Curriculum Policy

Curriculum Policy

1.   Aims and objectives
2.   Overview of the curriculum
3.   Extracurricular programme
4.   Speakers of English as an additional language
5.   Learning support
6.   Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development
7.   University applications and careers; GATSBY

Appendix A: Careers Guidance Team

1. Aims and objectives
Ashbourne continues to be one of the leading providers of A-Level education in the independent school sector. The College works closely with each student to create an individual learning programme that best suits their needs and ambitions. The College is dedicated to offering students the flexibility, choice and comprehensive support and guidance necessary for them to attain the highest grades and achieve their personal and academic goals.

The College provides an informal, friendly but disciplined learning environment and upholds traditional values such as punctuality, attendance, work completion and rigorous examination preparation through focused teaching, intensive revision and past-paper practice in regular mock examinations.

Ashbourne’s objective is to inspire in students a love for learning, independent thinking and confidence to reach their potential.

1.1 To achieve these aims
The College offers a broad and varied curriculum, complemented by a wide range of extracurricular activities that allow students to explore their interests beyond the syllabus. Students receive lessons 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. Students also receive expert advice on choosing career pathways and applying to university; the College considers this service to students as important as the quality of teaching and learning provision.

Monitoring students’ progress is essential to their success and requires a comprehensive support network. Ashbourne’s Heads and Deputy Heads of Year, Heads of Faculty, UCAS Tutors and Personal Tutors each play a vital role in this network to enable 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 allows the College and student to carve out a personal educational programme that is suitable to their abilities and ambitions. It also provides an opportunity for the College to identify any special educational needs that may require reasonable adjustments.

1.2.2 Accessibility Policy

1.2.3 British Values Policy

1.2.4 Equal Opportunities Policy

Ashbourne is committed to offering all of its members equality of opportunity, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, and aims to ensure no members of the Ashbourne Community are subjected to unfair and unlawful discrimination based on protected characteristics.

1.2.5 Mission Statement

1.2.6 Policy for Students with English as an Additional Language

1.2.7 Relationships and Sex Education Policy

1.2.8 SEND and Access Arrangements Policy

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2. Overview of curriculum
2.1 Year 11

  • The majority of Year 11 students follow the one-year intensive GCSE programme; a few students join the programme directly having completed Year 10 elsewhere. The programme comprises core GCSE subjects plus four optional subjects.
  • Ashbourne also offers a flexible two-year programme to highly motivated and academically able students who are capable of completing the core GCSE subjects in their first year then moving on, in the second year, to study optional GCSE subjects and, if deemed suitable, one or two A-Level subjects.

2.1.2 Opportunities for development:

  • Linguistic skills – One of the most important aspects 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 the College teaches. 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.
  • Creative expression – Ashbourne offers fantastic opportunities for students to develop, practise and display their skills and talents in art, design and performing arts. Creative opportunities also exist in most subjects including English Language and Literature.
  • Physical Education (P.E.) – Year 11 students take part in P.E. one afternoon each week, usually at a sports hall which the College hires for this purpose.

2.1.2 Skills development:

  • 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 – This may begin with simple tasks such as web-based research for a topic of future discussion but ultimately leads towards more challenging enquiry, as is required for the extended project qualification some students choose to undertake during their A-Level course.
  • Revision skills – Ashbourne believes practising under exam conditions is critical to final exam success so this element is firmly embedded in the system. Students are encouraged to use these examinations, as part of a wider practice, to assess their own progress, identify areas of improvement and set new learning goals from themselves, with guidance from their teachers.
  • Building confidence and forming healthy 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 equipped to understand children’s needs and offer appropriate support. Students also explore and discuss how to recognise and nurture positive relationships in their Relationships and Sex Education, which is delivered as part of the timetabled Personal, Social, Health and Economics Education (PSHEE) lessons.
  • Planning for the future – Ashbourne offers advice on choosing career pathways and applying to university as early as possible. For Year 11 students this entails looking for work experience, learning how the university application process works, meeting university students and professors and working professionals from a variety of industries. Ashbourne’s Career Officer offers a wide range of opportunities on Careers Day. Further advice and guidance are delivered as part of the PSHEE Programme. Students are also given as many opportunities as possible to discuss their A-Level subject options with Ashbourne’s current A-Level students and are invited to the Spring Open Evening to meet with Ashbourne’s A-Level teachers and alumni.
  • 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.

