Welcome to Marlborough College Science

Heads of Department:

Head of ScienceDr G Doyle

– Mr C Barclay
Biology – Dr L J Richards
Chemistry – Mrs C Walsh
Physics – Mr C Wheatland

Marlborough College Science Department is located to the west of the campus with Biology, Chemistry and Physics (including Astronomy) occupying laboratories, lecture theatres and associated teaching spaces in, and surrounding, the listed 1934 Science building by the architect W G Newton.

There are seven Biology laboratories, six Chemistry laboratories and six Physics laboratories. These are serviced by three subject specific Preparation Rooms staffed by nine dedicated technical staff that expertly support the delivery of all of our teaching.

We have a team of 24 academic subject specialists delivering Science to International GCSE, A level and Oxbridge entrance level, led by the Head of Science who has responsibility for all aspects of Science education at the College. Each Science subject has in turn a Head of Department. The Science Department has two lecture theatres, three departmental libraries, a glasshouse and a small animal collection. Teaching is supported by excellent ICT provision in each laboratory and a Department ICT room for whole class use.

Our location in Wiltshire enables us to take advantage of the River Kennet, which runs through our grounds, and two well-established trout lakes, chalk downlands, and the nearby ancient Savernake Forest. All of these are especially useful to or biologists, while our extensive grounds often host a range of Physics experiments, too. Meanwhile, we enjoy excellent links with Bristol University School of Chemistry, and our Hundred, Lower and Upper Sixth chemists make use of the excellent undergraduate teaching laboratories there as part of their studies in Chemistry.

Our Astronomy Department benefits hugely from our Blackett Observatory, named after Sir Basil Blackett, one time President of the Old Marlburian (OM) Club; its telescope is the largest in full time use in any school and is the among the oldest telescopes in the World to be computer controlled. The Barclay equatorial telescope housed in the observatory is a 10” aperture refractor constructed in 1860 by Thomas Cooke and Sons of York. When built, it was one of the largest telescopes in the UK; it was used professionally for 75 years, first in Essex and then at the Oxford Radcliffe Observatory.

When the Oxford Radcliffe Observatory was being re-sited to South Africa, Sir Basil Blackett raised 800 guineas so that the telescope that had formerly been housed at Oxford could be moved to its current location on the Marlborough College playing fields. It was opened there in 1935 by Harold Knox-Shaw, the last Oxford based Radcliffe Observer.

Teaching and Learning

The Lower School – Shell, Remove and Hundred (Yrs 9 – 11, respectively)

All Lower School pupils study Biology, Chemistry and Physics to International GCSE. The Shell year forms the foundation year in the Sciences which leads on to Edexcel’s new International GCSE (9-1) Science examinations in the Hundred.

We offer two routes to International GCSE, outlined below, with pupils being entered for the examination which is most appropriate to them based upon their ability.

Decisions on which of the International GCSE examinations pupils will be entered for are not finalised until the end of the Remove, following the end of year examinations.

The available examinations are:

  • International GCSE (9-1) Biology, Chemistry and Physics – 4BI1, 4CH1 and 4PH1 (also known as the Separate, or Triple, Sciences)
    Pupils taking this route study all three Sciences and will be awarded a grade for each Science.

  • International GCSE (9-1) Science (Double Award) – 4SD0 (also known as Double Award)
    Pupils taking this route study all three Sciences but are awarded two grades.

The Separate Sciences offer a greater challenge to pupils. These examinations include additional content with a higher level of demand. They are taught in an equivalent amount of time to Science (Double Award).

Strong and sustained academic progress across all Sciences, and an excellent performance in the Shell and Remove end of year examinations, are prerequisites for those wishing to be considered for examinations in the Separate Sciences.

Both the Separate Sciences and Science (Double Award) offer a sound preparation for pupils wishing to study one or more Sciences in the Sixth Form.

In addition to Biology, Chemistry and Physics, we are also pleased to offer Edexcel GCSE (9-1) Astronomy, 1AS0. This two year course may be studied by interested pupils beginning in the Remove.

Further information is available from the Head of Science and from Edexcel.

Further information regarding Astronomy is available here.

The Upper School (Sixth Form Yrs 12-13)

The Department prepares Sixth Form pupils for A level in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Biology and Chemistry deliver the OCR ‘A’ specification while Physics deliver the EDUQAS specification.

Further details are provided below. 

Biology: OCR ‘A’ H420 (Linear)

Studying Biology builds an understanding of the ways in which life is maintained in the great variety of living organisms on Earth. It is a broad discipline, ranging from the molecular basis of life to whole populations in their ecosystems. What you learn would enable you to understand the workings of a huge range of living things as well as how biology contributes to medical and biotechnological advances.

Biologists develop a range of skills; literary, mathematical, practical, ICT, the ability to appreciate patterns and relationships and to evaluate evidence and theories. Hence teaching strategies will be varied and include experimental and field work. Indeed, the development of practical skills and the insights that they allow into how scientific knowledge is discovered and used, underpins the entire course.

Further information is available here or from the Head of Biology, Mrs A Paterson.

Chemistry: OCR ‘A’ H432 (Linear)

Chemistry ‘A’ is a modern and relevant Chemistry course, clearly structured and flexible so that pupils of all abilities can engage with the course. Emphasis throughout the course is on developing knowledge, competence and confidence in practical skills and problem solving. Students learn how society makes decisions about scientific issues and how Chemistry contributes to the success of the economy and society.

Practical skills are assessed in a straightforward and concise manner which allows pupils to make steady progress towards the separate Practical Endorsement. The content, studied over two years, is divided into chemical topics, each containing different key concepts of chemistry. Once the key features of a chemical topic have been developed, applications are considered. The teaching and learning of practical skills are integrated with the theoretical topics, and are examined both in the written papers and through the Practical Endorsement. This allows practical and laboratory skills to be developed in a way suited to each individual pupil, combining academic challenge with practical focus.

Further information is available here or from the Head of Chemistry, Mrs C A Walsh.

Physics: EDUQAS A level Physics (Linear)

Physics is the most fundamental of the sciences, offering a very broad education. It is essential for people planning to study physical sciences or engineering at university, and is very useful for people wishing to study medicine or other sciences. It is also an acceptable course for most other degrees. A level Mathematics is not necessary for those studying physics, although it does provide good support to the course and is recommended. However, additional support is provided for non-mathematicians. The course is linear, involving three written exams at the end of the two-year course. Progress at key stages during the course will be assessed by the department. The course has a strong practical element and pupils attaining a minimum standard in a set of core skills will be awarded an additional Practical Endorsement.

Further information is available here or from the Head of Physics, Mr C J Wheatland.