Curriculum Policy

This policy is in seven parts:

    • Aims and objectives
    • Overview
        – Overview of Middle School curriculum
        – Overview of A level curriculum
  • Extra-curricular programme
  • Linguistic support for speakers of English as second language
  • Learning support
  • Spiritual, moral, social and cultural education
  • University applications and careers advice


Ashbourne has an increasingly strong reputation as one of the leading providers of A level education in the Independent school sector. We have an aim to become the most desirable Independent Sixth Form College in London and believe we are on our way to achieving this aim. Our provision at years 10 and 11 is also excellent and provides, we believe, unique approach to education in this age-range.
Among similar sixth form colleges we aim to be the best overall considering grades achieved, premises and facilities, individual attention, administration and extra curricular activities. We aim to inspire in our students a love for learning and an independence of thought that will serve them well when they take up their university places, our principal goal is to ensure our students achieve the highest possible results in the A level and GCSE examinations and for this reason we believe in traditional values (punctuality, attendance, work completion) and in rigorous preparation for examinations through focused teaching, intensive revision and past-paper practice.

To achieve these aims:

We make our curriculum as broad and varied as possible, with a wide-range of voluntary extra-curricular activities. Lessons are taught in small classes well equipped classrooms. Teaching is intense, with students receiving an above-average number of teaching periods per subject per week over a relatively short (31 week) academic year. We provide expert advice on choosing and applying to university and we consider that this service to our students is as important as the quality of our teaching and learning provision.
Monitoring students’ progress is also essential and has many aspects at Ashbourne; Heads of Year, Heads of Faculty, UCAS Tutors and Personal Tutoring. Each have a role to play in guiding our students to reach their academic and personal potential.


Middle School

  • Years 10 and 11 are referred to internally at Ashbourne as the “middle school”
  • There is a dedicated head of Middle School
  • Ashbourne admits students into year 10 and year 11
  • Students in year 11 engage in a one-year selfcontained course, culminating with their GCSE exams. Several students join our programme directly into year 11 having done year 10 elsewhere.
  • Students in year 10 follow an internally examined GCSE preparation course. “Year 10” may contain students who are younger than standard year 10 age.
  • When under-age students complete year 10 they may either:

    Progress to year 11 to complete GCSE , is subject to the Head of Middle School agreeing that they are academically and socially ready to move up. Any decision is made in consultation with parents but the College’s decision is final

    Repeat year 10 until either they are ready to progress (as above) or they reach the appropriate age to progress to year 11

We provide opportunities for students to develop:

  • Linguistic skills
  • Numeracy
  • Understanding of science and technology
  • Understanding of the social, historical and geographical context of their education
  • Opportunity and appreciation for creative expression

In particular we emphasize:

  • Critical thinking
  • Grammar and style
  • Numeracy
  • Presentation of work and presentation skills
  • Elementary research skills
  • Revision skills
  • Building confidence and forming good relationships
  • Planning for university
  • British values – democracy, moral responsibility, tolerance and respect for other cultures and traditions, respect for the rule of law

In a broader sense, we encourage students to develop confidence in themselves and a respect for others. We emphasize tolerance and are keen to promote understanding of cultures. We expect students to understand and accept moral responsibility, contribute to the life of the school and community and have a grounding in understanding public institutions

Teaching and timetable

The middle school timetable consists of six fifty minute periods from 9am-4pm with a one-hour lunch break at 1pm and a ten minute break at the end of each lesson. In year 11 the timetable will extend to 6pm for students taking certain optional subjects. The college supervises students of compulsory school age during the entire school day although such students may leave the premises during lunchtime provided parents or guardians have given their consent.

Year 10

In year 10, the curriculum consists of Maths, English and English Literature, Science, Computing, History, a modern Language (usually French), PSHEE, Physical Education, Drama and Art and Design.
If the timetable allows, students will be given the option of as many modern languages as possible, or other options including Geography. All work is geared towards the requirements of the GCSE examinations but with an emphasis on skills, fundamental concepts and enjoyment.

Year 11

In year 11, students have a broader choice of subjects. All year 11 students must study English Literature and Language (in exceptional circumstances, students may take English Language only) Mathematics, Core and Additional Science, a modern language, PSHEE and Physical Education.
Options then include:

1. Computing or Drama

2. The following additional subjects as far as the timetable allows:

a. Art (including fine art, graphics, photography and textiles)
b. Economics
c. Drama and Theatre Studies
d. Geography
e. History
f. Modern foreign languages including French, Spanish, Italian, German, Japanese
g. Music
h. Religious Studies

Students for whom English is their second language have a timetable appropriate to their needs which may include additional English skills and no MFL.

