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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 Lower College (Year 9 - 11) only. To view subject information specific to Sixth Form, 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 all levels of ability.

Throughout the Third Form, pupils experience three specialist areas of Art (3D, Photoshop and etching, and mixed media) and develop their artistic response to one overarching theme. This programme provides pupils with a clear understanding of the approach required at GCSE and beyond.

At GCSE (Fourth and Fifth Form), pupils create personal projects derived from a range of stimuli to produce work in a personal choice of materials and media.  At any one time in the department, pupils develop confidence and knowledge whilst creating their artistic expression in a broad range of media and styles.  Our pupils thrive personally and creatively through this programme.

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. Regular student exhibitions in The White Gallery and Thirlestaine Long Gallery provide frequent opportunities for formal, and self, assessment, and reflects the energy of the busy Art department.

Classics

In the Third Form, all pupils study either Latin or Classical Civilisation.  They can then choose to continue with that subject, or take a combination of classical subjects at GCSE. Latin and Greek are available to those who have studied Latin in Third Form, whilst Classical Civilisation is an option open to all.  Around 50-65% of GCSE level pupils opt for a Classical subject. 

During the year, pupils will also study Greek and have the opportunity to gain a Level 1 qualification in this subject. This allows them to get a taste for the language and perhaps choose it as a GCSE option. They also cover some different elements of Classical Civilisation - again, as a taster for GCSE.

The GCSE Latin course is divided up into two disciplines, Language and Literature. Each element counts as 50% of the final mark. Language skills are assessed by translation and comprehension questions. Literature is divided up into prose and verse authors. The course is challenging, including optional opportunities for prose composition and providing pupils with a real sense of purpose and progress as they begin to look at authors and language in more detail and with greater accuracy throughout the two years.

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

Design and Technology

Design and Technology is split into Textiles and Resistant Materials at Lower College, which allows all pupils enormous scope for their imagination and insight. The subject suits anyone who has a design or engineering based interest and it can lead to a wide range of creative careers. Pupils are encouraged to develop ideas that push the boundaries of design and the department produces some of the top grades in the school. Pupils will learn about resistant materials, graphics and CAD/CAM,  and textiles technology, and have the opportunity to develop innovative products using an excellent range of both modern and traditional tools and machinery.

The facilities are growing continually and the department invests in new technology whenever possible to access modern techniques. Computers are used for 2D and 3D design work and control manufacturing tools.

Third Formers are introduced to a number of core areas associated with the GCSE; Fourth and Fifth Forms then go on to study specific materials and components and associated manufacturing processes, the design process, the influences placed on design by new technologies, fashions, environmental issues and cultures. Industry standard practice is integrated into the curriculum; all students are taught how to use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to produce design work in Fifth Form.

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.

Drama

Studying GCSE Drama gives pupils 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 supportive class.

Classes are small, with a maximum of 14 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 have four periods per week, during which they will be prepared to write a Live Theatre Review and study a set text, whilst also developing their core performance skills as they devise their own work and perform extracts from published plays. Whilst there is a fundamental emphasis on the practical element in this course, the development of a lively portfolio full of inspirational ideas, collaboration, experimentation, and evaluation is also a central part of the course.  Therefore, GCSE Drama allows all students to pursue the course in a way consistent with their preferred creative style.

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. 

English

The 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.

In all Lower College year groups, this subject comprises both Literature and Language. Through the former, pupils explore a wide range of poetry, prose and drama, and learn to recognise and analyse the ways in which writers use words and stylistic techniques to achieve a range of effects. In English Language, pupils are taught to communicate clearly, accurately and effectively in both speech and writing. They also learn how to employ a wide-ranging vocabulary, to use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, to develop a personal written style, and to communicate with an awareness of the audience being addressed. 

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 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 pupils’ natural curiosity of major contemporary issues. It is highly pupil-centred and focuses very closely on the personal experiences of pupils and the relevance of the subject to their present and future lives.

