head of department: Miss D'auria

We aim to create the best Psychology students. The aim of the Psychology curriculum is to equip students with the appropriate knowledge and skills needed to be able to understand and explain the causes of human behaviour and the impact of this behaviour on wider society. We do this using quality first teaching, which ensures students understand underlying psychological principles and can apply them in a variety of familiar and unfamiliar contexts. We want students to be able to think analytically and reach logical conclusions based on scientific evidence.

St Bernard’s follows the AQA specification for Psychology. It is the specification followed by most schools nationally and develops a range of valuable skills, including critical analysis, independent thinking and research. These skills are particularly relevant and transferable to further study and the workplace.

St Bernard’s follows the linear course for A-level Psychology, with students taking terminal exams in Year 13. The department has chosen to teach along the AS to full A-level route, with minor alterations. The rationale for this is to give students the ability to take the AS examination, if the school decides that this would be appropriate.

The Psychology curriculum supports the ethos statement of the school. Students are constantly challenged to work collaboratively and think independently when engaging in all lessons and class debates. Through teacher modelling, we encourage our students to demonstrate manners, respect and critical thinking in lessons. This allows students to express themselves in a confident manner. Lesson materials are engaging to promote topical discussion and encourage students to develop an enquiring mind.


As Psychology A Level is a knowledge-based curriculum we believe that knowledge underpins and enables the application of skills; both are entwined. Content is delivered to students and then built upon through a variety of practice questions, with regular quality feedback being given to support student progress. The knowledge acquired then allows students to develop their analytical and critical thinking skills.

Cultural Capital is embedded throughout. Students are introduced to a wide variety of viewpoints from some of the most influential Psychologists throughout history. We study the impact that their work has had on the world we live in and students are encouraged to make links between their studies and real-life examples. Students are expected to analyse the relative contributions of competing theories to discuss their impact on our understanding of human behaviour and society. In addition to our aims, our curriculum design includes revisiting and building on existing knowledge. We ensure the level of challenge is high enough for the most able, with scaffold and support available for students who need it.

The curriculum at St Bernard’s goes far beyond what is taught in lessons, for whilst we want students to achieve the best examination results possible, we believe our curriculum goes beyond what is examinable. Students are given the opportunity to develop their wider appreciation of psychology through the news articles shared on the VLE. The department is also introducing half termly lunchtime lectures on a range of topics that extend their knowledge beyond the curriculum. These lectures will be open to all KS4 and KS5 students, as way of promoting the subject within the wider school community.

Detailed and thorough curriculum planning lies at the heart of what we do in the department. We use resources and teaching strategies to ensure that students have a comprehensive knowledge of the specifications and can go beyond what is taught in lessons.

Techniques to help develop long-term memory and help students master subject content are embedded in the curriculum (e.g. Spaced Learning, Cornell Method of notetaking). These are focussed on embedding challenge, metacognition, memory techniques, numeracy and literacy into our departmental curriculum.

To complement the schemes of work, students also engage in Psychology using ‘Daily Dose’ booklets. These booklets allow students to gain valuable insight into the demands of the examination, through regular practice of examination questions and through developing an understanding of the marking process.

In Psychology we also implement our curriculum through using a variety of teaching strategies and kinaesthetic tasks and the use of technology, as well as more traditional skills practice. The department is developing the use of the school’s new VLE site to enable all students use this to access the departmental resources both in lessons and remotely.

The head of department has been an examiner for AQA for many years and is an active member of a network of AQA Psychology teachers, to ensure that knowledge and teaching ideas are fresh, dynamic and up-to-date and linked to the requirements of the examinations.

See below the rationale for the order of the teaching of the AQA units and topics.


We know our curriculum is working in the Psychology department as examination results are consistently above the national average and among the best in the school at A-level.

The quality of teaching and learning in Psychology has been praised during learning walks by both external and internal observers.

The engagement of students in the department can be observed in lessons and recorded in student voice. The number of students choosing to study Psychology at A Level is high and several of our students go on to study the subject further at university.

More importantly, students frequently express their enjoyment of Psychology, the quality of teaching they have received and their appreciation of the knowledge and study skills they have gained from the department as evidenced by feedback forms.

We start with the Approaches topic from unit two. The first part of this unit covers the Origins of Psychology and you can provide students you to the course with an interesting overview of how psychology has developed as a science.