We believe this is a strong curriculum as it focuses on the essential skills students require to go on to further and higher education and encourages development of core, transferable skills. It is balanced and varied and can be tailored to the needs, requirements, skills and abilities of each student.

A Level

  • Ashbourne presently offers more than 25 different A level subjects
  • This is a large number, particularly for a College of our relatively small size and we consider this to be a strength of the curriculum.
  • We currently have a policy of allowing these subjects to be taken in any combination and will commit to this even if it means providing individual tuition to a student who, for timetable reasons, is not able to fit into a particular subject group.
  • The focus of the A level curriculum is to ensure that students develop into independent learners who are able to think critically, develop responsibility for their own learning and proceed confidently to (in most cases) undergraduate study
  • Teaching and learning at A level are overseen by the Heads of Faculty
  • Ashbourne’s curriculum at A level is oriented towards the requirements of the A level exams, and students are given clear guidance on the format of the exams as well as the assessment criteria on which their work is marked
  • The A level curriculum also aims to provide students with in-depth subject knowledge that will sufficiently stretch and challenge students at this level while encouraging their intrinsic interest in their chosen courses
  • To this end, the College also aims to take advantage of the wider opportunities available to engage with the curriculum outside of the classroom through excursions to relevant places of interest both in and outside of London as well the extended project.
  • Teaching at A-level is intensive and students are expected to work very hard
  • We encourage innovation and development of teaching practice with a focus always on exam success to give our students the best opportunity of taking up offers at university
  • As well as the traditional two-year A level, Ashbourne also offers an intensive one-year A level programme and an eighteen month A level programme

Teaching and timetable

The A level timetable consists of six fifty minute periods per day from 9am-6pm with a one hour lunch break at 1pm and a ten minute break at the end of each lesson. Very occasionally lessons take place at lunchtimes or from 6pm-8pm. Students on intensive courses may receive eight lessons per week.
Subjects with a large practical or performance element (Art, Graphics, Photography, Textiles, Art, Craft and Design, Music, Drama and Theatre Studies) will usually have two additional periods per week.

Additional elements of the curriculum

Personal tutor period – AS students
Students in their AS year are allocated a personal tutor with whom they meet in a small group in a timetabled double period each week. The purpose of this period is mainly to continue to develop our PSHEE programme, but also to provide academic guidance and to prepare students for university applications

Personal tutor period – A2 students
Personal tutoring continues in the A2 year and for one-year A level students, but here the focus is on guiding students to achieve the best possible university application and to make appropriate university choices. Personal tutors make themselves available and meet students each week for individual and small group support to applicants.

Extended Project
The College offers AS level students the opportunity to enter for the AQA level 3 advanced project in a subject of their choosing. Currently students are invited to participate at the end of their AS year in order that they can carry out research during the summer vacation. The extended project fits well with Ashbourne’s focus on self-reliance and developing independent learners with effective study skills.


Enthusiasm for extra-curricular clubs, visits and societies comes from our students who request certain activities and our staff who are often happy to share their skills with the students. In view of this, some recent clubs and activities have been:

Clubs and societies

Language clubs

  • Spanish
  • German
  • French
  • Latin
  • Japanese
  • Italian


  • Tennis
  • Football
  • Badminton
  • Squash

Performing Arts

  • College Choir
  • Drama Club
  • Bollywood dancing
  • Salsa
  • Tango
  • Street Dance


  • Chess
  • Creative Writing
  • Debating
  • Astrophysics

Other extra-curricular programmes have become “mainstays” of the College and are an important and significant part of life at the College of those who participate:

The College Revue has run for almost two decades and is a celebration at Christmas time of music, dance, fashion, drama and comedy. Typically 50% of the student body from all year groups is involved in this event each year which is attended by an audience of close to 300. The students who participate in this event organise their own preparation and rehearsal; it forms a significant highlight of their time at the College.

European trip
Ashbourne has taken a group of up to 30 students to a major European city every February half-term since 1990. The trip is an extremely popular cultural experience and like the Revue, a highlight of their time at Ashbourne for all who participate.

End of year awards evening
Ashbourne invites its leavers to celebrate their success and an enjoyable one or two years with us at with dinner and dancing at a five-star hotel in Kensington.

Critical theory seminar
A weekly seminar exploring common themes amongst the humanities subjects as well as studying and examining elements of modern culture from the perspective of philosophers and thinkers.

The College magazine is an ever-popular activity. The editors are chosen by the College, but everything else including content, collaboration, art-work, printing and distribution is student-led.

Art and Geography trips
The Art department runs a two night residential trip to a European city in the Autumn to visit galleries. The Geography department takes a week-long trip field trip to Blencathra in the Lake District.

