“To be surprised, to wonder, is to begin to understand.” José Ortega y Gasset
Central to any school is the vibrancy and diversity of its academic life. Alton Convent School teaches the full range of disciplines delivered by subject specialists and maintains high levels of attainment for all. Small classes foster a confident and independent attitude, ensuring children are educated, cultured and have a zest for learning.
In the first three years of the Senior School pupils follow a common curriculum, including modern languages, Latin and individual sciences.
In year 10 pupils will follow a traditional core curriculum fulfilling the requirements of the English Baccalaureate – English, English Literature, mathematics, religious education, geography or history, a modern or ancient language and science.
In science pupils will start biology, chemistry and physics. Each of these subjects is divided into Core, Additional and Extended. If your daughter has an aptitude for mathematics she will be encouraged to study Core, Additional and Extended Science. Other pupils will study Core and Additional Science.
In addition to this extension of Core subjects pupils will be able to choose from a range of other subjects.
Pupils maintain a consistent and very high standard of GCSE examination results in all subjects.
“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” Cecil Beaton
Our broad and imaginative approach in the studio and extensive enrichment programmes ensure that no pupil is untouched by the creative arts. Pupils have every opportunity to be brave and challenged in music, art and drama. Last year both Prep and Senior Schools received individually the Gold Arts Mark Award from the Arts Council of Great Britain, endorsing the diversity and quality of our artistic and creative teaching and learning.
“We are the music makers, We are the dreamers of dreams….” Arthur Shaughnessy
Performance music permeates school life. A highlight of the school year for all ages is our transformation of a rather utilitarian sports hall into a haven of festive greenery, candlelight, harmony and worship as the school community shares the annual Carol Services.
Chamber and teatime concerts, music in the park, charitable fundraising events, as well as the formal spring concert ensure that all our pupils may develop their creative talents and gain confidence through performance.
The Summer Festival of Arts is a feast of creative activity, with dance, ensembles, choirs, orchestras, soloists, jazz band, and staff performers providing entertainment whilst parents and friends of the school take the opportunity to tour the annual art and photography exhibition. The festival culminates in a prom-like finale, celebrating the creative achievements of the year.
We are indebted to a band of specialist peripatetic instrumental and dance teachers who support the Directors of Music in both Prep and Senior Schools and who deliver individual and group lessons to more than half of all our pupils.
Music 2012-13 GCSE Information
“It took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them”
Picasso, on visiting an exhibition of drawings by children
Art is one of the most popular subjects in school. In recent years students have gained full marks at A-level and received national recognition from exam boards. Pupils experiment with a wide range of media: collage, ceramics, textiles, photography and computer graphics.
The school walls become fascinating portfolios for pupils’ work. Art attacks in snow, at the beach and in forests provide stimulus for younger minds while the Pompidou Centre and Tate Modern force older students to challenge preconceptions.
Senior School visits to the Clothes Show provide research opportunities for the annual senior Catwalk Show with its unconventional themes and emphasis on reusable materials. Creative Arts Week in the Prep School is another brilliant way to stretch young imaginations.
Art 2010 – 2012 GCSE Information
Photography GCSE Information
“It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance and I know of no substitute for the force and beauty of its process.” Henry James
Drama is at the heart of school life with regular school productions from “Daisy pulls it off” to ‘Midsummer Nights Dream’ providing opportunities for pupils to be involved in all aspects of stagecraft, acting, improvisation, singing, dance, lighting, sound production, direction, set, makeup…
Staff performances are slightly less polished, if enthusiastically received, in the annual staff pantomime!
Drama 2012-13 GCSE Information
The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” Vince Lombardi
Senior School girls play traditional team and individual sports as well as volleyball, basketball and unihoc. Expectations are high with pupils regularly representing their school, county, and in some cases, their country at a host of sports including cross country and athletics.
We have recently introduced overseas tours as well.
House matches, staff/student challenges, and inter-school fixtures mean most students can become team members and enjoy competitive sport at some level. There is plenty of chance to take part, even if your daughter won’t make the first team.
Equestrian sport is strong at Alton Convent and our teams and individual riders regularly celebrate regional and national success in show jumping and eventing.
Older students, and some staff, enjoy our Multi Gym supervised by a qualified personal trainer.
