at Benenden

Benenden’s academic programme aims to encourage a lifelong enthusiasm for learning and discovery. With a broad spectrum of expertly taught subjects available to study right the way across the School, there are plenty of opportunities for students to explore their passions and interests while continuously discovering new avenues. 


The Art Department aims to provide a programme of study for all year groups which will lay the groundwork for students to communicate fluently in visual and tactile form, familiarising them with the principles of Fine Art and Design.

Students will be required to strive for originality and will be introduced to a variety of experiences exploring a range of Fine Art media, techniques and processes through personal projects.

This is undertaken through team teaching to those who have opted to study Art for GCSE or A Level, where staff have different specialisms to offer, but is built gradually through drawing, painting and printmaking through the Lower School curriculum, which is compulsory.

  • Sarah Vanderpump

    Head of Department


Taught alongside Chemistry and Physics in the junior years, Biology is offered as a separate Science at GCSE from Year 9. After the completion of GCSE, Biology is taught as an optional A Level.

During Year 9 students tackle core GCSE concepts including the structures and functions in living organisms and an introduction to ecology and the environment. In Year 10 the students continue to discover the nature and variety of living organisms, as well as the process of reproduction. In Year 11 the students will discover the concept of inheritance and the uses of biological resources.

At A Level the students gain a deeper insight into the world of Biology, looking further into Mendel’s laws of inheritance, nutrition, structure and function of living organisms, ecology and the environment. They work towards achieving a practical endorsement, completing a range of practical sessions that allow them to develop their skills in both data collection and analysis, but also the ability to research and evaluate.

  • Christian Brady

    Head of Department


Taught alongside Biology and Physics in the Junior years, Chemistry is offered as a separate Science from Year 9, when GCSE study commences.

Chemistry helps us to describe and explain our world. It is the study of matter, its properties, how and why substances combine or separate to form other substances, and how substances interact with energy. Chemistry is part of everything in our lives from growing and cooking food, to cleaning our homes, to launching a space shuttle.

At Benenden chemistry is taught as a separate subject from the Lower Fifth where we start the Edexcel iGCSE course. For those students continuing on to A Level we follow the OCR B (Salters) course which places an emphasis on teaching chemistry through context.

  • Dan Clinch

    Head of Department


Latin is taught to all Benenden pupils from Fourth (Year 7) to Lower Fifth (Year 9). Alongside study of the language, pupils learn about aspects of Roman life and culture. The top set Lower Fifth pupils study Classical Greek alongside their Latin.

Latin is a popular option for GCSE, and many students continue to study Classical Greek in addition or instead. Half of each GCSE course focuses on linguistic skills, while half comprises the study of short selections of original Latin or Greek literature.

Latin and Classical Greek are both offered at A Level, and again the courses are split evenly between language and literature.

  • Joelle Gilbert

    Head of Department


The Computing Department at Benenden aims to ensure all pupils understand the fundamental principles of computer science, and can analyse problems and develop solutions using a variety of computational approaches.

Students develop skills for the future through a variety of different programming languages and opportunities to make good use of information and communication programs. A self-paced learning approach to studies in Computing is encouraged, allowing pupils work at their own speed with teacher support to enable each pupil to achieve for themselves.

By the end of the course each pupil is expected to have developed the resilience and skills necessary to approach a wide of variety of problems head-on.

Computing is a core subject at Lower School and is then optional at GCSE and A Level.

  • David Challoner

    Head of Department

Creative Technology

Creative Technology encourages students to use a combination of skills and resources to create original artworks in innovative ways.

Learning to use the latest software and technology while still drawing on their individual ideas and creativity, students utilise everything from photography and animation to programmable robots and virtual reality to create highly inventive images, videos and installations.

By its nature, the subject encourages students to cross boundaries between IT and computing skills and more traditional artistic techniques, while the teachers encourage students to develop ideas very much outside the box – testing the capacity of the technology available to bring their visions to life.

  • Sarah Vanderpump

    Head of Department


The Drama Department at Benenden School is professional, vibrant, and innovative. Students are incredibly fortunate at Benenden to have a multi-purpose Theatre, excellent professional sound and lighting technicians, a superbly resourced costume and props department and state of the art sound and lighting equipment.

Drama at Benenden provides a whole host of opportunities at GCSE, A Level and Co-Curricular for individuals to get involved in producing outstanding work. Through our curriculum, students explore a variety of differing theatre styles and explore the work of a range of drama practitioners.

