“Psychology is the scientific study of people, the mind and behaviour.” (British Psychological Society, 2007)

“…The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience — from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged.” (American Psychological Association, 2007)


A-level research

 At the end of the Summer term, our Y12 students started to apply their skills in research methods by conducting independent research on a range of different areas in Psychology such as the ‘halo and horns effect’, ‘conformity when judging sweets in a jar’, ‘ability to concentrate under the influence of different types of music’, whether there is evidence for similarities in level of attractiveness in married (celebrity!) couples, called ‘the matching hypothesis’, ‘how music affects our mood’, as well as researching the potential existence of ‘gender stereotyping in children’s literature’!

Psychology – Oxford Brookes Conference 2014

On Friday 20th June, we held the fifth Sixth Form Psychology Conference, with Oxford Brookes University. It was a lovely event for the students and staff, as this year conference took place in the brand new John Henry Brookes building at Headington Campus. Over 100 students and their teachers from eight local schools were taking part in presentations, talks and workshops by the Psychologists/Researchers at Oxford Brookes outlining their current research.  It was very inspiring for the Sixth Form Students to hear about the sort of work that researchers do in an applied way, as well as see what students just a few years older than themselves are involved in!  One of the third year students talked about his research project in “Using Visual Illusions to Examine the Processing of Speech”; a fascinating presentation and award winning research study linking nicely to what we are learning in lessons and extra-curricular activities.  We also attended an interesting workshop on “Fair-weather friends, foul-weather friends and bullying” where students got a chance to actively interact and recap some of their knowledge in the field of Social Psychology and the Social Identification Theory! Towards the end of the day, the students attended a session on “Speak your mind: the Psychology of Language”, where they looked at the different skills involved in communication and why acquiring spoken and written langue can sometimes be difficult. Professor Harris gave a very captivating and interesting plenary session in her research into helping deaf children read.

‘Power of Mind’ Conference – Y12 Psychology

After an intense first term, the Y12 Psychology students were very excited to attend the ‘Power of the Mind’ conference in London, especially as some of the top psychologists in the UK were giving talks about fascinating topics such as ‘the power of dance’, ‘why do we obey and conform to others’, and ‘can we diagnose mental illness’?

Dr Peter Lovatt’s talk was particularly enjoyed by the students, as he explained how his research focuses upon the link between dancing and the brain and how dance can strengthen our divergent and convergent thinking, increase our problem solving skills, and help sufferers from Parkinson’s disease. Dr Lovatt got all students to participate in ‘power dancing’ which was much enjoyed and gave a real sense on how dance can affect our mood and explain how our unique dance style is linked to our genetic make-up!

Professor Reicher then introduced us to some cutting edge research into conformity and obedience, and in particular research explaining why we don’t obey! Professor Reicher presented compelling, and never before published materials from Milgram’s study, as well as his latest research results showing the importance of Relative Identification as a better explanation as to why we obey (or, more importantly, don’t obey!) orders from an authority figure.

Psychotherapist Dany Nobus also introduced us to what it means to be normal in the 21st Century and the many issues with diagnosing mental illness in his talk ‘normal to be mad? Dany talked about the new DSM-5 and how the increase of diagnosing mental illness meant that the ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’ population is shrinking all the time! Dany introduced the girls to the work of Thomas Szasz and Rosenhan, causing much debate and comparisons to the recent talk about Schizophrenia given by Psychiatrist Dr Arabella Norman.

Below is Dr Lovatt explaining the power of dance

 The Psychology Students have also enjoyed the Psychology Club and Film club this term, with several sessions focusing upon Criminal and Forensic Psychology; offender profiling, typological profiling techniques, as well as geographical profiling. The psychology club is currently introducing the many different explanations for criminal behaviour, ranging from the constitutional theories such as Sheldon’s and Lombroso’s, to the importance of serotonin, testosterone, the XYY chromosome and the MAOA-L gene. Of course, the psychological and environmental factors are not to be forgotten and Psychology Club will dive into these explanations next term!

As part of this theme of criminal psychology, we are very happy to have one of the Y13 students presenting her amazing EPQ project of whether criminal behaviour is a result of nature or nurture! This will be presented to the younger students in the last teaching week.

