About 13.5 billion years ago, matter, energy, time and space came into being in what is known as the Big Bang. The story of these fundamental features of our universe is called physics.
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What will I learn?
Students will learn about the theory and application of physics that is relevant to their current lives, and the physics that may be relevant to their future. Through this, they will gain an understanding about how humans learn, and how they make discoveries about our universe.
All students at Poole Grammar School study physics from Year 7 to Year 11; around a third of students choose to continue their physics studies to Year 13. The seven years of study are based around a spiral curriculum: a student will meet each fundamental concept multiple times throughout their school career, with each encounter increasing in complexity and reinforcing their previous learning.
In year 7 students follow a combined science course, studying each of biology, chemistry and physics for one term. They have six science lessons in each fortnightly cycle. They are taught by a single teacher, which allows a strong relationship to form and allows aspects of science common between biology, chemistry and physics to be reinforced. The focus in Year 7 Physics is on experimental science: by the end of the year students will be able to plan an experiment; safely carry it out using standard equipment and taking and recording accurate readings; analyse their results using appropriate graphs. Students join Poole Grammar School from a wide range of schools, and will have been exposed to differing amounts of science: no previous knowledge is assumed in the year 7 course. The topics covered in year 7 are forces, space and temperature.
From year 8 on wards students are only taught by physics specialists. In year 8 students have two lessons in each fortnightly cycle. In this year they are introduced to the mathematical skills needed to be an effective physicist. The year builds on the experimental skills developed in year 7, looking at the topics of energy, sound and light, and electricity and magnetism.
In year 9 students have three lessons in each fortnightly cycle. They revisit the fundamental topics of forces, waves and waves but studying them in greater depth, using mathematics to make predictions and drawing out the links between them. The year 9 course deliberately includes content (such as the Big Bang theory and seismic waves) that are an important aspect of a student’s broader education, but which would not otherwise be studied by a student following combined science at GCSE.
From year 10 students may elect to follow the AQA GCSE Trilogy combined science course (resulting in two GCSEs) or to follow AQA GCSE Biology, Chemistry and Physics course (resulting in three GCSEs). There are no academic entry requirements for these two pathways: students are supported to make the choice based on their interests and preference. Successful GCSE performance in either pathway will allow students to take any of the sciences at A-level at Poole Grammar School. In Year 10 students study energy, electricity, atomic structure and further waves; in year 11 students study electromagnetism & mains electricity pressure and advanced forces.
At A-level students follow the AQA physics course. Students have two teachers and nine lessons in a fortnightly cycle, split 5:4. All students are entered for the A2 qualification; students are not entered for the AS examination. In year 12 students study content equivalent to the AS qualification, in year 13 students study the more advanced, A2-only content. The majority of students take the astrophysics option.
Around 20 students each year leave Poole Grammar School to pursue physics or engineering degrees at university (including Oxbridge) with many more utilising the skills developed in their future professional careers.
What will I do?
Physics lessons include a range of theory, experimental demonstrations and class practicals which help students develop an understanding of physical phenomena. The physics department is well equipped, allowing a significant amount of experimental work to take place, developing the practical skills necessary. Students extensively practice applying the concept that they are studying so enable
How much homework will I get?
Homework is set according to the school’s homework timetable for each of the year groups. Homework tasks are set to consolidate learning in the classroom and to provide students with opportunities to reinforce their knowledge of the subject.
Students receive one piece of homework per week for Science in Year 7 and this is approximately 30 mins in duration. In Years 8 and 9, students receive one piece of physics homework per fortnight. At GCSE, one homework task is set per week: this is expected to take 45 minutes to one hour.
In the Sixth Form students are expected to spend a minimum of six hours every week outside of class studying Physics. Some of this work will be directed by teacher as homework, but students should also be completing additional work such as reviewing classwork, learning definitions, answering end of chapter questions and completing past paper questions independently
How will I be assessed?
Students sit a test at the end of each topic. In addition there are end-of-year exams for years 10 and 11, and for both GCSE and A-level mocks are sat in the January preceding the public exam.
What guidance and support is available?
Students who need additional support should speak to their subject teacher in the first instance, as they are best placed to recommend additional resources and guidance. Additional support and revision sessions are available in year 11.
At A-level addition support sessions are provided to coincide with students’ study periods.
A wealth of resources are available via Moodle (the school’s Virtual Learning Environment. In addition, GCSE students are provided with a revision guide and at A-level students are provided with an electronic or physical copy of the textbook.
What extra-curricular opportunities are available?
The physics department runs an astronomy club and hosts talks such as ‘Who wants to be an astronaut’ by Dr Imber, runs events such as a robotics day and runs trips to events such as the Tech Deck at Land Rover BAR, the summer exhibition at the Royal Society and Science Live.
In the sixth form there is a fortnightly series of talks by the students (known as ‘Stemantics’) and an extension Physics group called ‘Tricky Physics’. Each year a number of students take part in the British Physics Olympiad.