In This Section

Subjects

The information below is designed to give you a brief overview of each subject, however, if you would like any additional information, please contact the Admissions Office at admissions@cheltenhamcollege.org or 01242 265600, or the relevant Head of Department

The subjects below cover Sixth Form only. To view subject information specific to Lower College (Years 9 - 11), click here

Art

Art at Cheltenham College is an integral part of student life. Creativity takes courage and we support pupils to improve their decision making and confidence through the development of their own work, to enable all individuals to develop their independent voice, both verbally and visually.

With specialist facilities and expertise in painting, drawing, printing, ceramics, plaster, and a photography studio, we are able to introduce a wide range of processes to our pupils, catering for all individuals’ needs and interests.

At A Level, the two-year course explores and investigates a range of media which pushes the boundaries of creativity. With bright, airy rooms, we provide our students with the tools and means to express themselves in a visual, tactile, and auditory way. 

Students are encouraged to make use of our fantastic facilities as often as they can and frequently during their ‘study periods’ they can be found continuing to develop their portfolio. Specialist staff are on hand to guide and advise; regular workshops and activity sessions (both informal and structured) are well attended and are a great opportunity for students to continue their work. Each week, two evening classes are held specifically for A Level students and they are expected to attend one or both of these.  There is also a well-attended dedicated life drawing session. 

Many pieces of art produced by our Sixth Form are challenging and confront of the world around us today. Regular student exhibitions in The White Gallery and Thirlestaine Long Gallery provide frequent opportunities for formal, and self, assessment, and reflect the energy of the busy Art department. 

Business and Economics

The importance of Business and Economics cannot be exaggerated. Everywhere you look there are conflicting opinions about both the state of the economy and the behaviour of individual businesses. The study of Business and Economics helps students to understand and critique these opinions and provides them with the tools they need to form their own point of view.

Through studying Business and Economics, students develop an understanding of current economic and business issues, including the problems and institutions that affect everyday life; learn to explain a variety of real world phenomena from an economic and business perspective; and master the skill of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments involved. A reasonable level of numeracy is essential, but the main skill required is that of interpreting data, graphs and diagrams using relevant theories. This requires a clear mind and an ability to think logically and to write good English.

The departments offer an extensive programme of extra-curricular activities. Students are encouraged to participate in external competitions such as those of the Bank of England and the Royal Economics Society. Each year, a team of Upper Sixth economists is entered into the Bank of England’s Target 2.0 competition, in which they assume the role of the Monetary Policy Committee and use up-to-date analysis to make recommendations about the interest rate. The Economics and Business Society meets regularly to hear talks by guest speakers from the worlds of business and academia; and there are weekly sessions of advanced study groups in both subjects.

Classical Civilisation, Latin and Greek

Students taking Latin at A Level study both language and literature, with equal emphasis on each. Language work requires more vocabulary and a stronger grip on endings, in the face of longer sentences and passages; literature requires more sophisticated comment on the works of Ovid, Cicero, Tacitus and Virgil. The biggest development is that the A Level introduces the option of more challenging prose composition, as ambitious students build towards converting a passage of English into stylish Latin in their final exam.

In a normal year, between five and ten pupils will opt for both Latin and Classical Civilisation A Level, and two to four for A Level Greek.  Since 2010, thirteen students have gone on to read Classics at universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Bristol, Edinburgh and Durham. 

Outside the classroom, a Committee of pupils runs the twice-termly Classics Society, where students of all ages are given the opportunity to present their research and ideas.  In addition to the department's own lectures and theatre trips and visits to Bath, we enjoy the programme of events offered by the Gloucestershire Classical Association and the Cheltenham Literature Festival.  

Design and Technology

Design and Technology is split into Textiles Technology and Product Design (Resistant Materials) at A Level. Both courses enable students to develop their creativity, presentation and practical skills, to apply knowledge and understanding of technological processes and to develop critical thinking and collaborative skills. Students are encouraged to develop ideas that push the boundaries of design and the department produces some of the top grades in the school.

Product Design students can access degree courses such as Engineering, Architecture, Industrial and Product Design, and a variety of other design and engineering style courses. It also complements both business and science-related courses.

Textiles Technology allows students to access all areas of the fashion and design industry, whilst complimenting many other degree choices. Fashion is the largest employer of all the UK's creative industries and its direct value to the UK economy is estimated at £26bn. A Textiles Technology A Level provides our students with a solid foundation to build upon and flourish in further education.