With a combination of professional facilities and passionate teachers lead by a committed Head of Department, the young people of Benenden are allowed the opportunity to develop their skills, broaden their range, and to see just how good they can be.

  • Fiona Lennon

    Head of Department


Economics is offered as a subject in the Sixth Form, specifically designed to help curious students investigate the causes and consequences of a wide variety of economic phenomena.

Microeconomics helps to reveal the motives, behaviours and decision-making processes of consumers and firms and so focuses on the operation of ‘the invisible hand’ of the market. Macroeconomics assesses the performance of whole economies by considering issues such as globalisation and the interdependence of financial markets.

Economics offers a formidable and unique combination in that it is an essay-based discipline which incorporates a considerable degree of mathematical modelling. As a result, economics is particularly well-placed to help develop analytical, numerical and problem-solving skills while at the same time enhancing mental acuity through informed classroom debate and transferable soft skills via long-term, collaborative projects.

  • Carl Fisher

    Head of Department


English Literature and English Language are taught together throughout the Lower School. A balanced curriculum is provided in which every year group will study drama, poetry and prose texts from a wide range of genres, periods and locations.

In the Fifth (Year 10) every student begins the IGCSE English Literature and English Language course which leads to two separate qualifications.

In the Sixth Form the choice of English Literature A Level or English Language and Literature A Level (for which creative writing and the analysis of non-fiction are taught alongside more traditional literary texts) is offered.

Students are encouraged to think critically and analytically about a variety of texts and to develop a love of reading in all its forms.

  • Andrew Schagen

    Head of Department


Initially Geography is taught in topics ranging from River Dynamics and Flooding to Global Development. Fourths (Year 7s) to Lower Fifths (Year 9s) also focus on Global Locations, with a short quiz each week encouraging students to learn and gain vital knowledge about our world and the promotion of global awareness.

When students study GCSE Geography they cover some of the same topics they covered in the Lower School, but to an increased depth. Other topics are new to GCSE such as Glaciation and Resource Management.

Geography is a core subject at Lower School Level and is then offered as an option at GCSE and A Level.

  • Michael Dunton

    Head of Department


Initially, History is taught in blocks of around 330 years and is primarily British centred. The Fourth (Year 7) learn about the period from 1066 to 1400, Upper Fourth (Year 8) from 1400 to 1730 and Lower Fifth (Year 9) from 1666 to 1966.

When students study GCSE History they cover The First World War, Weimar and Nazi Germany, Civil Rights in America and The League of Nations and the United Nations. Those moving on to A Level History look at the Tudors and Russian History, and complete coursework on The Holocaust.

History is a core subject at Lower School level and is then an option at GCSE and A Level.

  • Martin Loy

    Head of Department

History of Art

Students taking History of Art will embark upon an exciting journey of time travel, from the Greeks to the Modernists, stopping off in certain centuries and periods to understand how art and architecture reflected the social, political and economic environment of its time.

Cultural signposts in art history are created by famous artists and architects and these individual works are studied in detail with scope for the student to select their own personal favourites.

Ultimately, it is a captivating study of diverse styles that maintains a balance of research between the classical and modern world and each student will learn how to ‘read’ and interpret art and architecture.

  • Steve Mansfield

    Head of Department


During Fourth (Year 7) and Upper Fourth (Year 8) the Mathematics Department develops pupils’ fluency, their ability to reason mathematically and to solve problems. Initially we consolidate and then extend the skills learnt in Key Stage 2. This will include work on fractions, decimals, powers and roots. Their facility with algebra is developed with increasingly complex ideas introduced; for example, setting up and solving equations, and rearranging formulae.

Students are grouped by ability after a short period of mixed-ability teaching. Although most students work towards the same final linear examinations at the end of Upper Fifth (Year 11), the pace in the lower sets is slightly gentler, while those in the top sets will be offered opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge beyond the IGCSE syllabus.

Mathematics is very popular at A Level with many students going on to study related subjects at university.

  • Susan Gough

    Head of Department

Modern Languages

All Benenden students are encouraged to develop an understanding of the spoken and written form of the chosen language and to communicate with assurance and clarity, using the language as accurately as can reasonably be expected.

Pupils can demonstrate their ability for critical thinking and put their field of study in a broader context, as they learn to transfer meaning from English into the foreign language, or vice versa, with comfort.

All GCSE exams in Spanish, French and Mandarin are AQA. Bilingual and heritage speakers often sit IGCSE exams. Spanish, French and Bilingual/heritage Mandarin sit AQA A Level. Non-native speakers of Mandarin sit Cambridge Pre-U exams.

