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Biology Curriculum Committee

Our purpose is to ensure the biology curriculum at all educational stages is as relevant as possible and prepares students for their next steps in life – whether they go on to study biology at university, use biology in a related career or use their biology knowledge as non-scientist citizens of the 21st century.

The Curriculum Committee's terms of reference are to:

  • develop the Society's content criteria for biology qualifications
  • consider and provide guidance and information on appropriate assessment models for biology qualifications
  • advise on the Society's responses to external consultations on curriculum, qualification and assessment matters
  • advise on the biology content of related science qualifications
  • advise the Society's ETP Committee on any matters associated with the biology curriculum

We have set up a primary working group composed of primary specialists to focus on ages 3-11 and a student group to ensure student voice is heard.

We recognise that we need to get as much input as possible from everyone interested in biology education, and we have opened up a consultation on the Society's TalkBiology forum.

In July 2016 the committee hosted its first event which focused on the transition from schools to higher education with a range of talks and panel discussions, there was also a workshop at the end of the day where the committee discussed their draft document on practical and transferable skills. The talks and documents are available on the transition from schools to higher education page and we welcome feedback on the draft document.

Members of the Biology Curriculum Committee

Observers

Rachel Lambert-Forsyth CBiol CSci MRSB
Sarah Dalmedo CSciTeach MRSB


nick

Nick Dixon is the head of science at Magdalen College School, Brackley.

He leads 11 other teachers who collectively deliver GCSE triple science, double science and environmental and land-based science, together with A level biology, chemistry and physics and BTEC applied science. Magdalen College School is regularly one of the highest achieving departments in the county.

Nick is passionate about improving biological education the world over and has taught in Mexico and most recently Uganda (with the Biochemical Society).

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StuartStuart Ferguson is a professor of biochemistry at the University of Oxford and also a tutorial fellow at St Edmund Hall Oxford. In the latter position he has taught first, second and third year students in small groups for close on thirty years. He has been involved in admitting students to the University for the same time and thus is familiar with the A level syllabi and other equivalent qualifications used internationally. Interacting with first year students has enabled him to see how both understanding and content of the A level syllabi have changed over the years. He also once taught for a term at Oswestry School in Shropshire. His research, recognised by the Biochemical Society by the award of the Keilin Medal in 2001, has been concerned with the broad area of bioenergetics and he is the author, with David Nicholls, of Bioenergetics editions 2, 3 and 4.

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dawnDawn Hawkins is a Reader in the Department of Life Sciences at Anglia Ruskin University. In collaboration with colleagues and postgraduate students in the UK and Tanzania she has on-going projects looking at patterns of biodiversity in relation to natural and anthropogenic factors as well as the behaviour and management of elephants and baboons. However it is her experience teaching statistics to biologists in higher education that mainly brings her to this committee. This experience ranges from designing and leading a first year undergraduate introductory biostats module to 300 students to providing one-to-one support for undergraduates, postgraduates and colleagues. Her textbook Biomeasurement: A student guide to biological statistics is in its 3rd edition for Oxford University Press. She has also been involved in a series of HEA funded projects (NuMBerS, SUMS) designed to support the teaching of maths and statistics in higher and further education in collaboration with Dr Toby Carter and co-founded the BioMaths Education Network with Dr Jenny Koenig.

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libbyLibby John has many years of experience in biological education. She is currently head of the school of life sciences at the University of Lincoln, where they have recently developed new degrees in biology, biochemistry and zoology.

Libby has also held a number of undergraduate external examiner positions, giving her an excellent understanding of the diversity and range of biological education in UK universities.

She chaired the Education, Training and Careers Committee of the British Ecological Society for three years for which work she was awarded the 2013 BES award.

Libby’s personal research and teaching expertise lies in plant ecology and her PhD from the University of Alberta was on lichens growing in the Rocky Mountains of Canada. She has been lucky enough to do field work in ecosystems from the boreal forest of the Yukon to the cloud forests of the Andes and she is passionate about getting students out on field courses to experience the wider world.

During her career Libby has taught, organised, reviewed and redesigned biological curricula. She believes that universities should offer a research-led education, and that students need to be prepared for this by a school curriculum that is challenging, inspiring and rigorous.

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markMark Kerrigan is the director of teaching, learning and assessment for Anglia Ruskin University as part of the executive team for the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education.

