Physics is far more than a collection of theories and facts: it is a way of thinking about our world. Through the process of play, children quickly discover how the environment around them operates and develop an understanding of their physical world. We are all, at heart, inquisitive; science formalises and develops this curiosity through the development and exploration of theories. Physics challenges pupils to think critically in a variety of contexts: from the demands of classical mechanics to the evolving uncertainty of particle physics. Through experiments, demonstrations and open-ended discussions pupils cultivate important academic and personal skills, including analysis, evaluation, problem solving, teamwork and ICT. These skills rely on the development of highly sophisticated thinking and, as a result, Physics is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious subjects offered in schools.

At Marlborough, we believe in returning to the basics. Just as young children love to explore, we believe in helping our pupils rekindle the joys of discovery. By challenging pupils to confront their own perceptions, we prepare them for a world that is constantly changing. The skills and qualities acquired through the study of the subject are highly sought after and physicists can be found in a broad range of careers, from industry to finance. All members of our Physics Department hold degrees in either Physics or Engineering, with a number holding Masters and PhD qualifications, meaning all pupils are taught by a specialist in Physics (something of a rarity in schools). As a result, we have a proud track record of sending pupils every year to further studies in Engineering, Physics or Natural Sciences at either Oxford or Cambridge, with other popular destinations including Imperial College and Manchester University.

The Physics Department follows the Edexcel IGCSE for the Lower School and the Eduqas A level in the Upper School. Shell pupils are quickly introduced to the most fundamental ideas in Physics, those of energy conservation and forces, before being enchanted by the wonder of image-making in the optics topic. They are shown the science of our universe through the study of Astrophysics in the Lent Term, a topic which the majority of pupils find genuinely enthralling.

The Remove year sees the introduction of radioactivity, thermal physics and cosmology, along with further development of the key ideas in mechanics, optics and electrical circuits. In the Hundred pupils consolidate their understanding of the core topics, and are introduced to electromagnetism and thermodynamics.

The Sixth Form course follows a traditional path. We believe that the rigour and attention to detail required by such a course serves two purposes: pupils enjoy the requirement for precision and the cerebral challenges that presents and they also get what we consider to be the best grounding in Physics we can offer, developing them into excellent critical thinkers and problem solvers.

Our curriculum places a firm emphasis on practical skills alongside academic exactitude, and, by the end of the course, all pupils are well versed in the scientific method. We have no shortage of practical equipment, and are able to provide apparatus for all topics, including signal generators, specialist power supplies, electron beam tubes, Helmholtz coils and class sets of iPads and data-logging sensors. All Sixth Form pupils become competent data handlers and understand the importance of stating precisely what confidence they have in their experimental results.

We provide a multitude of extra activities for interested pupils based on the belief that enthusiasm must be fuelled, and that some of the best learning happens outside of the academic curriculum when pupils are engaged with the subject. We encourage pupils to organise their own Physics-based activities, further enhancing their leadership capabilities as well as their presentation skills and subject knowledge.

The Physics Department offers:

  • an annual trip to CERN for Upper School pupils (and those in the Hundred who are considering the study of Physics in the Sixth Form);
  • ‘Further Physics’ discussion groups for the Remove and Hundred, where pupils learn about some of the slightly stranger (and invariably more interesting!) aspects of Physics;
  • five-week ‘elective’ courses on Special Relativity, Rocket Science, the History of Physics through Experiments, and the Ten Greatest Discoveries in Physics;
  • an annual science trip for Shell pupils; and
  • Sixth Form extension problem-solving classes.