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"Castle School Education Trust is committed to high quality education across the primary, secondary and sixth form key stages. Our schools cover the South Gloucestershire area. We encourage independence within each school within a strong framework of values."

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  • End of term Friday 19th July, students will depart at 12.30pm.       A'Level Results day Thursday 15 August Sixth form Hall available from 8am       

  • GCSE Results day Thursday 22 August Drama Hall from 10am

The Castle School Curriculum

At The Castle School, our curriculum is designed to allow all our students to learn the essential core knowledge, understanding and skills they will need in any future career, but also to provide students with choices about areas in which to develop wider knowledge and skills as they progress through the school. We want our students to understand the importance and enjoyment of academic excellence, but also to appreciate the ways in which the many skills they learn in school affect their future employability.  We also aim to make learning effective and enjoyable, as we believe that school represents an important part of the life to be lived now as well as being preparation for life in the future.

For our most able and more able students, the curriculum contains opportunities to be stretched, and to widen their experiences. For our students who have additional learning needs, there are various forms of support and alternative curriculum pathways available to allow them to make successful individual progress.

A key aim of the curriculum for all students is a desire to help prepare students for life as citizens who will make informed, positive contributions to life in Modern Britain. All aspects of school life should contribute to this, but there are two strands which deliberately cover many explicit aspects of this aim. These two subjects – Lifeskills and Religious Studies – are taught to every student, and also lead to a qualification for every student in each are by the end of Year 11. The Lifeskills curriculum has 6 key themes within each year...known as the CASTLE themes. These are:

C : Citizenship

A : Awareness, Advice & Support

S : Sex & Relationships

T : Tobacco, Alcohol & Drugs

L : Living in a Wider World

E : Employability & Preparing for the Future

Detailed information on the programmes for these can be found In the Lifeskills section below.  The programme for Religious Studies leads to all students completing a GCSE by the end of Year 11, yet its scope goes much wider than simply studying different religions. The curriculum here is designed to encourage students to consider the many ethical and moral questions that face all societies and all citizens, and also to consider the ways in which British society can deal with issues such as extremism, racism, issues of sexuality, democratic participation, and many others. Its aim is to encourage students to listen to the views of others, contribute to discussion and debate, and develop their own individual opinions. For more detailed information, see the section on Religious Studies below.   The weekly assembly programmes also play a key part of this wider curriculum, as do the Curriculum Focus Days, and the wide range of extra-curricular opportunities.

Please see our Key Stage 3 /4/ 5 pages for further information.  (Links on right of page)



The following guide gives a subject-by-subject guide overview of the curriculum and extra-curricular opportunities for Castle School students.



All students study Maths until at least the end of Year 11. Students are grouped into ability sets during Term 1 in Year 7, and groupings are reviewed at least twice a year throughout their schooling.

Students start their GCSE course in Year 9, and usually sit the GCSE exam at the end of Year 11.  A small number of students may also be entered for an Entry Level qualification if they are struggling to reach a GCSE grade.  Our aim is for all students to make at least 3 levels of progress during Years 7-11.

In the Sixth Form, we run  A-level Maths, usually 3 or 4 classes,  and a separate A-level ‘Maths and Further Maths’ course.  In the Sixth Form we also run two GCSE Maths classes, which are compulsory for all students who have not yet obtained at least a C at GCSE. These classes contain students from A-level and Advanced Bridging programmes.

For students in Years 10-13, 1:1 and small group mentoring is available with Mr Suhootorah, and in-class support is provided by a HLTA, Mrs Sims.

There is a thriving programme of extra-curricular opportunities in Maths.  These include:

  • UKMT Maths Challenges – for individuals and teams.
  • An after-school Gifted and Talented Maths Club
  • Invitations to ‘Maths Circle’ events – which often lead on to invitations to summer schools at universities.
  • Visit to Further Maths taster events – for students in Years 10 / 11.
  • A Maths Fun Roadshow – in which students from UWE come in to work with our students.
  • ‘Maths Inspiration’ talks.