The English Department
Pupils say they find English lessons at Alton Convent enjoyable and challenging. In Years 7, 8 and 9 classes study a variety of texts such as Roald Dahl’s autobiography ‘Boy’, ‘Animal Farm’ or ‘Private Peaceful’, as well as Shakespeare. We visit the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park in Year 8, while in Year 9 students edit and produce impressive magazines. We study a range of classic and contemporary poetry, and encourage students to develop their own writing for both creative and analytic purposes.
The success of the GCSE courses in both English Language and English Literature is demonstrated not just through the outstanding results achieved, but also through the enthusiasm of the students. New assessments in spoken language have seen us studying different types of speech. A high point of the course is taking advantage of our local literary connections with a visit to Jane Austen’s house at Chawton for a study day enlivened with Regency dancing.
The Mathematics Department
“If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.”
John Louis von Neumann
At Alton Convent School we teach Mathematics in Years 7, 8 and 9 with a syllabus encompassing the four main disciplines: number; algebra; data handling; and shape, space and measure. We group girls according to ability but follow a common scheme of work that allows flexibility of movement between these groups, each girl developing at her own rate. Each year builds on the work already studied in preparation for the GCSE syllabus from Year 10.
For GCSE the girls study the OCR 2010 Mathematics A course with external examinations in the January and June of Year 10 and June of Year 11.
Our emphasis is on active learning, fun and the application of Mathematics.
The Science Department
In Years 7 and 8 the girls study a wide breadth of science topics. In biology these range from human biology, including healthy diet and the impact of lifestyle choices such as exercise and smoking, through to ecology and microbiology. In chemistry pupils study rock formation (using sugar), flame tests, acids and alkalis, exothermic and endothermic reactions and much more. Physics includes the perennial favourites of space, magnetism, light and colour and the hair-raising static electricity topic.
In all subjects the girls regularly have chance to research information and present their findings verbally or via a range of media. Year 9 girls begin building towards their GSCEs.
In science pupils are prepared for IGCSE. These rigorous qualifications give the girls an enhanced scientific understanding, improve study skills and create an excellent basis for science A-levels. We take great pride in the fact that our able A-level scientists routinely score the highest grades and secure places on prestigious university courses, with many studying subjects such as medicine or veterinary studies.
The History Department promotes a greater understanding of the world in which we live by looking at the events of the past. History is a very popular subject at Alton Convent, with a large percentage of students opting for the GCSE Modern World course and many going on to study at A-level and beyond.
We follow a broadly chronological approach throughout the lower years so the girls develop a solid understanding of British history from 1066 to the 20th Century.
In Year 7 we focus on the development of power, the Church and society throughout the medieval period. We focus on the Norman Invasion, the power of the medieval Church and changes within society. These studies are aided by a visit to the Weald and Downland Museum to look at medieval lifestyles.
In Year 8 we look at the development of the United Kingdom under the Tudors, Stuarts and Hanoverians. Within this period we study the English Reformation, problems faced by Elizabeth I and the English Civil War.
In Year 9 we start to look at the creation of Modern Britain. By studying the Industrial Revolution we hope to make some sense of the modern industrial world. We also look in considerable detail at the causes, events and effects of the First World War. All of this is helped by the Year 9 residential trip to visit the WWI battlefields in Belgium and France.
In Upper School GCSE and A-level we focus more on modern-world studies including the Russian Revolution, Nazi Germany, the Cold War and how these events of the past shape the world of today and the future.
At Alton Convent School learning a foreign language is considered a vital part of the curriculum as it offers insights into other cultures and civilisations as well as opening the doors to many exciting opportunities. It is of paramount importance that the girls are encouraged to speak and enjoy languages, and they will learn the skills needed to understand and communicate effectively.
All pupils study French from Year 7 and following a taster course in German and Spanish during the first half of the autumn term, girls also select one of these. In Year 8 Latin is introduced.
After studying three languages in the Lower School pupils continue with at least one language, modern or ancient, to GCSE level. Modern languages is a popular choice in the Sixth Form and all three modern languages are offered at both AS and A2 level.
We arrange annual visits to countries where these languages are spoken, particularly as an exchange or work experience. The Year 7 girls spend a day in Calais and Year 9 German students take part in a successful exchange programme with a school in Hamelin. We have also organised visits to Spain and Italy. We have a good relationship with the German Embassy and a thriving letter-writing email club. We also have a link with a school near Paris and the pupils exchange pen-pal letters regularly.