Anyone afraid of shocking discoveries should stay away from Sociology! If you are keen to delve into a range of controversial social issues or understand how your behaviour has been shaped by the environments you find yourself in, then Sociology, more relevant now than ever before, is a subject worth exploring. In our search to understand all aspects of human behaviour, sociologists aim to understand the fundamental principles of social life and our students at Berkhamsted School are supported as they embark on their sociological journeys!

Are you keen to find answers to any of these issues, posed by the British Sociological Association?

From the start of Year 12, students are challenged to look at society in new and exciting ways. Taking a fresh look at how society operates, and why particular structures are in place, is key to being a competent sociologist. Students are encouraged to immerse themselves in a wide range of topics across the course from Crime and Deviance, Beliefs in Society to Families and Households and Education. Absorbing sociological issues as presented by leading researchers in the field via podcasts, journals, articles and news stories are all essential in gaining insight into how society really works. Lessons challenge students to find answers to a broad range of questions such as ‘why do girls tend to outperform boys at GCSE level?’, ‘are women more deviant than men?’ or ‘are we becoming less religious as a society?’

One particularly memorable experience beyond the classroom that students always find interesting is the year 13 trip to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, North London. The trip teaches students about cultural and religious diversity, directly linking into the study of Beliefs in Society (Paper 2). Witnessing first-hand the religious experiences of differing faiths can really support our sociologists when attempting to answer questions on religious pluralism, diversity and secularisation.

Knowledge and understanding of current affairs are critical to success in A-Level Sociology and staff in the department are passionate about academic enrichment. Students are encouraged to access the most recent developments in the fields of Sociology and Criminology as well as in other social science areas. Contemporary reading lists are shared with students, with the aim of fostering wider reading and enjoyment around a topic of interest to them. Students are strongly encouraged to make use of the digital recommendations provided, such as accessing online courses from the Open University, which fuel interest and enthusiasm for many of our students who go on to study Sociology at University. This year students completed a fascinating digital course entitled ‘Discovering disorder: Young people and delinquency’, which allowed students to consider crucial aspects relevant to today’s modern criminal justice system  Students are often keen to question the effectiveness of the modern prison system and are encouraged to undertake further study to support their own learning into rehabilitation, deterrence and retribution.

Empirical study and enquiry underpin the foundations of Sociology and all students in year 12 complete an independent research project. We are always amazed at the innovative hypotheses that students come up with and this is a wonderful way for students to demonstrate their understanding of the research process, sampling techniques, ethical and safety considerations and data analysis. This year’s topics ranged from reactions and responses to school authority, the impact of parental involvement on student wellbeing, approaches to learning across grammar, private and state secondary schools and the impact of technology on student attainment.

Should students wish, they have the option of selecting the Social Sciences Film Club in their Clubs & Societies slot. This offers a unique opportunity to watch a range of documentaries and films on contemporary topics, followed by an opportunity to discuss and debate relevant issues. There are also opportunities to listen to and question professionals from careers such as the Police and Probation service, with the aim of boosting students’ passion and enthusiasm for Sociology.