A GCE Biology course developed in partnership with the University of York

London and the south-east

Reports from centres on the AS and the A2 from 2003, 2004 and 2005

Esher College
John F Kennedy School, Hemel Hempstead

Gumley House Convent School

Wallington School, Surrey

Kingston College

Hundred of Hoo School, Kent

Langley Park School for Girls

Bedgebury School, Kent
Bedales School

Benenden School

Tower Hamlets College

Coulsdon College, Surrey

Report on the A2 in 2004 from Esher College

What students liked most about the SNAB A2 is covering up-to-date, relevant Biology in interactive, exciting ways.

The big changes from the course we were doing before have been

  • allowing students greater control and therefore ownership of their work
  • using a much bigger range of teaching and learning strategies, allowing differentiation across all learning styles.

The greatest challenge has been knowing when to 'let go' and having the courage to do it, letting the students and activities speak for themselves. Much as I hate the term you can become a 'facilitator' rather than a 'stand at the front' teacher.

It's not all new - some classic practicals like locust ventilation have been brought back in. However, making the effort to do the new things like i-buttons is worth while, and students enjoy and learn from them.

Students are going on to a big variety of degree courses from straight biology, medicine, etc to economics, business, and languages. It's an excellent course for both the biology specialist and for the student who takes it no further.

Nicola Wilberforce

Report from a pilot centre in July 2005: John F Kennedy School, Hemel Hempstead

Students like the topical aspects and approach to the course, especially starting the topics with storylines to put biological aspects in context. The students respond positively to the relevance of the material and the superb on-line materials.

We found completing Unit 1 in the first term very taxing [ed's note: this is reduced in the course starting in Sept 05]

Students have gone on to study a variety of biology-related disciplines including medicine.

As a teacher I have learnt far more biology in terms of recent developments than before, and this made us more confident in delivering the syllabus. Our students leave us more confident and better equipped for further education and life in general.

Gianna Foster

Report from a pilot centre in June 2003: Gumley House Convent School
Isleworth, Middlesex

Students enjoyed the content, and liked using the ICT.

The big changes from the course we were doing before have been:

  • the great variety of content
  • students have to think much more for themselves
  • the course develops more thinking skills.

The greatest challenges have been establishing the ICT input, and getting through the content in time for the exams.

Looking ahead to the A2, we expect to continue to work with interest on the course, and to complete it on time!

Lillian Hajdukiewicz

Report from a pilot centre: Wallington Girls' High School, Surrey

Students most enjoyed:

  • interactive activities and tutorials
  • the forensic science topic
  • discussing ethical issues, debates and role-plays
  • talking about SNAB in interviews.

The big changes from the course we were doing have included the high level of ICT use, and on-line tests. Excellent resources. Chalk and talk has practically disappeared. The story-lines make the biology more relevant to students.

The greatest challenge has been the ICT - we had to get a different server for SNAB. But it was well worth the struggle. Thank you to the team who have been very approachable.

We've also found it a challenge to get students to think and puzzle over things for themselves, with guidance when needed from their teacher.

Students are much keener at the end of the course, having lost some of their doubts and fears. The investigations are fun to do. The course seems to produce 'well-rounded' students capable of independent thinking. They are also able to link areas of biology more coherently.

Students get the grade they deserve. They are going on to study veterinary science, medicine and dentistry, biology, law, languages, psychology, and sport.

Rosalind Eagleton, Laura Lamble, and Venitia Walters


Report from a pilot centre in July 2005: Kingston College

Biology is a practical subject again - thank you! Students most enjoyed the caffeine and water fleas experiment, and the interactive website material. The field course to Juniper Hall near Dorking in Surrey was a success.

We found keeping up with marking core practicals challenging, and adapting our teaching methods to the new course.

One of our students has gone on to do medicine at King’s College London.

John Hindmarsh


Report from a pilot centre in June 2004: Hundred of Hoo School, Kent

What students most liked about the SNAB AS course was the topic-based approach and discussion of topical issues, the interactive tutorials, and not having to do too much biochemistry at the start.