Ashbourne takes advantage of its location in central London to offer an array of trips and visits to is students. These have included educational/cultural visits to the theatre, opera and ballet, trips to museums and galleries and trips for fun and socialising including football matches at Wembley Stadium and Old Trafford, go-karting and ten-pin bowling.


A number of Ashbourne students speak English as a second language. Whilst they are required to achieve a minimum standard IELTS or equivalent in order to gain entry into the College, many require continued support throughout their time with us. The English as a foreign language (EFL) programme has three aims:

    1. To ensure students can engage with one another and their community
    2. To ensure students can fully access the curriculum
    3. To help students to prepare for an IELTS or other English language proficiency test that will allow them to take up a place at university in the UK

To achieve these aims, students are provided with additional lessons in English alongside their subject lessons. The College has a strict policy that English is the language of communication at all times even when discoursing with speakers of the same language.


Ashbourne has a policy of not offering in-class support through SENCOs or teaching assistants. We believe that our small class sizes and student-centred learning strategies allow students with certain special educational needs to thrive and build confidence. If a student has a particular learning difficulty, teachers are made aware in order that they can differentiate as appropriate. We permit and encourage students to use technology in the classroom at the discretion of the teacher this may include laptops, tablets and smartphones. Students are offered extra-time or special arrangements such as use of laptops, readers and scribes to take their examinations as necessary and approved by the SENCO.
We welcome applications from students with statements of special educational needs and will accommodate them and meet their requirements as far as we are able without making significant alterations to the fabric of our buildings or to our timetable.


The SENCO and his deputy are responsible for authorizing extra time in examinations and works with parents, students and the JCQ to ensure that this is done properly. The SENCOP is also responsible for liaising with students, teachers, parents and educational psychologists to support their work.


Our students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is embedded in our curriculum. We aim to develop self-awareness and confidence and a strong sense of mutual self-respect and trust. We aim to promote a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and to make all students feel very welcome.
To achieve this we have an extensive PSHCE programme in years 10, 11 and 12, which contains elements of religious education to reflect the range of faiths and backgrounds of our many international students. This programme contributes substantially to the spiritual and moral development of younger students. Staff are excellent role models and give students a sense of responsibility by treating them as young adults. We expect our students to be respectful and encourage them to mature into sensible young adults ready for the next stage of their education. Through discussion in both lessons and individual tutorial time students develop their own thinking on ethical and moral issues.
We actively promote students’ knowledge and understanding of their own and the culture of others through our Annual Revue at Christmas time, cultural days and visits and trips to cultural events and institutions in London and throughout Europe. Ashbourne admits students from as many as 40 different nationalities and so provides the opportunity to interact with fellow students from around the world. Our extra-curricular programme including visits to theatres, galleries and museums add significantly to their knowledge of English culture and institutions as well as their aesthetic experience overall.
Economic and financial well-being are dealt with in PSHEE lessons in the middle school and in year 12.


Almost all of Ashbourne’s students plan to apply to university or equivalent (eg. Drama School) after they complete their A levels. Students in year 11 plan to continue to A level in order to apply to university. Of those students who do not apply to university each year, they will usually progress to another educational establishment or gain work experience/voluntary work rather than enter the jobs market. In 2013, every student from Ashbourne who wanted to go to university (around 98% of the cohort) was successful in taking up a place. This is typical for a year group at Ashbourne.

The process of choosing and applying to university begins in year 12 when we arrange a number of events to support our students in this:

  • Personal tutoring system – weekly meetings with personal tutors are used to introduce the UCAS and university application system and to guide students towards making informed choices
  • Push speaker – a guest speaker from adresses the students on a range of topics including the benefits of higher education, how to choose a university and how and when to apply
  • Oxbridge visit – the College takes a selected group of students to visit either Oxford or Cambridge in the Autumn term
  • UCAS preparation days – after the final AS exam has taken place in June, the AS students are asked to attend a two day intensive workshop (which includes the London university visit) geared towards the preparation of a personal statement and application to university
  • Interview preparation – the college organises a series of mock interviews for those students applying to Oxford or Cambridge, Medicine or other relevant degree courses.
  • Visiting speakers – guest speakers from different professions and industries including doctors, dentists and city traders/brokers are common

Careers advice

In year 11 careers advice is given through the PSHEE programme and helps year 11 students to make their A level choices. A level teachers are invited to address the year 11 students about their A subjects and the careers for which they are suitable.
At A level careers advice largely amounts to UCAS preparation, however through guest speakers, the personal tutoring system, promotion of events such as medlink, vetsim and medsim and one-on-one support students are offered careers support by the AS and A2 personal tutors.

Authorised by The Principal
Date November 2019
Effective date of the policy November 2019
Circulation Teaching staff / all staff / parents / Students on request
Review date September 2020