Before accepting a position at Anglia Ruskin, Mark worked for the University of Greenwich in the educational development unit and was a programme leader and Teaching Fellow for the University of Westminster. He is a founding member and lead for the national "students as change agents network" and was the project manager for the Jisc funded "digital literacies in higher education" project.

Previously, he led the iPad in Science project, and developed a new model of assessment feedback as part of the Jisc funded project, 'making assessment count'. He also developed MapMyProgramme an open-source tool to support the holistic design of assessment and in 2012 was awarded a prize of ALT-C/Google for this work.

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Alistair Moore alistairworks in the Centre for Innovation and Research in Science Education (CIRSE), part of the University of York Science Education Group (UYSEG) and the University's Department of Education.

He has extensive experience in the development of assessments, science curricula and teaching support materials for students aged 11-16. He is currently working on research-informed curriculum development projects for Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 science, with emphases on embedded formative assessment and scientific literacy.

Previously, Alistair worked at the assessment organisation OCR, first as qualification leader for A level biology and human biology, and then as qualifications manager for GCSE Sciences. He studied biology at the University of Durham, followed by postgraduate research in immunology and biotechnology at the University of Cambridge.

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Gayle Pook's GaylePookbackground is in both teaching in primary schools and in industry research. Gayle has been working with the Centre for Industry Education collaboration (CIEC) since 2001, initially working as an advisory teacher in the Humber region delivering the very successful 'children challenging industry' programme.

More recently Gayle has managed a number of regional and national primary projects working closely with the National Science Learning Centre to provide teacher CPD.

In 2006, along with Joy Parvin, Gayle became a director of CEIC, which involves being responsible for the overall strategy, business planning, finance and fundraising, direction and management of CIEC. In addition she sits on a number of education committees, contributing to national conferences to disseminate the work of CIEC and provide professional development consultation on a national and international level. Gayle is a governor at her local primary school and an assessor for the Duke of York community initiative.

Gayle is representing the views of primary education and will be liaising with the primary working group to develop a biology curriculum appropriate for primary.

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Jeremy Pritchard Jerry Pritchard-026is a senior lecturer in biology. His research at Birmingham University focuses on plants and aphids and he has previously researched plant interactions with their environment in the USA, New Zealand and Europe. Jeremy is also actively involved in diverse teaching, covering topics from field biology and ecology through plant biology to evolution.

Jeremy is involved in communicating science and evolution to schools and the public, and has developed resources to help educators and learners at all levels. He is head of education in the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham and chairs the Royal Society of Biology Education Training and Policy (ETP) committee.

He speaks on outreach and public understanding of science policy issues nationally (e.g. ASE, BSF, Wellcome Trust Science Engagement) and has a strong interest in developing policy collaborations with other learned societies internationally, acting as consultant on a range of teaching and education issues.

Within the School of Biosciences Jeremy is an admissions tutor for biology and runs a range of schools liaison activities from years 5 – 13 and CPD for teachers, aiming to help public understanding of science and also facilitate progression across the secondary – tertiary boundary.

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Mariann Rand-Weaver Mariannis pro-vice-chancellor (Quality Assurance and Enhancement) at Brunel University London. Born and educated in Norway until the age of 17, Mariann attended United World College of the Atlantic (Wales) to study for her international baccalaureate diploma. She remained in the UK, gaining a first class honours degree in biochemistry and a PhD from Queen Elizabeth College (now part of King's College London).

She has worked at Brunel as an academic since 1995, undertaking a variety of roles and responsibilities. As pro-vice-chancellor, Mariann has responsibility for enhancing the quality of the University's academic provision and oversees all aspects of learning and teaching, including compliance with external requirements.

Mariann originally joined Brunel as a research fellow in 1991. Her research focused on fish endocrinology, specifically the physiological roles of a new hormone discovered and characterised during her post-doctoral periods in Norway and Japan. Her recent work is focused on the effects on fish of pharmaceuticals present in the environment. Mariann also has an interest in the endocrine and cytotoxic activities of plants, and is currently working in collaboration with colleagues in India and Brunel to isolate the chemicals present in specific plants responsible for their observed anti-cancer properties.

