Curriculum Statement - Psychology


(what is the intent of your curriculum in each Key Stage? – consider knowledge, understanding and skills)

Psychology is defined as the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a given context.

We follow the AQA Psychology A level specification which offers an engaging and effective introduction to Psychology. Students learn the fundamentals of the subject and develop skills valued by Higher Education (HE) and employers, including critical analysis, independent thinking and research.  We have chosen this specification over others due to historically having taught the AQA A Psychology specification, the more challenging of the specifications.  Our schemes of work and teacher expertise are geared to the new version of the AQA specification, which incorporates most of the original AQA A Psychology specification with the notable addition of forensic psychology as an option, which we know engages students.   Students in year 12 commit to the full 2 year A level course, as they do for their other subjects.


The specification encourages students to:

• develop essential knowledge and understanding of different areas of the subject and how they relate to each other

• develop and demonstrate a deep appreciation of the skills, knowledge and understanding of scientific methods

• develop competence and confidence in a variety of practical, mathematical and problem-solving skills

• develop an interest in and enthusiasm for the subject, including developing an interest in further study and careers associated with the subject

• understand how society makes decisions about scientific issues and how the sciences contribute to the success of the economy and society.

At least 10% of the marks in assessments for Psychology will require the use of mathematical skills. These skills are applied in the context of A level Psychology and will be at least the standard of higher tier GCSE mathematics.

Literacy is a focus each lesson as Psychology has numerous key terms which must be learned.

Assessment objectives

• AO1: Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, processes, techniques and procedures.

• AO2: Apply knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, processes, techniques and procedures:

• in a theoretical context

• in a practical context

• when handling qualitative data

• when handling quantitative data.

• AO3: Analyse, interpret and evaluate scientific information, ideas and evidence, including in relation to issues, to:

• make judgements and reach conclusions

• develop and refine practical design and procedures.

Subject content - compulsory content

Introductory topics in psychology

Paper 1

  • Social influence
  • Memory
  • Attachment
  • Psychopathology

Psychology in context

Paper 2

  • Approaches in psychology
  • Biopsychology
  • Research methods

Issues and options in psychology

Paper 3

  • Issues and debates in psychology

Optional content:

Option 1: Relationships or Gender or Cognition and Development

Option 2: Schizophrenia or Eating behaviour or Stress

Option 3: Aggression or Forensic psychology or Addiction

The optional units we teach are highlighted in bold.

Rationale for teaching the options we choose:

Relationships is an engaging topic for the students and they can often relate the topic to their personal lives.  Gender is an engaging topic and was taught under the previous specification, however, relationships is deemed more relevant to students.  Cognition and development, whilst a relatively straightforward and short topic, is less engaging to students.

Stress was in the original previous specification as a compulsory unit.  Students will suffer from stress whilst studying for their A levels and stress is more likely to be relevant to their lives than the other topics.  Eating behaviour tends to favour female students; schizophrenia is heavily based in biology which might disengage some students and the likelihood of meeting someone with schizophrenia, compared to someone suffering with stress, is low.

Aggression was taught under the old specification and does interest students, but some aspects of this topic are covered within the forensic unit, chosen because it engages students more and many are interested in studying this or criminology at university.  Also, the forensic unit, whilst quite a long topic, encourages revision of previous units so we can revise earlier work as we teach the topic content. Addiction sounds quite interesting, but the topic focuses only on addiction to gambling and smoking and students would much rather focus on drug addiction, but that is not an option.

Students develop a range of skills throughout the course.  These are to:

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of psychological concepts, theories, research studies, research methods and ethical considerations
  • apply psychological knowledge and understanding of the content in a range of contexts
  • analyse, interpret and evaluate psychological concepts, theories, research studies and research methods in relation to the course
  • evaluate psychological concepts, theories, research studies, research methods and explore ethical issues and how to overcome them.
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of practical research skills and mathematical skills
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of current issues and debates in psychology, approaches to psychology, application and evaluation of same

A-level Psychology includes questions that allow students to demonstrate their ability to:

• draw together their skills, knowledge and understanding from across the full course of study

• provide extended responses. For example, sections B, C and D of Paper 3 contain extended response questions. An ‘extended response’ is evidence of sufficient length generated to allow students to demonstrate their ability to construct and develop a sustained line of reasoning which is coherent, relevant, substantiated and logically structured.

