English & Humanities

Classical Civilisation

The A-Level Classical Civilisation course involves the study of the life and literature of Ancient Greek and Roman culture. It covers 4 primary areas - Greek Epic, Roman Society and Thought, Comic Drama in the Ancient World and Virgil and the World of the Hero.

All topics are based on the study of primary evidence and there is NO requirement for prior knowledge of the ancient world or classical languages.  It is recommended that candidates have attained GCSE grade B in English Literature or History.  There is no coursework required.

Classical Civilisation students will acquire and develop skills which are demanded by both universities and employers such as analysis, independent research, interpretation, critical thinking as well as the ability to produce evaluative writing.

Course Aims

  • Acquire, through studying a range of appropriate sources, knowledge and understanding of selected aspects of classical world.
  • Develop an awareness of the similarities and differences between classical and later times.
  • Be able to apply analytical and evaluative skills at an appropriate level.


  • Homer’s Odyssey and Society(F382) - A study of Homer’s Odyssey including the analysis of content, structure, literary techniques and the society and values it represents.
  • Roman Society and Thought(F383) - The Roman writers include Horace, Petronius, Pliny and Juvenal, who provide an effective commentary on life and society under the Emperors, giving an opportunity for comparisons with contemporary media.


  • Comic Drama in the Ancient World(F389) - This topic studies a selection of plays by Aristophanes, Menander and Plautus, giving a fascination insight into the political, social and religious aspects of the times as reflected through humour.
  • Virgil and the World of the HeroF(F390) - Virgil’s Aeneid and Homer’s Iliad are studied, focusing on the literary aspects of both epic poems as well as the historical, social, political and cultural content.

Examination Board - OCR

Final Assessment:
Two x 1-5 hour examination paper for AS
Two x 2 hour examination paper for A2


Key Stage 3 (Years 7-8)

Key Stage 3 in English is aimed at extending students' abilities in the three main language skill areas:

  • Oracy: Students are encouraged to develop their capacity to express themselves effectively and develop their individual spoken voice.
  • Reading: Students develop the ability to read, understand and respond to all types of writing.
  • Writing: Students learn to communicate effectively in written language, matching style to audience and purpose, spelling accurately and presenting work clearly.

Regular visits to the library encourage wide, personal reading for pleasure.

Year 9

The curriculum provides opportunities for enrichment and preparation for the GCSE courses, which the students commence in Year 10. The same three main language skill areas are covered.

Modules include:

  • 'Much Ado About Nothing'
  • War Poetry
  • 'Of Mice and Men'
  • An oracy unit engaging with ideas about crime and punishment

These schemes of work will encourage the girls to become independent and build up crucial skills for GCSE English and English Literature, such as essay writing, effective note taking and analysis of a range of texts.

Key Stage 4

Girls in Year 10 and 11 will study the new AQA specifications for GCSE English Language and English Literature. 

This combination of qualifications offers excellent scope for girls to extend their abilities in reading, writing and speaking and listening, whilst studying an enriching and broad range of texts.

Key Stage 5

Within the sixth form, the English Department runs a two-year A2 course in English Literature, following the AQA Literature A specifications. From September 2017, students will also have the opportunity to study the combined AQA English Language and Literature qualification. In both, students will study a range if literary texts and develop the ability to engage with writers’ ideas and the ways in which they convey them, using a number of different approaches. 


Geography teaching in the school aims to develop the students’ understanding of the world around them.  The courses studied encompass both human and physical geography and enable students to consider interactions between the two.  Key geographical skills are developed over the key stages including, map skills, interpretation of resources such as aerial photos, diagrams and graphs, considering different people's opinions and presenting arguments as well as applying ideas to different situations.

Key Stage 3

In the lower school, at Key Stage 3, students cover a variety of topics during their 2 weekly lessons to help them to develop their skills.  Topics covered are varied and include a school based enquiry, tectonic hazards, population, weather and water, settlement and ecosystems.