The facilities are growing continually and the department invests in new technology whenever possible to access modern techniques. Industry standard practice is integrated into the curriculum, with students taught how to use the Adobe creative suite, 2D and 3D design work, and control manufacturing tools.

Outside of the department, groups have completed courses at the Design Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and The Science Museum, as well as having professional designers visit for lectures. Links with industry are also important and a number of trips have taken place to see first-hand how products are designed and manufactured for mass markets.

English Literature

Our key aims are simple: to foster a passion for English in our pupils; to ensure that they are inspired by their subject; to encourage every pupil to aspire to the highest standards; and to instil in each girl and boy the confidence and motivation to work independently.

English Literature at A Level attracts those who enjoy reading, talking and writing about literature, from the earliest texts in the English canon, by poets such as Chaucer, right up to contemporary work such as Owen Sheers’ Pink Mist and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.  Students will begin to discover the breadth and diversity of literature, and to explore its relationships with history, culture, politics, art and critical theory.

Lessons tend to be heavily discursive – this is a subject that thrives on lively debate. Pupils read widely and independently beyond the set texts in order to explore different critical and theoretical interpretations of the works they are studying in class. In addition to reading and researching, a good deal of time is spent on the important skill of essay writing.

To complement classroom teaching, the department runs a number of co-curricular activities, including a Literary Society, takes full advantage of the Cheltenham Literature and Poetry Festivals, and organises regular theatre trips.  Furthermore, authors, speakers and workshop groups are regularly invited into College to give students a fresh perspective on the texts they are studying.

Geography

Geography at College is a lively and enlightening experience. The teaching is characterised by experienced, enthusiastic staff and their approach aims to exploit the students’ natural curiosity and concern about the major contemporary issues. It is highly student-centred and focuses very closely on the personal experiences of students and the relevance of the subject to their present and future lives. Geography helps to develop intellectual, practical and social skills for use at College, post A Level, and in future employment.

An understanding of diverse physical landscapes, extreme events, and human interactions within them is best experienced outside of the classroom – fieldwork is one of our great strengths. A Level geographers enjoy a residential trip to Nettlecombe in North Somerset, along with investigations of urban environments in Birmingham and coastal studies in Somerset.

The Geography Department is centrally located with a well-stocked Mason Geography library and computer suite. We have five large teaching rooms, including the Geography Map Room for A Level seminar teaching, Oxbridge support, interview preparation, and support clinics for all year groups.

Upper College geographers have the opportunity to become members of the Bingen Geography Society which meets regularly for discussion, debate and a series of lectures from academics, explorers and geographers in the work place. Each year, students of all ages enter independent extended essay competitions as well as the Royal Geographical Society “Young Geographer of the Year” competition.

As Michael Palin said, “Geography explains the past, illuminates the present and prepares us for the future. What could be more important than that?”

History

History allows our pupils to access both the sense of difference and escapism of the past and grounds us, and future decision making, most firmly in the present. The skills of source analysis, interpretation, argument and judgement, all bound together via sophistication of written expression, are highly transferable and valued as such by a great spectrum of employers.

The Sixth Form course builds on the GCSE via an in-depth study on internal and external realities versus the ‘dream’ in post-war America (1945-80), and introduces the Tudors (1485-1603) as a no less richly human or documented era, yet one which offers a very different flavour of the past. Both of these courses crucially prepare our students to engage with the subject at university. As coursework, the Sixth Form also study the rise and fall of the British Empire, a topic peopled with extraordinary individuals, set amidst exotic locations. Currently undergoing much historical revisionism, this topic permits exploration of a great variety of interpretations and sources, as students analyse key points of change worldwide from the seventeenth century onwards to the legacy of the British Empire in the present day.

The Morley Society is student-run, and features hustings, members’ papers, visiting lecturers, The President’s Fiendishly Difficult Quiz, the Rodney Risk Tournament and the always hotly awaited Annual Dinner, where the dress code (come as you favourite historical character) provides high entertainment. Recent trips include Northern France, Flanders and Gallipoli, seeking out and paying respects to the many Old Cheltonians who served in the First World War as part of our Centenary Project.

