As an integral part of the RBAI Science Department, the aims of the Biology department are common to the Science subjects:

  1. To stimulate and maintain student curiosity, interest and enjoyment in science.
  2. To enable students to be familiar with a body of scientific knowledge, principles and vocabulary.
  3. To enable students to see science in the context of a wider body of knowledge and skills, with emphasis on how these skills and the knowledge base can prepare them for a wide range of careers.
  4. To enable students to understand and use scientific method, with safety being a major consideration.
  5. To enable students to develop a range of personal skills such as politeness, perseverance, initiative and independence.
  6. To enable students to cooperate and negotiate with others and thus work as an effective part of a team.
  7. To employ teaching methods and resources which allow all students irrespective of their academic ability, to have equal access to science and to experience success and enjoyment in their science work.
  8. To develop an awareness in students of the implications of science (past and present) for the individual, the economy, the community and the environment.
  9. To allow students to develop informed opinions and to be able to support them by reasonable arguments.

There are five Biology teachers in the RBAI Science Department:

  • Mr G. Russell (Head of Biology)

  • Mrs J. Muise (Vice Principal)

  • Mr G. Hamilton

  • Mr D. Scott (Senior Housemaster of Pirrie House)

  • Mrs K. Parks

In addition we have one Biology technician, Mr B. Johnston.

The accommodation in the Biology department is situated on the upper floors of the C block. It consists of four classrooms (C12, C13, C15 and C16) which are well resourced to Advanced Level. Each classroom is equipped with an interactive whiteboard and each is connected to the school C2K network.


C16 on Open Day 



GCSE & A-level Specifications

Useful Animations 1 (A-level & GCSE)

Useful Animations 2 (A-level & GCSE)

A-level & GCSE Notes

A-level notes 


The Biology Department has enjoyed participating in many activities outside of the curriculum.  We have had an increased number of boys taking part in a wide variety of competitions and projects, in collaboration with external organisations such as Sentinus and Queen’s University.  Some highlights from the year are given below.

RBAI Compete in the National Biology Olympiad

Many congratulations to Biologists in the Sixth Form who competed in the Nationsl Biology Olympiad. In particular, well done to Ben Connolly, Matthew Shane and George Robinson who were commended for their efforts; and Peter Morrison who gained a Silver medal in the competition.

Biology Olympiad 2017 resize

 (From left to right – Matthew Shane, Peter Morrison and George Robinson with their certificates.)


For more information regarding competitions run by the Society of Biology, please visit

Nuffield Bursary Scheme

Congratulations to Samuel Millar of the Sixth Form who completed a six week long research project with the RSPB in the summer. 

Samuel was able to complete the project through funding from the Nuffield Bursary Scheme which he was awarded with at the end of last year.  Working alongside his mentor Karen Sheil at RSPB and a student from Glenlola Collegiate, Samuel was involved in research of Terns at Belfast Lough Nature Reserve entitled ‘Is provisioning sufficient to support a productive colony of common and arctic terns at Belfast Lough RSPB Reserve?’  His research was exemplary and his project was completed to an excellent calibre.  The RSPB was very impressed with the contribution Samuel made to their work on Terns.

Samuel’s success was celebrated at an Open Evening for students and their guests at the Whitla Hall, Queen’s University where he was presented with his CREST Gold Award.

sam m

Samuel Millar with Warden Chris Sturgeon and Glenlola student Hannah Geary at the Nature Reserve.

For more information on the Nuffield Bursary Scheme, please visit and follow the links for the Nuffield STEM Research Placement.

Some others projects we have been involved in include:

- International Women’s Day Poster Competition organised by Queen’s University, Belfast.

- Bioscience Olympiad, aimed to develop bioscience-oriented “academic thinking” and a creative approach to problem solving with Senior pupils.

Pupils in the department have represented the school brilliantly through competitions and projects they have been involved in, and we are looking forward to competing in other challenges that come our way.

If you are interested in getting involved in any of the activities on offer, please see any member of the department, or consult the Science Notice boards.

