Physics

Aims

We aim to:

  • present pupils with a challenging yet enjoyable experience
  • stimulate and encourage questions about the physical world
  • develop observational and analytical skills, with a firm emphasis on practical work

Why study physics?

Physics investigates the most fundamental issues, from the creation and development of the Universe, to the smallest particles making up the atom.

The products of physics affect our everyday lives. We consider how satellite communications and computers have revolutionised how we organise our lives and the ways in which advances in medical physics continue to improve diagnosis and treatment.


Subject time per 10-day cycle

  • Lower School – three lessons with one hour of homework
  • GCSE – five lessons with two hours of homework
  • A-level – 10 hours per cycle in the Lower Sixth and 11 hours per cycle in the Upper Sixth

Staff and facilities

Physics is taught as an individual science by one of our seven specialist physicists. All lessons take place in one of our five modern, well-equipped physics laboratories, each with its own computing facilities, visualiser and digital projector. The department prides itself on its resources and range of modern equipment. We are supported by three Physics technicians.

The Physics block, which opened in September 2005, has been purpose built and was designed to satisfy our demands for state-of-the-art resources. There is a mixture of traditional ideas and modern concepts. We recognise that pupils need a sound foundation in the subject but we also explore modern applications.


Homework

During the first three years, homework will be set once each week to be completed that evening and handed in for marking the following morning. It will usually relate directly to the work in class and will give an opportunity to practise and help advance understanding. Pupils might also be asked to research a topic and, perhaps, present their findings on a poster for a display.

In each of the three years there is a major independent research project which often involves library lessons. In the First Year pupils are asked to research and then create a space poster about a planet or other space object of interest to them.


Physics in the Lower School

In the Lower School pupils will develop an understanding of the key areas such as light and sound, the earth and space, energy, forces, electricity, electronics, magnetism and simple nuclear physics. Each year builds on the previous year’s work. There is an emphasis on practical work and the subject’s relevance to everyday situations.


Physics further up the school

GCSE

At GCSE we follow the International GCSE. We feel this is very well suited to the needs of our pupils and provides a sound basis for further study. It allows us to teach Physics with a modern approach and carry out a variety of practical work.

A-level

At A-level we follow the modern advancing physics course developed by the Institute of Physics. The course allows the study of the most up-to-date scientific developments and technology. We have laboratories fully equipped for this course and its significant practical element and IT dependence.

The material covered includes the traditional favourites in Physics as well as additional areas of Physics that will be new and exciting for our A-level pupils. The topics include:

  • Quantum Physics: pupils will explore evidence of light behaving as a particle and will be introduced to the photon model to explain observable phenomena
  • Nuclear Physics: this includes evidence for the existence of the nucleus and smaller subatomic particles, radioactive decay, nuclear energy, fission and fusion processes and the use of E = mc2.
  • Special relativity
  • Aspects of Cosmology
  • Particle Physics including antimatter
  • Magnetic, electric and gravitational fields.
  • Forces and motion including Newton’s laws, the use of vectors, kinematic equations, parabolic motion, circular motion and momentum
  • Materials and their mechanical properties including the calculation of stress, strain and Young modulus.
  • Electricity including potential divider circuits and capacitors
  • Waves including diffraction of waves, polarisation, interference and standing waves
  • States of matter including the gas laws, kinetic theory and specific heat capacity

Please consult the Sixth Form Handbook (pdf) for further information.


What else can I expect?

We have a popular Astronomy GCSE option. This is a two year course taken as an extra-curricular activity from when pupils are in the Third or Fourth Year. We have three optical telescopes and a camera designed for use with these telescopes, which was kindly donated to the department. We offer extension opportunities throughout, including super-curricular classes to the Fifth Year, Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth in preparation for the Physics Olympiads. We also enter a team for the Physics Olympics at Liverpool University each year which is most enjoyable.

Physics pupils at CERN

Physics pupils at CERN

There is an annual extra-curricular trip to CERN in Geneva and, every three years, we offer a trip to visit the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, Florida. 

We also offer numerous opportunities to attend lectures both by inviting external speakers into school (including a Planetarium for the First Years) and by taking pupils into Manchester. We take groups to the Christie Hospital for their Medical Physics Open Evening each year.


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