Government and Politics

Departmental approach to the curriculum

Lively, relevant, controversial… there are many ways to describe A Level Politics. There’s no denying that it’s one of the most interesting and engaging qualifications you can choose.

Covering news and current affairs from the UK and US, studying A Level politics helps you understand how the country is run and develops research, written communication and debate skills. A Level politics also grows the individual and their confidence.

There are three broad areas of study; the government and politics of the UK, the government and politics of the USA, and comparative politics and political ideas. Students will be required to identify parallels, connections, similarities and differences between aspects of politics. This will ensure that students develop a critical awareness of the changing nature of politics and the relationships between political ideas, political institutions and political processes. 

The political ideas to be studied have relevance to both of the systems of government and politics. The study of the four ideologies (Conservatism, Liberalism, Socialism, Anarchism) will enhance the students’ knowledge and understanding of politics, political debate and political issues in both the UK and the USA.


 

Long Term Curriculum Overviews

Year 12 and 13

A level government and politics follows the AQA specification.

Examine Topic One: Government and Politics of the UK

Key Topic One: The nature and sources of the British Constitution

Students should develop awareness of the significance of the following historical documents to the

development of rights in the UK:

• Magna Carta (1215)

• Bill of Rights (1689)

• Act of Settlement (1701)

• Parliaments Acts (1911 and 1949)

• European Communities Act (1972).

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• the nature and sources of the British constitution

• contemporary legislation and current issues regarding rights

• issues and debates around recent constitutional changes

• debates about the extent of rights in the UK

• two examples of constitutional changes since 1997, such as the establishment of devolved

legislative bodies in constituent countries of the UK, the introduction of a Freedom of

Information Act, adoption of the Human Rights Act, changing composition of the House of

Lords

• areas where individual and collective rights are in agreement and where they are in conflict.

 

Key Topic two - the structure and role of Parliament

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• scrutiny of the executive and how effective scrutiny of the executive is in practice

• parliamentary debate and the legislative process

• Commons

• Lords

• theories of representation - Burkean, delegate, mandate theories

• the roles and influence of MPs and peers

• the significance of Commons and Lords:

• work of committees

• role of the opposition

• the extent of Parliament’s influence on government decisions:

• Party discipline enables the government to routinely outvote opposition

• government control of civil servants’ appearances before Select Committees

• membership of those committees is largely controlled by the Whips' offices.

• interactions of parliament and other branches of government.

 

Key Topic three - The Prime Minister and cabinet

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• how policy is made

• the relationship between Prime Minister and cabinet

• the difference between individual and collective responsibility. Examples might include:

• resignation of Sir Thomas Dugdale – Crichel Down (1954)

• resignation of Iain Duncan Smith over Welfare Reforms (2016)

• two examples that demonstrate the power of the Prime Minister and cabinet to dictate events

and determine policy making. One example must be from 1945‒1997. The second example

must be from 1997 to the present. Examples might include:

• introduction of poll tax (1990)

• invasion of Iraq (2003)

• government/parliament relations – accountability/interest.

 

Key Topic four - the Judiciary

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• the composition of the judiciary and the appointments process

• the role of the Supreme Court and its impact on government, legislature and policy process

• judicial influence on government

• importance of ultra vires, judicial review and the Supreme Court's interactions with and

influence over the legislative and policy making processes.

 

Key Topic five - Devolution

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• the roles, powers and responsibilities of the different devolved bodies in the UK

• debate around devolution in England

• existing devolution in England

• impact of devolution on government of the UK.

 

Key Topic six - Democracy and Participation

Students should develop awareness of development of the suffrage in the UK – debates and

issues:

• how suffrage has changed since the Great Reform Act (1832) to the present

• debates regarding gender, class, ethnicity and age

• the significance of the Chartists, Suffragists and Suffragettes

• suffrage as a human right.

Students will be required to analyse and evaluate:

• the nature of democracy

• different types of democracy – direct democracy, representative government

• patterns of participation and different forms of participation.

 

Key Topic seven - Elections and referendums

Students will be required to analyse and evaluate the characteristics of different systems used in

parliamentary elections and in elections to one of the devolved bodies in the UK including:

• debates and issues around the performance of those systems

• the advantages and disadvantages of those systems

• three key elections since 1945 should be selected for detailed study. These should include:

• the 1997 general election

• one election from before 1997

• one election since 1997.

