The “Bio Dons” have an infectious enthusiasm for the subject and reside in the fantastic Queen’s Court building with five fully-equipped Laboratories and also a well-used Projects Room where boys of all ages can work with greater independence, occasionally teaching the Dons a thing or two!
Boys benefit greatly from practical work and they enjoy it. Biology in the real world is an ever-changing discipline and the department at Radley is no exception. There is an ongoing process of equipment renewal and boys in the sixthform can, for example, expect to do colorimetry work, DNA electrophoresis, PCR and genetic transformation. Lower School boys are not forgotten either and we place great emphasis on boys being given the chance to set up many types of experiment, as well as dissecting everything we can lay our hands on. As might be expected with a school of Radley’s vintage, we have many fascinating treasures in the department including spirit collections, bones (human included!), artefacts associated with the discovery of penicillin and even a fossil dinosaur! Boys are encouraged to handle all of the above, and we rotate them in our foyer display cabinets on a regular basis too.
Radleians start IGCSE in the Shells and are taught Biology as a separate science over three years. This gives us the flexibility to fit in every course practical under the sun, and do a lot more besides, while also preparing boys better for the rigors of A level. For the latter we study the challenging OCR specification which combines detailed scientific study with a satisfying emphasis on experimental work and field study. All boys attend a compulsory five-day Field Course in the 6.1 year at Dale Fort FSC Centre in Pembrokeshire where we also spend a day visiting Skomer Island to view the seabird colonies. Closer to home boys help with Oxford University’s Wytham Badger Census and there is an ongoing project to study and manage parts of the Radley Estate as a nature reserve.
Biology at Radley doesn’t just happen in the classroom: there are many thriving activities linked to the department, such as the Animals Society, looking after a collection of 50-60 species at any one time. Even Shells in their first week of school will often find themselves handling scorpions, tarantulas, lizards and snakes, including “Cocoa” our friendly Boa constrictor. Members of the dissection society “Dead Soc” enjoy chopping their way through the animal kingdom and there is also a thriving Medics & Vets Society that serves the joint purpose of exciting younger boys about these fantastic and rewarding careers while also preparing older students for these pathways at University. Drawing all of these together, the biology society “Bio Soc” invite a wide range of speakers to the college: scientists, explorers, authors, zoo keepers, film makers, medics and vets, all of whom have fantastic stories to tell.