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Biology

It would be hard to imagine a school better suited to the study of Biology.  At Canford we are incredibly fortunate with the facilities we have both on site and in the local area and we look to make full use of these.  We have a brilliant team of seven experienced teaching staff plus a full time lab technician.  

The department underwent major refurbishment in the summer of 2013 resulting in five state of the art laboratories and a Sixth Form seminar room.  Like all sciences Biology is best taught practically and the large and well equipped laboratories make this very easy to facilitate.  We have a wealth of resources to use - from skulls and skeletons to fossils and torso models - as well as an extensive library of slides, books, DVDs and other resources.  The department houses two large fish tanks: we have cold water marine environment set up stocked with local species of seaweed, crabs, fish and lobster and a tropical brackish tank with archer fish, mangroves and mudskippers.  These provide great interest to the pupils and allow us to demonstrate a wide range of physiological and behavioural adaptations of organisms. 

With a large number of candidates each year we have been able to maintain a success rate of above 90% obtaining offers each year for extremely competitive Medical School, Veterinary Science and Dentistry courses.  We also have an enviable record of Oxbridge success both for these courses and for Biology, Biochemistry and Natural Sciences.

Ed Johnson - Head of Biology

Biology is a very popular subject at Canford at A Level with around a third of the Sixth Form taking it each year.  We follow the AQA specifications for both GCSE and A Level and achieve excellent results.  Every year we have at least 25 students studying Biology or a related subject at University.  In order to help with these applications and to foster a love of Biology and Science in general we run a range of extra activities.  This include dissection as part of the Shell carousel, bee keeping, fishing, Natural History, the Biology book club and SMaC (Science, Maths and Computing).  We have regular external speakers and often attend events such as those celebrating the centenary of Alfred Russel Wallace’s death.  Each year we take the Sixth Form to a genetics conference in London. 

Another important aspect of what we offer is the advice we give to those students interested in Medicine, Dentistry and Vet. Science.  In conjunction with the Careers department we offer a comprehensive programme that starts in the Fifth Form and helps with all aspects of the application, from the personal statement, UKCAT and BMAT preparation, work experience, voluntary work, advice of where to apply and, most crucially, interview practice.  

On the site itself we have an extensive arboretum as well as more natural wood areas which are ideal for investigating nutrient cycling, sampling techniques and succession.  We also have the River Stour running through the grounds which we sample extensively to demonstrate freshwater ecosystems and the use of indicator species to monitor for pollution.  Last summer the Shell pupils took infra-red camera footage of the otter in the river, sampled the moth population using our light trap, and used drift netting and pitfall traps to investigate invertebrate diversity.  We are part of a national network which aims to monitor water quality by sampling for freshwater invertebrates.  

We run field trips into the local area: we look at orchid distribution at Badbury rings, visit and interview a local farmer (OC and current parent), look at sand dune succession at Studland and rocky shore zonation at Kimmeridge.  Further afield we offer a range of expeditions: in the past we have been to Arran with the Geography department, to Turkey to look at invasive fish species in the Nile and monitor Loggerhead turtle nesting sites and to the Malay Archipelago as well as an annual diving trip to the Red Sea or Malta.