The study of these elections, the wider political context in which they occurred and the techniques

used by political parties in their campaigns will provide perspectives on the issues and outcomes of

each election, particularly in relation to the following:

• patterns of voting behaviour/changes over time – as revealed by relevant national data

sources, and explanations of how and why they varied in different elections

• the influence of the media on the outcomes

• the reasons for and the impact of party policies on the outcomes

• the reasons for and the influence of manifestos on the outcomes

• the impact of campaigns and leadership on the outcomes

• the role of elections and their influence on policy and policy making

• likely effects of the electoral system on the party system.

These elections should be selected because they exemplify particular characteristics of the British

electoral system, electoral behaviour or electoral outcomes eg:

• an election resulting in a landslide victory for one party

• an election where results reveal a clear discrepancy between the number of votes and the

number of seats gained

• an election which shows how large numbers of voters are effectively disenfranchised by the

preponderance of voters for one party in large areas of the country

• an election the outcome of which is greatly influenced by a particular leadership style or

personality

Students should analyse and evaluate the nature and use of referendums in the UK and their

impact.

 

Key Topic eight - Political Parties

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• the origins, ideas and development of the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat

parties and how these have helped shape their current policies

• party structures and functions of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties

• issues and debates around party funding

• relations with, and influence of, the media

• factors affecting electoral outcomes

• policies of minor parties and their impact on political debates and political agenda

• development towards a multi-party system in the UK and its impact on government and

policy.

 

Key Topic nine - Pressure groups

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• pressure groups and democracy – pluralism

• other influences on government and parliament:

• think tanks

• lobbyists

• corporations

• media

• typologies of pressure groups, including a detailed study of one insider and one outsider

group

• methods used by pressure groups

• factors likely to affect the political influence of different groups, such as membership and

resources

• links with political parties, government and the media.

 

Key Topic ten - The European Union

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• aims of the EU and the extent to which they have been achieved

• the impact of the EU on UK politics and policy making.

 

Examined Topic Two: Government and Politics of the USA and comparative politics

 

Key Topic one - The constitutional framework of US government

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• the nature and significance of the US Constitution

• the significance of constitutional principles

• framework of government laid down in the US Constitution

• federal system of government

• federal state relations

• amendment process

• debates concerning the importance of the US Constitution to the working of contemporary

US government

• protection of civil liberties and rights under the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Supreme

Court rulings.

 

Key Topic two - The legislative branch of government: Congress

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• the structure, role and powers of the US Congress

• composition of Congress, the different terms of office and party allegiance

• debates concerning the functions, powers and effectiveness of Congress in legislation,

oversight and the power of the purse

• party system and committee system and their significance within Congress

• representative role of senators and representatives

• relative strengths of the House of Representatives and the Senate

• relationship of Congress to the executive branch of government and the Supreme Court.

 

Key Topic three - The executive branch of government: President

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• sources of presidential power: selecting two relevant examples to demonstrate how these

have been used by different presidents

• difference between formal powers (enumerated and inherent powers outlined in Article 2 of

the constitution) and informal powers (President as de facto party leader, agenda setter,

world leader, modern developments eg stretching of implied powers and the creation of

institutions such as Executive Office of the President (EXOP))

• constraints on President’s ability to exercise those powers:

• the effectiveness of formal checks and balances

• key variables such as party support in Congress

• the prevailing orientation of the Supreme Court

• the attitudes of the media and public opinion

• the relationship between the presidency and other institutions eg the cabinet, the Executive

Office of the President (EXOP), the federal bureaucracy and federal agencies, and why this

relationship varies from one president to another

• one example that shows the waxing and waning of presidential power

• eg Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and Executive Office of the President (EXOP), John F.

Kennedy (JFK) and the Cuban missile crisis, Reagan and Clinton’s relationships with

Congress, significance of which party controls Congress

• the debate about the ‘Imperial versus Imperilled Presidency’.

 

Key Topic four - The judicial branch of government

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• process of selection and appointment of Supreme Court judges

• current composition

• the nature of judicial power

• the constitutional role of the Supreme Court:

• Supreme Court as the guardian of the constitution/constitutional interpretation

• Supreme Court as protector of citizens’ rights

• the significance of judicial review

debates about the political significance of the Supreme Court

• two examples of landmark rulings and related debates and controversies

• these are Court decisions which establish a significant new legal principle or concept, or

otherwise substantially change the interpretation of existing law. The following are a guide

to some of the wide range of landmark cases that could be taught:

• The Warren Court 1954–1969

• Brown vs Topeka Board of Education (1954)

• Miranda vs Arizona (1966)

• The Burger Court 1969–1986

• Roe vs Wade (1973)

• United States vs Nixon (1974)

• The Rehnquist Court 1986–2005

• Texas vs Johnston (1989)

• Bush vs Gore (2000)

• The Roberts Court 2005 – present

• District of Columbia vs Heller (2008)

• Obergefell vs Hodges (2015)

• significance of the judiciary in shaping one area of public policy in terms of, for example,

federalism, civil rights, race, gender, punishment.