2.1.3 Teaching and timetable

Ashbourne teachers make the education and welfare of their students their primary concern and so make all efforts to maintain the highest possible standards in their work and conduct, as outlined in the Department for Education Teachers’ Standards. 

The College values and promotes positive, professional and mutually respectful relations between teachers and students that work in the best interests of the student. Ashbourne expects teachers to set high, but realistic, expectations of themselves and their students in order to inspire, motivate and challenge students.

Teachers are required to maintain a strong subject knowledge and comprehensive understanding of the syllabus in order to help students meet the criteria and attain the highest possible results. Teachers produce schemes of work for each subject, which are designed to ensure students effectively cover the syllabus requirements well within the course duration but also to enable students to deepen their knowledge and continually reassess their learning goals in order to make efficient progress according to their ability.

The daily timetable consists of six periods of 50 minutes lessons, 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, Mathematics and Double Award Science. They will also have lessons for PSHEE and Physical Education. Students may then choose from a selection of optional subjects:

  1. Art & Design or Economics
  2. Computer Science or Drama
  3. French or Spanish
  4. History or Music

Students for whom English is their second language have a timetable appropriate to their needs which may include additional English language lessons.

2.2 A level

  • Ashbourne offers almost 30 different A-Level subjects, which is an evident strength of the College’s curriculum and also reflects the broad range of expertise of the teaching staff.
  • Ashbourne students may choose any combination of subjects, without restriction, providing they submit their choices before 1st July. This provides students with much greater choice and flexibility than most other A-Level colleges.
  • 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; subject availability may vary or be restricted for these courses and for students who start at another point in the academic year.
  • 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, encourage their intrinsic interests and help prepare them for university 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, local and national subject-based competitions or events, such as the UKMT Maths Challenge, as well as independent research projects, such as 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.

2.2.1 Teaching and timetable

Ashbourne teachers make the education and welfare of their students their primary concern and so make all efforts to maintain the highest possible standards in their work and conduct, as outlined in the Department for Education Teachers’ Standards.

The College values and promotes positive, professional and mutually respectful relations between teachers and students that work in the best interests of the student. Ashbourne expects teachers to set high, but realistic, expectations of themselves and their students in order to inspire, motivate and challenge students.

Teachers are required to maintain a strong subject knowledge and comprehensive understanding of the syllabus in order to help students meet the criteria and attain the highest possible results. Teachers produce schemes of work for each subject, which are designed to ensure students effectively cover the syllabus requirements well within the course duration but also to enable students to deepen their knowledge and continually reassess their learning goals in order to make efficient progress according to their ability.

The A-Level timetable has lessons between 9am and 6pm each weekday, with a one-hour lunch break at 1pm and a ten-minute break at the end of each lesson. Each period is 50 minutes in length and most subjects will be timetabled three double periods per week. Very occasionally lessons take place at lunchtimes or between 6pm and 8pm, and on Saturdays.

Certain subjects with large practical or performance elements, such as Fine Art, Graphic Communications and Textile Design, will usually have two additional periods per week.

2.2.2 Personal tutoring

Year 12 students

Students in their first year of A-Level (Year 12) are allocated a Personal Tutor with whom they meet in a small group with their peers in a timetabled double period each week. The purpose of this period is mainly to continue to develop the PSHEE programme, but also to provide academic guidance and to prepare students for careers and university applications. By the end of Year 12 students must have completed a draft of their university personal statement and compiled a list of the supercurricular activities they intend to pursue over the summer in order to improve their personal statement and to boost their chances of gaining a place at a competitive university.

