The Chemistry Department aims to inform, stimulate and challenge pupils of all abilities, providing them with the opportunities necessary to improve skills, both mental and practical, that will be useful not just in their academic careers but also in everyday life.
We seek to make the study of Chemistry visually accessible and enjoyable for all.
Our pupils are encouraged to read widely, enabling them to more fully appreciate chemical, medical and related issues and advances. Both the chemistry library and the main school library are well stocked with up-to-date texts which not only fully support all of the courses we deliver, but also go well beyond these for the interested reader, and those who may be preparing for entry to Oxford, Cambridge, to read Chemistry, the Medical Sciences and so forth.
A full range of resources are available to all of our pupils that cater – at the one extreme – for pupils taking their first steps in Science and – at the other – for pupils interested in looking at current undergraduate texts and computer software packages as used in our most prestigious universities. The department has developed its own demanding and engaging experimental courses tailored specifically for each year group. These are each supported with the latest computer software, including Absorb learning, Kerboodle and Twig World designed to make this challenging subject more accessible to the entire age and ability range.
Lower School Chemistry prepares pupils for Edexel International GCSE. This commences in the Shell and all pupils follow the same course with a focus on particle theory, elements, compounds and mixtures, equation writing, acids and alkalis, reaction rates and chemical tests. Ideas are communicated and developed using experimental work, supported by interactive IT programs. In the Remove, pupils study atomic structures and bonding, the Periodic Table, gases in the atmosphere, the Reactivity Series, organic chemistry and mole calculations. By the end of the Remove pupils will be aimed either at the separate IGCSE in Chemistry or at the Dual Award in Science. The curriculum time is the same. In the Hundred, topics include energetics, further calculations in Chemistry, electrolysis, equilibria and industrial chemical processes.
In the Upper School, we follow the OCR A Level Chemistry A (H432). This linear course is designed to build on and extend foundation knowledge developed at IGCSE. The biggest difference is the extensive amount of individual practical work undertaken and the very strong emphasis on problem solving. Study areas included are from all three branches of Chemistry – physical, inorganic and organic. An introductory Lower Sixth module gives an overview of the course, looking at atoms, compounds, molecules and equations, the amount of substance, acid-base and redox reactions, bonding and structure. These ideas are then developed further, as the course divides. On the organic side, pupils develop knowledge about different organic chemistry groups, polymers, organic synthesis, analytical techniques, chromatography and spectroscopy. On the physical/inorganic side, we look at periodicity, reaction rates and equilibrium, pH and buffers, enthalpy and entropy, redox and electrode potentials and transition elements. The practical elements of the course are vital and contribute towards earning the separate Practical Endorsement that is of particular importance for entry to Science degrees. Pupils keep a practical file and log their progress over the two-year course, so that they can see their developing competence and confidence.
Other activities, lectures and optional tutorials encourage the development of skills essential for life beyond the Sixth Form.
Our co-curricular activities have included day trips to visit our colleagues in industry, and we have particularly close links with the School of Chemistry, University of Bristol. Bristol ChemLabS (Bristol Chemical Laboratory Sciences) is a UK Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Our gifted and talented pupils in the Hundred, and all Lower and Upper Sixth Chemistry pupils, attend laboratory days at Bristol annually. Here pupils are challenged to think as young scientists, completing bespoke practical challenges, while gaining access to some of the best undergraduate teaching laboratories anywhere in the UK.
In the Upper School, all pupils subscribe to Chemistry Review – a quarterly production looking at topical Chemistry issues. Upper School pupils are also encouraged to take part in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Olympiad and in the Lower Sixth Cambridge University Chemistry Challenge competition; about one third of each year group take up this challenge. Interested Lower Sixth pupils are able to individually extend their learning outside of the classroom, by completing a 5–6 week Exploring Everyday Chemistry from FutureLearn.
Mrs C A Walsh BSc (Head of Department)
D R Armitage BSc MA
Dr G Doyle BSc MSc PhD DIC CChem MRSC
S R Hawthorn BSc
T G R Marvin MA
W D L Nicholas B Eng
Mrs E C Smith BA
Dr J P Swift BSc PhD