History of Art

The aim of the History of Art course is to develop the visual skills of observation, description and analysis in a study of painting, sculpture and architecture. Students are encouraged to develop methods of researching, investigating and analyzing, and communicate their understanding of the relationship between art and society, concepts and issues. It develops critical research and other skills that provide a sound basis for progression to higher education and employment.

The main History of Art Room is a recently refurbished modern classroom, brilliantly lit from an atrium above, with state-of-the-art facilities, including a History of Art Library shared with an excellent collection of Art books available to all students.

Set numbers tend to average between 8 and 10 students, with lessons taking the form of open discussions, teacher-led illustrated presentations and peer work. As with all Sixth Form subjects, students take eight periods per week. Topics include visual analysis and interpretation, knowledge of specific themes and topics within art history, and European and American art and architechture.

There is a comprehensive programme of extra-curricular art lectures and events throughout the year at College. Many students participate in national competitions and classes take termlys trip to museums, galleries and exhibitions in the UK, plus a biennial trip abroad, to Italy, Spain, France or the USA. 

Maths and Further Maths

Maths is one of the biggest departments and central to College’s academic life and is staffed by highly qualified teachers with a wide range of interests. They aim to produce independent mathematicians who can apply their knowledge to many different situations, and to promote the enjoyment of problem solving and the relevance of Mathematics to other disciplines.

The classrooms are fully equipped with interactive whiteboards and a wide range of software is used to help pupils understand and expand their Maths. Students in Upper College take A Level Maths, and between 12 and 20 students take Further Maths A Level. The aim is to produce independent mathematicians who can apply their knowledge to many different situations.  We also want to promote the enjoyment of problem solving and the relevance of Mathematics to other disciplines.

Maths doesn’t, however, stop in the classroom: there are puzzle competitions, extra classes, and a programming club. We belong to the Gloucestershire Mathematical Association and often hear lectures by eminent mathematicians. There is also a College Mathematics Society, at which teachers and pupils talk about topics ranging from Pi to Code-Breaking to Paradoxes.

Pupils compete in national mathematical competitions on a regular basis, consistently producing a good flow of Gold, Silver and Bronze awards.

Modern Foreign Languages

Successfully learning another language enriches your life forever. Knowledge of languages opens doors to another world. Nothing can replace reading a novel or seeing a play in the original, and visits to foreign countries are so much more interesting if you can eavesdrop on conversations in restaurants, read what is written all around you and speak to anyone you meet. We teach our pupils how to become skilled linguists, to be independent in how to learn a language, and to understand how to become better at an art that is fiendishly challenging to perfect.

The aim at A Level is advanced oral and written fluency: students are expected to be ambitious with the language they produce, and the very best will strive to pass for bilinguals. Other languages are sometimes offered as extra-curricular activities for interested students, such as Mandarin, Russian and Italian.

Pupils who are native-speakers of other languages are usually able to take public examinations in those languages and in recent years we have had entries for Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, Russian.

Trips are regularly arranged to Spain, France and Germany for pupils across the whole age range. Pupils are also able to arrange one-to-one exchanges with young people of their age or homestays with teachers of languages they are learning. A travel scholarship is available for those pupils in the Sixth Form who wish to go abroad to improve their language skills. Pupils also attend conferences, lectures, plays and films that are part of the Modern Languages Society.

Music

Music at College is vibrant, busy and exciting. We are an inclusive department, catering for musicians of all levels of experience and interest. Music is both a practical and a rigorous academic subject, requiring both performance and presentation skills in addition to creativity and analytical essay writing. Many students choose Music for A Level, however there are also a huge variety of choirs and instrumental ensembles to suit all tastes, which are open to all members of College, regardless of whether they continue to study Music academically.

The Music Department is housed in a magnificent former stately home, with large high-ceilinged rooms. While the building itself is traditional, the facilities inside are state of the art, with a newly completed recording studio and ICT composition suite. In addition to large classrooms, there are a further 20 teaching and practice rooms available to students throughout the day.

At A Level, students continue continuing the study of performance and composition from GCSE also incorporates harmonic and stylistic composition together with modules in Western Classical Music, Music and Media, Music for Theatre, Jazz and Art Music. As with GCSE these are delivered as broad listening and historical topics, combined with the close study of specified set works.

Individual tuition is available on any orchestral or band instrument and voice, together with some slightly more unusual combinations such as Music Technology, Music Theory or bagpipes. 