Ashbourne expects all Year 12 students to have attained at least CCC grades at the end of their first year in order to progress to Year 13. The Personal Tutor acts as mentor and monitor to ensure that students not only make progress but also achieve their academic potential. Personal Tutors work closely with the Deputy Heads of Sixth Form, in conjunction with the Head of Sixth Form and the Designated Safeguarding Lead, to ensure the effective delivery of this programme and that all statutory requirements are met to keep students safe.

Year 13 students

The Deputy Heads and Head of Sixth Form oversee the academic performance and pastoral welfare of Year 13 students, who no longer attend weekly personal tutor meetings. In addition, each Year 13 student is allocated a UCAS Tutor who will focus on providing guidance and support to students to ensure they achieve the best possible university application and to make appropriate university choices; students meet with their UCAS Tutor as required.

2.2.3 A-Level subject clinics

Ashbourne runs weekly subject clinics for key subjects with large cohorts, such as Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Students have the opportunity to review topics, seek clarification, discuss new ideas and expand their subject and field knowledge further. These clinics are particularly beneficial for students who require some additional support but are open to all.

2.2.4 Student mentors

Ashbourne’s mentoring scheme provides Year 13 students with a fantastic opportunity to consolidate what they have learned and take on a position of responsibility by teaching Year 11 and Year 12 students. This offers excellent support to younger students and creates the chance to build positive role models and relationships.

2.2.5 Opportunities for supercurricular development Specialist programmes

Ashbourne offers 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 University Portfolio Preparation Programme
  • History of Art Programme

Each programme typically 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 and talents. It will also provide them with excellent material to include in their UCAS applications. Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)
The College offers A-Level students the opportunity to enter for the AQA exam board EPQ in a subject of their choosing. This qualification is largely recommended for students applying to Oxford or Cambridge and for highly competitive university degree courses. It is a demanding endeavour which requires high levels of personal motivation, hard work and commitment without detracting students from their core A-Level studies. The extended project fits well with Ashbourne’s focus on self-reliance and developing independent learners with effective study and research skills.

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3. Extracurricular programme
Enthusiasm for extracurricular clubs and activities comes from students who request certain activities and Ashbourne 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.

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

  • Chess Club
  • Drum Club
  • Economics Club
  • Gaming Club
  • Film Club
  • Italian Club
  • Model United Nations Club
  • Psychology Club

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.


Producing 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.

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

3.2 Special events

Other extracurricular programmes have become ‘mainstays’ of the College and are an important and significant part of life at the College for those who participate.

The Revue

The College Revue, which takes place at Christmas time, has been running for more than two decades and is a celebration of music, dance, fashion, drama and comedy. This is a whole-college event with around half of the student body and staff involved. The event is always very well-attended by an audience of close to 200. 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 students’ time at Ashbourne for all who participate.

End of year awards

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.


Ashbourne takes advantage of its location in central London to offer students a broad range of trips and visits. These include educational and 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.

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4. Speakers of English as an additional language
A number of Ashbourne students speak English as an additional language. Whilst students are required to demonstrate a minimum level of English language proficiency to enrol, for example through IELTS scores (or equivalent), internal assessments and at interview, many benefit from English tuition throughout their time at the College. Ashbourne’s IELTS (International English Language Test) Programme aims to help students reach a level of English language proficiency, as quickly as possible, that allows them to:

  • engage effectively with one another and within the community;
  • access the curriculum fully, i.e. comprehend the academic subject material, understand what is required of them, express their ideas effectively and be able to perform well in examination;
  • prepare for IELTS or other English language proficiency tests so they can achieve the requisite scores demanded for their chosen university degree courses 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.

