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St John’s Catholic Comprehensive School

Social Sciences (Psychology, Sociology)

Sociology Curriculum Intent 

At both GCSE and A level, sociology aims to develop students’ sociological imagination and change the way they think about the social world. We want our learners to develop a greater understanding and awareness of the social, political, legal and global changes in society and the consequent impact on individuals and groups. Through the discipline of sociology, we aim for our students to develop a greater sense of tolerance and understanding of class, gender and ethnic diversity and differences in society. We want our learners to be willing to question their own assumptions and empathetically consider the opinions of others. As a department we have high expectations of our students and achieve excellent results which enable students to go on to achieve their goals. Students are challenged by engaging lessons and encouraged to go beyond the curriculum. 

We follow both the AQA Sociology A level and GCSE specifications. At GCSE level, students learn about the key perspectives and methodologies found in sociology through the study of topics such as Families, Education and Research Methods in year one, and Crime and Deviance and Social Stratification in year two. Studying GCSE sociology provides a great springboard for continuing to study sociology at A level, or for studying any other related social science or in fact simply as a multifaceted subject that will enhance and deepen an understanding of society generally. At A level, the two core themes of ‘socialisation, culture and identity’ as well as ‘social differentiation, power and stratification’ are woven through the topics of Families and Households, Education, and Research Methods in Year one, and Crime and Deviance, Belief in Society and Theoretical Debates in Year two. Sociology A level links well with other social science subjects in developing an understanding of society and also provides an excellent foundation for those going on to further academic studies in related areas.  

During the course, learners explore the wider sociological debate between structural and social action theories. Students will distinguish between positivist and interpretivist approaches and consider the strengths and weaknesses of using quantitative and qualitative research methods. Students explore the key question of whether sociological research can truly be ‘value free’ and they are encouraged to use examples drawn from their own experience of small-scale research, enabling sociological knowledge to be applied to contemporary real-world situations. 

All students are supported to develop sophisticated academic writing, including the development of effective analytical and evaluation skills. Critical reading is used as a tool to explore a wide range of sociological research, empowering our students to be able to make their own judgements and conclusions on questions such as ‘can sociology be a science? Or ‘what key factors affect educational outcomes?’ 

By the end of the course, we aim for our learners to be able to articulate different perspectives on a wide range of sociological issues, such as ‘is the criminal justice system fair? Students will be able to make intelligent synoptic links between topics, for example recognising the relationship between incorrect socialisation, failure in education and criminal activity. We will challenge learners to think about the global interconnectedness of the human experience and the impact of the structures of society on individuals. We want our learners to understand how sociology, as a discipline, has developed during the last century and why it is more relevant than ever as a subject today. Our students start a life-long journey of critical thought studying sociology and we therefore aim to develop the skills needed to help them shape their own self-identity and confidence to challenge the status quo. The knowledge and awareness of sociological theories will equip our learners to become active, critically thinking, considerate global citizens. 

Psychology Curriculum Intent 

At both GCSE and A level, psychology enables our students to discover how the human mind dictates and influences our behaviour, from communication and memory to thought and emotion. A key aim of our course is to support students to develop skills that will help them in their future education, work life, family life and as a valuable member of society. We look at many ways in which psychology can be used to help people, including ourselves. We encourage the development of independence and resilience. Students develop the higher-level skill of evaluation by looking at strengths, limitations and other discussion points such as compare and contrast throughout the course. This allows them to understand the complexity of psychological issues and move away from simplistic answers towards more developed discussions. Students use their knowledge and evaluation skills to apply psychology to real world examples of behaviour and need to be prepared to consider topics in the exams that are not on the specification, a wide range of examples are used in lessons to support them with this.    

Psychology is a multifaceted scientific subject; therefore, the curriculum is a channel for interdisciplinary learning by supporting learners to make connections between their prior and current study of maths, English and the sciences, namely biology and chemistry. The psychology department follow both the AQA Psychology A level and GCSE specifications, which covers British Psychological Society accredited topics such as Memory, Psychopathology and Social Influence. At GCSE level, students learn the key studies and theories found in Psychology through the study of topics such as Memory, Perception, Development and Research Methods in year one, and Social influence, Language, Thought and Communication, Brain and Neuropsychology and Psychological Problems in year 2. The skills students acquire during the GCSE course, such as application and evaluation, are transferrable to A- level Psychology.    

At A level, students cover a broad range of topics psychology including Research Methods, Biopsychology and Psychopathology, which allow students to gain well-rounded knowledge in order to consider different pathways for the future. A quarter of the course consists of optional units - as a department we have chosen Schizophrenia, Gender and Aggression. We have a strong commitment to raising the profile of mental health care and mental health awareness, studying schizophrenia gives us an opportunity to dispel myths about this psychotic disorder. Gender is a very high-profile issue currently in society, so this topic has been chosen to help our students have a greater insight into the need to have informed discussions here, including the damage arising from stereotyping. Finally, understanding and recognising the many causes of aggression can help you take steps toward addressing it, along with anger and any other emotions that might play a part. The curriculum content covered in A Level Psychology serves as a valuable basis for higher education courses such as psychology; neuroscience; law; business; nursing and can lead to careers in the health, education, and research sectors to name a few.