Upper Senior School Teaching (ages 13-16)

Upper Senior School Teaching (ages 13-16)

Welcome to the Downsend 3 Year GCSE

Year 9 is an exciting point in the Downsend journey and represents the start of a three year GCSE, designed to ensure not only the very best GCSE outcomes, but also to provide an opportunity to enjoy the amazing breadth on offer in the Downsend curriculum, and beyond.

In Year 9, students will start to build, consolidate, and apply their knowledge as they work towards their GCSE exams in Year 11. They will be helped and encouraged to take responsibility for their learning and to develop skills that will allow them to flourish both academically and personally.

We have a strong and dedicated team of GCSE specialists who have shaped their teaching to deliver the curriculum in imaginative, engaging, and inspiring ways.

A Global Perspective

Progressing to their GCSE years, Year 9’s may be inclined to look inwards. Our global perspective encourages young people to look outside their own experiences, to think broadly and to take responsibility for making change. We continue our emphasis on visualising the bigger picture, and in embracing diversity in our society.

The curriculum continues to cover a broad range of topics from Women’s Rights to Black History. We inspire debate and conversation, enriching the learning through trips and tours.

Our commitment to providing support to both global and local charitable causes is part of the fabric of who we are, and the Upper Senior School are expected to dedicate time to work within the community.


Shaping Incredible People

Our research to define our new Future Skills vision showed that irrespective of sector, employers and universities seek the students that excel in ‘non-cognitive skills’; the ability to be empathetic, to listen, to have a voice, to adapt, to be resilient and to be a part of an amazing team.

We continue to encourage debate, promote public speaking and group performances and encourage all pupils to take on positions of leadership. We expect all our Upper Senior School pupils to take on the Duke of Edinburgh Award, to focus on their physical, technical, willpower and community skills and to help them grow as people.

We focus heavily on wellbeing in the teenage years, through initiatives such as Global Be Well Day and by using personalised programmes such as AS Steer to help us signpost potential mental health issues before they escalate.

At Downsend, we work with students to be well equipped academically, but crucially we place equal importance on their value to the wider world and the skills they will need as they become young adults. We encourage a can-do spirit, the independence to tackle problems, and natural confidence that brings opportunities whatever the future may hold.

Stimulating Creativity

We know that the ability to think creatively is much demanded by employers as manual tasks become increasingly automated. Creativity is one of the key skills highlighted by Mckinsey in their report Soft Skills for a Hard World as vital for the workforce of the future, alongside analytical thinking and complex problem-solving. We know that thinking about real-world problems independently, and as part of a team, is all part of the creative process so we integrate these opportunities into every part of the curriculum. We use Virtual Reality headsets to ensure the learning experience is fully immersive, using our state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to design, use machinery to develop products, to evaluate and review.

In Years 9-11, pupils have access to complex Design and Technology equipment, such as laser cutters and design software, to increase their ability to think creatively but in context.

Our ground-breaking STRETCH programme covers a wide range of creative disciplines such as Pfizer’s Science in a Box to Young Engineers and Rocket-Making. Alongside this, we excel in the more traditional Creative Arts, giving all pupils the opportunity to perform musically or theatrically.

Digital Mastery

We know that our Upper Senior pupils are true digital natives, using a wide range of digital applications, software, media and programmes with ease. We aim to build on this innate knowledge, firstly ensuring safe and appropriate use of tech through digital citizenship modules. As part of the Cognita Schools Group, our digital maturity rating is ’embedded’ and we aspire to ‘leading’ status within the short term.

We use our 1 to 1 devices and a wide range of technologies such as One Note and Century, to: blend learning across subject areas; to tailor feedback appropriately; to personalise the learning experience dependent upon learning style; to engage in real-word scenarios and to build relationships through collaborative work.

As a result, our pupils are articulate and competent in their use of tech and are able to give sophisticated explanations as to why and how they would use specific technologies.

Personalised Learning and a Skills-based approach 

Downsend’s 3 year GCSE programme has been carefully designed to allow students to fully engage with the subject area, immersing themselves without having to rush their learning.

Building in the additional year allows us the opportunity to expand on the curriculum in greater depth. It also allows students to focus on their Future Skills. We do not compromise on the time needed to discuss these important concepts with students, with regular assemblies, form and tutor times dedicated to discussing tangible examples of Future Skills. Students are incentivised through a rewards system to actively demonstrate these skills, and to be self-aware in their personal development so they are able to articulate clearly as they progress to college, university and job interviews of the future.

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