“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 Campaigne, Mr M Crabtree, Mr J Reader, Ms S Dharsee
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 waves. Pupils are introduced to the use of a variety of physics equations and students 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. They 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 such as particle theory and atomic structure, electricity, thermal energy and students start the study of electromagnetic 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, students complete their study of electromagnetic waves and cover the material from forces and motion that was deemed to be too conceptually challenging for pupils in Year 9. In Year 11, pupils also cover space and perhaps the most abstract and conceptually difficult topic – electromagnetism.
KEY STAGE 5
- Measurements and errors
- Mechanics and materials
- 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 & simple harmonic motion
- Gravitational fields
- Electric fields
- Magnetic fields
- Thermal physics
- Ideal gases and Kinetic theory
- Nuclear Physics
- Optional topic
A Level generally starts of with the more concrete concepts in further mechanics such as circular motion and simple harmonic motion, moving towards the more abstract and conceptually challenging topics such as magnetic fields and nuclear physics.
The optional topic is taught last so that there is only divergence in the material taught at the end of the academic year. We are lucky to be able to provide most students a choice of optional topics to study. The choices offered are Turning points in Physics, Engineering, and Astrophysics.
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.
Physics is a popular subject at A Level with a cohort of over 75 students studying it in Year 13. In 2023 two students were accepted at Cambridge to study Engineering, another student was accepted at Cambridge to study Natural Sciences, and another student was accepted at Oxford to study Physics.
Other students got accepted to study Physics and Physics-related subjects at other excellent universities such as Durham University, the University of Manchester, the University of Bristol, the University of Nottingham, the University of Southampton, King’s College London, and the University of Leeds.