“This subject succeeds in providing an Education for Life.” This is quite the statement for a pupil to make of a subject in its infancy on Bradfield’s curriculum. It has been three years since the College began offering Psychology via the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme but it’s clear that it is having a profound effect on the pupils studying it.

Results and pupil numbers are at their highest to date and there is no doubting that Psychology is a fascinating subject. Leanne Rowlands, Head of Psychology, explores the structure and topics of the two-year course while IB pupils reveal why it is a popular choice.

Pupils are always surprised to learn at the Introduction to Sixth Form Evening that those studying the subject do not spend their whole time psychoanalysing one another or focusing on serial killers. As you will read later in this article from the pupils themselves, the subject is entirely applicable to the world around us and it is the skills acquired during the two years of study that enable the pupils to give context to the theories (many, many theories) that they have studied.


Psychology is the systematic study of behaviour and mental processes and at its core are three analytical approaches which are key to understanding human behaviour: Biological, Cognitive and Sociocultural. While the course is mainly divided into these three levels of analysis there are also two option modules, Health and Abnormal Psychology, while a 2000-word experimental study provides 20% of the overall grade. These modules are by no means independent of one another and it is the critical analysis element of the course that enable the pupils to apply these fluidly.

Through these areas of study, pupils are able to appreciate the diversity as well as the commonality between their own behaviour and that of others. For example, pupils will study Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory, which holds that an individual’s knowledge acquisition can be directly related to observing others within the context of social interactions and experience. They can take aspects of this theory, use it to discuss if aggression is a learnt behaviour and then carry out research into modern pop culture, like drill music, movies such as Joker and games like Fortnite, to either support or disprove evidence. This style is systemic in the delivery of the lessons.




Taking this further to see if mental health illness can be developed in the same way, is all part and parcel of equipping pupils with the skills to be able to not accept text as fact and question studies that are presented to them.

There is perhaps no better subject to study when it comes to analysing topical issues. Looking at the parallels between how globalisation, immigration and cultural assimilation are causing cultural clashes, while also opening up opportunities for greater understanding and coexistence, can shed light on one of today’s biggest issues. Equally, dissecting documentaries such as When They See Us and merging concepts of stereotypes, schema, eye-witness testimony and systemic racism ensure that pupils are able to look at situations with a heightened analytical perspective.

It is not just inside the classroom that pupils are able to access these kinds of topics. We also offer a Psychology Society where pupils have the opportunity to discuss the subject outside the realms of the curriculum. It is often pupil-driven and previously we have discussed and debated Stockholm Syndrome, serial killer profiling, county lines, slavery and trafficking and, most recently, the killing of George Floyd and the riots that ensued.

All the factors combine to make Psychology one of the most popular choices for our pupils. As one member of the Upper Sixth puts it, surely there is no other subject that really succeeds in providing an Education for Life.


“Psychology has been my favourite subject so it was a no-brainer when it came to choosing it to study at university. I found studying the Abnormal option most fascinating and now plan to be a Psychologist, specialising in severe mental illnesses. The teachers are genuinely inspiring and engaging and I have learned so much more from them than just the prescribed syllabus.”

Christina, Upper Sixth

“Studying Psychology at Bradfield has without a doubt been one of the highlights of my time at the school. After just a couple of lessons I became aware of Psychology’s huge amount of relevance to each individual and its applicability in all areas of life. I have found a passion within the subject for the social side, for instance how people’s behaviours and feelings are influenced by those around them, and how we learn and pick up knowledge. I love how passionate all the teachers are about the subject, which drives you to want to learn more and more. I am glad to be continuing with Psychology after Bradfield, as I hope to study the subject at the University of Edinburgh next year.”

Seb, Upper Sixth

“The broad range of topics covered proved an effective approach to enable us to see how intrinsically linked the different parts of Psychology are. The genuine applicability to so many aspects of life diminished the gap between the classroom and the ‘real world’. The pertinence of it all made it a constant focus of mine inside and outside the classroom – surely there is no other subject that really succeeds in providing an Education for Life. The style of teaching is extremely refreshing too, constantly encouraging engagement and critical reflection with real life examples is at the heart of it whilst maintaining the necessary academic rigour that the IB requires. I hope to go on to study Psychology with a goal of becoming a Research Psychologist.”

Gabe, Upper Sixth

“I wanted a new challenge and to study a subject that was different to anything I had done before. I only had a minimal understanding of Psychology before I started the IB so I found it hugely rewarding to learn how to think in a more analytical way. It has highlighted the importance of having an understanding of human behavior; an area of study and research that is becoming increasingly important in a society that relies on human connection. I helped to lead the Psychology Society which enabled me to explore the subject in greater depth and investigate ideas outside of the classroom.”

Samuel, Upper Sixth