Academic Curriculum

“The focus on student-driven learning is not only intrinsically valuable but sets Berkhamstedians up for life beyond the Sixth.” James, Head Boy. 

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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 pupils 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

James – Berkhamsted Head Boy (2019/20)

The inherent value of learning can be found at the heart of Berkhamsted Sixth, where we are encouraged to pursue our unique intellectual passions. Teaching staff at Berkhamsted are invested in the flourishing of each and every pupil, promoting a thriving intellectual curiosity among the student body. 

The focus on student-driven learning is not only intrinsically valuable but sets Berkhamstedians up for life beyond the Sixth. A Berkhamsted education prepares students for university and the workplace alike, granting them the necessary tools to continue to learn forever. 

There are ample opportunities for students to develop their academic interests. In the Crawford Society, students can research and deliver lectures on particular topics to their inquisitive peers. The school advertise external essay competitions widely, including those held by colleges at Oxford and Cambridge universities, encouraging students to participate. Whether it’s through a presentation to a tutor group or further reading recommended by a subject teacher, we are supported in forging our own academic paths. 

Some remarkable teachers at Berkhamsted have fostered a lifelong love of learning in me, and for that I am endlessly grateful. Thanks to the commitment and enthusiasm of certain teachers at Berkhamsted, I have found constant stimulation in the study of literature. Now aspiring to read Latin and English at university, I can feel confident that I will continue to derive such pleasure from my studies in the future. 

Ultimately, there is the opportunity to compete in the most prestigious academic arenas at Berkhamsted, but this never comes at the expense of a well-rounded school experience. This in no small part reflects one of the school’s three values, to ‘aim high with integrity’. Here at Berkhamsted Sixth, the strong tradition of academic enrichment is alive and well. 






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A-Level Options

At Berkhamsted Sixth we offer our students a choice of 28 core A Level subjects:

Art, Craft & Design History
Biology Latin
Business  Mandarin
Chemistry Mathematics
Classical Civilisation Further Mathematics
Computer Science Media Studies
Design & Technology Music
Drama and Theatre Studies Philosophy & Religious Studies
Economics Photography
English Literature Physical Education
English Language and Literature Physics
Extended Project Qualification Politics
Extended Project Qualification – Cyber Security Psychology
Food and Nutrition Sociology
French Spanish

Curriculum guide entry requirements 

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.

A learning-powered school

At Berkhamsted Sixth we offer our students the opportunity to study “Building Learning Power” – BLP.

BLP helps our pupils 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 pupils:

  • 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 pupils 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 pupils when you visit our School. We believe they are our best example of the benefits of Building Learning Power.


Our Sixth Form students are offered extensive careers guidance and support to equip them with the skills they will need to succeed at university and in the future as they begin their careers.

We believe that all our students should carefully consider whether they should go to university or whether they would like to investigate alternative routes such as degree apprenticeships. We have a team on non-teaching staff in our careers department who can provide one-to-one advice and who organise a number of careers events to enlighten students on the varied opportunities that are available and on the skills that employers are seeking today.

We organise and host an annual Higher Education, Careers, Apprenticeships and Gap Year Fair which sees experts from different fields of employment and representatives from universities visit the school to offer valuable information and advice to our students.

Visiting speakers address our Sixth Form students in weekly sessions on various aspects of university life, gap year experiences, apprenticeships, employment and career development. The weekly Careers Lunches allow students to meet a diverse range of professionals who talk about their careers and give the students advice on entering the professional world.

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

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. Students are able to gather information which will help them to decide if they wish to pursue these professions.

All Year 12 students at Berkhamsted spend one week near the end of the school year on a work experience placement. Our students are encouraged to describe the skills they develop during their work experience in their UCAS personal statements and each Head of House receives written feedback from each student’s employer.

At Berkhamsted we also have a policy of offering our current and former students part-time employment opportunities with businesses associated with the school. These opportunities include event catering, BASECAMP holiday camps and roles within our Knox-Johnston sports centre.

