Physics is perhaps the most fundamental branch of science, aiming to understand the particles that are the very building blocks of matter and the forces between them. The central topics are motion, electricity and the atom. Without the advances made by physicists in these areas we would not have any of the devices that we use every day for work and entertainment, nor would humanity be able to aspire to extend its reach beyond our home planet. The next time you use your mobile telephone, remember James Maxwell, whose genius brought us understanding of electromagnetic waves. The next time you watch satellite TV or use Satellite Navigation, remember Tycho Brahe, whose life’s work of meticulous observations led Newton to the physics that today sends rockets into orbit. The next CD or DVD you play will use a LASER developed directly from the ground-breaking work of Albert Einstein.
The Head of Physics is Mr Ian Burns. Physics lessons are taught in well-equipped, purpose-built laboratories in the Tate Building, which serves as a base for all the science disciplines. The department aims to make studying the subject an exploratory experience, with investigative work at the heart of learning, as seen in events such as the ‘Bridge into Schools’ day and the STEM day. In the First Year, as part of a general science course, Physics topics covered include forces, magnetism and sound. The course is predominantly practical and calculation skills are introduced. When pupils study Physics as a discrete subject from Second Year onwards, the internally designed lower school course covers forces, pressure, light, electrical circuits, earth and space, static electricity and time. Work on energy, motion, electricity and nuclear radiation in the Third Year forms the foundation for studying Edexcel IGCSE Physics, which is continued into the Fourth and Fifth Years. The overwhelming majority of pupils go on to take the separate IGCSE Physics qualification, whilst a small number of pupils follow the Double Award Science course leading to two IGCSEs grades in Science. Physics is then a popular and challenging option for study in the Sixth Form, with the department offering the AQA specification, combing opportunities for intellectual independence with a nurturing environment, ensuring that pupils are stretched academically and enthused by the wonders of the subject. Enrichment opportunities are diverse, whether through entry into national competitions such as the Physics Olympiad and Cambridge Physics Challenge, or through participation in the Geneva trip to take in the CERN Large Hadron Collider. Results are exceptionally strong at all levels and many pupils go on to take Physics or related courses at university.