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David Read cropDavid Read is a professorial fellow in chemical education at the University of Southampton. From 2003-07, David was a schoolteacher at Theale Green Community School, just outside Reading, prior to his appointment as a school teacher fellow at Southampton. David is currently the director of outreach and head of the education group within chemistry. David supervises three research students (1 MPhil, 2 PhD) who are working on projects in education research, and he has published numerous articles in a range of magazines and journals. His other role is that of science foundation year programme leader, where he teaches the chemistry component of the course.

Externally, David is chair of the editorial board for Education in Chemistry and is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry's curriculum working group, having previously sat on the education division council (2009-2012). David also designs and delivers CPD courses for chemistry teachers, and has worked with a number of awarding bodies as an HE representative. He has written detailed reviews of A level chemistry content and is recognised as an authority on the school-to-university transition. David was recently awarded a promotion to professorial fellow in chemical education, and will adopt this new title from August 2015.

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Michael Reiss michaelcompleted a PhD and postdoctoral work in animal behaviour and evolutionary biology at the University of Cambridge, he trained to be a teacher and taught in schools before starting an academic career in education.

Michael is a professor of science education at the Institute of Education, University of London. He specialises in education research and often consults on issues relating to science education. Areas of research interest in include bioethics and sex education.

Michael is vice president and honorary fellow of the British Science Association, visiting professor at the Universities of Leeds and York and the Royal Veterinary College, honorary fellow of the College of Teachers, Docent at the University of Helsinki, director of the Salters-Nuffield Advanced Biology Project and a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Michael has authored a number of books addressing the curriculum, approaches to teaching and learning in science, ethics and learning science outside the classroom.

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Jane SaffellJane Saffell is a senior lecturer in the Division of Brain Sciences at Imperial College and has a senior leadership role in the Faculty of Medicine as academic lead for Postgraduate Education. Her educational research focuses on the value of disciplinary enculturation for student learning, and as an educational innovator she develops award-winning frameworks that give students legitimate access to research communities and authentic practice.

Following education in Kenya, Jane completed a first class degree in biochemistry at Imperial College (1990), moving to a molecular neurobiology PhD (1996) and postdoctoral research at Guy's (now King's). In 2000 she joined the academic staff of life sciences at Imperial and built a research group developing molecular therapies for nervous system regeneration. Her current role encompasses education, research and leadership across Division, Department and the Faculty of Medicine.

Jane's interest in the school bioscience curriculum stems from a conference she organised a few years ago for sixth-form and university bioscience teachers to discuss their respective curricula and issues of school-university transition. Professional engagement between the two groups resulted in an exciting sense of shared purpose and a conviction that school bioscience curricula would benefit from greater university engagement.

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Louise StubberfieldLouise Stubberfield has a background in microbiology and started her science career with research in industry, focussing on biofouling in cooling water systems. But working with young people who engaged in work experience, and answering a call to help a local primary school with a science week, ignited a desire to teach. Louise retrained and taught in primary schools for 20 years, leading primary science for most of that time and concluding with being a headteacher.

Now leading on primary science for the Wellcome Trust Education and Learning Team, Louise remains passionate about children enjoying inspiring science teaching from the start of formal education. Current work includes supporting teachers to become primary science leaders who have the expertise required to develop science in their schools. She is also the education editor for the Trust's Big Picture magazine, a resource aimed at post-16 biology students and their teachers.

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Mike Whelan Mikequalified as a biochemist in 1989 from Queen Mary College (London) and then completed a PhD in immunology at the Royal London Hospital in 1992.

His first postdoctoral appointment was at the Institute for Animal Health (Compton) working on equine herpes virus immune responses in horses. He then moved to the Jenner Institute for Vaccine Research working on dendritic cell maturation and the initiation of immune responses.

Later he became head of immunology for Onyvax Ltd (London). Mike spent seven years there, in which time he carried out a Phase I and Phase II clinical trial using the allogeneic whole cell vaccine.

Currently, Mike is director of research and development for iQur Ltd (London) and is developing iQur Ltd's novel virus like particle vaccine platform. Although he is predominantly industry focused, Mike is also an honorary lecturer at both UCL and the Royal Veterinary College and is actively involved in student teaching.

Mike's main scientific interest is in immunology and, in particular, vaccinology. His biochemical background has allowed him to help design a number of potential vaccines using rational product design in which proteins mimic major disease antigens. Mike is representing the interested of employers on the curriculum committee.

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