 

Key Topic five - the electoral process and direct democracy

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• the electoral systems used in the USA

• main characteristics of presidential and congressional elections and campaigns

• candidate selection and nomination:

• primaries

• caucuses

• national nominating conventions

• debates concerning the workings, outcomes and impact of the electoral college system on

campaigns

• factors determining electoral outcomes:

• money

• media

• issues

• leadership

• the significance of incumbency

• debates about campaign finance

• direct democracy at state level:

• referendums, initiatives, propositions, recall elections and debates concerning their use

• voting behaviour and the main variables affecting the way people vote in the USA

• links between parties and their core voting coalitions

• factors in voting behaviour:

• issues, candidates

• the significance of recent (post 1980) and historic (eg 1932 and 1968) re-aligning elections

can be used to illustrate arguments relating to factors influencing voting

• split ticket voting and high levels of abstention in US elections.

 

Key Topic six - political parties

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• the two main political parties and their:

• ideologies

• values

• policies

• traditions

• party organisation

• the ideological changes in both the Democratic and Republican parties making them more

distinct and polarized

• factionalised nature of parties and internal divisions

• debates concerning party decline or renewal

• weakness of US parties

• the two party dominance in US politics

• significance of third parties and independent candidates.

 

Key Topic seven - pressure groups

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• the extent of political pluralism in the USA

• typologies of pressure groups

• methods and tactics used by pressure groups to influence decision making

• pressure group funding of elections:

• funding of Washington insiders

• iron triangles

• reinforcing incumbency

• relative power of pressure groups vis-a-vis political parties

• debates concerning the power of pressure groups in the USA

• role and significance of Political Action Committees and Super PAC’s regarding electoral

finance.

 

Key Topic eight - Civil Rights

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• protection of civil liberties and rights under:

• the constitution

• Bill of Rights

• subsequent amendments

• landmark rulings of the Supreme Court

• the role of pressure groups in promoting and supporting rights

• the impact of salient political issues concerning civil rights and liberties on US politics eg in

relation to one of:

• abortion

• race

• immigration

• religion

• freedom of speech

• gender

• sexual orientation

• privacy

• disability

• the right to bear arms

 

Key Topic nine - constitutional arrangements (comparative politics)

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• key similarities and differences between the UK and US constitutions and their impact on

government and politics in their respective countries

• their nature(codified/uncodified), sources and provisions, separation of powers, checks and

balances

• similarities and differences between the devolution model in the UK and the federal model in

the USA

• the legislatures: their relative strengths and weaknesses and the extent to which their roles

are similar and their powers equal

• powers, composition, structure, strengths and weaknesses.

 

Key Topic ten - the executives (comparative politics)

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• the role and powers of the UK prime minister and of the US president, how they differ from

each other and the extent of their accountability to the legislatures

• a comparison of the relationship of the UK prime minister and of the US president to other

institutions of government.

 

Key Topic eleven - the judiciaries (comparative politics)

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• similarities and differences of supreme courts

• impact on government and politics

• the relative extent of the powers of the UK Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court and

the bases of those powers within their systems of government

• comparison of the relative independence of the judiciary in the UK and the USA.

 

Key Topic twelve - electoral and party systems (comparative politics)

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• comparisons of elections and electoral systems used in the UK and USA

• comparisons of the two party systems and how they operate in the UK and the USA

• debates in the UK and USA surrounding campaign and party finance

• degrees of internal unity within the parties in the UK and the USA

• explanations of why the USA has a two party system whilst the UK is moving towards a multi-

party system

• third party and independent candidates in the UK and the USA

• comparisons of party policies in the UK and the USA.

 

Key Topic thirteen - pressure groups (comparative politics)

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• comparison of key similarities and differences of the influences on government in the UK and

the USA

• the relative power, influence and methods of pressure groups in the UK and the USA.

 

Key Topic fourteen (comparative politics) - Civil Rights

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• protection of civil rights key similarities and differences regarding the protection of civil rights

in the UK and the USA

• debates about civil rights issues

• comparisons of methods, influence and effectiveness of civil rights campaigns in the UK and

the USA.

