Our approach to the curriculum

Our curriculum provides girls with an outstanding academic education that prepares them for university and the world beyond. As well as English and maths, all girls study sciences and ICT, humanities, modern languages and Latin through to GCSE as well as having the opportunity to take GCSEs in art, music, drama and PE.

The curriculum is not just what happens in the classroom. Every department organises trips and events that make connections between different subjects and bring areas of study alive. It may be a combined classics and religious studies trip to the British Museum or a drama and English visit to the Globe theatre on the Southbank. Every trip or event enhances girls’ cultural education by adding to the breadth of their experience as well as their knowledge.

Some girls have a particular aptitude for a subject or topic, so, in addition to the stretch and challenge activities teachers set within the classroom, subject teachers also encourage girls to enter national and regional competitions. It helps girls build confidence in their abilities, focus on their achievement and recognise their own personal success.

As part of our curriculum approach we also focus on teaching our girls to become effective students, starting with a revision skills course in Year 7 that covers practical topics like time management, note-taking and internet research. As they develop these foundation skills we introduce a programme that develops skills such as being good self- managers, effective participators and strong team members – all disciplines that support their classroom learning.


Our Approach

Our approach to learning

Sydenham High students are encouraged to think for themselves. The learning experience is often a collaborative one with dialogue and interaction a matter of course but this will vary at different stages of a students school career.

Years 7, 8 & 9

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Year 7

In Year 7, girls study 10 subjects in addition to core subjects. These include one hour each of drama, music, art and DT every week. Girls are taught science in Year 7 by qualified biology, chemistry and physics teachers. Languages are introduced in the form of French and Latin. Geography, history, RS and computing are also important components of our Year 7 curriculum as are PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) days. Two hours of sport a week complete the curriculum. We also offer Aspire which is the Year 7 part of SydPlus, our enrichment programme, once a fortnight. Aspire activities include iSyd, Arts Award, Cookery and How hard can it be?

Year 8

Year 8 girls are introduced to a second foreign modern language. They can choose between Spanish, Italian and German. Science is now delivered as separate subjects – biology, chemistry and physics. Aspire activities continue and include P4C (Philosophy for Children), Cookery, Ceramics and CuriUs, a science enrichment programme.

Year 9

In Year 9 girls begin their IGCSE science course. Year 9 is the time when girls make choices about which GCSEs they are going to study in addition to the core subjects of maths, English language, English literature, biology, chemistry, physics and a modern language. Girls and parents are given opportunities to explore and discuss possible choices with their teachers during Year 9.

GCSE years 10 & 11

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Girls usually study either nine or ten GCSE subjects in Years 10 and 11. GCSEs are completed in the summer term of Year 11. Each GCSE is allocated approximately five hours over our two-week timetable. Every student continues to enjoy two hours of weekly physical activity chosen from a wide range of options during these years.
We’re different at Sydenham High because we personalise girls’ GCSE choices. Our students do not have to trade-off subjects because of timetable restrictions. We develop a timetable to suit the girls’ preferences, ensuring they can enjoy the curriculum of their choice without compromise.
We encourage our students to have high expectations of academic success; expectations based on their individual potential, not on our league table performance. All our GCSE students take at least one foreign language as well as maths, English and sciences at GCSE. This develops the creative, logical and problem-solving skills that will serve them well in the future and it provides a broad base from which to make choices of A level subjects and university courses.

Moving to A level

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A Levels – Year 12 and Year 13

In the Sixth Form, girls choose the subjects they want to study and timetables are produced to reflect individual choices – again, girls are not restricted to choosing from a menu.
The following aspects form the Sixth Form curriculum offer:
Academic Core
Girls choose three or four subjects at A Level in Year 12 as part of the process of preparing to read for a university degree on leaving Sydenham High.
Each sixth former takes part in Stretch, a timetabled enrichment programme, which sees them learning skills and pursuing interests such as First Aid and Political Awareness. In Year 13 they embark on an individual online course, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), which will enhance their studies and strengthen their university applications.
All sixth formers have the opportunity of taking the Extended Project Qualification on a subject of their choice. The qualification is respected by universities as an excellent method of learning independent research and presentation skills. The award is counted as half an A Level.
Sixth formers follow a careers programme which allows them to make strong, informed applications to universities at home and abroad. The school hosts various events where representatives from a number of institutions speak to the girls and advise them about their choices. Former pupils and the GDST play a crucial part in this too.
Young Leaders
All sixth formers are encouraged to apply and be elected for a role of leadership in the school. They are trained as mentors and they are house captains and prefects, playing key roles in the running of the school.
Sydenham’s outreach programme sees all of the Year 12 students undertaking community service for the year. Some girls choose to help out in their former primary schools, some serve in charity shops and some assist in hospitals and local hospices.