Sociology students study AQA A Level Sociology offering a key focus on society in the UK today and looking back to how society has arrived at its current position and suggesting how it may continue to evolve. The A Level has strong links to British values and SMSC as it discusses traditional British values as a core element of the course and students actively learn about democracy, individual liberty, rule of law and mutual respect within the topics studied. Living in a city like Bristol, our students have an unparalleled social conscience and awareness of social injustices and inequality and Sociology offers an opportunity to explore this further in an academic context. The Sociology curriculum is ambitious, it enables engagement, challenge and enjoyment in every lesson for every learner. We know our students well and design their learning with this in mind. Sociology aims to deliver powerful knowledge for social equality, and equip our learners with the skills, social and cultural awareness to thrive in a global society. With a diverse student cohort, we recognise our responsibility to design a curriculum for our high numbers of students with SEND, for our culturally diverse and significantly able student population. We actively promote opportunities to celebrate this diversity by challenging social inequality and celebrating the work of Sociologists from usually unrepresented groups. In this way our dynamic curriculum is constantly evolving, recognising and highlighting issues in contemporary society. We strive to use this platform to promote young people coming together to thrive as hopeful, kind and courageous people.
Sociology is taught as a Key Stage 5 subject only at BCCS. The students who arrive in our 6th form generally have no prior knowledge of studying Sociology, though they arrive with relatively high prior achievement GCSEs, requiring a 6 in English to be accepted onto the course, and a thirst for knowledge, particularly in terms of understanding and questioning the world around them. Due to the nature of our cohort our curriculum, learning pedagogy and choice of research studies is dynamic and evolving, encouraging debate and an analysis of contemporary society, specifically in the context of a diverse student population growing up in a city like Bristol and citizens of a globalized world. For example, we actively look for contemporary examples of Sociologists from LGBTQ+ and other less represented groups in academic research. Though academically able, our students are of mixed ability, and as such we are a dynamic department, able to be flexible in our delivery to meet the specific needs of our learners.
The overall aim of Sociology is to encourage students to look at the world in a more critical way and question why society functions in the way that it does. These students are the future workforce of our country, and maybe even further afield, therefore it is essential they have an understanding of how the world has been made into what we see today and how even as individuals they can influence positive change in the future.
The course begins with students learning about key Sociological theories. This brief introduction provides a foundation of knowledge that students will build upon during each unit of work that is studied. We also focus on the key recurring themes of sociological study: socialisation, culture and identity, social differentiation, power and stratification. These core themes in Sociology are revisited throughout the specification and a broad understanding of them alongside key theories acts a sound basis for the course.
The first main unit of work focuses on the education system, looking at its purpose, how it has developed into the system we know today and how it may advantage or disadvantage certain groups of people within society. We begin the course with this unit as it is something that all students can relate with as they have spent more than 10 years studying within the education system we are examining. Alongside this, with the partner teacher, students will study families and households, in a similar way to education, they look at the structure and evolution of families, what different groups of Sociologists have to say about the position of families within society. Family is an optional unit that we chose for its relevance to our students' lives and also the rich variety of resources available to help deliver it. We chose this unit as every student has has had an experience of family life in some form, the changing nature of family types and roles in the family is particularly interesting and relatable to contemporary society. As an inner city school, issues around demography, class, family type and childhood are varied, the sharing of experience where appropriate makes even classical sociological theory come to life. This also plays to the strengths of our subject specialists. Following this, students then begin to study what research methods are used by Sociologists. Now they know some of the basics of Sociology they are now able to look into how research is conducted and try some of the techniques out for themselves. We also look at the application of research methods to the study of education, an excellent opportunity to consider and question the experiences of people in the education system and the various influencing factors. We consider the role of methods such as observation and interview questioning how valid and reliable they are in getting a true picture of education. For example, does someone asking students and teachers questions, or observing 20 minutes of a lesson really give an accurate reflection of reality? What is the best way to assess quality of education and success in education for learners? These conceptually sophisticated questions encourage our students not to be passive passengers of education and the wider world around them.
By the end of Year 12, students know classic and contemporary sociological theory and can apply it to the study of Education and the Family. They also can evaluate the usefulness of research methods used in sociological study. Students possess the ability to write academic essays, including analysis and evaluation and application of classical theory to contemporary society. They are able to use high order thinking to develop their Sociological Imagination.
Moving into Year 13, students begin the final year of the course by studying the unit of crime and deviance. Here they examine the police and criminal justice system as another institution within society and assess its function and role within society, as well as continuing with the running theme of who benefits and who loses out from the existence of these institutions. With the partner teacher 13 students study beliefs in society. This optional unit has been selected as it draws on natural strengths of teaching staff and establishes in students some knowledge of the world that many struggle to grasp, such as Postmodern arguments around religion and Religious Market theory. Many of the students who take Sociology do not take RE at GCSE level so they come into this unit with very little religious knowledge, but they begin to examine what is meant by beliefs, how it is defined and what it means for countries around the world. Students are able to look at real life examples of religious conflict, diversity of beliefs and the impact of religion in the world they are growing up in. This demonstrates their knowledge of the content as they are able to apply classical theory to contemporary society, citing examples ranging from the Troubles in Ireland to the New Christian Right.