Txt msgng: does it ruin our literacy skills?

We were delighted that Dr Nenagh Kemp (a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Tasmania) was able to join us this autumn term to talk about how she has extended her research in children’s literacy to young people’s reading and writing of text messages. She introduced her research in the talk: Txt Msgng: Does it ruin our literacy skills?   Dr Kemp also introduced her new book, focusing upon whether text messaging really ruins out literacy skills and this was followed by an interesting discussion with the students!

Revising the bible of psychiatry- DSM 5!

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental health disorders.  It is used by clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers.  The current version, DSM-IV-TR, was produced years ago, but the 5th edition is due to be published in Summer 2013. For this, the diagnostic criteria for all conditions have been reviewed, based on the latest research, and some will be changed. We were therefore delighted to welcome a member of one of the workgroups, Dr Cynthia Graham, to OHS in November 2012 to talk about the process of revision. Dr Graham described some of the major controversies and issues that the DSM Task Force have been grappling with. It was a fascinating insight, and very timely since Sixth form students had been watching the Horizon documentaries “How Mad are You?” in Psychology Club and using these programmes as a basis for discussion of mental health conditions, the reliability and validity of diagnoses and the perception of mental health conditions in society.

OCD Talk

On Tuesday 26th April 2011 Dr Georgina Krebs, a clinical psychologist and a former student of Oxford High School, came to Oxford High School to talk about her work with children with OCD at a specialist clinic at the Maudsley Hospital in London. Dr Krebs gave a fascinating insight into the difficulties experienced by some of the children that she works with, described effective treatments that she helps to deliver and answered questions from the large audience of Sixth form students and staff.

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Why Psychology?

Students who are intrigued by the way people think and behave, enjoy the rigour of science subjects and are ready to challenge findings and to discuss theories are bound to enjoy Psychology.

Why people do the things they do is an age-old question. The roots of modern Psychology go back to the ancient Greek Philosophers in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. However, Psychology – the science concerned with behaviour – only became established as a discipline in its own right around 125 years ago. One of the exciting things about this is that the studies and theories that students learn about at A level are relatively new, and we are often learning about work that has only been carried out in the last few decades.

A level Psychology has become an increasingly popular choice among students in the UK in recent years and was introduced at Oxford High School in 2005. Although a relatively new subject, it is a successful one. In 2007, one third of the students at Oxford High School who studied the subject at A2 enjoyed it so much that they applied to read Psychology at University. In 2008, all Psychology AS students chose to continue studying the subject at A2 level in Year 13.

Extra-Curricular Activities

Psychology Club

This club provides the opportunity for all year groups to find out more about Psychology. It is held during a lunch-break (dates advertised on Daily Digest); sometimes sessions are run by Ms Torbrand and sometimes by Sixth Form Psychology Students. This term’s activities include criminal profiling, discussing whether criminals are ‘born’ or ‘made’, testing our personalities, testing short term memories, discussing  the power of uniforms, and investigating the matching hypothesis for romantic relationships!

Some Psychology Club sessions are aimed at Sixth formers who would like to find out more about Psychology (or broaden their A level knowledge), discuss topical studies and issues in psychology, read popular psychology books or help organise psychology events in school.

Books discussed so far have included “Blink” and “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert (Royal Society Science Book of the Year 2007) and “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre. We are currently reading “The Psychopath Test”, by Jon Ronson. Come along and discuss whether you find the books entertaining or irritating! You don’t have to have finished the book, you just need to be interested in it.

  psychopath test

Psychology Club Autumn Term 2014

Wednesdays 12.30-1pm

Wed 24th September – Film Club:  The BBC Prison Study (AS and A2 students invited)

Wed 1st October – Taster Session for Y11

Wed 8th October –  Stroop test Session – All students Invited

 Wed 15th October – Personality Testing! – All Welcome!

Wed 22nd Oct – Test you memory! – All Welcome!


 Wed 5th November – Forensic Psychology: Profiling – All welcome!

Wed 12th November – Forensic Psychology: Profiling – All welcome!

