Years 7 to 8 Curriculum (The Benenden Diploma)

Lower School: In the Lower School you cover a broad range of subjects to give you a good grounding in essential skills and subject knowledge. The table below shows you how many hours of each subject you study a week.

This broad and balanced curriculum allows you to cover a number of different types of learning: mathematical and technological; languages; the arts; physical education; humanities and the sciences. You will do two Languages in the Fourth Form, and can add another Language in Lower Fifth.

Girls in Fourth and Upper Fourth study the Benenden Diploma Level 1, our bespoke curriculum for these year groups.

Subject

IV (Year 7)

UIV (Year 8)

English

3

3

Mathematics

3

3

Science

3

3

Biology

-

-

Chemistry

-

-

Physics

-

-

Modern Languages

French, Spanish, Mandarin

2 + 2

2 + 2

Latin (or in LV Classical Studies as an alternative, or Gratin, which includes Latin and Greek) 

2

2

Geography

1

1

History

1

1

Religious Education

1

1

Art & Design with Textiles 

1

1

Technologies (DT and Computing)

2

2

Drama

1

1

Music

1

1

Personal and Professional Skills

2

2

Physical Education/Sport

4

4

The Benenden Diploma is our bespoke curriculum for our Fourths and Upper Fourths. Pupils in these year groups are 11 to 13 years old and they follow this curriculum for their first two years at the School, when they are in a year group of around 45 students. They graduate from the Diploma at the end of the Upper Fourth in a special ceremony where they showcase their best work and achievements from the two years.

Girl doing work

What is special about the Diploma?

In most senior schools, pupils of this age will have many unrelated lessons across a week, where the content within each subject is not linked to other subjects. Each lesson is self-contained, and each teacher would not usually know what their colleagues were teaching, or why. National surveys by Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate have shown that the learning in these critical year groups sometimes lacks challenge or repeats content learnt in prep school.

In contrast, our unique curriculum has been designed to capture the sense of awe and wonder that students of this age still have about discovering new knowledge and skills. We have the freedom to teach our Fourth and Upper Fourth outside the requirements of Common Entrance or another exam-led syllabus. So our curriculum not only delivers the key skills necessary to each subject specialism, giving students the knowledge and aptitudes necessary for public exams later, but also enables our pupils to make exciting and innovative links between subjects through a series of enquiry projects and themes.

This is a way of learning that better reflects life and the workplace: after all, in our adult days we do not have one hour of Maths followed by one hour of Languages and so on.

The Benenden Diploma is a highly interactive, investigative curriculum designed to provide challenge and intellectual stimulation and promote problem-solving and the application of knowledge.

We do continue to teach through hour-long subject specific lessons, but each term the content of the lessons is linked to a central theme, and each term, for a few days, we suspend the normal structure of the day to allow students to work on projects, often in role, that allows them to learn new subjects or work in a cross-curricular way. These sessions are often led by professionals such as working artists, writers, scientists or engineers.

The Themes

The themes for each of the six terms are:

  • Identity
  • Journeys
  • Change
  • Growth
  • Rites and Celebrations
  • Around the World in 80 Days

Each department considers how it can deliver content that links to the theme, and draws on the work of other subjects so that students need to make links and apply work from elsewhere as they complete tasks within each subject.

At the beginning and end of each term, the pupils experience a launch or plenary project that addresses the theme directly and where they can work on projects for a sustained period of time. Often the work developed in teams is presented to an adult audience, developing skills of collaboration, timekeeping, resourcefulness and communication, all so important in later life. 

Girls with Diploma certificates
Girls with Diploma work
Girl in lesson
Girls with Diploma certificates
Girl in lesson
Girl making plasticine model
Girls in Diploma less