Research methods

Students demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a wide range of research methods used in psychology, scientific processes and techniques of data handling and analysis, and are familiar with their use and of their strengths and limitations.

These skills are developed through study of the specification content and through ethical practical research activities, involving:

• designing research

• conducting research

• analysing and interpreting data. In carrying out practical research activities, students manage associated risks and use information and communication technology (ICT).


 (how do you plan to deliver your intent?)

Lesson planning

There are two members of staff in the department and we each see students for five lessons each over a fortnightly timetable.  A typical lesson will recap previous content, deliver new content – with a focus on the key terms and skills needed to do well in the exam.  Then we recap the content with some sort of quiz/plenary activity, including exam type question or application questions – taken from the text book.  There are lessons devoted to assessment where students work under exam conditions and once the work is marked feedback is provided to the class for general comments and then the teachers work with individuals to improve their work.   Model answers and/or mark schemes are provided.

Homework of up to one hour is set each night and posted on Show My Homework. Staff teach their own subject areas, but we cross reference the specification at every and any opportunity.  Students are also provided opportunities to do independent work within or beyond the specification and this is monitored regularly. 

Due to the applied nature of many topics we take opportunities to link psychological concepts to other subjects and/or the world beyond school.  For example, when we teach interviews as a research method, we link this to the world of work and the job application process.

Students are supplied with a text book and have access to the digital textbook.

SEN provision effectively meets the individual needs of students, ensuring that they have equal access to learning and progress.  Revision guides are purchased for SEN students should they require that extra support.


The A level course is working towards three examinations at the end of the second year.  There are three examinations of 2 hours each, 96 marks and each paper represents 33.3% of the final A level.  The examinations have a range of multiple-choice questions, short answer questions and extended writing.  All sections are marked out of 24 marks with the exception of the research methods in paper 2, which is double weighted at 48 marks.  We carry out regular assessments, approximately 6 per term - 3 for teach teacher.  These are approximately 24 marks each, which mirrors the section content in the examinations. There are also classroom tests in November of year 12, more formal mocks in the summer term of year 12 and again in January of year 13.  Student work is robustly marked using secure specimen or past papers.  Constructive feedback is offered and followed up with 1-2-1 conversation by teacher/s to enable students to understand what is required to do well in their examinations.


(how will you assess the impact of your intent and implementation – assessment?)

The impact of our intent and implementation is measured using ALPS.  We aim for ALPS 3 or above – excellent.  Such a grading means that we are in the top 25% of the country and students are, on average, meeting or exceeding their target grade.

Psychology of learning - our first topic is about memory and we use this to help students develop effective recall and revision strategies applicable to their A level studies generally and to university and the world of work.

Students clearly enjoy their lessons and actively participate and engage with the content both in and outside of the classroom.  They are happy to research beyond what is expected, undertaking independently study to develop their knowledge of psychology.

Students are diligent in revising for assessments and they receive verbal and written feedback on their work from teachers and develop their work as a result.  They engage with staff to do their best.

SEN and disadvantaged students are identified and we liaise with the SEN department to make sure that those students have all they need to do well and achieve their full potential.

Every lesson is linked in some way to the SMSC curriculum and this is evident in our schemes of work and mapped on Gridmaker.   For example, there are different explanations of why people commit crime.  There are links here to the nature / nurture debate and the big question: are criminals born or made?  This maps onto a number of SMSC criteria such as moral codes. 

A level Psychology remains a popular subject for our own students continuing into the Sixth Form and for many students new to the school in year 12.  Also, many of our students go on to study related subjects at university including, psychology and criminology.  Last year 8/23 in the cohort went on to study psychology (6), criminology (1) and forensic science (1). 

Exam results for 2019 are: A*-B grades 55% (last year 70%), A-C 80% (96%).  C grades improved 25% (26%).  The department remains above the National Average for Psychology and performs better compared to similar schools.  This year 8 students went on to study psychology at university including in South Carolina under a scholarship programme.  A further 5 students went on the study criminology, education and psychology and related disciplines.

Psychology Scheme of Work CJL

Psychology Scheme of Work JXM