Post-A Level qualifications (such as the HK exams in Mandarin or the DELE exams in Spanish) are offered. Core Languages taught are Spanish, French and Mandarin. Extra Languages include Arabic, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Russian and Swedish.

  • Suzanne Burton

    Head of Department


Music holds a privileged place at the heart of Benenden with countless opportunities for students of all ages. With a staff of 32 teachers and with more than 400 weekly individual lessons involving over two-thirds of the School, a full class teaching timetable and a wide array of ensembles, there is very much the feel of a ‘school within a school’.

Every girl in the Lower School (Years 7, 8 and 9) receives an hour of class music tuition per week and many go on from here to study Music at GCSE and A Level.

Benenden Symphony Orchestra is complemented by numerous string and wind ensembles. Other groups include the Jazz Band, Concert Band and rock groups, and for singers, there are countless opportunities through the Chapel Choir, Chamber Choir and Lower School Chamber Choir.

  • Edward Whiting

    Head of Department

Philosophy and Religion

RS is a core subject for the Lower School. Fourth (Year 7) to Upper Fourth (Year 8) pupils study some of the major world religions in depth, focusing also on the historical development of the faith.

In Lower Fifth (Year 9) pupils are introduced to Philosophy of Religion, where they critically evaluate the classical theistic arguments for the existence of God. They also study non-theistic world views such as Buddhism and Humanism.

For AQA GCSE Religious Studies, Christian and Muslim beliefs and practices are studied. Students also examine four ethical topics from a range of religious and non-religious perspectives, including medical ethics, crime and punishment and environmental ethics.

For OCR A Level Religious Studies,students sit three papers: Philosophy of Religion, Ethics, and Developments in Christian Thought.

  • Neil Masters

    Head of Department


Taught to the junior years alongside Biology and Chemistry, Physics is offered as a separate science from Year 9 onwards. We follow the Edexcel IGCSE Physics course, which students study to the end of Year 11. Most students take a Physics IGCSE along with separate IGCSEs in Chemistry and Biology.

A small number of students take a dual award Science IGCSE which includes a paper on each of the three sciences but only leads to two IGCSEs grades. The Physics course covers mechanics, electricity, waves, energy, kinetic theory, electromagnetism, radioactivity and astrophysics.

At A Level we follow the OCR Physics A specification. This can lead either to a Physics AS taken after one year or a Physics A level taken at the end of the course. In the first year the students study Mechanics, Materials, Electricity, Waves, and Atomic Physics; in the second year we cover more Mechanics along with Heat, Fields, Nuclear Physics, Medical Physics and Astrophysics.

  • Sarah Stevens

    Head of Department


Politics is offered as a subject in the Sixth Form and the AQA specification is taught at A Level.

Politics students explore both British and American politics in depth before undertaking a comparative study of the two political systems. They also examine a broad range of ideologies from liberalism to anarchism.

The subject is popular at A Level with many students opting to study Politics (or a closely related subject) at university.

  • Alastair Couldrey

    Head of Department


Psychology follows the AQA syllabus which is designed to develop students’ understanding of different approaches in Psychology. Through the study of psychological theories, concepts and research, students develop an understanding of the principles underlying the subject.

During the course students also develop the ability to identify ethical issues, apply Psychology to cultural, social and contemporary situations and use a range of research methods to investigate psychological behaviours and concepts.

The topics covered in the first year include Attachment, Memory, Psychopathology and Social influence while in the second year, students study Gender Development, Forensic Psychology and Schizophrenia.

  • Jenny Cuthbertson

    Head of Department


All girls participate in structured Physical Education throughout their time at Benenden, as part of the curriculum.

In the lower years, the programme is compulsory and covers a wide range of sports and activities including Lacrosse, Netball, Hockey, Dance, Swimming, Squash, Movement Dynamics, Health and Wellbeing, Transferable Skills and Sports Leadership, Rounders, Athletics and Tennis.

From Lower Fifth (Year 9) upwards, there are still mandatory sports and activities, but also options such as Badminton, Squash, Indoor Cycling, Trampolining, Pilates and Tchoukball.

By the Upper School, although participation remains compulsory, each student chooses their sports sessions entirely (although those in squads will be required to attend training in these timeslots). Options are varied and include the above with additions such as Sports Leader, Yoga, TRX, Aqua Aerobics, Functional Core Training, Fitness Training, Zumba and Golf.

  • Ryan Garnsworthy

    Head of Department

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