Curriculum Policy


  1. Aims and objectives
  2. Overview of curriculum
  3. Extra-curricular programme
  4. Linguistic support for speakers of English as second language
  5. Learning support
  6. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural education
  7. University applications and careers guidance and advice

1. Aims and objectives
Ashbourne is one of the leading providers of A level education in the Independent school sector. We aim to become the most desirable Independent Sixth Form College in London and believe we are on our way to achieving this. Our excellent provision at year 11 provides a unique approach to education for this age group. We believe we have an exceptional success rate helping students to make progress and we continually focus on improving teaching methods and activities to suit students’ needs. We aim always to effectively prepare students for life in British society, enabling them to take advantage of opportunities and accept responsibilities beyond education.

We aim to deliver the best overall provision in relation to grade achievement, individual attention, premises and facilities, administration and extra-curricular activities, as compared with similar sixth form colleges. We want 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 their best 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.

1.1 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 class groups in well equipped classrooms. Teaching is intensive, with students receiving an above-average number of teaching periods per subject per week over a relatively short (31 weeks) academic year. We provide expert advice on choosing career pathways and applying to university; we consider this service to our students is as important as the quality of our teaching and learning provision.
Monitoring students’ progress is essential and involves a comprehensive network of support at Ashbourne. Heads of Year, Deputy Heads of Year, Heads of Faculty, UCAS Tutors and Personal Tutoring each play a role in supporting and guiding our students to reach their academic and personal potential.

1.2 Related policies
1.2.1 Admissions Policy
Each student is interviewed by a senior member of staff prior to being offered a place. This gives us the opportunity to ensure that students have the appropriate grounding for any course or subject they might wish to choose as well as identifying any special educational needs. It is important to ensure that the College has the facilities or can make reasonable adjustments to cope with any exceptional needs which a student presents.

1.2.2 Accessibility Policy
1.2.3 British Values Policy
1.2.4 Disabilities Policy
1.2.5 Equal Opportunities Policy
1.2.6 Mission Statement
1.2.7 Policy for Students with English as an Additional Language
1.2.8 Reasonable Adjustments Policy
1.2.9 Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) Policy

2. Overview of curriculum
2.1 Year 11 curriculum

  • There is a dedicated head of year 11
  • Students in year 11 engage in a one-year self-contained course, culminating with their GCSE exams. Several students join our programme directly in year 11 having done year 10 elsewhere.

2.2 Opportunities for development:

  • Linguistic skills – One of the most important aspect of education at any level is the ability to express oneself clearly, concisely and creatively. An appreciation of this skill is reflected in every subject we teach. Nonetheless, speaking, listening and writing skills are formally dealt with in English Language and Literature or EAL as appropriate.
  • Numeracy – For many students Mathematics is as fearsome as it is unappealing. For such students it is important to dispel the fear of Mathematics and lift them to levels of performance they had only dreamed about, but also to finally understand percentages and, if we are lucky, ratio and proportion.
  • Understanding of science and technology – In addition to their compulsory study of the sciences which includes as much practical experimental work as possible, there are so many opportunities to engage students with applications to everyday life. For example, alternative sources of energy, the greenhouse effect and genetically modified foods.
  • Opportunity and appreciation for creative expression – Ashbourne has two outstanding departments for Art and Performing Arts, however creative opportunities exist in most subjects including English Language and Literature.
  • Physical Education is provided on one afternoon each week when year 11 students may take part in physical recreation, usually at a sports hall which the College hires for this purpose.

Touching on:

  • Critical thinking – Critical thinking is crucial to self-development and independence. It emphasises the need for evidence for any argument in the humanities as well as the clarity required to explain scientific phenomena accurately.
  • Presentation of work and presentation skills – These may be developed in so many ways whether in everyday homework or larger assignments perhaps involving group work.
  • Elementary research skills – Beginning with simple tasks such as web-based research for a topic of future discussion, we hope to challenge all students to take up an EPQ, (extended project qualification) following their GCSE exams. Because of the intensive nature of our one year course, we take a gentle approach to this important area.
  • Revision skills – Ashbourne believes practising under exam conditions is critical to final exam success so this element is firmly embedded in our system.
  • Building confidence and forming good relationships – Working in lessons with very small groups of their fellow students makes a splendid opportunity to engage and understand colleagues. Aggressive behaviour is never tolerated, allowing even the least confident of students to flourish. The senior staff who mentor this group are trained to understand children’s needs and offer important support.
  • Planning for the future – Our careers’ officer ensures that our students meet as many senior students as possible to plan their subject choice for A level. Students are also introduced to work experience, advice from Ashbourne alumni in various fields and meet representatives from a few British universities.
  • PSHEE is formally incorporated in the programme through a weekly meeting with the Head of GCSE and an assistant. As well as providing an opportunity to promote tolerance, develop ideas about future careers, this meeting offers the opportunity for the Head to monitor each student’s progress to ensure not only that they are making progress but also achieving their academic potential.
  • British values (democracy, moral responsibility, tolerance and respect for other cultures and traditions, respect for the rule of law) – these are embedded in Ashbourne’s ethos and culture and provide the basis for all activities at the College. In a broader sense, we encourage students to develop confidence in themselves and a respect for others. Ashbourne is fortunate to have up to 40 different nationalities represented among its students. Through PSHEE, we are able to explore different cultures, emphasise tolerance and promote understanding.