In the A2 they particularly liked the forensics topic, especially the forensic entomology bit.

Big changes are the setting of work in everyday contexts, and the excellent use of interactive and explanative IT. We're finding the course less didactic than what we were doing before. More stress, but that's because it's new.

The greatest challenge has been Time! There's new biology to learn, and we have to get to grips with the level of knowledge required. Also, we are finding the coursework diffficult to do well in 2000 words. [This is now under discussion for following years.]

Most students are going on to university, but none of the 2004 cohort are doing biology or related subjects.

Paul Spenceley really likes the idea of a scientific article as part of the synoptic paper. What a useful skill for uni!

Paul Spenceley and Dave Tuffin

Report from a pilot centre in July 2005: Langley Park School for Girls

Students most liked the interactives, building model muscles, and the crime scene activities in the forensic science topic.

We found that teaching about ethical issues and preparing for the synoptic paper were challenging.

Student who completed the A2 have gone on to degrees in biomedical science and psychology, architecture, and physiotherapy.

The SNAB course has renewed teachers’ level of interest and enjoyment in teaching biology, and has improved the value added in students’ results. The approaches used have also been incorporated in AVCE teaching.

Kevin Christie

Report from a pilot centre in June 2004: Bedgebury School, Kent

Students most like having more opportunity to work at their own pace, and using laptops in class. It's a more up-to-date and relevant approach to biology. There are excellent animations in several topics.

The biggest changes from the course we were doing before are using IT, with less formal note-taking. Problems with ICT should disappear with on-line registration. The emphasis is on individuals taking control of their own learning.

The greatest challenge has been keeping up the the exam timetable, and keeping the concepts in mind.

We have to put the content of more conventional courses aside and follow the course as outlined - it is tempting to teach something that will appear in a different topic. It's a very interesting course - very motivating.

John Stacey and Annabel Groom

[Learning from the pilot:
Heinemann the publishers say that whole pilot centre cohort should have internet access to the ICT materials for a £25 fee from September 2004.]

Report from a pilot centre in June 2004: Bedales School

What students most liked is the relevance, story-lines, and engaging activities. They also enjoyed the Visit, and writing a report on it.

The big changes from the course we were doing before have been the emphasis on concepts rather than than facts, and the nature of the exam.

The greatest challenges have been:

  • the material on morals and ethics
  • getting the practical work organised/done/recorded
  • initial IT problems with networking.

Looking ahead to A2 we expect to really enjoy doing the investigation, and studying biodiversity.

Gary Skinner and Richard Sinclair

Report from a pilot centre in July 2005: Benenden School, Kent

What students most liked about SNAB this year were:

  • the neuroscience topic and behaviour
  • making Reebops (see photo below), and interactive activities on the net
  • developing their practical investigation, e.g. the anti-microbial properties of Manuka honey or tea tree oil

What we found challenging: interpreting the AS report criteria! getting through the AS content! [*ed’s note: the report criteria are improved and the AS content reduced in the new course starting Sept 05]

Students who have completed the A2 have gone on to university courses in medicine, neuroscience, environmental science, psychology, and other non-biological subjects.

Jane Hall

Report from a pilot centre in June 2004: Tower Hamlets College, East London

We're find this course more motivating, and the content is more up-to-date. The high ICT content is excellent.

Big changes from what we were doing before include the focus on ethical and sociological issues, and the different approach to practical assessment.

The greatest challenges have been setting up ICT activities, and getting through the content.

Looking ahead to the A2, we expect improved retention/progression from the AS, and improving students' practical skills through the coursework investigation.

Jane Corrigall

Report from a pilot centre in July 2005: Coulsdon College, Surrey

What students most liked about SNAB this year were the interactive support material on the website, the field trip, and the up-to-date topics – these were relevant for students not going on to study at university. We found the immunology material challenging.

Students who completed the A2 have gone on to study medicine, biomedical sciences, environmental sciences, and biochemistry.

Andy Hawkins