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Environmental Science


The number of jobs in the environmental science sector is growing by around 5% annually as we recognise the importance of effectively managing man’s interaction with the environment whilst continuing to maintain and improve our quality of life. Career options range from politics to conservation biology, nuclear physics to sustainable building and more.

Environmental science is an interdisciplinary science and the A-level course builds upon knowledge gained across GCSE subjects, drawing together a wide range of skills and encompassing many areas including biology, chemistry, physics, maths and geography. It helps you to understand the Earth's processes, both physical and biological. It allows you to discuss the impact of human activity on the environment and evaluate strategies used to reduce climate change, energy requirements, conservation and agriculture then think about how these often competing needs can be balanced. You will learn how to develop accurate research methods that allow you to collect representative data and you will understand how mathematical analysis is used to validate theories. As part of your studies, you will undertake practical field activities using specialist equipment to collect data for study. Environmental science is a vibrant and exciting subject that enables you to enhance your understanding of the world around you. 

Environmental science will help you to develop a number of transferable skills such as research, analytical and evaluative techniques, as well as drawing together information from several scientific disciplines. It is a new and emerging area of study that is focussed on the development of strategies to overcome global issues that we are currently facing. 

It can lead on to a range of degree level courses or apprenticeships in many careers such as: environmental consultant; environmental engineer; environmental education officer; environmental manager; marine biologist; nature conservation; sustainability consultant; water quality scientist; geoscientist and many others. 

Content

We follow the AQA Environmental Science specification (7447) which consists of 7 modules:

  1. The living environment 
  2. The physical environment 
  3. Energy resources 
  4. Pollution 
  5. Biological resources 
  6. Sustainability 
  7. Research methods 

We begin Year 12 with Research Methods. This unit provides an insight into the practical techniques required to explore environmental science and is almost completely taught by practical field work. It includes ecological techniques that explore both biotic and abiotic factors as well as looking at how modern technology is allowing new opportunities for research. The techniques used in this unit can then be applied throughout the course. 

Next, students go on to look at the living and physical environments. These units provide a basis for understanding our environment and man’s interaction with it. They cover the origin of the Earth and give students an understanding of what drives changes in the atmosphere, oceans and weather and how man impacts on these. This includes the effects of climate change, ozone depletion and the harvesting of raw materials. In the living world we learn about biodiversity and how man is impacting on this, both negatively through exploitation and positively through conservation. We go on to start to look at the more applied units, finishing year 12 with Biological Resources. In that unit we explore issues around agriculture, aquaculture and forestry, understanding how industries can be made more efficient, the impact they have on the natural world (and how this can be reduced) and improvements that could be made. 

The Year 13 course starts off exploring mankind’s dependence on energy. We investigate which industries use energy, where energy is used and how it is produced. We go on to look at how the impact of energy generation can be mitigated, what new technologies are being developed and the impact they may have, including the development of renewables. Next we explore man’s impact on the environment more fully in the Pollution unit by looking at how pollutants can be monitored, controlled or reduced. These could be chemicals, such as greenhouse gases, particulates, pesticides, heavy metals or physical pollutants, such as heat or noise. Year 13 concludes with the sustainability unit. This is a synoptic unit that brings together much of what has been learnt throughout the course, developing ideas such as positive and negative feedback, equilibria, material cycles and the circular economy. 

At CAST we believe that science is a practical subject, and we strive to make lessons as interactive and practical as possible. Our Challenge Projects are what sets us apart from other schools, and you will find there is a lot of crossover of content between these projects and environmental science. We work directly with Cambridge and Anglian Water to survey our local waterways as part of our Challenge Projects. We believe that every lesson counts towards your future regardless of whether it is in the classroom, during Challenge, or in work. 

Year 12

Autumn Term 1: Unit 7 Research methods 

Autumn Term 2: Unit 1 The living environment 

Spring Term 1: Unit 1 The living environment 

Spring Term 2: Unit 2 The physical environment 

Summer Term 1: Unit 2 The physical environment 

Summer Term 2: Unit 5 Biological resources (fishing, aquaculture and forestry) 

Year 13

Autumn Term 1: Unit 5 Biological resources, Unit 3 Energy resources

Autumn Term 2: Unit 4 Pollution

Spring Term 1: Unit 4 Pollution

Spring Term 2: Unit 6 Sustainability & revision

Summer Term: A-level exams

Assessment

Students sit two 3 hour papers at the end of Year 13. The marks are based on subject knowledge (30-35%), application of knowledge (40-45%) and analysis of information (25-30%). In addition, 10% of the final marks will be based upon mathematical skills and a further 15% upon understanding of practical work.