The department aims to provide for students with a broad range of interests in science. Some students will pursue education in Physics through to Key Stage 5, degree level and perhaps beyond. Our aim is to provide them with a solid background of understanding, and a high level of numerical skill and ability to formulate arguments rationally and logically. Other students may enter higher education or employment with the need to utilize the skills and knowledge they have learnt in Physics whilst at school. Some students are unlikely to pursue employment in a career related to Physics but will still benefit from a broad appreciation of the physical rules governing the way the world works, recognise the benefit of rational explanation and be encouraged to be curious about natural phenomena. The Physics curriculum has been designed to cater for all students irrespective of the direction their future might take, giving them the knowledge and skills to form the next generation of scientists, engineers, professionals and informed, interested members of society.
At Key Stage 3 and beyond students are taught the following key scientific skills:
The recognition of relevant knowledge and abstract ideas, including use of relevant equations to identify key terms
Sequencing of ideas
Providing logical justification and reasoning
Techniques to improve long term memory are being introduced including:
Production of revision summaries
RAG analysis of learning objectives
Repeated revision and recall of formulae
At Key Stage 3 schemes of work follow the National Curriculum to a very large extent and have been amended in order to increase the level of challenge in Key Stage 3 to better prepare students for the new GCSE specification. A spiral curriculum ensures that common big ideas in Physics are revisited and extended allowing pupils to consolidate prior learning, encourage retention in their long term memory and extend their knowledge base and ability to apply this knowledge. The curriculum focuses largely on improving knowledge and application of forces, motion, energy, waves, electricity, astronomy and practical enquiry skills.
To establish a solid foundation of the most fundamental concepts students study units on Forces, Energy and Electricity in Year 7. Students start to apply these concepts in Year 8 through their study of heat transfer, waves and space and forces and transport. In Year 9 the idea of work done is introduced and the study of force, energy and electricity becomes considerably more numerical. The fundamental concepts are explored in greater depth through Key Stages 4 and 5, becoming increasingly conceptual and requiring greater application to unfamiliar situations. Students start to realize that the difficulty of Physics is often to see how simple the solution really is. We promote the drawing of diagrams to help them understand problems and train them to identify the physical relationships and ideas that are likely to be involved in an answer so that they can form increasingly complex arguments from them.
At Key Stage 3 students study the following sequence of units:
Students learn about energy types, energy transfers , energy resources and electric circuits and current.
The concept of voltage is not taught at this stage as students find this conceptually difficult and we feel they learn better when they have a clear understanding of current first.
Forces, motion and deformation
Students learn to describe forces as a push or a pull of one object on another, as this helps them to think more critically about forces in more complex situations. They measure and calculate weights and masses. Numerical and observational skills are developed through an investigation into buoyancy, in which students calculate density and relate their answers to the particle model of matter. Friction and free-body force diagrams are taught and this leads on to the study of impact forces.
The topic commences with learning about resultant force and how this causes objects to accelerate, and how drag limits the speed of moving objects. Numerical skills are developed by the drawing and interpretation of motion graphs and calculation of speed and acceleration. The concept of velocity (as opposed to speed) is introduced for the first time. The topic broadens students’ experience of force and electricity via the study of magnetic fields, moments and pressure.
Students recap the particle model of matter and use this to explain expansion and thermometer design. They start to differentiate between temperature and heat, and start learn how heat is transferred. The aim is to give students a solid grounding in the basic concepts upon which they can build in Year 9 and 11.
Waves and space
We find that pupils’ experience of these topics from primary school is mixed and that they benefit from covering the law of reflection and the way angles are measured from a normal before we can extend their learning to refraction. Similarly students come with misconceptions about colour and how to explain the phases of the moon and seasonal changes, so these concepts are taught and assessed to fill gaps in student’s knowledge prior to Key Stage 4.
Whilst learning more about weight, students make and test their own force meter. Students learn to calculate of work, kinetic and gravitational potential energies in order to increase the level of challenge and provide a grounding in the numerical skills needed at GCSE. Finally the concept of energy is extended to electric circuits initially recapping rules for current and then extending to the measurement and calculation of voltage, using voltage to explain where energy is transformed in electric circuits.
Pressure and moments
Learning is extended by a greater emphasis on numerical work calculating pressures and upthrust. Vector and scalar quantities are introduced for the first time and students start to perform vector addition, calculating resultant vectors. At the end of the unit, work from Year 8 on hydraulics and moments is recapped and extended. The teaching of moments and pressure in the same topic is deliberate, as it provides the best opportunity for dealing directly with the issues of commonly confused concepts of work and moments and their units. The scheme of work aims to give students clear examples of the practical importance of moments, not simply limited to the balancing of beams supported by a single pivot.
In Key Stages 4 and 5 the curriculum is predominantly dictated by the Edexcel GCSE and A Level specifications, but students’ work is extended beyond the precise scope of the specification in cases where the department believes that this will enhance students’ ability to apply their knowledge or to understand a concept. The decision is largely taken by the individual teacher, as he/she is in the best position to make this judgement based on the students in the class. An example of this is the decision to teach about the ‘photon’ and ‘photon energy’ in Key Stage 4 to explain why ultra-violet light is able to ionize atoms rather than just rely on an unexplained statement that ‘ultra-violet has a high frequency’ or that it ‘carries more energy’. For students who will take Physics at A Level, having a clear grasp of photon energy and the intensity of a radiation makes understanding the photo-electric effect at Key Stage 5 easier (rather than having to correct a muddled understanding at a later date). Practical work includes the core practicals specified by the Edexcel to meet QCA requirements.