Proud to be an 'all-STEINWAY' school

Cheltenham College is hugely proud to be an ‘ All Steinway' School. We are the only school in the country to have two of the world famous Steinway 'Model D' concert grand pianos housed in our main performance venues. In addition, there are a further three smaller Steinway Grands, complimented by 13 of Steinway’s Essex brand upright pianos in the teaching and practice rooms. All piano lessons and performances take place on the grand pianos and the instruments themselves were selected directly from the factory in Hamburg by some of our talented piano students.

Click on the video below to see the journey from production in Hamburg to arrival at College and watch our celebratory concert, where all 18 of our new Steinway pianos were played together in Big Classical. 

Politics and Government

Studying British and American politics is probably more exciting now than it has ever been. Studying Government and Politics at Cheltenham College gives students the chance to be informed about and engage in this conversation.

Government and Politics A Level prepares students for many forms of employment as well as further study. The course develops skills of analysis, and both oral and written communication, all of which are invaluable in today’s employment market. Furthermore, Government and Politics is a natural partner to both scientific subjects and humanities. The ideal student of Politics is someone who is inquisitive about the democracy in which we live. A student of Politics should enjoy staying informed about current events and should want to question why the politics of today operates in the way that it does.

At Cheltenham College Lower Sixth students study the politics of the UK and in the Upper Sixth the politics of the USA. Each student has two teachers and has four lessons a week with each teacher.

The Politics Department runs the Morley Society jointly with the History Department. Some of the society’s meetings are dedicated to History, and some to Politics; some have a joint focus. The society encourages students to present their own papers at meetings. It also invites external speakers and academics to give lectures about once a term.

Psychology

Psychology is an academic and applied discipline that involves the scientific study of the human mind and behaviours of both individuals and groups. It is the study of both normal and abnormal human functioning. It offers a great insight into the behaviour of ourselves and of those around us, and the course gives students a broad and eclectic education into the main areas of Psychology. Students will also develop their essay skills and learn to carry out, and statistically analyse, research.

Through a variety of different learning techniques, students discover some of the famous theories that have been developed in the short history of this exciting area. They are taught how to evaluate such theories and in doing so, they learn how Psychologists design and implement research using a variety of experimental and non-experimental techniques. They carry out small-scale investigations of their own which are then statistically analysed to discover whether their results are of significance or uphold previous research and theory.

Topics in the Lower Sixth include but are not limited to attachment, memory and abnormality including phobias. In the Upper Sixth there is greater depth of study in topics such as relationships, aggression and schizophrenia.

There is a thriving Psychology Society at College that meets half-termly with both visiting speakers and internal talks or activities designed by our students.  Students are encouraged to take an active role in running events within the society, which offers the chance to develop some leadership and presentational skills.

Science

The Science department has a high reputation both within and outside College. Many continue to A Level and then follow university courses in the physical, chemical and biological sciences, medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and engineering. In the past five years, the sciences have accounted for more than half of College's offers to Oxford and Cambridge, with these pupils winning many prizes in various competitions such as the Biology, Chemistry and Physics Olympiads.

The Science department is housed in a newly refurbished single-storey building comprising 15 laboratories, three prep rooms, a library and a workshop. All laboratories have been extensively refurbished with modern IT facilities supporting inspirational and innovative teaching. Practical work is central to the teaching and the resources are first-rate.

Uptake of A Level sciences is strong - students speak of their enjoyment of lessons and of the stimulation they bring. Whilst making sure students achieve good exam results, we are passionate in believing that our teaching and their learning should go beyond the confines of exam specifications.

We are proud of the diversity of our students - those who join us in the Lower Sixth thrive alongside our 'home grown' scientists and we welcome the stimulus they bring. Girls thrive alongside the boys and the warm and respectful relationships that exist between students, staff and technicians form the bedrock of all we do.

We have regular 'Science evenings' for each year group when they are invited to come and find out about latest developments in science, or about topics that do not form part of their course.

Sports Science

The Sports Science Department undertakes a challenging and multi-disciplinary approach to studying, focusing primarily on the performer and the ways in which human performance can be optimised, the scientific processes that underpin sports participation and elite performance.