All students study English until at least the end of Year 11. In Years 7-9, all students have 1 library lesson a fortnight, devoted to individual reading.   Students are organised into ability groupings from Year 8 onwards, though in Year 7 there are Literacy Booster classes for students with identified challenges in reading/writing.

In Years 10/11, most students work towards GCSEs in English Language and English Literature.  A small number of students currently study a single combined English GCSE instead.  In Years 10/11, some students also follow a Study Plus course in place of an additional GCSE, which provides additional numeracy (and literacy) support alongside their English GCSE lessons

In the Sixth Form, students can choose to study A-levels in English Literature or English Language.  There are also 2 Level 2 English classes, teaching GCSE and Functional Skills, which are compulsory for all students who have not yet obtained at least a C at GCSE. 


All students study Science (including all 3 areas of Biology, Chemistry and Physics)  until at least the end of Year 11.

In Years 7/8, all students follow a Science course, taught in tutor groups. From the start of Year 9, students begin on one of 4 pathways leading to GCSE qualifications :

a)      Parents are given the option of students embarking on a Triple Science course, which moves at an accelerated pace and leads to 3 separate GCSEs at the end of Year 11. We normally have 2 or 3 classes following this pathway.

b)      The majority of students usually move onto a Double Science Pathway. At present, this involves completing a Core Science GCSE in Year 10, followed by an Additional Science GCSE in Year 11. 6 or 7 classes usually follow this pathway.

c)       For some students on the Double Science Pathway, after the Core Science GCSE in Year 10, they follow an Applied Science GCSE in Year 11. This is a more vocational course, with a bigger emphasis on applications of Science in different career areas. 2 classes usually follow this pathway.

d)      Some students spend a reduced amount of time within Science, and aim to complete a Single GCSE in Science, and/or an Entry-Level qualification.  The additional time is used on a wider skills course, usually complementing the ASDAN COPE course they do elsewhere.  There is usually 1 class following this pathway. 

In the Sixth Form, students can choose from A-level courses in Physics, Chemistry, Biology or Medical Science.  There are usually 9 or 10 of these classes in each of Years 12/13.

Science also has a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities, including a KS3 Science Club, and a programme of ‘STEM’ activities open to all students.


Modern Foreign languages have always formed part of the compulsory Core Curriculum at Castle, and most students study at least one language to GCSE.  We believe that language development is an important skill for all.

In Year 7, all students study either French or German, in a roughly equal split.   Parents/carers  are able to specify a preference when accepting a place at the school ; up to 10% of parents typically do so.   Students will then continue with the study of this language through to GCSE.

In Year 9, students have the option of picking up an additional, second language – we offer French, German and Spanish – and these initial taster classes run via a weekly after-school class.  These students can then choose to pick the second language as one of their optional GCSEs in Years 10/11.

In the Sixth Form, students can choose to study any of French, German or Spanish A-levels. 

All students have several opportunities to travel abroad and develop their language skills :

In year 7, we run residential week trips in July to France and Germany. 

In years 9/10, students can choose to be involved in our annual French and German exchanges, staying with a host family and then hosting their partner at home.

In years 12/13, students can participate in a further exchange, which in Germany includes a week’s work placement.

The exchanges are long-established. For example, the German exchange with Bockenham is linked to its twinning with Thornbury, and has now run for over 25 consecutive years.  The school also employs native-speaking language assistants in French and German, who provide 1:1 additional tuition for A-level students.

Latin is also available to all students as an additional language in the extra-curricular offer. We currently run a beginners and intermediate class, and these involve students from Years 7-13. We also offer support for students with other first languages who wish to take qualifications in the language : in recent years these have included Mandarin, Greek, Portuguese and Polish.