Year 11 Students Attend Lecture On Invasive Species!

On 23rd May, members of the Year 11 visited the Ulster Museum for a very informative talk given by Professor Jamie Dick on Invasive Species.

Professor Dick discussed the lifestyles and dangers of invasive creatures - looking at how such creatures will invade native species and make it their own.  The pupils particularly enjoyed learning about the lifestyle and habits of Killer Shrimps and the Muntjac Deer in Northern Ireland, and the effects the animals have on native wildlife. 

The boys really enjoyed the lecture.  Jack Greene commented that, ‘the lecture has left me with a lot of information about invasive species and has influenced me by giving me a whole insight life.  I have also been considering Biology A Level and this talk encouraged me, making me realise how fun it could be.’

GCSE Biologists Compete in Biology Challenge

Biology Challenge 2

On Thursday, members of Year 11 and 12 took part in the Biology Challenge, organised by the Royal Society of Biology.  The challenge is an excellent opportunity for pupils to gain recognition for their Biological skills and effort.  The questions were set on topics covered in class, as well as rewarding those students whose knowledge of the subject has been increased by reading books and magazines, watching natural history programmes and taking notice of the news media for items of biological interest.

The boys who took part included, Nick Irvine, Dylan Nagar, Daniel Boomer, Hugo Ellerby, Patrick Stafford, Edward Tang, Keelan Sloan, Yassen Gumaa and Mark Austin.  Very well done to all who competed, and we wish them luck as they await their results!


Key Stage 3

Year 8

Biology is taught as part of General Science. There are eight Year 8 classes with each class taught General Science four periods per week by two teachers. All notes are in the form of booklets which allow the pupils to be introduced to all three Sciences in a stimulating and productive sequence. Continuous assessment in the form of Topic Tests is used for formative and summative purposes. There is also an end of year examination.  All end of session tests and end of year exam are used to help inform decisions regarding GCSE subject choices at the end of Year 10.

Topics studied include:

  • What is Biology?
  • Biodiversity
  • Organs of the body
  • Nutrition & Food tests
  • Healthy Brain & Sense organs

Year 9

There are eight Year 9 classes with each class is taught for four periods per week by two teachers with all three Sciences covered. Assessment is similar to that in Year 8.

Topics studied include:

  • Respiration
  • Energy content of foods
  • Respiratory system
  • Digestive system
  • Circulatory system
  • Reproductive system
  • Field trip in cooperation with Geography department

Year 10

There are eight Year 10 classes. Pupils have two periods of Biology per week. Pupils are tested on all their Key Stage 3 work in the Autumn Term to help inform decisions regarding GCSE subject choices. They are also assessed in the Spring term, as well as the end of year examination in the Summer term.

The marks in all assessments allow a final summative evaluation of each pupil.

Topics studied include:

  • Health
  • Cells
  • Genetics
  • Plant structure & transport
  • Plant reproduction
  • Practice Controlled Assessment Task (in preparation for GCSE)

year 10 playing cells  living things web

Year 10 playing Cells & Living Things 'Trumps'

year 10 - extracting dna from pea seeds web1

Year 10 - Extracting DNA from pea seeds



Pupils are taught Biology by subject specialists and are timetabled for 4 periods of Biology per week. We deliver CCEA's Revised GCSE Biology Specification. Details can be found at

GCSE Biology Specification at a Glance

Content Assessment Weighting Availability
Unit 1: Cells, Living Processes and Biodiversity An externally assessed written examination consisting of a number of compulsory structured questions that provide opportunities for short answers,extended writing and calculations Foundation Tier: 1 hour 15 mins Higher Tier: 1 hour 30 mins  35% Every Summer (beginning in 2012)
Unit 2: Body Systems, Genetics, Microorganisms and Health An externally assessed written examination consisting of a number of compulsory structured questions that provide opportunities for short answers, extended writing and calculations Foundation Tier: 1 hour 30 mins Higher Tier: 1 hour 45 mins  40% Every Summer (beginning in 2013)
Unit 3: Practical Skills Controlled assessment Students complete one controlled assessment task froma choice of two. Teachers mark the task and we moderate the results.  25% From September (beginning in 2011)(submitted every May beginning 2013)

At least 40 percent of the assessment (based on unit weightings) must be taken at the end of the course as terminal assessment.