At A Level, students enjoy practical and theoretical lessons, focusing on the relationship between exercise and effective physical performance. Throughout the course, students develop their skills in performing, analysing and evaluating sporting performance. Furthermore, they learn more about Anatomy and Physiology, Biomechanics, Sports Psychology and Technology in Sport. Students are encouraged to appreciate and investigate the psychological, sociological and physiological issues that influence elite athletes, and impact mass participation. There is a strong theme of linking theory to their own practical performance.

Students have seven theory lessons a week. There is an assumption that students’ practical performances will be developed and improved in games sessions. Most pupils are assessed in one of our main games but there are exceptions which including skiing or horse riding.

The Sports Science Society continues to flourish with lectures from professional sportsmen and women, and nutritionists; expanding their knowledge and introducing pupils to variety of careers related to Sports Science.

Theatre Studies

A Level Theatre Studies gives students the opportunity to move from behind a desk and explore texts and ideas practically. It also offers them a chance to develop vital transferable skills, most notably communication and group skills, as well as the opportunity to become a more confident actor as part of a small and supportive class.

Classes are a maximum of 12 pupils, meaning teachers can provide individual support and guidance with essay structuring and writing, and knowledge that can be applied to other essay based subjects. It is taught by highly qualified subject specialists in a suite of well-equipped rooms, including a small studio theatre and a rehearsal room, which doubles as a dance studio.

Pupils will have eight periods per week and will study five texts from a wide range of historical contexts, from Greek tragedy to contemporary dramas. 60% of the overall grade is awarded based on two performance units, one devised and one scripted. Students achieve excellent A Level results and regularly achieve 100% A* -B and 60% A*-A. Perceptions about the worth of Drama have shifted significantly in recent years and the course offers students real and credible value at both higher education and in their careers. In the last few years, students have secured places at a number of Russell Group universities including Manchester, Durham and Warwick.

To support learning in the classroom, there is offer an extensive programme of extra-curricular theatre trips, workshops with visiting practitioners, and opportunities to perform in a diverse and exciting range of school productions. 

Theology, Philosophy and Ethics

The Theology, Philosophy and Ethics (TPE) department provides a rigorous introduction to philosophical, ethical and theological argument whilst exploring the questions that have preoccupied some of history’s most famous thinkers.

Within TPE, we aim to stimulate critical engagement with all aspects of human life. In lessons, we can often be found discussing not only the work of great philosophers and theologians but also debating the latest issues from this week’s news or even the moral problems faced by the characters of Made In Chelsea.

The A Level course has three strands: Philosophy of Religion, Ethics, and Theology. Students cover topics such as the classical proofs of the existence or non-existence of God, gender and society, business ethics, conscience, death, and eternal life. They benefit from the teachers’ academic specialisms whilst being encouraged to think holistically and make connections between the various disciplines. Students are encouraged to think independently, critiquing the work of the philosophers they encounter.  We actively encourage students not only to read widely, but also to listen to podcasts, and attend events at the Cheltenham Festivals, so that their study remains as contemporary as possible. Philosophy and Theology do not remain the preserve of the ancients; they remain relevant to everyday life.

The department runs a thriving Philosophy Society with Cheltenham Ladies’ College and Dean Close and a hugely popular in-house discussion series. Students have considered questions such as “Should we talk to terrorists?”, “Does knowledge depend on experience?” and “What does it mean to be human?”

ICT

Just as ICT has become an integral part of our lives in the 21st century, so at College it is embedded within much of what we do. This is why instead of teaching ICT as a separate, examined subject, we focus on developing pupils’ ICT skills through their work in each of their subjects, as well as through their participation in extra-curricular activities. Thus, each girl and boy leaves College excellently prepared to use technology in the modern world.

All teaching staff are highly trained in using a wide range of technology, in order to enable all pupils become confident, independent and safe users of ICT. Furthermore, we are constantly reviewing our ICT provision at College, in order to ensure that it enhances learning and teaching as effectively as possible, and that it is tailored to the bespoke needs and ambitions of our pupils.

College pupils are expected to have their own MacBook laptop, in order to ensure that they have access to College’s ICT facilities in lessons, in their Houses, and at home. We have been an Apple Mac school since the 1980s and have had our one-to-one laptop policy since 2005, because we believe strongly in ensuring that College pupils have high-quality, user-friendly ICT equipment to learn with.

In addition, we have an experienced and highly effective ICT support team, to help pupils get the most out of their computers. The ICT department is open every break and lunchtime so that pupils can drop in with any issues they may have.