2.2 Teaching and timetable
The timetable for core subjects consists of six periods of 50 minutes each from 9am to 4pm with a one-hour lunch break at 1pm and a ten minute break at the end of each lesson. The timetable extends to 6pm for students taking certain optional subjects. The College supervises students of compulsory school age during the entire school day although students may leave the premises during lunchtime provided parents or guardians have given their consent.

All students will take 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. Students may then choose from a selection of optional subjects:

1. Computing or Drama
2. A combination of the subjects below, within timetable constraints.
a. Art (including fine art, graphics, photography and textiles)
b. Economics
c. Drama and Theatre Studies
d. Geography
e. History
f. Modern foreign languages: French, Spanish, Italian, German, Japanese
g. Music

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

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.

2.4 A level curriculum

  • Ashbourne 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 any combination of these subjects to be taken and will commit to this even if it means providing individual tuition to a student who, for timetable reasons, is not able to fit completely 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, in most cases, proceed confidently to undergraduate study.
  • Teaching and learning in each subject 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 qualification (EPQ).
  • Teaching at A level is intensive and students are expected to work very hard.
  • We encourage innovation and development of teaching practice. While the focus is always on exam success to give our students the best opportunity of taking up offers at university, we are mindful of broader responsibilities with regard to such issues as safeguarding, prevent and mental health.
  • 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.

2.5 Opportunities for development
Specialist programmes
We offer several specialist programmes to encourage our A level students to explore different subject areas and possible career pathways in greater depth. These include:

  • Medical School Programme (AMSP)
  • Finance Programme (AFP)
  • Engineering Programme (EAP)
  • Oxbridge Programme (AOP)
  • Art & Design Programme

Each of these involves weekly seminars, debates, research and opportunities to take part in topic-related events or visits, planning for work experience, as well as meeting professionals within their field of interest. We believe that participating students will strengthen their research capabilities, broaden their understanding of the different career pathways and boost their chances of getting onto a degree course that best suits their ambitions. It will also provide them with excellent material to include in their UCAS applications as well as possible content for an extended project (EPQ).

Clubs and activities
Ashbourne offers a range of clubs and activities for a variety of tastes including:

  • Astrophysics
  • Computing
  • European trips
  • Finance
  • Model United Nations
  • Ashbourne Revue – showcasing art, drama, dance, music and other performance skills.
  • UKMT Maths and Physics Olympiad – Ashbourne prepares keen students to take part in these national and international competitions

These and many others are part of a stimulating backdrop of extracurricular activities to enrich our students’ educational experience.

Enrichment classes
We offer university level classes in mathematics, creative writing and critical theory.

2.6 Teaching and timetable
The A level timetable consists of six periods of 50 minutes each per day from 9am to 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 to 8pm.

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.

2.7 Additional elements of the curriculum
Personal tutor period – AS students
Students in their first year of A level (AS) are allocated a personal tutor with whom they meet in a small group of their peers 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 careers and university applications. The Personal tutor acts as mentor and monitor to ensure that students not only make progress but also achieve their academic potential. 

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 to meet students each week on an individual basis.

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)
The College offers A 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 and research skills.

3. Extra-curricular programme
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. These include model united nations, modern language clubs, sports, performing arts, chess, creative writing and astrophysics among others.

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 at Christmas time for over two decades and is a celebration 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 and 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 with dinner and dance ceremony 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, artwork, printing and distribution is student-led.

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 bowling.

4. Speakers of English as an additional language
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.

5. Learning support
Ashbourne has a policy of not offering in-class support through SENDCOs or teaching assistants. We believe that our small class sizes 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 to take their examinations as necessary and approved by the SENDCO.

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.

