Curriculum content

The curriculum at HGS is absolutely central to achieving success. If students can access courses which are suitable for them, then motivation, enjoyment and achievement are certain to improve. The curriculum at Harrogate Grammar School equips its students with the qualifications and skills needed for life in the 21st century.

Our Intentions

At Harrogate Grammar School we aim to provide all of our students with exciting opportunities which build confidence, develop a range of skills and promote academic excellence and a love of learning. We offer a broad range of courses at all levels, preparing students for further education and future careers. We also value learning beyond that which is recognised within the National Curriculum and seek to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, which offers our students the opportunity for enrichment and deeper learning. We aim to develop confident young people with enquiring minds and a range of attributes that prepare them to be responsible citizens throughout their lives.

The Implementation of our Curriculum

At HGS there is a strong focus on the core subjects; English, Maths and Science which we believe are the pillars that support understanding, skills and success elsewhere in the curriculum.

Languages and Humanities are also an important part of the curriculum, with the majority of students entering Year 7 studying 2 languages. This core curriculum is supplemented and balanced by provision in the arts, technological and sporting spheres.

The creative subjects continue to thrive. Having experienced creative and practical subjects throughout the whole of Key Stage 3, students can make genuine choices as they enter Year 10, for their GCSE programmes of study. Alongside the Ebacc subjects in humanities and languages which are recommended, Art, Business, computing, design, drama, food and nutrition, music, creative iMedia and PE continue to be popular choices and are well catered for.

Whilst seeking to provide a World Class education for our students, our curriculum has at its core the fundamental British values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. In order to actively promote these values we expect all staff, students and visitors to challenge opinions or behaviours seen or heard in school that are contrary to these values.

The Spiritual, Moral, social and cultural curriculum

The Big Picture Vision Statement

“We aim for all students to be happy, healthy, confident young adults who can contribute to the world in which they live now and in the future as active, responsible citizens. This will be achieved through an innovative, engaging and purposeful whole school programme, which combines elements of PSHE, Citizenship and Careers and is outstanding in its provision”.

Students in Years 7 to 11 will follow the Big Picture programme of study during their Big Picture lessons. This programme of personal development covers aspects such as citizenship, careers guidance, personal, social and health education and Financial well being.

Lower Secondary Subjects – Key Stage 3 – Years 7 to 9

English, Mathematics, Science, Religious Studies, Physical Education, French, Geography, German or Spanish, History, Design (Art & Design, Design Technology & Food and nutrition), Computing, music and drama. In Years 7 students have 2 lessons per week, in which they follow The Big Picture programme of study. In Years 8 & 9, students have 1 Big Picture lesson each week, with their form tutor.

Upper Secondary Subjects – Key Stage 4 – Years 10 & 11

GCSE Courses on offer

English, English Literature, Mathematics, Triple Science (Biology, Chemistry & Physics) or Combined Science and Religious Studies are all studied by all students as part of the core curriculum and are all examined courses. Physical Education (core PE) is not an examined course but is compulsory for all students, as we recognise its value in ensuring our students physical and mental well-being.

Students are then able to choose from the optional GCSE subjects including; Art, Business Studies, Computing, Drama, Food & Nutrition, French, Geography, German, History, Music, Photography, Physical Education, Product Design and Spanish. They may also choose to study for a Cambridge National in I-Media.

Alternative Curriculum in Key Stage 4

From September 2020, we will offer a Level 2 BTEC course: Skills and activities for sport and active leisure (Outdoor Education). This will be offered to an identified group of students in order to meet differing needs. This is a 2 year course. Students will undertake GCSEs in English Language, Maths, Combined Science and one further option subject in addition to the BTEC course. The course involves classroom learning one afternoon per week and one full day per week, doing active learning, often out of school. The course develops various life skills such as finance, first aid, risk assessment, time management and public speaking. Alongside the expedition experiences, the activities include sailing and archery for the students involved in this course.

From the cohort beginning Year 10 in September 2021, there will be a new pathway, where identified students will be invited to undertake the outdoor education elements of the BTEC course and will also complete various units from the AQA Unit Award Scheme.

