Upper School curriculum

The curriculum in the Upper School (13 to 16 years old) is designed to reflect the increasing independence and freedom of our girls as they focus on GCSEs and I/GCSEs.

The Upper School curriculum begins in Upper Fourth (Year 9) where girls begin to make subject selections. Girls then move into Lower Fifth (Year 10) and Upper Fifth (Year 11) to work towards their GCSE and I/GCSE examinations. Read more in our Upper Fourth Choices and I/GCSE Options booklets.

I/GCSE Options booklet cover - girls painting

Upper Fourth (13+) choices offer a bespoke learning journey

The Upper Fourth curriculum offers intellectual challenge and balance with a view of providing as many future opportunities as possible. Our impressive subject flexibility means that our curriculum has the space for each girl to develop her interests and express her individuality through a breadth of academically rigorous disciplines.

Every girl in the Upper Fourth is expected to follow the core curriculum which will form the basis for her future GCSE work:

We also offer a wide range of Creative subjects and Languages options.

Girls will select either two or three Creative subjects from the following:

Girls will select at least one Modern Foreign Language and up to two further languages from the following:

  • Chinese
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Classical Greek
  • Latin

You can read more about each of our departments to discover the details of each subject.

When making these choices it is important to consider other commitments, such as instrument and singing lessons, Speech and Drama, sports coaching and learning skills as many of these lessons also take place in the working day.

Lower Fifth and Upper Fifth (age 14 – 16) GCSE and I/GCSE options

Selecting their I/GCSE options gives our students the opportunity to design their own broad and balanced curriculum, containing protected core subjects and allowing for choice from a wide range of subjects. With the guidance of teachers, an academic tutor, Housestaff and the Higher Education department each girl crafts her own bespoke timetable.

Most pupils choose nine GCSEs, with some choosing ten, and in exceptional cases, eleven. We wholeheartedly advocate for the quality, rather than quantity, of subjects taken as well as a wider pursuit of educational enrichment and personal interests beyond the curriculum.

The core subjects in the I/GCSE years are:

The optional subjects in the I/GCSE years are:

Our departments

Explore more about each of our departments to discover the details of each subject studied at Downe.

Book your tickets | Academic Conference – Maximising Pupils’ Potential | Thursday 13 June 2024
Back to top