 

Examined Topic Three: Political ideas

 

Key Topic one - Liberalism

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• debates about the nature of liberalism

• core liberal ideas and values concerning the individual and freedom

• classical liberalism, modern (new/progressive) liberalism

• in their study of the following thinkers students should focus on the aspects indicated after

each thinker's name and relate this to liberal thinking on human nature, the state, society and

the economy:

• John Locke – natural rights, liberty and individualism, fiduciary power of government

• John Stuart Mill – criticism of hedonism, freedom, integrity and self respect of the

individual, self regarding and other regarding actions

• John Rawls – concept of justice, principles of justice

• Thomas Hill Green – self development/role of the State, negative and positive freedom

• Mary Wollstonecraft – equality and rights, 'revolution controversy', criticisms of aristocracy

and republicanism

• Betty Friedan – equal rights, Civil Rights and feminist movements in the USA.

 

Key Topic two - Conservatism

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• debates about the nature of conservatism

• core conservative ideas and values concerning government, the free market and the

individual

• different strands of conservative thinking from traditional Conservatism to the New Right

• in their study of the following thinkers students should focus on the aspects indicated after

each thinker's name and relate this to conservative thinking on human nature, the state,

society and the economy:

• Thomas Hobbes – concept of human nature/laws of nature, power of the sovereign/the

individual and self protection

• Edmund Burke – Anti-Jacobinism/Whig principles, Burke’s reaction to the American and

French Revolutions

• Michael Oakeshott – importance of tradition/criticisms of rationalism, ‘Politics of Faith’ vs

‘Politics of Scepticism’

• Ayn Rand – opposition to collectivism and statism, rational and ethical egoism/individual

rights

• Robert Nozick – limited functions of the State, justification of inequalities of wealth

resulting from freely exchanged contracts.

 

Key Topic three - Socialism

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• debates about the nature of socialism

• core socialist views and values concerning Marxism, class analysis and the fundamental

goals of socialism

• differing views and tensions within and between revolutionary socialism and social

democracy

• in their study of the following thinkers students should focus on the aspects indicated after

each thinker's name and relate this to socialist thinking on human nature, the state, society

and the economy:

• Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – class and class struggle, dialectical materialism

• Rosa Luxemburg – inevitability of the triumph of revolution/capacity of the masses,

spontaneity/party oriented class struggle

• Beatrice Webb – co-operative movement, co-operative federalism and co-operative

individualism

• Anthony Crosland – criticism of Marxism/Revisionism, rejection of nationalisation as

central goal of party, political values of personal liberty, social welfare and equality

• Anthony Giddens – rejection of traditional conception of socialism, the ‘Third Way’ in

politics, combination of right wing economic and left wing social policies.

 

Key Topic four - Anarchism

Students should analyse and evaluate:

• debates about the nature of anarchism

• core anarchist views and values concerning autonomy of the individual, opposition to and

abolition of coercive relationships, opposition to government, society without government

• individualist and collectivist anarchist traditions

• in their study of the following thinkers students should focus on the aspects indicated after

each thinker's name and relate this to anarchist thinking on human nature, the state, society

and the economy:

• Max Stirner – freedom/the state, individualist anarchism, property

• Mikhail Bakunin – collectivist anarchism, syndicalism

• Emma Goldman – freedom/self expression, tactical use of violence in the revolutionary

struggle

 

Paper One - Government and Politics of the UK

What’s assessed:

A mixture of medium length ‘explain’ and essay style questions.

How it’s assessed:

Written exam: 2 hours 

77 total marks

33 ⅓ % of GCE

 

Paper Two - The Government and Politics of the USA. Comparative Politics.

What’s assessed:

A mixture of medium length ‘explain’ and essay style questions.

How it’s assessed:

Written exam: 2 hours 

77 total marks

33 ⅓ % of GCE

 

Paper Three - Political ideas

What’s assessed:

A mixture of medium length ‘explain’ and essay style questions.

How it’s assessed:

Written exam: 2 hours 

77 total marks

33 ⅓ % of GCE

How can you help your child succeed in government and politics?

Any student who chooses to study politics at A Level should have an interest in current affairs. The course will deepen students' understanding of global political institutions and ideas and will underpin the subject, but the course is ever evolving as global political events play out day to day. To help your child succeed at A Level Politics, have discussions with them about current events, provide platforms for students to listen to political podcasts and read a number of different news outlet sources, encourage them to watch the news, or to follow politicians and political groups on social media.  

Helpful websites and further information

 

 

KS5

Keep up to date with current affairs. Read and listen to a variety of News outlets. 

https://www.prechewedpolitics.co.uk/

Political Review journals