N.B. Due to the amount of Biochemistry covered during the course, pupils wishing to study Biology at A-level are expected to have studied Chemistry to a reasonable standard at GCSE level.

There are currently three classes in both Year 13 (Lower Sixth) and Year 14 (Upper Sixth). Pupils follow the CCEA GCE Specification in Biology.

The CCEA specification is designed to promote continuity, coherence and progression within the study of Biology. The A Level award provides a basis for the further study, at tertiary level, of Biology and related courses. For those progressing directly into employment, an AS or A Level award is relevant not only in the fields of science, engineering and medicine, but also to areas of commerce and the public service in which problem-solving and practical skills are valued. The specification helps to provide an understanding of how biological developments affect the environment. The specification also contributes towards an understanding of ethical and cultural issues, thus adding to a full and rounded education.

The full Advanced GCE comprises the AS level (studied during Lower Sixth) and the second half of the Advanced GCE course referred to as A2 (studied during Upper Sixth).  Although the AS can be taken as a “stand-alone” qualification without progression to A2, the majority of the pupils who complete AS Biology at RBAI continue with their Biology studies to A2 level.

The assessment units can be summarised as follows:




AS 1: Molecules and Cells

1 hour 30 minutes written examination, externally assessed

40% of AS 20% of A Level

AS 2: Organisms and Biodiversity

1 hour 30 minutes written examination, externally assessed

40% of AS 20% of A Level

AS 3: Assessment of Practical Skills in AS Biology

Internal practical assessment

20% of AS 10% of A Level

A2 1: Physiology and Ecosystems

2 hour written examination, externally assessed

40% of A2 20% of A Level

A2 2: Biochemistry, Genetics and Evolutionary Trends

2 hour written examination, externally assessed

40% of A2 20% of A Level

A2 3: Assessment of Investigational and Practical Skills in Biology

Internal practical assessment

20% of A2 10% of A Level

The Advanced GCE award is based on aggregation of the marks from the AS (50%)and the A2 (50%).From 2010, an A* will be awarded to the candidates who attain an overall grade A in the qualification and an aggregate of at least 90% of the uniform marks across the A2 units.

Internal assessments are completed in accordance with the CCEA GCE Specification for Biology:


Each candidate must be able to apply a wide range of practical, intellectual and communication skills in the context of a practical exercise. Coursework builds on assessment techniques used at GCSE.  The practical tasks to be assessed at AS Level are therefore technically and intellectually more demanding, requiring a higher level of technical expertise and intellectual ability. Two practical tasks are assessed and made available for external moderation.Pupils will be assessed in the following areas:

  • Implementing a sequence of instructions
  • Recording and communicating in an appropriate graphical form
  • Interpretation of the results
  • Evaluation of the experimental design of the practical task 

l6 at exploris web

L6 at Exploris

L6 field trip to Portaferry

Every year boys and staff embark on a field trip to Portaferry as part of their AS Biology studies. Specifically, the boys carry out a transect and shore profile of a rocky shore near Lee's Wreck. The trip also includes a guided tour of the Exploris Aquarium.


There is a further assessment where students’ problem solving/investigational skills are demonstrated by means of a practical investigation that is planned, implemented, analysed and interpreted by the candidate working independently with minimal guidance. This investigation is centred around the testing of a simple scientific hypothesis derived from the student's own biological knowledge or research. Practical investigations assess the following actions:

  • Al Developing a hypothesis using biological knowledge
  • A2 Planning a procedure to test the hypothesis
  • A3 Planning for analysis
  • B1 Implementing a procedure
  • B2 Recording and communicating in the form of a table
  • C1 Statistical analysis (or graphical analysis)
  • C2 Interpretation of the results
  • C3 Evaluation of the practical procedures