Key Stage 4

At Key Stage 4, students follow the AQA Spec B GCSE course where they have 2 exams at the end of Year 11 and will also complete a controlled assessment unit. Students have a field trip day as part of the course to Studland Bay in Dorset. They will develop their exam technique and how to apply their knowledge throughout the course. Units studied include the coastal and urban environments, living with hazards and global tourism. Each of the units covers both human and physical elements of geography.

Key Stage 5

In the sixth form students further develop geographical skills and extend their knowledge, including topics such as rivers, cold environment, population and health at AS. Fieldwork skills are developed through a residential trip - usually to Wales.

The video below was produced by Year 8 students as part of their work on coral reefs: 

Government & Politics

This subject, which is offered at Key Stage 5, covers British Politics for AS and American Politics for A2. Studies focus on contemporary politics, which students use in order to develop skills of analysis and evaluation as well as knowledge and understanding of the subject.

Year 12

In Unit 1(People & Politics), there are four areas of study:

  • Democracy
  • Elections
  • Political Parties
  • Pressue Groups

In Unit 2 (Governing the UK), there are a further four topics to explore:

  • The UK Constitution
  • Parliament
  • The Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Judges and Civil Liberties

Year 13

The focus switches to American politics. In Unit 3 (Representative Processes in the USA), students study:

  • Elections and Voting
  • Political Parties
  • Pressure Groups
  • Racial and Ethnic Politics

In Unit 4 (Governing the USA), there are four topic areas: –

  • The US Constitution
  • The Supreme Court
  • Congress
  • The Presidency


History at DGS aims to instill the understanding that everyone’s lives are affected by the past, from family history to being aware of the national and world environment in which we live. We have a passion for developing girls’ independent thinking and encouraging the analysis and evaluation of others’ arguments and opinions. We believe that these skills can be applied not merely to History, but to our everyday life and work. As such, we expose our pupils to a wide range of teaching methods and resources, from the traditional reading of historical sources to drama, discussion, and the use of pictures, film and art (in which the department is particularly strong). One Year 9 student has said 'History skills we learn can be applied in many ways and they help us to think clearly and logically, to question what we read and most importantly, to think for ourselves.'

Key Stage 3

Key Stage 3 aims to develop pupils’ confidence to question, investigate and justify ideas. As such, we focus our teaching around a series of investigations into British History through the past millennium, each based around one of the history thinking skills of causation (why events happened), interpretation (what people have thought about History), evidential enquiry (how we discover about the past and the problems of investigation), significance (why people or events are judged important) and change over time. Pupils are encouraged to develop their own conclusions about the past, from deciding whether the Black Death was a ‘bad thing’ in Medieval Britain, to whether the Suffragette Emily Davison intended to kill herself in protest at the lack of votes for women.

Key Stage 4

In Year 9 our pupils follow a unique course entitled ‘World Revolutions’. The course aims to consolidate and enhance skills founded in Key Stage 3 and prepare our pupils for the rigours of GCSE History. Pupils study four case studies, covering a national revolution (the Indian Independence Movement c.1800-1947), a class revolution (the French Revolution and Terror), a racial revolution (Apartheid and Equality in South Africa, 1948-1994) and an ideological revolution (the Communist Revolution in Russia, 1917-1941). From September 2016, our Year 10 and 11 students will be following the AQA GCSE course. The units studied will be Germany 1890 - 1945; Conflict and tension 1914 - 18; Britain - health and the people c.1000 – the present day; Elizabethan England 1568 - 1603. At Key Stage 4 there is a greater focus on written communication as well as the use of evidence, and pupils learn how to argue, evaluate and explain clearly. History remains a popular GCSE, as it develops skills that are useful in such careers as the media, government and administration, social work, education and law, amongst others.

Key Stage 5

We run one of two distinctive A Level courses as part of Didcot Sixth Form College, and pupils opting to continue to A Level have the choice of either course (the skills remain the same whichever course is chosen, the only difference being the content of study). 

We offer the Edexcel A Level History course. In Year 12, students will study two units – Unit 1 Russia 1917-91: from Lenin to Yeltsin and Unit 2 Mao’s China 1949-76. Then in Year 13 students will focus on British History with a unit entitled ‘Protest, agitation and parliamentary reform in Britain c.1780-1928. There will also be a coursework unit in Year 13 investigating the historical controversies arising from the study of the New Deal period in America, 1933-1941.

