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Physics

“We do not know what the rules of the game are; all we are allowed to do is to watch the playing. Of course, if we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules. The rules of the game are what we mean by fundamental physics.” Richard P. Feynman​​​​​​​

Head of Department: Mr S Panton

Teachers: Mr S Campaigned, Mr M Crabtree, Mr J Reader, Mr I Vovrosh, Mr F Sheikh

Students learn to use fundamental Physics principles to explain everyday observations of the world around them, make predictions, and solve problems. Students will develop and apply mathematical skills so that they are able to use physics equations to solve problems and make predictions or explain consequences based on calculations.

Students will also develop practical skills with a wide array of equipment, and learn how to interpret and analyse data from classroom experiments appropriately which can justify or explain key concepts.

In studying Physics, students should improve their scientific literacy – using key scientific terms and units appropriately. It is also hoped that students will develop a lifelong interest in Physics and its many applications in the real world.

KEY STAGE 4

Year 9 is a foundation year in which pupils are introduced to the fundamentals that underpin physics: basic forces, basic motion, energy and particle theory. Many of these concepts are relatively concrete rather than abstract. Pupils are introduced to the use of a variety of  physics equations and they are taught how to manipulate them in order to solve problems and make predictions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Pupils are also introduced to required practical experiments in Year 9.  Students learn to collect and display data using appropriate conventions. They also learn to describe their experimental method (and any safety factors) as well as learning to analyse the data and interpret it properly. 

In Year 10 we move away from the fundamentals towards more specialised topics. The concepts are more abstract (atomic structure, electricity and waves). The topics are in an order that helps pupils build on prior knowledge. Knowing about electrons from atomic structure helps with the understanding of electricity, and knowing atomic structure and electricity is useful when describing EM waves, particularly the production of radio waves.

In Year 11 pupils complete their study of waves and cover the material from forces and motion that was deemed to be too conceptually challenging for pupils in Year 9. Pupils also cover space and perhaps the most abstract and conceptually difficult topic – electromagnetism. 

KEY STAGE 5

AS topics:

  • Measurements and errors
  • Mechanics and materials
  • Electricity
  • Waves
  • Particles
  • EM radiation and Quantum mechanics

AS goes from the most concrete to the most abstract. We start with mechanics and materials. While some questions may be mathematically challenging – much of it is familiar from GCSE Physics and is an extension of it. Following this, students study electricity, then waves. Students finish AS study studying sub-atomic particles, then finish with EM radiation and quantum mechanics – the most abstract topics.  It is essential to cover waves before doing EM radiation and quantum as this includes wave-particle duality.

A Level topics:

  • Circular motion & smple harmonic motion
  • Gravitational fields
  • Electric fields
  • Magnetic fields
  • Thermal physics
  • Ideal gases and Kinetic theory
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Optional topic

A Level generally starts of the with the more concrete and less abstract concepts, moving towards the more abstract and conceptually challenging topic – magnetic fields. Thermal Physics and ideal gases links well with nuclear physics is the last topic and while they may not be quite as conceptually challenging they can be mathematically challenging and we finish the main content with nuclear physics rather than magnetic fields so that there is a bit more time for all the fields material to be internalized. The optional topic is taught last so that there is only divergence in the material taught at the end of the academic year.

EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES 

The school has a Physics society run by Sixth Formers students who run presentations on topics they have researched and in which they have a particular interest in. 

We also have students take part in the Physics Olympiad, which is a competition organised by Oxford University in which Year 12/Y13 students test their Physics and Mathematics problem-solving skills against particularly difficult questions.

DESTINATIONS

Physics is a popular subject at A Level with a cohort of over 60 pupils studying it in Year 13. The 2021-22 cohort is 71 pupils. Between 2017 and 2020, over 14 Physics students were accepted at Oxford or Cambridge to study Physics, Engineering, or Natural Science, and just as many students were accepted at other very good universities for Physics, such as Imperial, University College London, Bristol and Manchester.