Curriculum Overview

Lower School

The Fourth Form

A group of 4th Formers in the libraryPupils coming to Cranleigh in the Fourth Form (Year 9) are very broadly streamed based on their entrance examination results.

All pupils study Biology, Chemistry, English, a modern language (either French or Spanish), Geography, History, Mathematics, Physics and Religious Studies. In addition, a pupil will choose either Latin or Classical Civilisation as well as choosing three from the following five options: Art, Design, Drama, French (as a second language), Music.


The Lower School and GCSE

Our aim at Cranleigh is to work within the spirit of the National Curriculum, but to offer more, taking full advantage of our independence and the extra time available to a boarding school.

We retain a very broad curriculum in the first three years so that few options are ruled out before A Level choices are made in the Upper Fifth year. English, Maths, Science and a Modern Foreign Language are taught as core subjects. There is an options system in the Lower Fifth and Upper Fifth Forms, which enables a pupil to take between nine and 10 GCSE subjects before moving on to A Levels in the Sixth Form. In Science, pupils can complete either two or three full GCSEs within the option system. Fuller details are given below. It is a manageable, though demanding, workload over a range of subjects wide enough to satisfy universities and future employers.

Brief descriptions of GCSE courses are given under subject headings. All courses are sufficiently rigorous to provide adequate preparation for Sixth Form work. For Sixth Form entry, we expect our pupils to achieve a grade 4 in Maths and English Language and a total of six “Cranleigh points” from their GCSEs as a whole. For this purpose grades 9, 8 and 7 count as two “points” and a grade 6 as one “point”.


The Lower Fifth and Upper Fifth Forms

A group of fifth form studentsThere is an options system in the Lower and Upper Fifth Forms which enables a pupil to take up to 10 full GCSE subjects before moving on to AS and A2 Levels in the Sixth Form. Full details of the courses offered are outlined in the booklet “The First Three Years”. The curriculum provides a manageable, though demanding workload over a range of subjects wide enough to satisfy both universities and future employers.

Core subjects for all are Mathematics, English Language and Literature and a modern language, either French, German or Spanish. Pupils are required to study the three sciences (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) and take two or three GCSEs in science subjects – either Dual Award (DAS) or Triple Award (TAS). 


Sixth Form

The Sixth Form provides a different work environment from that of the Lower School, with students generally taking three subjects in the Sixth Form rather than nine or 10 GCSE courses. Time outside academic teaching is more a student’s own responsibility and considerable trust is vested in students to use these opportunities properly. Above all, Cranleigh aims to create independent learners, as the skills and habits learned at school will last for the rest of a student’s working life.

Whilst the Sixth Form occupies only a short period in an academic life, there are inevitably many distractions. The Lower Sixth year is therefore very important: in practice we have found over the last few years that the three terms in the Lower Sixth are the ones which make the most difference to eventual results and university prospects.

The Sixth Form also allows students to develop a mature and collaborative relationship with their tutors, whose job will be to guide effective work habits, to advise on Higher Education, to assist with revision schedules, and generally to monitor academic progress.

Sixth Form students at Cranleigh also have the option to undertake the Extended Project Qualification. Please click here to find out more about this.


Choosing Courses

Many changes are taking place with respect to the academic courses offered to Sixth Formers. A Level courses in all subjects bar a couple have been being substantially revised with new specifications (what used to be called “syllabuses”) introduced. The major change of approach is that, whereas for the last 10 years or more, A Levels have been assessed on a modular basis, assessment of a student’s work will now be undertaken on a linear basis. This means that all assessment takes place at the end of the two-year course, rather than at different points during the course. The revision of A Level assessment has provided schools with the opportunity to reassess what academic courses are offered to Sixth Formers and at Cranleigh we have used this opportunity to adapt our curriculum so as more precisely to offer our students the best preparation we can for university, and for the world of work. Our provision therefore includes A Level courses, but also Pre-U courses (essentially courses equivalent to A Level but offering a different specification), and the Extended Project Qualification (the EPQ), to increase the variety and flexibility of what we have on offer.

We expect that most Sixth Formers will study three subjects in the Lower Sixth, along with an Extended Project (EPQ). Some may attempt four (all the way through to the end of the Upper Sixth) and we do have a few alternatives to the EPQ (namely, a 2-year AS in Computer Science, French, Spanish, Greek and Geology).

Given that most Sixth Formers will be taking three subjects at A Level, consulting carefully on choice of subjects is even more important. It is important that there is a thought-process involved in making the selection, taking in the advice available from subject teachers, Heads of Academic Departments, Housemaster or Housemistress, and from the Deputy Head (Academic) and his academic team. Since this choice is such an important one, it is as well not to rush into it, nor to choose simply on the basis of best GCSE results.

In fact, when choosing courses, it goes without saying that students should select subjects which they think will maximise their potential with regard to final grades. Often these will be subjects they enjoy or in which they have shown a particular aptitude. It is also important to check proposed options again university and career choices beyond school.