Physics allows you to explain why things happen. Why does a plane fly, why does an ice skater spin faster when she pulls her arms in. Why can’t you make a swing catch another swing up? Why was Polonium 110 used as a poison, but not Polonium 209 or 211?

Physics is studied by all pupils as part of Science in years 7 and as a separate subject in years 8-11.

Aims

In the department we aim to stimulate curiosity and provide a positive atmosphere for the girls to hypothesise, take risks and succeed.

  • To use experimentation and modelling to develop explanations.
  • To encourage critical and creative thinking.
  • To develop the pupils’ scientific literacy, allowing them to take decisions based on scientific understanding and questioning the reliability and validity of evidence presented to them.
  • To encourage pupils to apply their scientific understanding throughout the school especially in other STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) subjects.

Curriculum

Year 8

Year 9

Year 10

Year 11

Year 12

Year 13

Term 1

Autumn Term – Spring Term

Light and Sound

  • How sounds are made
  • Frequency and amplitude
  • The ear
  • Noise
  • Pinhole cameras
  • Shadows
  • Reflection
  • Refraction
  • Colour

Term 2

Spring Term – Summer Term

Energy

  • Climate change
  • Energy transfers
  • Using electricity
  • Efficiency
  • Energy resources

Term 1

  • P1 Conservation and dissipation of energy
    • Changes in energy states
    • Conservation of energy
    • Energy and work
    • Gravitational and kinetic energy stores
    • Energy dissipation
    • Efficiency
    • Energy and power

TERM 3

  • Energy resources
    • Energy demands
    • Energy from fossil fuels
    • Energy from wind and water
    • Energy from the Sun and the Earth
    • Nuclear energy

Term 2

  • P2 Energy transfer by heating
    • Conductivity
    • Rates of energy transfer
    • Heating and insulating buildings

Term 1

  • P6 Molecules and matter
    • Density
    • States of matter
    • Change of state
    • Internal energy
    • Specific latent heat
    • Gas pressure and temperature
    • Gas pressure and volume

 

  • P7 Radioactivity
    • Atoms and radiation
    • Discovery of the nucleus
    • Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation
    • Activity and half-life
    • Radiation in medicine
    • Nuclear fission and fusion

TERM 3

  • P12 Wave properties
    • Properties of waves
    • Reflection and refraction
    • Sound waves
    • Ultrasound
    • Seismic waves

 

  • P13 Electromagnetic waves
    • The electromagnetic spectrum
    • Light, infrared, microwaves and radio waves
    • Communications
    • Ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays
    • X-rays in medicine

Term 2

  • P4 Electric currents
    • Electric charge and fields
    • Current and charge
    • Potential difference and resistance
    • Component characteristics
    • Series circuits
    • Parallel circuits

 

  • P5 Electricity in the home
    • Alternating current
    • Cables and plugs
    • Power and potential difference
    • Current and energy transfer

Term 1

  • P14 Light
    • Reflection
    • Refraction
    • Light and colour
    • Lenses

  • P8 Forces in balance
    • Vectors and scalars
    • Forces between objects
    • Resultant forces
    • Moments
    • Levers and gears
    • Centre of mass
    • Parallelogram of forces
    • Resolution of forces

  • P9 Motion
    • Speed and distance time graphs
    • Velocity and acceleration
    • Analysing motion

  • P10 Forces and Motion
    • Acceleration
    • Weigh and terminal velocity
    • Forces and braking
    • Momentum
    • Impact forces
    • Safety
    • Elasticity

Term 2

  • P10 Forces and pressure
    • Pressure and surfaces
    • Pressure in a liquid
    • Atmospheric pressure
    • Upthrust and flotation

  • P15 Electromagnetism
    • Magnetic fields
    • Electromagnets
    • The motor effect
    • The generator effect
    • Alternating-current generator
    • Transformers
    • Transformers in action

  • P16 Space
    • Formation of the solar system
    • The life history of a star
    • Planets, satellites and orbits
    • The expanding universe
    • The future of the universe

Term 1

  • Mechanics and materials
    • Forces and equilibrium
    • Motion and projectiles
    • Newton’s laws
    • Momentum and impulse
    • Work, energy and power
    • Properties of materials
    • Deformation of solids

 

  • Wave and optics
    • Wave properties
    • Stationary and progressive waves
    • Refraction of light
    • Total internal reflection
    • Double slit interference
    • Diffraction
    • Diffraction gratings

 

TERM 3

  • Further mechanics
    • Circular motion
    • Centripetal acceleration
    • Simple harmonic motion
    • Resonance

Term 2

  • Particles and radiation
    • The atom
    • Stable and unstable nuclei
    • Particles and antiparticles
    • Particle interaction
    • Quarks and leptons
    • The photoelectric effect
    • Electron collisions
    • Energy levels and spectra
    • Wave-particle duality

 

  • Electricity
    • Electric current, voltage and resistance
    • Characteristics of components
    • DC circuits
    • Emf and internal resistance
    • Potential dividers
    • Circuit calculation

Term 1

  • Thermal Physics and Ideal gases
    • Internal energy
    • Specific heat capacity
    • Change of state
    • Experimental gas laws
    • Ideal gas laws
    • Kinetic theory

 

  • Nuclear Physics
    • Discovery of the nucleus
    • Alpha, beta and gamma radiation
    • Radioactive decay
    • Use of radioactive isotopes
    • Binding energy
    • Fission and fusion
    • Nuclear reactors
  • Gravitational Fields
    • Gravitational field strength and potential
    • Newton’s law of gravitation
    • Planetary fields
    • Satellite motion

