Head of Department

Mike Shovlin


Mike Barker
Elizabeth Green
Peter Saxon


Jane Moon

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We promote physics as an interesting and relevant course to modern society with a strong practical element. We seek to inspire the next generation of scientist who will help tackle the problems we face through the 21st Century.

If working towards finding the answers to some of the most fundamental questions of the universe appeals, says Mr Shovlin, physics is the subject for you. Press the play button, above, to hear more

Department Head: Mike Shovlin

Teaching staff: Mike Barker, Elizabeth Green, Peter Saxon

Technician: Jane Moon

Department Summary:

We promote physics as an interesting and relevant course to modern society with a strong practical element. We seek to inspire the next generation of scientist who will help tackle the problems we face through the 21st Century.

Physics is taught by 4 specialist physics teachers, 2 of whom also deliver GCSE astronomy. The department also has the excellent support of an experienced, dedicated physics technician.

The department is very well equipped: we have 3 bespoke laboratories each with interactive white boards, access to 15 laptops with a class set of data loggers and a range of sensors as well as three bookable ICT rooms in the science block. We have sufficient equipment for students to do practical work in small groups.


Subject content

Lower school (KS3)

The physics KS3 curriculum is based upon a spiral curriculum model that re-visits each topic at least once. Topics are generally half a term in length and include an end of topic test to measure student progress. Each lesson has three learning objectives against which students assess their understanding. End of topic test results are recorded centrally, allowing us to track the progress of individual students as well as groups. Students are awarded a GCSE grade (9 to 1) for each topic and they analyse their performance against their individual target.

How Science Works (HSW) is delivered through these topics and assessed throughout the course, with 2 formal investigations carried out in year 8 by each science using a common marking criteria. This helps prepare students for the Core practicals at GCSE.

Year 7 – each form is taught science by 1 teacher for the equivalent of 3 double lessons a week. The course helps develop the scientific skills that are essential to all 3 sciences.

Year 7 topics include: forces, particle theory, life, energy, acids, electricity, reproduction, Earth science, solutions and ecosystems. Astronomy is delivered partly as a library project to promote study and research skills.

Years 8 and 9 – each of the forms has 1 double lesson a week of physics, taught by a specialist physics teacher.

Year 8 topics include: forces and motion, electrical circuits, light and colour, sound, space and heat. Sound technology is delivered partly as a library project to promote study and research skills.

Year 9 students begin studying the GCSE course. They cover the first two topics on Energy and Electricity.

National Curriculum website:

Upper school (KS4/GCSE)

In Years 10 and 11 all students study physics for 3 periods per week. The students are taught in mixed ability groups of about 28. About a dozen students are entered for combined science rather than the three separate sciences. These students are identified towards the end of Year 10 and taught as a separate group in Year 11.

Course Content

The new GCSE physics course graded 9 to 1 is introduced after the Christmas of Year 9. The course is comprised of eight topics. Each topic includes a significant element of “Working scientifically”. There are also ten “core practical” activities that all students are required to carry out and are assessed through questions in the two final exams.

P1 – Energy

P2 – Electricity

P3 – Particle model of matter

P4 – Atomic Structure

P5 – Forces

P6 – Waves

P7 – Magnetism and electromagnetism

P8 - Space physics.


Two examination papers will all be taken at the end of the course, each worth 50% of the GCSE. They are available at higher (grades 9-4) and foundation (grades 5-1).

Module Paper 1 Paper 2
Content Topics P1, P2, P3, P4 Topics P5, P6, P7, P8
Type of questions Multiple choice, short & long answer Multiple choice, short & long answer
Length of exam 1 hour 45 minutes 1 hour 45 minutes
% of final grade 50% 50%

The students will also be required to demonstrate a range of mathematical skills including using standard form; estimation and orders of magnitude calculations; finding the mean, mode and median; giving appropriate significant figures; re-arranging and solving equations; calculating gradients; plotting graphs; extrapolating lines; drawing tangents as well as calculating the areas and volumes of simple shapes.


GCSE astronomy is offered as an option in Year 10 and 11. Up to 25 students choose to study it and are taught by both the specialist astronomy teachers.

Course Content

The course consists of two units: Naked-eye Astronomy and Telescopic Astronomy. These are further subdivided up into 16 topics.