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5. Learning support
Ashbourne’s small class sizes provide a supportive learning environment that should enable students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) to thrive and build confidence. If a student has a particular learning difficulty, teachers are made aware in order that they can support them appropriately. The College permits and encourages students to use technology in the classroom at the discretion of the teacher; this may include laptops, tablets and smartphones. Students are granted access arrangements as appropriate, such as use of laptops, to take their examinations as necessary and if approved by the SEND team.

5.1 The SEND team

The SEND team is responsible for ensuring accessibility to the curriculum for all SEND students. In the first instance, the team 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 in supporting the student in the past.

The SEND Team will also ensure the implementation of any reasonable adjustments that may be required to facilitate and support the student’s education. This support is especially important in assessing access arrangements for exams when the SEND team and Exams Officer coordinate their efforts to provide properly for the administration of exams.

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6. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development
Ashbourne aims to offer a positive, collaborative and safe learning environment where all students feel valued and respected. The College believes that developing students’ self-awareness, confidence and respect for others is vital to their success both personally and academically.


The College delivers an extensive PSHEE programme, in accordance with government regulations, specifically designed to reflect the needs and diversity of the students, many of whom are international students. The programme contributes towards the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of students and includes Relationships and Sex Education and financial education. The programme is delivered to year 11 students through timetabled PSHEE lessons and to year 12 students through timetabled Personal Tutor sessions.

6.2 Extracurricular

Ashbourne students are offered many opportunities to share aspects of their culture and learn about others’ through a wide range of extracurricular activities and events including the College’s annual Revue, showcasing students’ creative talents, and cultural trips in London and other European cities.

6.3 Independent thinking

Ashbourne believes in teaching students how to become independent critical thinkers and values the exploration of ideas, insofar as this improves their academic performance, which is the College’s primary responsibility. All class discussions and debates, whether spoken or written, should be pertinent to and fall within the bounds of each individual subject’s syllabus. Arguments put forward should be based on clear logical reasoning and material evidence, showing how these are connected as well as their limitations. When analysing arguments the evidence, reasoning and context should be considered rather than simply accepting information, opinions and ideology as fact.

6.4 Mutual respect

Staff, particularly teachers, can play a vital role in students’ development with potentially long-term positive effects on their behaviour and academic achievement. Such a privileged position that allows teachers to inspire, motivate and boost confidence in young people must also be carefully balanced and accountable to ensure a healthy, supportive and professional teacher-student relationship.

6.5 ‘Partisan political views’
It is important to state that teachers should not promote their own ‘partisan political views’ when teaching a subject, as set out in the UK Government’s Education Regulations Act 2014 (Independent Schools Standards), part 2, paragraphs 5c and 5d. The point of this is to deter political indoctrination of students via the curriculum, but also reinforces the need for balanced and relevant discussion of ideas.

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7. University applications and careers
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 the College’s careers programme so that it meets the benchmarks. The Careers Guidance Team (see appendix) also analyses student destination data and feedback from students, parents and employer partners to evaluate and improve this provision annually.

7.1 University applications

Almost all of Ashbourne’s students plan to apply to university or equivalent (e.g. Drama School) after they complete their A-Level studies. 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 UCAS Tutor to ensure the best possible application to university with particular regard to the personal statement.

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

UCAS preparation days – after the final Year 12 exams in June, the Year 12 students attend a one or two-day intensive workshop 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.

Visiting speakers – the College invites guest speakers from different professions and industries including doctors, dentists and city traders/brokers to give talks to the 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 Tutoring 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-Level 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 Tutors. This includes regular personal tutor sessions, guest speakers, promotion of a wide range of careers-related events and one-on-one support.

Ashbourne’s specialist programmes designed to help students qualify for particular courses and universities, as outlined in point above, offer targeted career advice and UCAS support.

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Authorised by The Principal
Date September 2023
Effective date of the policy September 2023
Circulation Teaching staff / all staff / parents / Students on request
Review date September 2024


Appendix A: Careers Guidance Team

Careers Leader: Sean Pillai, Head of Sixth Form

Deputy Careers Leader: Lee Kirby, Director of Studies and Head of Sixth Form

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