For a small minority of students, we recognise that their literacy skills make detailed study of a foreign language more difficult. In Years 8/9, we typically run 2 small Modern Foreign Culture classes as alternatives to French/German, where students focus on developing their English literacy but also widening their awareness of other countries.  In Years 10/11, some students are invited onto an alternative personalised pathway instead of a foreign language GCSE, which could include Study Plus (literacy/numeracy support), Pathfinders (an Art-based GCSE course) or ASDAN COPE (a lifeskills programme).


All students study Religious Studies until at least the end of Year 11, taught by a specialist team of teachers. Castle School is a non-denominational school, so we do not see Religious Studies as vehicle to instruct students to believe in any particular religion. However, we believe it is an essential part of every student’s core curriculum, as it seeks to help prepare students for life in modern Britain.

Our courses seek to help students develop an understanding of the major religions, their beliefs, customs and history. Yet Religious Studies also invites them to consider some of the major ethical and moral dilemmas that they will face as citizens, debate them and consider why others may hold differing views to their own.  So Religious Studies is also a key part of the school’s cizitenship programme, and plays a vital role in the development of students’ spiritual, moral and cultural development.

In Year 7, this forms part of the Humanities course, and is then taught as a separate subject from Year 8 onwards.  During Years 9-11, all students work towards a full GCSE, which is sat at the end of Year 11.

In Year 8, all students take part in a day of visiting Places of Worship – where they travel into Bristol and may visit mosques, temples, synagogues and churches – to better understand the cultural differences between those of different faiths.

In Years 10/11, all students take part in 2 theme days as part of their RS course. These will include a session in which they study and debate an ethical dilemma, before joining with other classes to create a House of Commons, often led by our local MP Steve Webb, to broaden their understanding of parliamentary democracy.  There are also sessions where they meet in small groups with members of local religious communities to discuss topical issues, and use modern media to study and discuss issue of racial integration within modern Britain.

In the Sixth Form, we offer an A-level course in Religion, Philosophy and Ethics. In addition, all students have a weekly Enrichment lesson, the programme for which includes further opportunities to consider and debate a wide range of ethical, moral and religious questions.

All of the Religious Studies curriculum follows the programme of the South Glos SACRE, of which our Head of RS, Mrs Mary-Ann Willmott, is a key member.


All students study Physical Education until at least the end of Year 11.

In Years 7-9, all students have at least 2 hours of Physical Education a week, taught in half-year groups. A wide curriculum is followed during each year. Students are generally taught in single-sex classes, alongside students of similar physical abilities.

In Years 10/11, this Core PE curriculum continues for all students, but with more student choice involved. In Year 10, students can choose to be part of a Sports Leaders Award as part of the Core PE programme, alongside choices of other PE activities. In Year 11, the choice includes one afternoon a fortnight where students can choose from activities at Thornbury Leisure Centre, Thornbury Tennis Club and Thornbury Golf Club as well as activities within school.

In Years 10/11, students can also choose to study either GCSE PE or BTEC Sport (Level 1/2) as one of their option choices; there are usually 3 or 4 classes a year following these courses. 

In the Sixth Form, we also offer A-level PE and BTEC Sport at Level 3. We also run a timetabled class in CSLA (Community Sports Leaders Award) as part of the Sixth Form Extension Curriculum.

For students in all years there is a thriving programme of extra-curricular opportunities available each term. This includes inter-school teams in netball, hockey, rugby, football, athletics, cricket, cross-country, golf, tennis, plus regular clubs for fitness, trampolining, basketball, badminton.

There are also termly inter-form sports competitions (in football, netball, rugby, cross-country, hockey and athletics) , allowing all students to take part in competitive team sport.

School colours are awarded for sports, and we also have a Roll of Honour celebrating those students who perform at a high level of sport, from local to international representation, many of them in sports not available in school.


All students study History until at least the end of Year 9; in Year 7 it forms part of the Humanities course. During Year 7, classes pay a visit to Thornbury Castle, to learn more about local history on the doorstep. In Year 8, all students do History fieldwork at Tintern Abbey and Chepstow Castle, and In Year 9 all students have the opportunity to take part in fieldwork at the WWI battlefields.