Students will be challenged through retrieval practice at the start and throughout their lessons. After this, students will begin each lesson with a thinking task - either the learning question or a piece of music/art/newspaper article which introduces the theme of the lesson and aims to promote high level thinking and challenge. All students will be encouraged to think hard through high quality questioning. Teachers will use questioning to refine student responses and elevate understanding with more exact, specific and relevant knowledge and terminology, and modelling of good answers and why they are good will be given. Feedback will be given verbally through the lesson in order to support students’ developing understanding. Teachers will give clear explanations of new content, as well as modelling this content thoroughly to allow students to apply this new understanding. Strategies such as think, pair and share will be utilised to do this, also past paper questions and answers to model excellence. Teachers will encourage students to practice newly learnt skills in the classroom, in a range of settings, to give opportunities to refine their new knowledge and skill. Opportunities to think critically about how Sociology impacts the real world will be explored. Teachers subject expertise and passion will encourage and engage students and will inform our planning to ensure it meets the needs of all our learners, including our SEN and AIM students. Inclusive lessons mean everyone benefits.
We teach the skills of argument, encouraging debate within an academic context, challenging the students to adopt the role of devil's advocate, arguing for things sometimes against their own opinions. This ability to critically analyse and justify academic argument is vital in reaching top mark bands and invaluable to study at degree level. Students are encouraged to be active learners by using their sociology scrapbooks and engaging in free writing tasks. Learners are often facilitated to find answers themselves by researching topics then encouraged to take the role of teacher as they become experts on a topic then teach their colleagues.
Starters involve assessment of previous knowledge, making clear what previous knowledge is required for the current lesson, and how the current lesson builds on previous knowledge. They are designed to engage, interest and provoke learners into critical thinking and anticipation of the learning to come.
Quick quizzes through the use of mini whiteboards is commonplace, as is the use of exam focused assessment.
Students will write responses to exam questions that assess AO1 (knowledge), AO2 (application) and AO3 (analysis/evaluation) exam skills. Lessons are often structured according to these exam skills by starting with AO1 content, moving to AO2 followed by AO3. feedback is given within this framework, practicing how to apply knowledge to appropriate examples.
We model exam essay writing skills using an “I do, we do, you do” model and explicit instruction to our learners. We offer opportunities for knowledge recall, assessing AO1 knowledge. This is also tested through regular seneca assignments which are based around previously learnt topics. We do exam questions in class from short answer questions to 30 mark questions, often under timed conditions to give exam practice. Feedback is given on how to improve, often without marks so learners can focus on how to improve rather than the outcome of their work.
A limitation of assessment is that we have limited opportunities to offer full exam paper practice so we do timed conditions for specific questions to counter this. We have a bank of past paper questions available and run drop in sessions to offer feedback and guidance on this.
By the end of KS5 the students will have covered the AQA Sociology compulsory units and optional topics of Beliefs in Society and Family. They will have acquired key skills in analysis and evaluation and have developed excellent essay writing skills. They will be able to apply classical theory to contemporary issues and choose appropriate examples to demonstrate their understanding. They will be active global citizens with increased social awareness and curiosity. By the end of year 12 learners will know sociological theory and will be able to apply it to the study of education and family. They will have a good grasp of research methods used in sociological research and be able to critically analyse them and apply them to the study of education. By the end of Year 13 they will have built on their theory and methods knowledge and expanded this to encompass key debates in Sociology such as “Is Sociology a Science?” and “How can Sociology influence social policy?”. They will also have considered the role of religion in the world today and various aspects of crime and deviance. They will be able to apply theory to contemporary society and evaluate this. They will have developed a sociological imagination and be able to be participating, active members of society.
Sociology is thriving at Bristol Cathedral Choir School. Uptake is improving, retention is great. Grades are excellent and on the rise, 2022 results were 60% A*- A, 93 % A* - B and 100% A - D. A number of our students go on to study Social Science degrees at University. Feedback from students is excellent and we have appointed a new subject specialist.
Some feedback from current students:
“I like understanding why society functions the way it does and hearing different theories”
“Applying it to real life and debating with family members”
“I like the fact that I can see it around me and talk to other people (who haven't taken sociology) about interesting stuff I've learnt”
“Sociology isn't a relic of the past. It is constantly adjusting to the society it is attempting to research. We study the relationship between individuals and society as well as the development of society.”
“Real life application”