At A Level students study the Edexcel specification and have 2 teachers enabling them to experience slightly different teaching styles which can help to promote understanding. Each teacher is responsible for either Paper 1 content or Paper 2. Both are responsible for teaching the practical skills necessary for core practicals and for developing students’ ability to synthesise ideas, both assessed in Paper 3.
The A Level schemes of work are detailed, but not prescriptive, such that teachers new to teaching a topic have sufficient detailed guidance and commentary on how to link ideas that they are well supported in their teaching, but more experienced teachers are free to set activities of their own choice which can bring greater variety and allows them to tailor teaching to the students in a particular group. The aim is always to achieve a deep and secure understanding, but also to extend teaching either a little beyond the specification, or apply it to as wide a variety of situations as time allows to broaden students’ study and improve their ability to apply their learning to unfamiliar situations.
In order to gauge student progress and provide opportunities for students to develop at all key stages their long-term memory, regular revision and testing is incorporated into the scheme of work.
In Key Stage 3 approximately 12 lessons are devoted to every topic and students are assessed after 6 lessons and at the end of the topic with compulsory revision tasks prior to every assessment. The topic tests are supplemented by end of year exams, and as students progress through Key Stage 3 the end of year exams will test them on the whole curriculum studied to date.
In Key Stage 4 a variety of assessment techniques is used; some assessing particular skills, others assessing a larger body of knowledge using past exam questions. Students experience full length examination papers at the end of Year 10, November of Year 11 and March of Year 11. A large body of revision questions has been developed to support students in their learning prior to the Year 10 exam and the final external examinations. Teacher assessment of the Year 10 exam provides feedback to allow students to make significant improvements to their exam paper, building skills and a deeper knowledge and understanding of the Physics Paper 1 content prior to their mock exam in November of Year 11. The department is also planning a series of frequent quick tests to help consolidate recall of prior material throughout the school year.
In Key Stage 5 testing is undertaken in the first 2 weeks to check on students’ knowledge following the summer holiday work set, in Term 2 (November) of Year 12 and they sit a mock exam in Term 4 (April) of Year 12. A further mock exam is given in Term 1 of Year 13, after students have had Term 6 and the summer to progress a set of 10 past paper questions, and then in Term 3 and Term 4 of Year 13. This is supplemented by other smaller tests. In every case, students are given their marked work and a set of hints to allow them to improve their work further.
The progress of all students is monitored in termly Data Analysis and Intervention meetings (undertaken in one of the fortnightly line management meetings), during which a strategy for support is identified.
Support to help students make progress is also provided by additional help in lessons, use of lunchtimes, plus support sessions after school on a fortnightly basis at GCSE and a series of holiday and weekend revision sessions for Year 13 (usually totalling around 30 hours).
SEN students are supported in Physics by placing them in an easily accessible position in the classroom to enable the teacher to check-in with them during lessons. Careful thought is given to the students they are placed near, to ensure that they can learn effectively. SEN students are identified on seating plans to ensure that they are familiar with these students from an early stage. Instructions are generally displayed (eg on the board, on the google classroom or in a powerpoint presentation) as well as given verbally to help SEN students remember what needs to be done. A number of students use Chromebooks to type their classwork especially when they have difficulty with writing for extended periods or their handwriting is difficult to read. This means that if they are allowed use of word processing in external exams, they become confident in typing during classes and in assessments. Where students have additional time for examinations, they are also given additional time in class assessments so they become familiar with the pace at which they need to work. Those students with physical disabilities are encouraged to participate in practical work by planning to identify which elements of the work can be safely undertaken and by utilising classroom assistants. This has allowed students to access A level practical work, and in the past a student’s classroom assistant has been trained in the use of specialist measuring equipment enabling a student with significant physical disabilities to undertake a practical exam with help.
Literacy is incorporated into classroom teaching by emphasising the use of key words during discussion, when using written resources and when assessing and feeding-back to students. Our GCSE textbook helpfully identifies most key words in bold, and contains a useful glossary for students to access. At A level students are issued with a key word sheet at the start of the course which not only identifies the key words needed for each unit, but also identifies incorrect words often used by students. Where incorrect use of key words is likely, this is identified to students eg the common misuse of ‘amplitude’ and ‘displacement’. Students’ development of writing skills for example writing practical methods, criticising arguments, comparing and contrasting are encouraged through the use of extension questions from the text books, incorporation of a variety of written tasks in module tests and exams, and teaching about command words and their meaning. Literacy errors are identified in marked work and this might be accompanied by a request to speak to the teacher to explain a subtle point or a spelling or grammatical correction.
In 2019 GCSE Physics students attained an average Grade of 7.1, amongst the highest in the school. Those taking Combined Science achieved an average of 6.1, slightly below their challenging target.
At A Level the department has secured ALPS scores of 2, 3 and 5 over the last 3 years. It is a consistently highly attaining department.
In addition in manifests itself in these other ways:
There is a high take-up of Physics at A level, with external students choosing to move to the Math to study Physics.
All students have passed their Practical Endorsement at A level due to the dogged determination of their teachers and the setting of additional tasks, without any reduction in the high standards expected.
Students apply their mathematical skills effectively in numerical work.
Students can express their ideas clearly, using key terminology.
Performance at GCSE is consistently amongst the highest in this highly achieving school.
The department has a target to improve the performance SEN and disadvantaged students to perform in line with their peers.
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