Students can choose to continue to study History at GCSE, and it is a very popular option – 45% currently choose it, with up to 6 classes a year. The course also includes an opportunity for students to visit Berlin, to support 20th Century topics.

We also offer A-level History in the Sixth Form, which has 2 or 3 classes a year. Within the course, students have the opportunity to visit Florence, to do research for their work on the Renaissance period.


All students study Geography until at least the end of Year 9; in Year 7 it forms part of the Humanities course.  During Year 9, all students take part in a fieldwork expedition, usually of coastal erosion in Somerset.

Students can choose to continue to study Geography at GCSE, and it is a popular option – between 3 and 5 classes a year. During the GCSE course, all students take part in at least one fieldwork expedition to develop practical skills.

We also offer Geography at A-level in the Sixth Form, running 2 or 3 classes a year. All students carry out practical fieldwork, in Devon and Pembrokeshire, as part of the AS and A2 courses, and the school also hosts an annual Geography conference for sixth-formers in conjunction with UWE.   A-level and GCSE Geography students also have the opportunity to take part in a fieldwork expedition.


All students study Art until at least the end of Year 9, and The Castle School has had a long specialism in Visual Arts. As well as the Art Dept’s teaching rooms, they also have the Octagon Art Gallery. This Gallery includes a teaching space and a public gallery, and plays host to exhibitions of work by both professional artists and many Castle students, and regularly hosts Artists in Residence who work with our students of all ages.   The Dept includes 6 specialist Art teachers, 3 specialist Photography teachers and 2 specialist technicians.

In Years 10 and 11, students can choose to take on GCSE courses in Art, Art and Design or Photography.  There is no compulsion on students to take an Art course, but all 3 are popular choices. A small number of students may choose to do more than one of these at GCSE.

In Years 10/11, the Art Department also runs a Pathfinders GCSE course. This forms part of an alternative provision for some students who may have a slightly reduced core curriculum, but allows nearly all of these students to obtain a GCSE in some form of Art & Design specialism.

In the Sixth Form, the Art Dept runs an even wider range of courses. Every year there are A-level courses running in Fine Art, 3-D Art, Graphic Art and Photography; each of these runs 1 or 2 classes in each year. 

There is a tradition of a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities for students within Art, and their work holds a powerful place around the school, and within the wider community.  The Octagon Gallery gallery provided exclusive opportunities for students to publicly display their Art, and brings many community Art-lovers into the school for events also.


All students study Music until at least the end of Year 9.  The curriculum within these years provides a wide repertoire of styles and experiences for students, and also ensures that every single student has taken part in at least one public concert during their time here.

In Years 10/11, students can opt to study either GCSE Music or BTEC Music if they wish, and these two routes provide an opportunity for students to chose the most appropriate course for their musical interests and talents.

In the Sixth Form, we continue to offer two different routes – via an A-level in Music, and a Level 3 Access to Music (Rock School)

In addition to these formal courses, there are a wide range of options for instrumental tuition with our team of peripatetic tutors, with most instrumental areas available. (For detailed information on what’s available each term, please contact Mrs Heidi Hodkinson in our Music Dept). There is also a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities running each week for students – these include orchestra, choirs, jazz bands, Irish folk group, and many others. Castle School also has a long history of developing steel bands which regularly perform locally and tour internationally, and there are weekly rehearsals for these also.  The Dept facilities were upgraded in 2012, to include a state-of-the art recording studio and more soundproofed practise rooms, and these are available for use by the many students who want to develop individual skills, or by the growing number of bands within school.

If you are interested in instrumental or singing lessons, please contact Becky Elderton, Head of Music

Students musical skills are publicly showcased via a busy annual programme  of events, which include 3 major Music concerts, at least 2 gig nights, a Carol Service, a lower-school musical production, and performance evenings for students at GCSE and A-level.


