Our Lady's Abingdon - Senior School Curriculum

Senior School Curriculum

Wide Curriculum

OLA offers a wide Senior School curriculum which provides a fantastic range of academic and other experiences for pupils. In keeping with our Mission Statement, we recognise that every pupil has different talents and we wish to provide opportunities to develop these; whatever they may be.

Accordingly, the curriculum covers creative, linguistic, mathematical, physical, religious, scientific and technological areas, all of which are further supported by extra-curricular activities, clubs or visits. The essential skills of speaking, listening, literacy and numeracy are developed not only in English and Mathematics, but also in other lessons across the curriculum.

You can find out more about the curriculum for each subject in our Senior School including the GCSE curriculum using the subject buttons on this page.


Download the GCSE Options 2024-2026 Booklet here


School Day
One hour long lessons to maximise learning with a 2-week timetable to increase flexibility in the curriculum. The School day starts at 8.30am and end at 4.00pm.
A 2-week timetable enables us to maintain a broad and deep curriculum. We appreciate that pupils will need to remember lessons that may fall on different days during week A and B. Regular reminders will occur in assemblies and the A and B weeks will be clearly shown in pupil planners, on the school website, school portals, digital screens and noticeboards around the school.

We wish for all pupils to fulfil their potential, whatever their level of ability, and they will be supported in making the most of the opportunities available.  We are developing our Academic Enrichment which will enable all pupils to discover and explore their intellectual curiosities. In addition, the extensive enrichment opportunities available will allow us to stretch and challenge the most able, and empower their university and career decision-making.  We are introducing alternative pathways into our curriculum so that we can cater for all pupils:

  • BTEC PE, Film and Media in OLA 6th. These are more accessible and vocational course than many A-Levels, and is accepted as equivalent to one A-level by all UK universities.
  • Pupils are able to study either Separate Sciences or Combined Science at GCSE. Teachers will recommend the most appropriate course.
  • French and Spanish are no longer compulsory subjects at GCSE. We value the study of languages, and we would recommend that pupils choose a broad and balanced set of subjects for GCSE, including a language, a creative subject and one of the humanities. However, the study of French or Spanish is not always appropriate for some pupils and, in these cases, they can opt for another subject.

PSHE Programme

Human and social development is promoted through the PSHE programme and also through the religious side of school life, both of which reflect the aims and ethos of the school, and both of which assist pupils to develop a personal moral or spiritual basis for their lives.

Careers Guidance

A programme of careers guidance is in place, which makes pupils aware of the continuing breadth of opportunities available to them once they’ve finished school and prepares them to gain access to the ones they choose.

Teaching and Learning

We are a small school with an excellent teacher to pupil ratio. We pride ourselves on the individual relationship we have with each pupil, which enables us to really know each child and help them meet their potential.

So how do we do that?

Understanding each child’s potential

At OLA we work with aptitude tests, ongoing assessment and a good working knowledge of our pupils to stretch each one at the appropriate level. Instead of counting how many A* grades we get we look at how each pupil has progressed against their baseline expectations on entry.

Teaching in ability sets

Maths, English and Science are taught in ability sets, which are adjusted each year as pupils develop at different rates. Entrance exams will only determine where a child starts and does not define the class they are in for their whole school journey.

Track each child’s progress effectively

Understanding each pupil’s individual learning journey is critical. At OLA the subject teachers work with Form Tutors and Heads of Section to provide comprehensive support and guidance for pupils as they progress through the school.

Homework is an important part of learning as this is when the pupil can follow up classroom teaching with their own independent work, to see if they have really understood. Every child will have a homework schedule to ensure the homework load is reasonable and spread out over a week. Homework is marked and pupils get feedback so they understand where they need to improve.

Teachers will also check how well pupils understand the work and their progress in the subject with regular topic tests or by marking a significant piece of work. The marks for these are shared with parents via our Parent Portal so parents are seeing objective information regularly.

Every pupil also has a school exam in each subject in the summer term. In some subjects, this will contribute to, but not be the sole criteria for, decisions on setting for the following year.

Pastoral care to support each child’s development and progress

Form Tutors and Heads of Section play an important part in the holistic oversight of how a pupil is doing in school. OLA’s pastoral care is outstanding and ensures that we get the balance of expectation and challenge versus care and support right for each pupil.

Learning support to meet specific needs

Pupils who find they need a little more support with their studies can be timetabled for additional one‑to‑one lessons with a Learning Support teacher. Pupils can access this support for a short period to help with transition to Secondary School or longer term if that is the requirement. Specific support for learning needs such as dyslexia is provided by our very well qualified team of teachers, as well as specific Maths support lessons provided by a Maths teacher.

Our Learning Support Department also ensure that pupils get any exam entitlements they are due, such as extra time.

Stretching and challenging more able pupils

As well as our very talented Music, Art, Drama, Sport and Academic Scholars, we also recognise ‘More Able’ pupils who have missed out on scholarships. Provisions for these pupils include a programme of McAuley Lectures on stimulating topics, events run within subjects and across the curriculum. In return, scholars and more able pupils contribute to school events for their particular skill. We track scholars to make sure they are living up to expectation and also so we make sure they reach their potential.