Physics encompasses the whole of the Universe from the largest galaxies to the smallest subatomic particles. It is therefore the most basic and fundamental science. It is crucial to understanding the world around us, the world inside us, and the world beyond us. This understanding can then challenge our imaginations which eventually leads to great discoveries and technologies that can change the lives of us all.
Studying physics provides a basis to many of the other sciences, including biology, chemistry, the medical sciences, oceanography, seismology, and astronomy as well as all areas of engineering.
In Years 12 and 13 the students follow the OCR Physics A Specification. This develops many of the ideas and theories studied at GCSE such as Forces, Energy and Motion as well as adding Quantum Physics, Medical Physics, Cosmology and Astrophysics.
The course consists of 6 taught modules:
- Practical Skills in Physics
- Foundation in Physics
- Forces and Motion
- Electrons, Waves and Photons
- Newtonian World and Astrophysics
- Particles and Medical Physics
There are also 12 Practical Endorsement Activities and the students are given access to electronic resources through Kerboodle.
The course is taught by two teachers so two topics are taught side-by-side. We begin Year 12 with Foundations of Physics and Practical Skills modules which help develop skills to enable the students to design, conduct, analyse and evaluate practical situations with accuracy and reliability, as well as being able to give detailed error and uncertainty information. These skills are frequently revisited throughout the course. They are also given the opportunity to prepare their work on a particular experiment for a poster presentation similar to that which might be seen at a scientific conference.
Next we move on to Module 3 Forces and Motion which builds on the knowledge taught at GCSE to give the students a more detailed mathematical approach to solving problems involving forces, and the motion they create. This includes linear motion and 2-dimensional motion with an analysis of projectile motion. We then continue studying the effect of forces on motion in Module 5, Newtonian World and Astrophysics, and in particular the topics involving Circular Motion, Gravitation and the orbit of satellites. The students finish Year 12 by studying Electric and Magnetic Fields, their similarities with gravitational fields, how objects experience forces and the motion resulting from these fields. This also includes a consideration of the physics of capacitors which is timed in the year to follow on from the study of electric circuits.
The second teacher takes the students through Module 2 Foundations in Physics which introduces them to the importance of significant figures, estimations and the use of vectors in solving physics problems. Next they cover a standalone section from Module 3 on Materials culminating in a short project that requires the students to design, construct and test a spaghetti viaduct that will enable a model train to cross it. The students then move on to Module 4 Electrons, Waves and Photons to study electric circuits, their components and finally they learn to undertake mathematical circuit analysis that can lead to the design of circuits using specialised components to carry out a specific task.
The Waves topic within Module 4 introduces the students to the key ideas of electromagnetic radiation and optical phenomena as well as a demonstration of the same phenomena in sound waves. The waves topic then allows the students to appreciate some of the less obvious features of quantum physics and in particular they acquire the knowledge and understanding to be able to describe wave-particle duality.
In Year 13 the same 2 teacher structure continues with a continuation of the final elements of Module 5 Simple Harmonic Motion and Resonance which builds upon both the Waves and Forces and Motion topics from Year 12. The students then move on to study the Medical Imaging topics of Module 6.
The second teacher, begins Year 13 with the study of the Astrophysics and Cosmology topics from Module 5 which introduces the students to the structures of the universe, how they behave and also how the universe has evolved from the Big Bang, looking at the evidence physicists have of these events. Year 13 then continues with the Thermal Physics topics of Module 5 which build upon the ideas covered at GCSE to enable the students to conduct more mathematical analysis of relevant situations. The course completes with the final topics of Module 6, Radioactivity and Particle Physics. The radioactivity topic introduces the students to the processes that lead to both nuclear fission and fusion and we enable them to conduct numerical analysis of the processes. This is how and why the naturally occurring elements of the periodic table are as they are.
Scheme of Learning
Autumn Term 1: Practical Skills in Physics (1), Foundations of Physics (2), Motion (3), Materials (3)
Autumn Term 2: Motion (3), Materials (3), Work, Power and Energy and Forces in Action (3)
Spring Term 1: Newton’s Laws (3), Work, Power and Energy and Forces in Action (3), Waves (4)
Spring Term 2: Circular Motion and Gravitational Fields (5), Waves (4), Charge and Current; Energy, Power and Resistance (4)
Summer Term 1: Waves (4), Electric circuits (4)
Summer Term 2: Quantum Physics (4), Electric circuits (4)
Autumn Term 1: Oscillations (5), Capacitors and Electric Fields (6)
Autumn Term 2: Thermal Physics (5), Magnetic Fields (6)
Spring Term 1: Astrophysics and Cosmology (5), Radioactivity (6)
Spring Term 2: Nuclear Physics and Medical Imaging (6), Particle Physics (6)
Summer Term: Revision, A-level assessment
Two x 2 hour 15min exams (Paper 1: Modules 1, 2, 3 & 5, Paper 2 : Modules 1,2,4 & 6)
One x 1 hour 30min exam (Unifying Concepts – more problem-solving and application of physics questions that comprise elements from multiple modules)
In addition to the exams each student must complete 12 practical endorsement activities, which although not assessed, are a compulsory component of the course.