.

If a Sixth Form student is bilingual, it may be possible to take an extra A Level in the language in which they are already fluent.

If students do four A Levels, will they have the same amount of teaching time for each A Level?

There will be less lesson time available to study for a fourth A Level, so any student choosing to study four subjects must be self-disciplined and able to work independently.

What else will students be able to study in addition to A Levels?

All Year 13 students at Berkhamsted have the opportunity to complete a community service placement, the Extended Project Qualification while some students complete a Student Consultancy project in conjunction with the University of Oxford careers service.

What support will students receive with the university application process?

Ahead of the UCAS application process, we organise a Higher Education, Careers, Apprenticeships and Gap Year Fair where around fifty universities visit Berkhamsted to provide our Sixth Form students and their parents with advice and information about their chosen course.

What careers guidance will students receive?

We provide a comprehensive programme of careers events and also offer our students the opportunity to seek individual advice and guidance on their future career plans.

Two full-time members of staff lead our careers department. They do not teach and have joined us from industry.

We run a weekly careers lunch programme during our Michaelmas and Lent terms which offers Sixth Form students the opportunity to hear external speakers talk about their own career stories and the best routes into a number of popular industries including accountancy, medicine, law and engineering, plus the Armed Forces.

All Berkhamsted Sixth students undertake a week of work experience at the end of Year 12 and we provide advice on finding a suitable placement.

Our students receive regular careers newsletters and they have access to a wide range of resources covering careers, apprenticeships, university courses, gap year options and sponsorship, plus tips on how to write a CV and covering letter.

Is there an entry requirement for progression from Year 12 to Year 13?

Berkhamsted Sixth students must obtain a minimum of a grade C at the end of Year 12 in order to progress to Year 13.

Students take a set of rigorous internal examinations which are designed to provide a challenging test of the year’s work. The examinations are designed to make sure that all students will attain grades that are of value in their A Levels.

There is a standardisation process across all departments so that the school can base its A Level predictions upon substantial evidence of attainment.

What happens if students do not meet the entry requirement for progression from Year 12 to Year 13?

Students who do not obtain a minimum of a C grade in a subject will have the opportunity to retake the examination before the end of Year 12.

Students who still obtain a grade D or below will be advised that it is not in their best interests to continue their A Level studies in that subject and, as such, they will not be able to continue this subject in Year 13.

No student may progress into Year 13 to study only one A-Level subject in the curriculum. Each student will be treated individually and exceptional circumstances may be taken into consideration.

What happens if students may not progress to Year 13?

If a Sixth Form student has shown ambition to succeed and a positive attitude and approach to learning, they may be offered the opportunity to repeat Year 12.

They will be given support to make the necessary improvements for progression to Year 13.

A learning-powered school

At Berkhamsted Sixth the students adopt a “Building Learning Power” BLP approach to learning.

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

At Berkhamsted Sixth we see the positive impact of BLP on our students on a daily basis. Our students:

  • Understand the different roles they need to play when working together within and beyond the classroom, from conflict resolution to identifying (and deploying) the different strengths of team members
  • Can explain how different topics and subjects are linked to and rely on each other
  • Know how to listen actively and respond with empathy and understanding, even when they disagree with what is being said
  • Are able to spot patterns and identify the big picture as well as the fine detail
  • Develop strategies that build resilience and view failures as valuable learning opportunities
  • Ask probing and insightful questions to develop their understanding
  • Appreciate the importance of planning ahead and reviewing progress regularly

These skills and habits allow our students to develop ownership and control of their own learning, as seen by the fact that they take the lead in learning consultations with teachers and write their own summary report comments, identifying the areas of learning habits in which they have made progress and those where they need to focus their efforts.

If you would like to know more about BLP, talk to our students when you visit our School. We believe they are our best example of the benefits of Building Learning Power.

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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.

Digital Device Provision

Our core mission is to prepare young people for the world in which they will live, study and work. Educational research shows that putting students at the heart of their own learning helps develop strong metacognition, and digital tools enhance enquiry, collaboration, organisation and self-direction. Students value the opportunity to develop these skills, and will benefit in their future lives from a strong blend of digital and analogue literacies.

At Berkhamsted, we believe that digital devices have an important part to play in creating engaging lessons in the classroom. We also aim for students’ learning beyond the physical classroom to be as rich and intellectually stimulating as possible; capitalising on the interactivity and immediacy of our suite of tools. Pupil devices allow for a seamless learning experience between School and home, and the best possible resilience against disruption to education.

Watch the video to see the students experiencing the change to learning Microsoft devices have provided in the classroom.


Open Event

Leap into action and join us at one of our open events. Click the link below to view our open events and book your place now.
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Clearly an academically driven department, it’s refreshing to meet the Head of Sixth, Martin Walker, and hear that the students get the support and encouragement to find and follow their own path whatever that may be – from setting up their own business or doing an apprenticeship.

Muddy Stilettos