5.1 Special educational needs and disabilities coordinator (SENDCO)
Our SENDCO, Educational Assessors, Designated Safeguard Lead and their assistants try to ensure accessibility to our curriculum for all students with special educational needs and disability (SEND) issues. In the first instance they will ensure that they are well informed about any SEND concerns when any student registers. This will involve collecting as much evidence and supporting documentation as possible from any professionals who have been involved with supporting the child in the past. After appropriate intervals they will then liaise with each such student and their teachers to promote educational progress and support the student with this SEND. They will also ensure the implementation of any reasonable adjustments that may be required to support the student’s education.

This support is especially important in assessing access arrangements for exams when the SEND officers and Exams Officer coordinate their efforts to provide properly for the administration of exams.

6. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development
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, collaborative atmosphere and to make all students feel very welcome.

To achieve this we have an extensive PSHEE programme in year 11 and Personal Tutor programme in year 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 and actively promotes tolerance to those with protected characteristics. We expect staff to be 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 in December, 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 year 11 and in Personal Tutor periods in year 12.

7. University applications and careers guidance and advice
Ashbourne offers a comprehensive university applications and careers programme, designed in accordance with the eight GATSBY Benchmarks below, where each student is given support and guidance to develop their own university or career pathway.

  1. A stable careers programme
  2. Learning from career and labour market information
  3. Addressing the needs of each pupil
  4. Linking curriculum learning to careers
  5. Encounters with employers and employees
  6. Experiences of workplaces
  7. Encounters with further and higher education
  8. Personal guidance

Ashbourne uses the careers evaluation tool Compass to help assess and improve our careers programme so that we can meet the benchmarks. Our team also analyses student destination data and feedback from students, parents and employer partners to evaluate and improve our provision annually.

Careers Guidance Team
Careers Leader: Sean Pillai, Deputy Head of Sixth Form
Contact details:, 020 7937 3858

Deputy Careers Leader: Lee Kirby, Director of Studies and Head of Sixth Form
Contact details:, 020 7937 3858

Careers and Events Officer: Olivia Manning
Contact details:, 020 7937 3858

All of those involved with university and career guidance at Ashbourne, including Personal Tutors, have completed training courses at the Careers and Enterprise Company.

7.1 University applications
Almost all of Ashbourne’s students plan to apply to university or equivalent (e.g. Drama School) after they complete 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 typically progress to another educational establishment and/or take up work experience/voluntary work, with only a few entering the job market directly.

The process of choosing the right course and applying to university begins in year 12. Ashbourne Personal Tutors provide expert UCAS guidance and the College offers a wide selection of events and activities, including:

Personal Tutors – weekly meetings to introduce the UCAS and university application system and to guide students towards making informed choices. Exploration of the labour market, career options, further education pathways and practice in a wide range of career-focused skills to help them navigate their future successfully. Year 12 students move to one-to-one sessions with their Personal Tutor to ensure the best possible application to university with particular regard to the personal statement.

Admissions’ tutors event – each year we invite the admissions’ tutors from eight major universities to come to Ashbourne and introduce their universities to our students.

Oxbridge visit – the College takes a selected group of students to visit either Oxford or Cambridge in the Autumn term. Ashbourne also organises visits to Universities in London and the UK.

UCAS preparation days – after the final AS exams in June, the AS students are invited to attend a one or 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 highly competitive degree courses; students applying for other degree courses that require interviews may request interview practice with the head of careers, Sean Pillai.

Visiting speakers – we invite guest speakers from different professions and industries including doctors, dentists and city traders/brokers to give talks to our students.

7.2 Careers guidance and advice
The Careers Officer meets with students of year 11 and 12 to ensure advice is provided through the PSHEE programme and Personal Tutor programme. The advice provided is designed to be impartial, avoid stereotypes, enable informed choices and encourage each student to fulfil their potential.

At Year 11, the Careers Officer also ensures students are supported in making their A level choices. A level teachers are invited to address the Year 11 students about A subjects and the careers for which they are suitable. Through the PSHEE programme, the Careers Officer introduces students to work experience, and oversees and encourages their efforts to obtain work experience.

At A level students receive careers and UCAS advice and guidance from dedicated Personal Tutors and UCAS advisors. This includes regular personal tutor sessions, guest speakers, promotion of a wide range of careers-related events and one-on-one support.

Read more about Ashbourne’s University and Careers Programme.

Authorised by The Principal
Date September 2020
Effective date of the policy September 2020
Circulation Teaching staff / all staff / parents / Students on request
Review date September 2021