All students study Design Technology until at least the end of Year 9.   During Years 7/8, all students study modules which ensure they have experience of applying Design Technology principles within Food, Textiles, Resistant Materials, Electronics and Graphics. At the end of Year 8, students and parents/carers can indicate a preference for 2 specific areas to focus on in Year 9, and we try to meet these preferences as far as possible.  However, these 2 areas do not restrict GCSE choices...students are still free to choose GCSEs in any Design Technology area if they wish.

In Years 10/11, all 5 areas provide GCSE courses, so there are classes in Food, Textiles, Product Design and Electronic Products.

In the Sixth Form, there are opportunities for students to further develop their skills in any of the GCSE areas. The Design Technology faculty runs A-level courses in Textiles and in Product Design (the latter can lead on from Resistant Materials or Electronics).  A-level Food can be provided and an A-level Graphics course is provided by our Art Dept.

There are a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities available within Design Technology. These include a growing number of STEM and Engineering opportunities, many in conjunction with some of our Premium Partners such as Hyundai and Renishaw. We are also working closely with  a number of organisations to help promote routes for girls into engineering, as they are an under-represented group within one of Bristol’s major employment areas.


As well as developing ICT skills in all areas of the curriculum, all students have formal lessons taught by the Computing and ICT faculty until at least the end of Year 9. This formal programme includes an annual programme of e-safety education, introduction to the principles of coding and computer science, and development of a range of ICT skills.

In Years 10/11, students can choose to study either of 2 different routes offered by the faculty  – a GCSE in Computing, or a Level 2 Cambridge National qualification in ICT. The latter is equivalent to a GCSE.

In the Sixth Form, we also offer an A-level in ICT.

E-safety forms parts of the Lifeskills and assembly programme for all students up to Year 13. There are also extra-curricular opportunities for students of all ages, including a Coding Club, ICT clinics and wider experience visits to UWE.


The Drama Dept forms part of the Expressive Arts faculty, and is taught as a stand-alone subject in all years within school. In Years 7-9, all students study Drama as part of their curriculum. There is also a Drama Club for students of this age, and usually a KS3 performance in summer term.

In Years 10/11, students can opt to take Drama GCSE, while in the Sixth Form they can similarly opt to take Theatre Studies A-level.   There is a regular programme of theatre visits to professional performances for all these students. We usually also produce an annual play performed by students from years 10-13 ; this is open to all students to audition for, not just those studying Drama as a qualification.

Drama Lessons in Years 7-9 take place in either the Drama Hall or Main Hall at Park Road. GCSE and A-level lessons take place in the Drama Studio, which is at our Gloucester Road site.


All students study Dance as a separate subject until at least the end of Year 9. This is taught by our Dance Dept, a team of specialist teachers who form part of our Expressive Arts faculty.

In Years 10/11, students can opt to study Dance GCSE. In the Sixth Form students can opt to study our Performing Arts A-level, which is offered as a specialist dance qualification.    Dance lessons at all ages take place in our specialist Dance Studio wherever possible, though we also use the Drama Hall and Main Hall as necessary.

There is also a strong programme of extra-curricular clubs, with at least 1 activity every day run by one of our 3 specialist teachers. We put on an annual Dance Competition, open to all students, and at least 2 full-performance shows each year.  We also regularly host masterclasses run by professional dance companies, and have supported a number of students who have moved on to professional training.


Business, Care and Health (BCH) is the title of a faculty which offers a wide range of 14-19 courses in Years 10-13. Students can opt to take one or more of these courses from Year 10, having had taster sessions in Year 9 to find out more about the subjects.  The range of courses available is wider for Sixth Form options, and some students choose a full-time academic or vocational curriculum from within this faculty.  The subjects available are Health and Social Care, Child Play, Learning & Development, Applied Business, Travel & Tourism and Economics.


In Years 10/11, students can opt for a GCSE Business course, we run 1 or 2 classes a year.

In the Sixth Form, we have two A-level courses running – A-level Business Studies and A-level Applied Business. Again, 1 or 2 classes of each run in each year.


