At Shiplake, we prepare our youngsters for a world full of uncertainty and opportunity through a rich and varied academic curriculum. We are proud to offer a genuine diversity of subjects and qualifications, which ensures that at every age and stage, all of our pupils study courses that are right for them.

Our team of teachers are not only passionate subject specialists; they are also deeply committed to learning in its broadest sense. Teaching is innovative and tailored to meet the needs of our pupils. Pupil progress is carefully tracked - twice per term pupils receive grades for attainment and effort in both class and prep. We know the support we offer our youngsters allows us to bring out the best in every one of them; class teachers, tutors, Heads of Departments and Housemasters work collaboratively to ensure strong academic progress.

Shiplake’s unique curriculum affords every pupil the opportunity to begin to develop the aptitudes and knowledge required to succeed in the 21st century.

Academic Stages

At each academic stage, the curriculum is adjusted and reviewed to suit the developing needs of pupils. A summary of what pupils and parents should expect is available below, with further subject-specific information available on our academic department pages:

Lower School

Boys in the Lower School follow an exciting and innovative curriculum which was specially designed by the College to allow maximum exploration of subjects and curriculum areas. A solid foundation, based on the National Curriculum, is created for boys to build on when they move up to Year 9.

The Lower School has two mixed-ability forms in each year group, the Olympians and the Titans, with Maths, English and Science sets streamed by ability.

Year 9

The Year 9 curriculum is designed to ensure that all boys are well-prepared to begin their GCSE courses. In view of the varying academic experiences of pupils progressing from our Lower School and arriving from various prep schools, teaching aims to bring everyone up to an even level of understanding.

Throughout Year 9, boys are given guidance to identify their strengths and skills.

Towards the end of the year, we offer wide-ranging support and advice as pupils select the subjects they wish to continue studying in the future. Parents are invited to engage in the process and support boys with their decision-making.

Sixth Form

In the Sixth Form, most students choose to pursue four subjects. There are numerous A Level subjects on offer, but for pupils who prefer to apply their learning in more practical situations, there are also a handful of BTEC courses available.

Mindful of the considerable academic leap required to step up from GCSE level, we aim to provide an extremely supportive learning environment for Year 12 pupils. To this end, study periods during the academic day are supervised to help the development of independent learning which can be relied on in Year 13 when pupils have more free time to manage their work load.

At the end of Year 12, all pupils will have acquired a certain number of UCAS points for university entry. This total provides the student and the universities with an important indicator of academic potential and suitability for particular degree courses.

In Year 13, some pupils choose to carry on with all four courses while others may opt to drop one and focus on a reduced programme in Year 13. This is often beneficial as it allows more time to be allocated to each subject, enhancing their chances of achieving higher overall grades. 

Further information about the subject options available in the Sixth Form can be found in the latest Sixth Form Options Guide, available to download below.

2018-2020 Sixth Form Options Guide

Pupils joining Year 12 in September 2018 will study the PULSE programme, which stands for personal understanding, learning skills and enrichment. Integrated as part of the Year 12 academic timetable, this programme has been developed in order to facilitate the academic and personal core skills in Sixth Form pupils. Pupils will study either an Extended Project Qualification, or a Certificate of Personal Effectiveness, in weekly lessons. Further information is below.

PULSE Information

The current Sixth Form subject blocks for 2017-2019 are below. Please note that sets with very small numbers will probably not run.

Option A
(6 lessons per week)
Option B
(6 lessons per week)
Option C
(6 lessons per week)
Option D
(6 lessons per week)
Extension Option
(3 lessons per week)
Biology Art Business BTEC Biology Certificate of Personal Effectiveness
Business BTEC Business BTEC Computing French Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)
Chemistry Chemistry Design & Technology Geography Year 12 Lecture
Economics Further Mathematics Drama and Theatre Studies History GCSE English Re-sit
English Music BTEC Economics Learning Development GCSE Maths Re-sit
Geography Photography Engineering Tech Level Mathematics  
Learning Development Physics History Religious Studies  
Media Psychology Photography Travel and Tourism BTEC  
Psychology Sport BTEC Spanish    
    Sport BTEC    

As an independent school we are not bound to follow the National Curriculum, but we believe that the balance it provides is suitable for our pupils. Beyond the core subjects of English, Mathematics and Science, boys must select at least four subjects. We agree with the prescriptions of the National Curriculum that pupils should try to study a humanity and a practical or creative subject. Additionally, boys should seriously consider taking a foreign language, as this is highly valued by more prestigious universities.

Subject choices should be guided by ability, interest and career aspirations, although the only consideration in regard to career plans at this stage is not to give up subjects which might be required later.

Pupils in the Core Learning Development group in Year 9 will continue to receive this support, which effectively takes the place of an option subject.

Further information about the options available to pupils at GCSE can be found in the latest GCSE Options Guide, available to download below:

2018-2020 GCSE Options Guide

Year 11 Mock Exam Revision Guide (January 2018)

15 subject options offered at GCSE
26 subject options offered in the Sixth Form
Freddie has flourished academically beyond our dreams in Shiplake's care; Shiplake has certainly delivered on its aims.
Mrs Lang - Former Parent