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Physics

Physics is the quest to understand the workings of our amazing universe: from the unimaginably tiny particles that make up everything around us to the mind-boggling enormity of space.

How can it be that the atoms in our body are billions of years old and made in stars? What happens in a black hole? Will microwave-emitting mobile phones fry your brain? Why is the sky blue? Why do twins age differently if one of them goes on a fast space-ship ride? How can we fit the whole human race into the volume of a malteser? All of these questions and many more can be answered using basic Physics ideas.

Simply put, if you understand Physics, you understand everything!

> Years 7-9

In Year 7 pupils study topics such as electricity, space and forces in fun and engaging ways. There is an emphasis on practical experimentation and a focus on providing a broad base for further study of the subject.

Year 8 pupils enjoy addressing questions such as: How do you make a battery out of fruit? How can you break a steel bar with just a flame? How does the electricity we use for our TVs and iPads get generated?

Year 9 pupils move onto the areas of magnetism, density, light and optics, wave behaviour and electric circuits. They are provided with a strong foundation in the skills and knowledge essential for their GCSE studies.

Practical work is an important element of these courses with the aim of developing data analysis skills in particular.

> GCSE

The GCSE Physics course is divided into eight topics: forces, energy, waves, electricity, magnetism and electromagnetism, particle model of matter, atomic structure, and space physics.

External assessment takes place at the end of Year 11, and consists of two written exams worth 50% each.

Practical work is taught as an integral part of the course, and the skills and methods learned in the laboratory will also be assessed in both of the final exams.

> A Level

The OCR Advancing Physics specification is followed at AS and A2 level. In the lower sixth, students will learn about digital imaging and signalling, electronic sensors, mechanical properties of materials, wave superposition, quantum behaviour, and classical mechanics. In the upper sixth, the topics covered are particle physics, oscillations and resonance, capacitors, nuclear physics, fields, thermal physics and electromagnetic machines.

This course was developed with the collaboration of The Institute of Physics and is popular among pupils as a means to learn technologically relevant Physics in modern-day contexts. There is no longer a coursework component.  Instead, practical work is regularly assessed as an integral part of the course and counts towards the A-level Practical Endorsement. 

> Co-curricular

Physics Olympiad:  Our lower sixth students are given the opportunity to enter the AS Challenge paper, and those who score particularly highly will go on to enter the British Physics Olympiad Round 1 competition in the upper sixth.

Depending on demand, the physics department runs various lunchtime clubs. In the Young Engineers Club, pupils meet on a regular basis to engage in various ‘hands-on’ engineering challenges, for example building a mechanically powered glider. In the Astronomy Club, pupils have the opportunity to use a number of professional robotic telescopes, particularly the 2 metre Faulkes Telescopes in Hawaii and Australia that can be controlled in real time over the internet. These have been used by HCS pupils to produce stunning images of distant galaxies and nebulae, as well as providing data for projects and research. 

> Trips

CERN laboratories, Geneva, Switzerland – this is a biennial trip for Year 11 and sixth form students.  A chance to see one of the world’s most famous research establishments, home to the Large Hadron Collider.

GCSE Science Live – this annual trip is run for pupils in Year 10, who are given the opportunity to learn about physics research from leading speakers, including Jim Al-Khalili on Black Holes and Time Travel, and Maggie Alderin-Pocock on work in the UK space industry. 

Occasional trips are run on the basis of demand; in the past these have included the Spaceguard Centre in Knighton and the national synchrotron science facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories in Oxfordshire. 

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