Physics is an important subject in today’s technological world. It is the study of the fundamental laws that give rise to all natural phenomena. The department stimulates and excites an interest in these phenomena whilst trying to stretch the mind and imagination to satisfy the natural curiosity of all students. Physics teachers strive to deliver a rich programme of study to both Lower and Upper School students. Practical work and the development of practical skills is closely integrated with theoretical work. Teaching takes place in very well equipped, modern laboratories which have a variety of teaching aids, including data-logging apparatus. Academic work is supplemented with extra-curricular activities that include visits to Institute of Physics lectures, occasional visits to science events, and exciting EPQ projects. Many students enter the British Physics Olympiad competition run by the University of Oxford, often with great success. Academically, students achieve highly in Physics with 80% achieving an A* or A at IGCSE and 77% achieving an A* or A at A Level. Of those that return from Lower School, 75% of students choose to study Physics at A Level.
All Lower School students study Physics and take the Cambridge IGCSE course (specification 0625). This is a two-year course that begins in Form 4 (Year 10) and culminates with three exams at the end of Form 5 (Year 11). The course is broad, covering a wide range of topics that are challenging and interesting. There are four lessons per week with a large emphasis on practical work. The syllabus helps students to understand the technological world in which they live, and take an informed interest in science and scientific developments. They learn about the basic principles of Physics through a mix of theoretical and practical studies. The IGCSE course naturally provides a strong foundation for those who choose to progress on to the A Level course. Students develop an understanding of the scientific skills essential for further study often find a large amount of overlap between their studies in IGCSE Physics and the first year of study at A Level.
At A Level students take the new AQA AS and A Level courses (specifications 7407 and 7408). The course begins in 6.1 (Year 12) with students building upon their existing knowledge, covering topics such as electricity and mechanics. As they progress they move onto new material such as particle physics. There are eight lessons per week with a large emphasis on practical work. At the end of 6.1 students will take AS examinations consisting of two papers. The result of this examination is used to provide a predicted grade for university applications. In 6.2 (Year 13) the course progresses onto more advanced topics including fields and nuclear physics. The material allows students to appreciate how fundamental Science works and to study optional topics that particularly interest them – including Medical Physics, Applied Physics and Engineering Physics. At the end of 6.2 (Year 13) students will take A Level examinations consisting of three papers which test the entirety of material studied over the two-year course. In addition to the examinations, students complete several practical tasks over the two years which are assessed by the teacher and provide a practical endorsement. Students who study Physics at A Level carry on with their studies in many different areas. Some will continue with Physics as a separate subject but it is regarded as an excellent foundation for careers in engineering and medicine. Physics teaches the ability to analyse problems and apply what has been learnt in new situations and these skills can be applied in many other professions such as business, the law and finance.