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 in order to satisfy the natural curiosity of all students. Academic success is a major driving force but the applications of Physics and the impact that these have on the environment, industry and business are also considered as they affect all our lives.
There are six full-time, specialist Physics teachers in the department, which is housed within the science building. It has five very well equipped, modern laboratories as well as extra teaching rooms. Each laboratory has a variety of teaching aids, including class sets of laptop computers that are used for research and revision purposes and also for class practical work in conjunction with a data-logging system. Apparatus is mainly based within the laboratories but there is a store of more specialised equipment that is managed by the science department’s four technicians. Day to day activities involve a lot of practical work in order to enhance the theoretical work covered in other lessons. The courses that are taught all include assessment in practical activities.
The two year Cambridge IGCSE course begins in Form 4 (year 10) and finishes with examinations at the end of Form 5 (year 11). It covers a wide variety of topics and is both challenging and interesting. It is excellent preparation for studying physics in the sixth form. At A level the AQA Physics A specification is followed. At AS level there are three units that are examined at the end of the 6.1 (year 12) year: The first is Particles, Quantum Phenomena & Electricity, the second is Mechanics, Materials & Waves and the third is a test of Investigative & Practical Skills. There are also three units at A2 level: Fields & Further Mechanics, Nuclear & Thermal Physics and further Investigative & Practical Skills. These are examined at the end of the 6.2 (year 13) year.
The department regularly enters students at GCSE level, AS level and A2 level into the British Physics Olympiad competitions that is run by the University of Oxford. Students have had great success in recent years with several achieving the top Gold Award. The department runs several extra-curricular activities that include regular visits to Institute of Physics lectures for sixth formers and occasional visits to science events for those in the Lower School. There is also an annual “buggy race” organised by the department where students in all years design and make their own vehicle and compete against each other in a grand final.
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.