Term 2

  • Electric Fields
    • Electric field strength and potential
    • Coulomb’s law
    • Comparison of electric and gravitational fields

 

  • Capacitance
    • Energy stored in a capacitor
    • Charging and discharging a capacitor
    • Dielectrics

 

  • Magnetic fields
    • Conductors and moving charges in a magnetic field
    • Charged particles in a circular orbit

 

  • Electromagnetic Induction
    • Generating electricity
    • Laws of electromagnetic induction
    • The alternating current generator
    • Alternating current and power
    • Transformers

Staff

The Department boasts a wide range of experience. Current staff are:-

  • Mr. M. Nawaz (Head of Department)
  • Mr. C. Trotter (Assistant Head Teacher)
  • Miss D. Campbell (Teacher of Physics)
  • Mr. S. Pines (Physics Technician)

Additional Information

What your daughter may do in lessons:

At GCSE and A-Level, practical activities are used where ever possible show Physics in action. Pupils are expected to work together to solve problems and make sense of the observations they make. There is a greater emphasis on the use of Maths to model and determine physical relationships.

Year 7

The pupils will receive 6 lessons of Science per fortnight. They will cover 2 Physics topics (Forces/ Space  and Electricity/ Magnetism) during the year as part of the adapted WIKID scheme of learning.

Year 8

In Year 8 pupils have one Physics lesson each week.

The Year 8 scheme follows on from the WIKID scheme currently taught in Year 7 and consists of two modules. Unit 1 ‘Light and Sound’ covers the properties of light and sound waves, reflection, refraction, colours, the ear and speed of waves, whilst Unit 2 ‘Energy’ is based on energy transfers and energy resources.

Throughout Year 8 each section of study (normally about 6 weeks) ends with an end of topic test; these grades are used in report writing.  Practical activities are monitored and feedback given.  In addition, home learning and class work is assessed and contribute to our growing picture of each student’s current effort and achievement. From all these aspects of assessment the girls receive suggestions about how to improve and how they might stretch themselves further in Physics.

Years 9, 10 and 11

All girls take single subject Physics at GCSE following the AQA 8463 specification starting in Year 9. This is a ‘new’ style GCSE which is assessed through two written papers both taken at the end of Year 11.

An emphasis on practical skills is made through 10 required practical investigations which are carried out during the course and these are assessed within the written papers.

In Year 9 pupils have 1 lesson of Physics per week and in Years 10 and 11 this increases to 2 lessons per week.

End of topic tests, along with assessment of the work set in class and for home learning provide the girls with feedback on their progress throughout the course. Practical skills will be also be observed and outcomes monitored.

Post 16 (A Level)

We follow the AQA A Level Physics specification 7408 which consists of 3 written papers at the end of Year 13. Students complete 12 required practical investigations, for which they have to meet 5 competencies and the skills gained are assessed in their written papers.  

Each group in Year 12 and 13 is taught by two teachers. Throughout the course the girls are assessed by both of their teachers. Their contribution to class work and discussions is commented upon, home learning is regularly marked and improvements suggested. Practical skills are observed and outcomes monitored. Individual tasks such as topic tests as well as mock exams also allow the girls and their teachers to be aware of current levels of attainment.

How can parents help?

Physics opportunities parents can provide:

  • Thinktank, Birmingham’s science museum has many exhibits related to Physics and its applications.
  • Science is a popular television topic, Horizon and programmes with Brian Cox or Jim Al-Khalili are frequently repeated on BBC3 and 4. Myth busters, Bang goes the theory, and Brainiac all approach entertainment from a scientific perspective. Documentaries with “Engineering” in the title would also be useful.
  • Encouraging your daughter to help with DIY and using tools gives an awareness of forces, levers and machines.
  • Encouraging your daughter to take advantage of the opportunities available at school.

Where next

An A-level in Physics can lead to a variety of courses at university such as Geophysics, Architecture, Computer Science, Finance and Economics, Materials Science etc. as well as the more traditional routes into Physics, Astronomy and Engineering.

One possibly appealing aspect of studying Physics at university is the diversity of physics careers, which are not set in any one direction. Physics graduates have skills that are in high demand in diverse sectors. These include skills relating to numeracy, problem-solving, data analysis and the communication of complex ideas, as well as a wider understanding of how the world works, on a scientific and human level.

This highly transferable and valued skillset also means physics graduates earn more. According to the Institute of Physics (IOP) those with a BSc in Physics earn 14% more than other graduates, and this increases to 18% more for those with a Master of Physics (MPhys).

Physics graduates are in demand in many industries such as research, education, finance, automotive and aerospace industries, defence, the public sector, healthcare, energy, materials, technology, computing and IT, meteorology.

Opportunities out of lessons

Physics opportunities outside of lessons:

  • Science club for years 7 and 8.
  • STEM club for Key Stage 4 and 5
  • Regular external competitions advertised on the notice boards
  • Activity day trip to GCSE Live (y10)
  • STEM activity day events (y9)
  • Birmingham University evening lecture series
  • EDT Headstart courses for y12
  • Nuffield Bursary placements in y12
  • Library:
    • Periodicals: Physics review, New Scientist magazine, FLIPSIDE,
    • Books: Bad Science, Alice in Quantum Land, and many others

Useful links