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St Helen and St Katharine, Faringdon Road, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 1BE

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Physics

AQA

A-level Physics covers a core course of mechanics and materials, electricity, particles, radiation and waves in the first year. In the second year students go on to study further mechanics, thermal physics, fields and nuclear physics followed by another option (currently astrophysics). Alongside the theory work students are taught about measurements and their errors at the beginning of their course and this section then features within the twelve assessed practicals over the two years. A-level Physics is an excellent qualification giving students analytical and numerical skills, suitable for many university courses and careers. We are fortunate to have four fully equipped laboratories in a spacious science building opened in 2014.

There are eight periods in both Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth, split equally between two teachers. The lessons are always a mix of both theory and practical work as we believe very much in learning by experiment wherever possible. Sometimes students perform experiments in pairs but as their confidence grows and the preparation for assessment increases they work on their own. Weekly homework exercises are undertaken to consolidate the topics taught.

Topics studied

Year 1 – Teacher A

  • Measurement and their errors
  • Mechanics
  • Materials
  • Electricity
  • Four assessed practicals on this side of the course

Year 1 – Teacher B

  • Waves
  • Particles
  • Radiation
  • Two assessed practicals on this side of the course
  • Extension activities such as study skills with Kerboodle, research activity, Olympiad exam preparation

Year 2 – Teacher A

  • Further mechanics
  • Part of fields and their consequences
  • Four assessed practicals on this side of the course
  • Extensive exam preparation work

Year 2 – Teacher B

  • Thermal physics
  • Part of fields and their consequences
  • Nuclear physics
  • Option: astrophysics
  • Two assessed practicals on this side of the course
  • Extensive exam preparation work There are three written exams at the end of the course and the completion of the twelve assessed practicals to a satisfactory standard leads to the practical endorsement.

Trips, visits and extracurricular

Each year students have the opportunity to enter the British Physics Olympiad competitions, both theory and practical project. This later enables them to carry out independent research and an open-ended experiment, writing this up in the style of an academic paper. Attendance at local public lectures, particularly at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), Chilton and Oxford University are encouraged to enhance the curriculum. Trips are organised to JET Culham and the particle physics masterclasses at RAL.

Our thriving Engineering Society has strong links with local firm MJA Consulting which leads to real-life project work in Lower Sixth. The society also organises whole school events to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day in June each year. Headstart engineering courses are promoted within the department to give any student contemplating an engineering degree a university experience prior to application. Further project work with CERN@School focuses on independent work with an MX detector, leading to development of research and presentation skills as the group attends the annual IRIS conference in July each year.

What students say

"I look forward to my physics lessons every week. They are light-hearted and fun but we always do mounds of work."

"The teachers are always willing to give up their spare time to ensure every single student feels completely comfortable with the material covered."

Who to contact

Mrs J Edwards, Head of Physics

Results 2020

83.3% A*–A

100% A*–B