Sixth Form Subjects

A Level Courses on offer

Art, Fine Art, Applied Science, Biology, Business studies, Chemistry, Computer science, Drama, Economics, English Language, English Literature, French, Further Mathematics, Geography, German, Graphic Design, History, Italian, Mathematics, Music, Photography, Physical Education, Physics, Politics, Product Design, Psychology, Religious Studies, Sociology & Spanish

BTEC Courses

Business, Performing Arts, Music, Sport

Cambridge National

Level 3 – Digital I-Media

Sports Academy

September 2021 will see the launch of a new Sports Academy Programme for both rugby and netball players. Students on the programme will attend timetabled training sessions incorporated into the school day as well as their academic lessons. As well as a detailed training schedule and regular fixtures, there will also be lifestyle lectures from guest speakers on nutrition, mental wellbeing, recovery, resilience. Strong links with Yorkshire Rugby Academy and Leeds Rhinos Netball have been forged and the school looks forward to working with centres of excellence.

Additional Curriculum Opportunities

Students can also study Core Mathematics and have the opportunity to complete the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and the Sports Leaders Award at Level 3.
Provision is made for students who need to re-sit GCSE English and maths.

All students also have study lessons on their timetable in order to encourage good, independent study habits and time management.  Specific, extension tasks are set by faculty areas to be completed during this time.

Students also have the opportunity to study GCSE and A Level Chinese as part of their Sixth Form studies

The 2020-21 Curriculum

Year 7 and 8

All Lower Secondary subjects are offered. French is compulsory for all and students are allocated to a second language. A small group of students will be identified for whom 2 languages may not be the best option and they will join a ‘Core Plus’ group benefitting from additional support in literacy and numeracy. This group is identified during the first half term of school by the English and maths faculties following diagnostic assessment. From half term onwards, this group do French only and in the second language time have extra numeracy and literacy support and, in some cases, access to wider intervention programmes.

Year 9

All Lower Secondary subjects continue apart from computing.

All students begin the GCSE Religious Studies course in Year 9 for completion in Year 11.

Students have drama introduced to their curriculum.

Year 10

Compulsory subjects which are examined at GCSE level are; Mathematics, English (Language and Literature), Religious Studies and either Triple or Combined Science.

Physical Education (core) and The Big Picture are also compulsory but are not examined courses.

When making option choices in Y9, students are given personalised recommendations including the following;

Triple sciences or Combined Science

Compulsory minimum 1 language or Optional modern language

Recommendation to study either Geography or History to complete the Ebacc suite of subjects

On average 75-80% of the cohort each year would be expected to follow and Ebacc suite of subjects

Students then have a free choice of two more option subjects, allowing them to maintain a broad and balanced curriculum, which includes subjects in the arts, design, performing arts and sports domains.

Most students undertake 4 chosen option subjects, but some students may require an alternative curriculum and so will follow fewer option subjects depending on their individual needs.

Alternative Provision

For some students a higher level of personalisation may be needed and alternative provision will be sought. In such cases we may offer vocational experiences with recognised organisations and NYBEP registered providers, with local colleges and training services. This would include work shadowing and training and the opportunity to gain certification in various aspects of this work, such as Basic Health & Safety, level 1 or 2 courses in design and construction and functional skills in both English and Maths. Students involved in this provision, would have a reduced number of option subjects to enable participation.

Sixth Form

All students begin on 4 courses. 3 main A level choices plus an additional choice, from a range of options such as; Core maths, AS maths or an EPQ. A variety of Packages are also on offer such as a Medical, Education, Law, Business and Management Packages, which offer links for applied learning within these various sectors.

All students are allocated private study sessions.


The HGS timetable runs over a fortnightly cycle for 6 periods per day. The allocation of lessons for each subject in each year can be seen in the accompanying document, Curriculum Diagram 2020-21.

If you have any further questions with regards to the subject choices in Key Stage 4 or 5, please refer to the Option materials in the relevant sections of the website.