The rest of the Approaches topic covers the main six approaches in psychology. These underpin so many other topics and students can see links between the units each time we cover a topic.

The second topic covered is Research Methods (year one/AS part only). Research Methods equates to 30% of the whole A-level specification. It is a fundamental skill to be able to do and RM questions are embedded in all other units and topics.

Rather than overwhelming students with the whole of the research methods topic, the department separates the teaching in two parts. The year one content will be followed up at the start of year two (year 13). The structure of how this part is delivered will be explained later.

Psychopathology (unit one) is taught next. Much of the learning is a progression and development from the approaches. This topic is easier to understand, if taught after students have gained an understanding of the biological, cognitive, and behavioural approaches.

The Memory, Attachment and Social Influence topics (from unit one) are then taught. The year one section of biopsychology is taught at the end of year 12.

An End of Year examination is given in accordance with school policy. Two papers are sat by students, similar to the AS psychology examination papers.

Following the year 12 examinations and prior to the end of the academic year, year 12 students will be introduced to the year 2/year 13 topics.

We always show the film A Beautiful Mind (featuring Russell Crowe), before any of the Year 2 topics are introduced. This is for students to get the shock/surprise/intrigue factor, when discovering that John Nash has schizophrenia. It is an excellent film to demonstrate issues with the classification and diagnosis of schizophrenia, including treatments and the potential side-effects of these.

Students are set three tasks (one optional) to complete over the summer holidays, prior to starting year 13.

1. Students complete a full paper one examination which must be carried out in a two-hour block. Students have been used to writing essays to AS standard. They need to experience writing essays at full A-level, 16 marks. This activity demonstrates to them that they do not need to learn any more Information, just the same information in greater depth.

2. Students complete flipped learning on the topic Issues and Debates. YouTube links are sent to them and a glossary of terms must be completed, ready for the topic in September. High achievers and potential A-grade students are encouraged to identify examples of the issues and debates from the topics they covered in year 12.

3. As an optional task, students can complete a book review of their choice, explaining the links between the elements of the book and topics that they have covered in psychology. The purpose of this activity is for them to realise that psychology goes beyond just the specification and can be applied to so many parts of their life. This activity is successful in developing a student’s curiosity and love of psychology. It is also a helpful activity for English and Media students, as this activity can help them prepare for their coursework in these subjects.

Firstly, research methods are taught weekly this year, rather than in one block. Where possible this lesson is the last lesson of the week (renamed ‘Fun Friday’). The year two content of research methods is covered first, and much of this is carried out through class experiments. Experimentation engages a student’s curiosity and enables them to appreciate Psychology in action. Once the teaching has been completed, the RM lessons will embed the skills needed through designing experiments and studies. We will look at practice questions, including the ‘design a study’ question. Research methods answers must be contextualised to the scenario given in the examination. This only comes with practice, hence why RM lessons continue throughout the year.

The order of the Year 13 topics are as follows:

The Issues and Debates unit is covered first, reviewing the flipped learning carried out over the summer holidays. Issues and debates can be developed and explored in all other topic units. It is important to cover this early on in year 13. It is difficult for students to get an understanding of this topic before completing year 12. Hence, it is best taught at the start of year 13, when students already have a good understanding of other units.

The Unit three topics are covered next (Schizophrenia, Cognition & Development, and Addiction/Forensics – depending on the cohort for that year), before returning to Biopsychology. Results for Unit three nationally are always lower than unit one and two. Covering unit three early, enables students to be supported in revising these early on, to ensure that their revision is not only last minute, and/or left until the other units have been sat.

As a way to separate each unit topic, reviews of the Year one topics are covered in a few lessons. This ensures that students maintain their knowledge and reviewing of work from year one, rather than leaving revision right until the end. Students can identify their areas that they need to review, in preparation for the mock examination in the Spring term. Revision of Year 1 topics is also covered in the ‘One minute essay plan’ starter activity each lesson.

The final topic covered is Biopsychology. For some students this can be the most challenging and so it is motivating for students to know that this is the last topic covered. It is more straightforward than students first believe. Leaving Biopsychology to the end means that students must review their understanding of the Year 1 part learned in Year 12. This understanding is the basis for the Year 2 elements.

The intention is to finish the formal teaching of units by Easter. This will enable students to have completed mock examinations in each topic and will help the teacher identify what areas and academic skills are needed to support each group and indeed each student.