Physics is concerned with the science of how matter and energy interact. Its scope ranges from galaxies and the universe itself to subatomic particles and quantum mechanics. The subject seeks to explain phenomena using experimental data and observations which provide a basis for mathematical models or theories to attempt to understand the behavior of the physical world.
One of the beauties of physics is the realisation that as your understanding of it grows, so does your perception of the world about you. Besides acquiring a greater understanding of principles and accumulating a body of knowledge, each physics course will also develop transferrable skills such as problem analysis, logical thinking, practical skills, mathematical skills and team work. These skills are highly regarded by future employers.
There are a number of opportunities to engage in physics outside of the curriculum including various research projects in the Sixth Form. The department is engaged in cosmic ray research in collaboration with many universities and has loan of research grade equipment from King’s College London and the University of Alberta. The project led to the department’s participation in the Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2012 where pupils and staff presented results of their work to academics and the general public. Future projects are planned in collaboration with the Institute for Research In Schools which it is hoped will engage all years at the school.
The department consists of four specialist physics teachers who between them have a large wealth of experience of teaching physics, research experience and the application of physics to the world in which we live. Practical activities are ably supported by two excellent laboratory technicians.
In the lower school, Physics is studied in conjunction with Biology and Chemistry as part of the Key Stage 3 Science curriculum. The department offers Year 7 and 8 pupils the opportunity to receive science mentoring with high achieving Year 12 and 13 students.
At GCSE level, we follow the AQA Physics syllabus which is taught as a linear course and is examined at the end of Year 11. Year 9 is used as a foundation year to GCSE, where electricity and waves are revisited from the Key Stage 3 syllabus, key mathematical and practical skills are taught before beginning the GCSE course with mechanics. Year 10 covers the principles of thermodynamics and gases, waves and optics, and further mechanics. Finally, Year 11 covers electricity, radioactivity and nuclear physics, and astronomy and cosmology. The course is supported with many practical activities to develop skills which are assessed in the final GCSE papers, and lay a solid foundation for practical requirements at A-level
At A-level the AQA syllabus is followed. During the first year the fundamentals of particle physics, quantum phenomena, electricity, mechanics, material properties and waves are studied, which will lead to an AS qualification for those wishing to take the one-year course. For those continuing into Year 13 for the full two-year course, the ideas learnt at GCSE and the first year are further expanded, and theories on further mechanics, fields, radioactivity and thermal physics are taught. An optional topic of turning points in physics or astrophysics completes the course. Development of practical skills are also a required component of the course, and are assessed continually over the two years by completion and submission of required practicals. These skills are further assess in Paper 2 for the AS course, and Paper 3 for the full A-level
It is the aim of the department that pupils complete their studies in physics not only with a high grade at either GCSE, AS or A level but also with an appreciation of the beauty of the subject and its applications to nature and the technological world in which we live. It is also hoped that pupils gain further enrichment from first-hand experience of research and exposure to many highly respected visiting academics.