An understanding of diverse physical landscapes, extreme events, and human interactions within them is best experienced outside of the classroom. The entire Third Form visit Cadbury World during their first term at College to investigate urban design, marketing and how to reduce resource consumption, and the IGCSE course involves fieldwork in both Lydney and Cheltenham. Traditional earth sciences are studied alongside contemporary, issue-based socio-economics. Fieldwork – both primary and virtual – is incorporated throughout the course and assessed within the single exam at the end of Fifth Form. There is no coursework in IGCSE Geography.

The Geography department has a well-stocked Mason Geography library, a computer suite and Map Room for the mentoring of junior geographers and support clinics for all year groups.

Lower College pupils 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 workplace. Each year pupils of all ages enter independent extended essay competitions as well as the Royal Geographical Society “Young Geographer of the Year” competition. 

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 Fourth and Fifth Forms study Germany from 1918 to 1945; America between the wars; the shifting fortunes of both countries and the rise of the USSR through the early years of the Cold War, 1945-63; and finally an examination of change over time in the Middle East, c.1917-1996. The students enjoy expanding their studies from a European to a more global perspective, and the relevance of these topics to comprehending and interpreting events in our present day world is easily established. This follows on from a Third Form course which sets up the two world wars as pivotal hubs for a broad understanding of the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries.

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.

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 leave 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 to 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.

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.  Every pupil in Lower College takes Maths IGCSE, with the top set sitting this early at the end of Fourth Form and going on to study Additional Maths in Fifth Form.  

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

We firmly believe that 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.

Pupils who arrive at Cheltenham College in the Third Form usually study two modern foreign languages. Those who have taken a language in their previous school continue with it and, in addition, they start a new language; German, Spanish or French. In the Fourth Form, all pupils have to study at least one language and many continue with two. Other languages are sometimes offered as extra-curricular activities for interested pupils, such as Mandarin, Russian and Italian.

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. 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. As an academic subject, it is studied by all members of the Third Form and becomes an option at GCSE and A Level.

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 GCSE, 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.

The Third Form course gives a broad and varied overview and provides a strong foundation for the study of Music at GCSE. Modules include elements of music, pop music, western classical music, world music, music for film, composition and music technology. At GCSE, listening, composition and performance are studied alongside western classical music, 20th-century music, traditional music and pop music.

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. 

Science

The Science department has a high reputation both within and outside College and 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.

In Third Form, pupils study Biology, Chemistry and Physics separately and are taught by subject specialists. Most pupils study for the IGCSE exam which is more stretching than the national GCSE courses on offer and is better academic preparation for A Level studies.

Pupils have the option of choosing how many science subjects to pursue at a GCSE level. The majority of our pupils will choose three sciences whilst a smaller minority will elect to take two. Pupils speak of their enjoyment of lessons and of the stimulation they bring. Whilst making sure pupils achieve good exam results, we are passionate in believing that our teaching and their learning should go beyond the confines of exam specifications. 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 where pupils can find out about latest developments in science, and about topics that do not form part of their course. Pupils also take numerous trips to universities and science conferences where they are exposed to cutting-edge scientific research.

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 GCSE, pupils enjoy practical and theoretical lessons, focusing on the relationship between exercise and effective physical performance. Throughout the course, pupils develop their skills in performing, analysing and evaluating sporting performance. The theory aspect accounts for 40% of their overall IGCSE grade; the other 60% is based on the pupils’ performances in four sporting disciplines. These options range from our main games of hockey, netball and cricket, to outdoor sports including personal survival, skiing and sailing, as well as some basic weightlifting and strength and conditioning modules too. These activities focus on improving the athleticism of the pupils and enhance learning in the classroom. Pupils will understand the immediate and long-term effects on the body by observing and testing what changes happen in the body when they physically exercise.

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

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.

In the Third Form, pupils use ‘thought experiments’ to consider ethical issues, such as “When is it wrong to save a life?”. They apply their thinking to issues of consent, rights, free will and artificial intelligence to name a few. The Third Form course provides a good introduction to critical thought and an understanding of faith positions.

At GCSE,  a main area of focus within the Philosophy and Ethics course is the dialogue between religious and secular areas of life. It deals with topics such as terrorism, war and violence, alongside religious involvement in political and social problems. The beliefs and practices of both Islam and Christianity are studied, providing pupils with cultural awareness as well as academic rigour. 

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