My Journey

Mihir tells his story about joining Berkhamsted Sixth from a new country. He grew up in the USA before moving to Berkhamsted at 16. He quickly adapted and settled in to the new environment and education system.


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 and some 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.

Our students attend a number of lectures on university applications and personal statements. They also have one-to-one meetings with their Tutor and Head of House who oversee their applications.

Students who are likely to have an interview as part of their university application process (typically Oxbridge applicants and those applying to study medicine) will have a mock interview, after which they will receive feedback.

Each subject department can provide support in preparing students for their admissions tests and any questions our students may have about their UCAS application can be discussed with their Head of House, the Deputy Head of Sixth or the Head of Sixth.

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.


At Berkhamsted, we recognise that every student is unique, with their own individual strengths and interests.

We encourage every one of our pupils to pursue their talents and interests through the many enrichment opportunities on offer throughout their time with us.

For our more academically adventurous students, there are a number of avenues through which to fulfil their full potential.

Our Berkhamsted Sixth Enrichment Programme is followed by students in Year 12 and Year 13 and ensures a broad, comprehensive Sixth Form education.

Our Enrichment Programme includes a weekly lecture programme which is presented by visiting speakers, plus a House tutorial programme that enables students to deliver presentations, to discuss topics related to current affairs and to develop study skills.

Past visiting speakers who have addressed our students as part of our Enrichment Programme include:

  • Former politician, Lord David Owen
  • Old Berkhamstedian and author, Patrick Hennessey
  • Former Chief of the General Staff General, Sir Mike Jackson
  • Author of the Inspector Morse novels, Colin Dexter
  • David Gauke, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor
  • Natasha Devon, former children’s mental health champion appointed by the Department for Education

Extended Project Qualification

The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) provides our students at Berkhamsted Sixth the opportunity to follow one of three routes towards completing a dissertation or investigation of their own choice.

EPQ students can choose between:

  • Humanities – a topic from anything historical, literary, theological, political or sociological
  • Economics – a topic from the world of business, finance or global economics
  • Scientific/philosophical – a topic from any of the sciences, medicine, engineering, philosophy or mathematics

Students study a taught course in Year 12, after which they are introduced to their supervisors. From this point they work independently with guidance, to complete a review of relevant literature or other resources on their topic.

The EPQ at Berkhamsted is led by our Head of Data and Research and a team of supervisors – many of whom have higher degrees and/or publications, ensuring they are highly experienced in research methodology.

Our library staff run courses in the use of JStor, EasyBib, EBSCO, Google Scholar and other research providers which are fundamental to the completion of the EPQ.


A designated learning area outside of the classroom

We have a library on each campus for our Sixth Form students to access.

At Berkhamsted, our libraries offer a place for quiet study and a designated learning area outside of the classroom.

Each of our libraries is staffed by fully qualified librarians who support our students through every stage of their academic learning, enabling them to develop their independent study skills.

Our libraries offer our students access to:

Print collections

We have a large collection of fiction and non-fiction works for our students to enjoy, plus core subject textbooks, which are for reference use only.

We also hold Sixth Form reading list materials, with copies of a range of A Level subject specific journals held in the Sixth Form centre on our Castle campus.

Copies of leisure magazines and daily newspapers are available to all students in both campus libraries.

Electronic resources

Our students can access a variety of electronic databases containing scholarly content on a range of topics to support their coursework study and EPQ projects.

These include major academic databases such as JSTOR and EBSCO.

Our library staff also provide training in research skills as part of the EPQ course, as well as supporting our Sixth Form pupils with their independent research and referencing skills.

Learning Support

‘Whole School Approach’

Our Learning Support department at Berkhamsted supports students in achieving the best of their ability in their core academic subjects.

We aim to be aware of the needs of all our pupils. Our primary objective is to operate a ‘Whole School Approach’ to meet the individual needs of our students using a variety of teaching methods.

In Sixth Form, support lessons are arranged on a one-to-one basis and may be subject to additional charges.