Religious Education

This is a lively department in the school with the Head of Department, Mr Andrew Watkinson-Trim. Religious Education offers a solid grounding in the 'whys' and 'hows' of different people's approaches to belief throughout the school.

At GCSE level the course prepares students to think about the important philosophical and ethical issues in life and to prepare for a possible course in these fascinating subjects in Years 12 and 13. The Edexcel AS and A-level courses focus on Philosophy and Ethics, with an opportunity to study any topic of special interest to the individual. The Chaplain is also an A-level examiner.

The walls of our classrooms are variously adorned with thought-provoking words and images – not least the collection of ‘wall-worthy’ original pithy comments from sixth-formers!

The department finds that students ask searching questions at increasingly young ages. This is excellent for keeping a lively department humming! We discuss faith academically in the classroom, but school life is much richer than merely the classroom: faith is practiced as well - see 'Chaplaincy'.

The department also welcomes regular external speakers.  These have included Dr Tony Campolo, renowned American pastor and White House advisor.  View the video seminar here


Psychology is a fast-growing subject, both at West Buckland and nationally, which prepares students well for further study and for careers in industry, education and health.

The team of two teachers aim to develop a breadth of knowledge, critical thinking skills and an appreciation of the relationships between different aspects of the subject through enthusiastic and knowledgeable teaching. Psychology A-level is an exciting course with plenty of choice within the units. It provides a supportive structure and manageable levels of assessment for enjoyable teaching and learning. Students develop an overall understanding of psychology by considering conflicting and complementary explanations of clinical issues and major debates. The specification offers a choice of studies and contemporary issues. This flexibility allows study to be tailored to the needs of students and the contexts in which they are learning.

The students have enjoyed the subject and so far most that have taken it for AS have wanted to pursue the course for further A2 studies by when we hope they will have learnt about psychological principles, perspectives and applications. They will have also developed critical and evaluative skills in relation to theory, empirical research and methods of research. Whilst exploring the issues and debates in and around the study of psychology, including ethics, they will have explored the relationship between psychological knowledge and their relationship to social, cultural, scientific and contemporary issues.

Physical Education

The Physical Education Department consists of a large team of three full and several part time specialist teachers. The Department is based in the outstanding Jonathan Edwards Sports Centre which is at the heart of a superb complex of facilities which includes an all-weather pitch, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, squash courts, tennis and netball courts and extensive sports pitches.

The Department teaches PE as an important subject in our curriculum for pupils at all ages. It also leads an impressive programme of Sport for boys and girls outside the timetable – at lunchtimes, after school, at weekends and in holidays.

PE is taught in a single 35 minute period every week throughout Years 7-9. Pupils in these years will also take part in two double period games lessons per week. These are used to teach team sports to pupils at all abilities. The boys play Rugby, Hockey and Cricket, whilst the girls play Netball, Hockey, Rounders and Tennis. Throughout the year all pupils in Years 7-9 take part in swimming lessons which are used not only to improve stroke technique, but also to allow pupils to complete various water safety courses. PE lessons are also taught in Volleyball, Badminton and Athletics.

In Years 10 and 11 pupils are given an option to experience various different sports such as Basketball, Cross-Country, Fitness, Golf, Football, Swimming, Squash, Dance and Rounders (in addition to the usual Rugby, Hockey and Cricket for the boys and Netball, Hockey and Tennis for the girls) in two double periods per week.

Sixth formers are encouraged to take part in the various activities on a Wednesday afternoon. They also have the opportunity to use the school's facilities during their study periods.

PE is a major subject at A-level. The course offers a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of man's movement, performance and behaviour in relation to play, institutionalised physical education, sport and recreation. Academic study within Physical Education can provide greater knowledge, insight and understanding of performance.

The courses themselves are both academically and physically challenging and are particularly suited to students of sound academic background who are competent in the sporting skills required for the practical component of the courses.

This specification provides the opportunity for candidates to demonstrate the key skills of Communication, Working with Others, Improving Own Learning and Performance and Problem Solving.

Students with a real interest in sport and leisure would find the A-level course an excellent platform from which to launch a career in:

  • Teaching & Lecturing
  • Recreational Management
  • Sport Centre Management
  • Sport administration
  • Sport Science
  • Sport Equipment Management
  • Professional sport
  • Physiotherapy
  • Outdoor Pursuits


The team of three specialist Physics teachers and departmental technician work in a well-equipped modern suite of three purpose built laboratories and service rooms. Each laboratory has multimedia projectors, two of them with electronic whiteboards. The department is well resourced with a variety of practical equipment including modern measuring and data logging systems and more traditional apparatus.

We encourage our students to have an interest in the physical world around us and to approach scientific ideas in an informed and logical manner. We believe it important to make Physics accessible to all.

In Years 7 and 8 pupils experience a wide range of experimental activities enriching the underlying Key Stage 3 Programme of Study. The textbook used is Longman Physics 11-14.

In Years 9 through to 11, pupils are taught the GCSE Physics specification from AQA, supported by Keith Johnson's recently updated 'Physics for You' and Nelson Thornes 'AQA GCSE Physics' textbooks. At the end of Year 9, around three quarters of pupils will opt to continue Physics beyond Core Science through to the full separate Physics qualification.

We maintain very healthy A-level numbers, despite the national trend away from the arguably more difficult traditional subjects. The specification taught is AQA Physics A, which includes an assessed practical element. Textbooks include 'Advanced Physics for You' (Stanley Thornes) and 'AQA Physics A' from Nelson Thornes. Students are encouraged to think beyond the syllabus and to benefit from independent learning.

Physics is a vital subject at Advanced Level for anyone interested in a career in science or engineering, and works well in combination with a wide range of other subjects available in the Sixth Form.

PHSE and Enrichment

All pupils take part in non-examined Personal Health and Social Education in Years 7 -9; in Years 10-13, students follow a programme of Enrichment.

The weekly 35 minute PHSE lessons in Years 7-9 are delivered by the tutors. A variety of topics are covered which fall under the headings of relationships, personal safety, study skills, citizenship, life skills, careers, substance misuse and effective habits. Pupils also explore British values such as freedom of speech and expression, respect for the rule of law, tolerance and individual liberty. In addition, Britain’s political system is examined in Year 9. 

In Years 10 and 11, pupils receive one double Enrichment lesson every other week delivered by a dedicated Enrichment team. The programme covers topics such as citizenship, alcohol and drugs misuse, sex and relationships education, well-being, study skills and financial management. This programme is enhanced by a number of professional visiting speakers.

The Enrichment team also leads hourly or 35 minute sessions in Years 12 and 13. Here, the emphasis is on preparation for life beyond school. Topics include self-defence, managing personal debt and budgeting, political awareness, university life and coping with illness. A number of guest speakers visit the school and provide their unique insights into real life challenges. Recent speakers have discussed overcoming life threatening injuries, living with HIV and coping with family members who have problems with drugs and alcohol. These sensitive topics are presented in a mature and comfortable environment which encourages discussion.

The aim of the school’s PHSE and Enrichment provision is to enhance the awareness and understanding of one’s environment and to address issues that one may not get the opportunity to discuss in curriculum time or at home. Adolescence can be a challenging time for many, and we believe it is important for young people to be given the chance to ask questions on a host of topics in an open and caring environment. We aim to empower students to make mature choices for themselves and be aware, informed and vigilant of the world around them.