Bolton School Sixth Form Girls

Subject Options Overview

All students embark on a combination of four AS subjects in the Lower Sixth, taken from the list of subjects below.

Once students have indicated their preferences for Lower Sixth courses, we draw up option pools which allow for as many of your different combinations as possible.  The enormous flexibility of this arrangement is illustrated by the fact that there are more than 100 different weekly timetables in operation.

Reformed A Levels

Up until recently, A Levels have been taken in two stages, AS (at the end of the Lower Sixth) and A2 (at the end of the Upper Sixth), and the AS modules have contributed half of the marks of the final A Level.

From September 2017, however, A Level subjects will have been reformed. The most important change is that the AS at the end of the Lower Sixth will no longer count towards the final A Level grade. Many schools and colleges will no longer take AS examinations at the end of the Lower Sixth. In Bolton School, however, the majority of subjects will offer AS (see below).

The following subjects were reformed in the first phase, and have been in place since September 2015: 

  • Sciences: Biology, Chemistry, Physics
  • English: English Language, English Literature
  • Art and Design
  • Economics
  • Business
  • History
  • Psychology
  • Computer Science

In September 2016, the following subjects were reformed: 

  • Modern Foreign Languages
  • Ancient Languages
  • Geography
  • Music
  • PE
  • Drama
  • Religious Studies

From September 2017, all subjects we offer will have been reformed (although some subjects which have previously been taught at Bolton School, most importantly Food Technology, have been ended by the government).

The new AS and A Levels are not intended to be harder than the unreformed exams except that there are no modules or resits; they depend on a final ‘terminal’ exam (either at the end of one year, for AS, or at the end of two years, for A2); there is a reduction in teacher-assessed coursework; and the mathematical content of some A Levels has been beefed up. The Qualifications watchdog, Ofqual, have said that they will ensure that the grade distribution across all subjects remains the same when the reformed A Level comes in – so we do not expect any dramatic shifts in the number of students getting the top grades nationally. Certainly, the AS grades achieved at Bolton School in the summer of 2016 were very promising. We shall, however, only see A2 results for reformed subjects for the first time in the summer 2017.

In A Level sciences the amount of practical work students must do has been increased, but the practicals are largely assessed by exam questions taken at the end of the course. Also in the sciences, equipment manipulation and data-recording skills are now assessed by the teacher and given a pass/fail grade separate from the main A Level grade. Universities may well insist that a student gains a pass in this element as a condition of entry.

Given the changes to A Levels and the fact that AS marks no longer count towards the final A2 grade, we are no longer insisting, as we have done in the past, that all subjects will be offered at AS and that the vast majority of girls will do 4 AS subjects in Year 12, dropping down to 3 A2 subjects in Year 13.

Instead, we shall allow Departments to decide whether or not to offer AS, according to what is best for the students taking their subject and we shall let girls decide how best to manage their course, given their aspirations for University/ career entrance at the end of Year 13.

When you read the description of each subject at the end of this brochure, you will see whether the subject is:

  • Taken at AS by all students;
  • Taken at AS by some or most students;
  • Not taken at AS, ie the course is for two years, leading to A2 only.


"The teaching at Bolton School is inspirational, promoting independent learning and aspires for all students to realise their full potential. I feel I can approach teachers at all times to solve any problems I may have.  Not only are they there for educational queries but for careers advice as well. I can safely say that the high quality of teaching at Bolton School has made the difference to my grades."
Zoe, Year 12

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