● Topic 1 – Planet Earth

● Topic 2 – The lunar disc

● Topic 3 – The Earth-Moon-Sun system

● Topic 4 – Time and the Earth-Moon-Sun cycles

● Topic 5 – Solar System observation

● Topic 6 – Celestial observation

● Topic 7 – Early models of the Solar System

● Topic 8 – Planetary motion and gravity

● Topic 9 – Exploring the Moon

● Topic 10 – Solar astronomy

● Topic 11 – Exploring the Solar System

● Topic 12 – Formation of planetary systems

● Topic 13 – Exploring starlight

● Topic 14 – Stellar evolution

● Topic 15 – Our place in the Galaxy

● Topic 16 – Cosmology

Assessment Arrangements

Astronomy GCSE is assessed by two written papers taken at the end of the fifth year. Each exam is 105 minutes long. There is one tier of entry and this provides access to grades 9 to 1. The course requires students to carry out at least two observational tasks (e.g. to observe and draw the Moon’s phases over a period of one lunar month), one unaided and one aided

Exam boards

AQA physics GCSE;

AQA combined science GCSE;

AQA astronomy GCSE;

Sixth form / Key Stage 5 (A level)

We follow the GCE Physics course offered by Edexcel, using the concept approach to map our way through the topics.

The course is both modern and flexible, introducing student to the applications of physics through the concepts taught. There is a strong emphasis on the application of Physics and plenty of opportunity for practical work. Assessment of practical skills remains a key requirement of the course with students being assessed on 16 core practicals over the two years for the new course. Group sizes vary between 12 and 20, depending on the year.

Entry Requirements

The qualification builds on the knowledge, understanding and process skills achieved in GCSE Science. You will need at least a GCSE grade 6 in Physics or Combined Science. You should also have at least a grade 6 in GCSE Mathematics (or equivalent) as numerical and mathematical skills account for 40% of the marks in physics. GCSE English is also important, as you will need to be able to communicate effectively, carry out research and critically think about problems. Physics is a challenging but rewarding subject to study at Advanced level for those with the appropriate skills.

Course Content

A Level Course (Lower Sixth)

Core Physics 1:

This unit leads on from your GCSE studies.

You will learn about motion, forces, energy, power, flow of liquids, viscosity and properties of materials.

Core Physics 2: You will learn about waves including standing waves, refraction, polarisation, diffraction and the nature of light. You will also learn about electric circuits, resistivity, thermistors, emf and internal resistance.

A Level Course (Upper Sixth)

Physics on the move You will learn about momentum, circular motion, electric and magnetic fields, evidence for a nuclear atom, particle accelerators, particle detectors and different types of sub-atomic particles.
Physics from creation to collapse You will learn about thermal energy, radioactive decay, simple harmonic motion, resonance, gravitation, the life cycle of stars, fission, fusion and the fate of the universe.

While studying these units you will develop practical skills that include planning experiments, collecting data, analysing experimental results and making conclusions. You will also gain an appreciation of how scientific models are developed and evolve, the applications and implications of science, the benefits and risks that science brings, and the ways in which society uses science to make decisions. Practicals are assessed within the lessons and marked internally on five key skills, all of which need to be completed to pass the practical component. Paper 3 tests the understanding of these practical techniques.

Methods of assessment

Timing June of U6th June of U6th June of U6th
Weighting 30% 30% 40%
Length 1 ¾ hours 1 ¾ hours 2 ½ hours
Content Short & long answer on half the topics and practicals. Short & long answer on half the topics and practicals. Multiple choice, short & long answer on whole course and practicals.
PRACTICAL ENDORESMENT Students receive a practical endorsement alongside their A level grade – this will be recorded as a PASS or Not Awarded. All 16 core practicals need to be carried out and written up in a lab book.

Exam board

Edexcel; Syllabus Code: AS Level = 8PH0 A Level = 9PH0

Trips, special projects, extra-curricular clubs/activities

The physics department organizes various trips and visits including a trip to CERN, the National Space Centre, the Jodrell Bank discovery centre and lectures at local Universities for all the sixth form.

The sixth form students run a science club for the younger year groups that is proving very popular.

At least one Physics teacher is available every lunchtime to work individually with pupils on areas where they are having difficulties.

There is an astronomy club with access to an observatory on the school field that can be booked up by external groups as well as being used by the rest of the school.

Career opportunities

Physics leads on to a very wide range of courses and careers. These include astrophysics, banking, computer programming, electronics, energy industries, engineering, geophysics, law, medical physics, meteorology, research, teaching, science journalism and the space industry to name but a few.

The career opportunities available are as vast as the subject itself due, in part, to the transferable skills gained whilst studying physics. Employers see a physics qualification as an indication of someone who will immediately be an asset to the organisation.

This is because:

Physics requires a logical and numerate mind.

The ability to solve problems, gained through studying physics, is of paramount importance to the future of technology.

Communication skills are developed through report-writing and presentations.

Computing and practical skills are second nature to those trained in physics.

Teamwork and flexibility are essential in lab work and projects.