Wed 19th November – Criminal Psychology: Psychopathy – All welcome!

Wed 26th November – Criminal Behaviour: Punish or Treat? – All Welcome

Wed 3rd December – Support Session for Y12 and Y13

 Wed 10th December – No Psychology Club this week


PTMs Pepita Torbrand BSc (hons) MSc (City) Head of Psychology


I am passionate about psychology and prior to becoming a teacher I completed my MSc in Occupational Psychology before starting my PhD in Cognitive Behavioural Coaching (CBC). I am leading the CBC project at OHS and am also conducting research in how CBC can help increase students’ wellbeing & performance. I am currently training teachers in how they can use CBC to optimise student performance.


 Dr S. B. Squire
MA Cantab, Natural Sciences, DPhil. Oxon, Experimental Psychology

Dr Sarah Squire joined Oxford High School as Head of Psychology in September 2007 and is now Deputy Head.
She is passionate about Psychology and prior to becoming a teacher, she lectured and gave tutorials in Psychology while carrying out research at the University of Oxford.  Her main interests are cognitive developmental psychology, parent-child interactions and eating disorders. She maintains links with the university and psychology students to see research “in action”.

Facilities and Resources

The Psychology department has a wide range of text books, videos and DVDS which are used to bring psychology “to life” and to supplement students’ learning. This is complemented by a collection of books (both textbooks and popular reading) and the latest issues of Psychology Review in the School Library.

Psychology Review is a magazine that is written for A level students; it helps develop an understanding of topics covered in the specification and engages students in topical issues and up-to-date research (it is possible for individual students to subscribe to this magazine at a small cost). Each student has a copy of the AS or A2 text book endorsed by the exam board; alternative textbooks are also available in the library.

Psychology lessons are taught in a classroom equipped with a networked PC and digital projector which facilitate the use of relevant video clips, websites and interactive resources. Discussion, debate, and practical investigations also form an integral part of Psychology lessons. Psychology involves a wide range of skills – everything from essay writing to statistics – and students learn in different ways; the varied and learner centred activities adopted in lessons reflect these facts.


The specification that we follow at Oxford High School is AQA-A.

AS Level Psychology

Unit 1: Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology and Research Methods

  • How do we remember things?
  • Can we rely on eyewitness testimony?
  • Do all children form similar attachments with their parents and those around them?
  • Does day care have an effect on children’s social development?
  • What scientific methods can be used to study behaviour?
  • Can psychologists deceive people about the purpose of their study?
  • Is it ever ethical to observe people without their knowing?

Unit 2: Biological Psychology, Social Psychology and Individual Differences.

  • What is the body’s biological response to stress?
  • What methods exist for managing stress?
  • Why do people obey authority?
  • Why do people change their behaviour as a result of peer pressure?
  • How do we draw the line between what’s “normal” and what’s “abnormal?”
  • Units 1 and 2 are each worth 25% of the full A level (50% of the AS). They are assessed in two 1½ hour exams at the end of Year 12.

Units 1 and 2 are each worth 25% of the full A level (50% of the AS). They are assessed in two 1½ hour exams at the end of Year 12.

A2 Psychology

Unit 3: Topics in Psychology

Three topics will be selected from the following:

  • Biological rhythms and sleep
  • Perception
  • Relationships
  • Aggression
  • Eating behaviour
  • Gender
  • Intelligence and learning
  • Cognition and Development

Unit 4: Psychopathology, Psychology in Action and Research Methods

Psychopathology (Schizophrenia, Depression or Anxiety Disorders)

  • Clinical characteristics
  • Issues surrounding diagnosis
  • Biological explanations of the disorder and biological therapies
  • Psychological explanations of the disorder and psychological therapies

The Psychology of Addictive Behaviour

  • Models of addictive behaviour
  • Factors affecting addictive behaviour
  • Reducing addictive behaviour

Psychological Research and Scientific Method

  • The application of scientific method in psychology
  • Designing psychological investigations
  • Data analysis and reporting on investigations

Units 3 and 4 are each worth 25% of the full A level. Unit 3 is assessed in a 1½ hour exam and Unit 4 is assessed in a two hour exam (both at the end of Year 13).