We aim to make the study of Chemistry 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. The Science departmental library and the main school Library are well stocked with up-to-date texts which not only fully support the courses we deliver, but also go well beyond the curriculum for the interested reader, and those who may be preparing for entry to Oxford or Cambridge to read Chemistry or the Medical Sciences.

The Department has developed its own demanding and engaging experimental courses tailored specifically to each year group. In the Lower School, pupils work in pairs to develop their practical skills, with an emphasis on safe and collaborative team work. Challenges set are appropriate to the year group and the best practical work in each session is rewarded through the commendation programme. Upper School students work individually, building up a range of practical skills to include both planning of experiments and analysis of the results. Success here leads to the award of the Practical Endorsement. All year groups are supported by the latest computer software, including Seneca learning, Kerboodle and Twig World, designed to make this challenging subject accessible to all ages and abilities.

Lower School Chemistry prepares pupils for the Edexcel IGCSE. 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 working towards either the separate IGCSE in Chemistry or the Dual Award in Science. The curriculum time is the same. In the Hundred, topics include energetics, further calculations in Chemistry, equilibria and further organic Chemistry.

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 strong emphasis on problem solving. Study areas 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 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.

A carefully curated programme of activities, lectures and optional tutorials encourage a love for the subject and the development of skills essential for life beyond Marlborough. We have particularly close links with the School of Chemistry at Bristol University. Our most gifted pupils in the Hundred, and all Lower and Upper Sixth Chemistry pupils, attend annual laboratory days at Bristol Chemical Laboratory Sciences (Bristol ChemLabS), which is a UK Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Here pupils are challenged to think as young scientists, completing bespoke practical challenges while gaining access to some of the best undergraduate teaching laboratories in the UK.

In the Upper School, all pupils subscribe to Chemistry Review, a quarterly journal looking at topical issues in the field. 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; about one third of each year group enters this competition. Interested Lower Sixth pupils are able to individually extend their learning outside of the classroom by completing a five to six week online course in Exploring Everyday Chemistry from FutureLearn.