Academic Curriculum

We aim to develop our Sixth Form students into adventurous, ambitious and resilient young adults

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Academic Curriculum Overview

An education at Berkhamsted does not only focus on achieving outstanding exam results. As the majority of our Sixth Form students go on to higher education, Berkhamsted Sixth has a strong academic focus, but we also believe that opportunities beyond the curriculum are just as crucial to form a platform for their future success and happiness.

We aim to develop our Sixth Form students into adventurous, ambitious and resilient young adults who are able to rise to the challenges of the modern and ever-changing world.

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.

We also offer our students the opportunity to undertake either the Mini MBA or complete 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.






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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 Studies Mathematics
Chemistry Further Mathematics
Classical Civilisation Media Studies
Design & Technology Music
3-D Design Philosophy & Theology
Drama and Theatre Studies Photography
Economics Physical Education
English Literature Physics
English Language and Literature Politics
Food and Nutrition Psychology
French Sociology
Geography Spanish


To find out more about each subject and the entry requirements please click here.

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

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.

We believe it is important not just to achieve good A-Level results, but also to develop skills which will stand students in good stead in the future. We also offer our Sixth Form students their option to attain the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and study for a Mini MBA.

The majority of our students earned 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.

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 practice 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 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 into the future as they begin their careers.

We encourage our pupils to investigate the wide range of options and wealth of information available to them before making a decision about their future.

We 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.

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.

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?

Most of our Sixth Form students complete either an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) or Mini MBA programme alongside their core academic subjects at A Level.

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 also have one-to-one meetings with their tutor, Head of House and a member of the senior management team to ensure their application is as strong as possible.

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 discuss topics related to current affairs and other topical issues.

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
  • Actor and playwright Steven Berkoff

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.

Mini MBA

We offer our Year 12 students the opportunity to study a Mini MBA – an innovative addition to the core academic curriculum studied by our Sixth Form students.

Developed by the faculty at Ashridge Executive Education, the course is designed to provide an insight into the business world, with modules covering:

  • Personal Impact and Presence
  • Business Performance
  • Marketing
  • Strategy

Students studying the Mini MBA develop an understanding of themselves as individuals, learning the disciplines required to succeed in business and developing skills that will benefit them as they prepare for life in the workplace.

Offering practical course elements aimed at developing team working and leadership skills, the Mini MBA encourages students’ decision-making skills, promotes strategic thinking and encourages self-directed learning skills.

Throughout the course, students develop their presentation skills and techniques and strengthen their skills for group tasks presented in the classroom.

Students studying for the Mini MBA participate in face-to-face sessions with industry experts as well as our teaching staff. Workshops are also part of the course, which are led by Ashridge faculty.

The Mini MBA is designed to complement A Level Economics and Business Studies courses.

All Year 12 students study the online ‘Personal Impact and Presence’ module in their Michaelmas term. Students then continue with the taught course – ‘Business Performance, Marketing and Strategy’ – and complete their Mini MBA with a Business Simulation event.


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.

Research skills

Our library staff 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

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.