Our Curriculum 2017-18

At The Barlow, we aim to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, which not only fulfils the requirements of the National Curriculum but enables all our pupils to realise their potential and prepare them to live as confident, responsible Christian adults in society.

Our flexible curriculum is recognised as one of the school's strengths and demonstrates our determination to provide opportunities for all pupils. The school has a proud history of success and a tradition of seeking challenge, as our awards of Beacon School and Specialist College status demonstrate.

At The Barlow, a wide range of teaching and learning strategies ensure that pupils are actively involved in their own learning. A Key Stage is a stage of the state education system, setting the educational knowledge expected of students at various ages. The school and National Curriculum set targets to be achieved in various subject areas at each of the Key Stages.

 For Curriculum Information, please click on the individual subject links on the left


Key Stage 3/4 (13-16 years)

In Year 8, our pupils take their Options. This is when they decide which subjects they would like to study in Years 9, 10 and Year 11. This period during their school career is very important, as the choices they make are likely to influence their future studies. 

All our Year 9, 10 and Year 11 pupils have to study core subjects. These are:

  • English Language and Literature GCSE
  • Mathematics GCSE
  • Personal, Social and Health Education (PHSE), Citizenship, Careers, Enterprise & Work Related Learning
  • Religious Studies GCSE
  • Science Core and Additional GCSE or Biology, Chemistry & Physics GCSE

Pupils also choose up to four subjects from the list below. 


  • Art & Design
  • French
  • Product Design - Resistant Materials, Textiles, Food Technology
  • Geography
  • History
  • Media Studies
  • Music
  • PE
  • Spanish
  • Graphics
  • Drama
  • Computer Science

BTECs & other qualifications


Course / Examination Types

GCSE - General Certificate of Secondary Education

The GCSE is the chief examination that will be taken by pupils in Years 10 and 11. All examinations must conform to nationally agreed rules and principles, known as the National Criteria. Presently, for many subject syllabuses there is a compulsory coursework component. That is, there will be work that must be completed by pupils during their three years of study. This work may take different forms but counts towards the final mark in their examination.

However, there will be an increasing emphasis on linear examinations with regards to the scheduled GCSE reforms, which will be implemented over the next three years.  This means as your child begins his/her studies in Key Stage Four (Year 9-11), a greater percentage of his/her final grade, will be determined by the final examination.

We are already planning for the new GCSE syllabuses and fully aware of the importance of preparing our students for these changes. We test students regularly to prepare them for the increasing demands of the new national success criteria as well as to help them develop exams resilience.  

BTEC - Business and Technology Council

BTECs offer different and practical ways of working for the pupil. Courses are evidenced-based and the pupil's success is not determined by a final examination but on the satisfactory completion of a number of units. These are specialist qualifications that focus on particular aspects of employment within a range of work areas. The quality of a pupil's work and the extent to which it addresses the module requirements determines the grade awarded. There are three grade levels: a pass, merit and distinction. Pupils' work is internally assessed and externally verified by the examination board.

However, there will be an increasing emphasis on externally set online tests with regards to the scheduled BTEC reforms, which will be implemented over the next three years.  This means as your child begins his/her studies in Key Stage Four (Year 9-11), a greater percentage of his/her final grade, will be determined by the external test performance as well as the completion of the set units.

OCR National

The OCR Nationals are attractive, practically-based qualifications intended to stimulate and interest candidates. They support achievement of Key Skills and relate to national occupational standards thereby providing an ideal progression to National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) once individuals are in suitable employment.


The English Baccalaureate

The Government believes that schools should offer a broad range of academic subjects that will promote achievement of a broad academic core and have introduced a new award called the English Baccalaureate. Any pupil who secures A* - C GCSE passes in English Language, Mathematics, RE, two Sciences, a Modern Foreign Language and a Humanity (History or Geography) will receive this additional certificate recording their achievement.

 Progress 8 and Attainment 8

New DfE indicators spell the end of 5A*-C GCSEs including English and maths as the key measure of a secondary school's performance. Schools will now be measured using the 'Progress 8' and 'Attainment 8' measures that will compare the achievements of our students across a wider range of subjects, including EBacc subjects.

The EBacc subjects are:

English, mathematics, science, computer science, modern foreign languages, history and geography.

'Progress 8' and 'Attainment 8' will be based on a student's results in eight subjects: English, maths, three EBacc subjects (from the list above) and three other approved 'high-value' subjects, which may or may not be from the EBacc range. All the options subjects offered at The Barlow RC High School are 'high-value' subjects.

CEIAG - Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance

The Barlow RC High School has recently been awarded a Bronze Medal for CEIAG. We are not stopping there and the CEIAG curriculum is currently being improved further to provide our students with a broader knowledge base and get them thinking about their career options at an earlier age.  This will enable all of our students to have a more extensive choice of post 16 options and lead them into successful future careers once they leave The Barlow.