Within the Sixth Form, we offer an A-level course in Economics with at least one class in every year.


Within the Sixth Form, we offer an A-level in Applied Travel & Tourism, with at least one class in each year.


In Years 10/11, we offer a Level 2 BTEC course in Health & Social Care, which is a popular option – usually running 2 or 3 classes in each year.  We also run a Level 1 ‘Healthcare and Food’ course in Years 10/11, which combines a Level 1 or Entry level qualification in Health & Social care with a practical cooking course.  In Year 9, students can take part in taster lessons to find out more about this subject.

In the Sixth Form, Health and Social Care is offered as a level 3 BTEC qualification, with 2 possible routes – a 12 unit or a 6 unit award (equivalent to 2 or 1 A-levels). We usually run one class following each route. Students on these courses usually complete a long-term work placement in this career field as part of their study programme.


Within the Sixth Form we offer a level 3 BTEC qualification in CCLD. This is run as a 6-unit qualification...equivalent to 1 A-level.. and can be combined with a 12-unit Health & Social care qualification to make a vocational study programme in this area.  Students on this course also complete a compulsory long-term work placement in this career field as part of their course.


The Sociology Dept forms part of our Humanities faculty, and offer courses from Year 10 upwards.   At GCSE we run up to 3 classes in each year, and during Year 9 students have a chance to try a taster lesson to find out more about the subject.

In the Sixth Form we run at least one A-level class in each year, for which it is not essential to have studied the subject at GCSE.


The Psychology Dept forms part of our Humanities faculty, and offers an A-level Psychology course in the Sixth Form. This is one of the most popular courses, usually running 3 or 4 classes a year.


The Media and Film Department forms part of our Expressive Arts faculty, and offers courses in Years 10-13.

In Years 10/11, we offer a Media Studies GCSE course. Students in Year 9 are offered a taster lesson to find out more about the subject.

In the Sixth Form we offer A-level courses in both Media and Film Studies.  All GCSE and A-level teaching is done in our specialist facilities at the Sixth Form site, where we have Apple Mac and editing suites.


In Years 10/11, we offer an ASDAN COPE course as an alternative option for some students. The course focuses on developing wider learning and social skills, by presenting students with a series of individual and team challenges over the two-year course. Students’ progress on each challenge is recorded by them, along with written assignments, to provide a full portfolio of achievement. Each student’s level of achievement is assessed and results in an external Level 1 or level 2 qualification.


We offer a stand-alone AS course in Critical Thinking in the Sixth Form.  Aimed at developing students’ ability to reason, formulate coherent and logical arguments, spot flaws in arguments and assess the relative credibility of information sources, Critical Thinking can support students’ current and future work in all other academic fields. Students can choose this course as a 4th AS in Year 12, or as part of the Year 13 Extended Curriculum programme.


Castle Challenge is a course studied by all of our students during Year 7. Timetabled for one afternoon each week, it is designed to present students with a series of 6 major challenges – each of which occupies a term of the year. By working on the challenges with their tutor group, students will be developing a wide range of cross-curricular skills – including literacy and numeracy – in a wider variety of settings than might be possible in individual subject lessons. 

The challenges are designed to be contemporary and realistic, and so form a key part of our preparation of students for life as citizens in modern Britain.   The challenges will include exposure to topics like – police and the law, charitable fund-raising, schemes to improve the local community in Thornbury, comparisons of life in different past decades, how to create stories for younger children, forensic science, comparing life in Thornbury with Bockenham (our twin town in Germany), how to design a new board game.

Each class works with just one teacher for their Castle Challenge afternoon, and all of these lessons take place in our Sixth Form block at Gloucester Road site (students are walked to the site under supervision each week). By moving Year 7 onto the different site for one afternoon, Castle Challenge is also designed to help students make the transition between primary and secondary school.

If you would like to find out more about our curriculum, please contact Andy Bethell at