Personal Development & Citizenship

PD lessons comprise Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE), Citizenship, Careers and some Work Related Learning (WRL) topics, including preparing the girls to make the most of their Work Experience.

All pupils in Years 7-11 receive 1hour a week of Personal Development in mixed ability groups.

Key Stage 3 focuses on issues including:

  • First Aid
  • Emotional Health
  • Human Rights & Responsibilities
  • Smoking & Alcohol

Key Stage 4 focuses on issues including:

  • Illegal Drugs
  • Careers
  • Personal Finance
  • E-Safety

GCSE Citizenship is concerned with teaching and learning about issues that affect us, within our local communities, the UK and the wider world, such as human rights. Citizenship enables pupils to put their learning into practice by taking action on issues of concern through school and community based activities and play an active part as members of society.

Religious Education

At DGS, we believe that the study of religion and beliefs should be interesting, enjoyable and thought-provoking.  We aim to increase awareness of the spiritual dimension of existence, and to encourage students of all ages to explore their own thoughts and develop a mature response to the views of others.

Our emphasis is on tolerance and sensitivity.  We encourage students to develop skills of analysis, expression, thinking, empathy, communication, listening, co-operation, understanding and evaluation.  All of our courses are accessible to believers and non-believers alike and we use a variety of teaching and learning activities, including: discussion; group work; case studies; questionnaires; research; art work; reflection; and the development of thinking and listening skills.

RE is delivered in accordance with the aims and attitudes outlined in the Oxfordshire Agreed Syllabus for RE, with opportunities to Learn About and Learn From Religion provided for all students, and commitment to the development of self-awareness, respect for all, open-mindedness, and appreciation and wonder.  During their RE lessons students are encouraged:

  • To acquire knowledge and understanding of the beliefs and practices of Christianity and other World Religions.
  • To be aware of and respond to life experiences and the questions they raise.
  • To evaluate the significance of religious concepts, beliefs and practices through an ability to express personal opinions based on the use of appropriate evidence and argument.
  • To develop tolerance and sensitivity towards the beliefs of other people; and
  • To appreciate the diversity of and the opportunities afforded by living within Britain's multicultural society.

Our Key Stage 3 course is designed to give students insight into the nature of religion and the ways in which it motivates people both individually and as part of a community. To this end, students study the following modules:

  • Why do we study RE?
  • What do people believe about God?
  • What would a Church for all Christians be like? (key religion: Christianity)
  • Why is worship important to believers? (key religions: Islam and Sikhism)
  • Is it right to eat animals?
  • Why is Gotama Buddha so special for Buddhists? (key religion: Buddhism)
  • How should we treat the environment?
  • Is there an afterlife?

(Note: please assume that all religions will feature in a topic at some point unless a key religion is identified.)

We offer GCSE Religious Studies at KS4.  Students follow the OCR Religious Studies B Philosophy and Applied Ethics (full) course, with opportunities to study more than one religion. The focus is upon ethical and philosophical questions, and the exploration of a range of religious and secular responses to these issues. Eight areas are covered, including Belief about Deity, Good and Evil, Religion and Medical Ethics, and Religion and Equality.

Core (non GCSE) KS4 are taught via Super Learning Days, when the usual timetable is suspended and students are given opportunities to challenge prejudice, stereotypes and assumptions in an immediate way that is not always possible inside the classroom. Each of these days affords students the opportunity to learn about and from religion via engagement with the local, wider and world community. For example, World Religions Day takes students out into the local community to visit Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh places of worship, to engage with adherents of these World Religions and to grapple with fundamental questions about belief and its practise in the modern world.

A Level is available as an option at KS5. AS and A2 GCE RS students follow the OCR syllabus and study two main areas:

  • 'Philosophy of Religion' (units covered include: Ancient Greek and Biblical Influences upon the Philosophy of Religion; Classic Arguments about the Existence of God; Religion and Science; Miracles; and Life After Death).
  • 'Islam' (units studied include: Beliefs; Practices; Differences within the Muslim Community; the Concept of Jihad; and Women in Islam).
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