Chemistry is an experimental science that combines academic study with the acquisition of practical and investigational skills. It is called the central science, as chemical principles underpin both the physical environment in which we live and all biological systems.
Apart from being a subject worthy of study in its own right, chemistry is a prerequisite for many other courses in higher education, such as medicine, biological science and environmental science, and serves as useful preparation for employment, providing an opportunity to practice important problem solving and analytical skills.
Chemistry can be divided broadly into three areas of study: Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry and Physical Chemistry. Inorganic Chemistry deals with the chemistry of selected elements and their compounds, chosen to illustrate the various patterns of behaviour and the relationship between structure and properties which are an essential part of an overall view of chemistry. Organic Chemistry is concerned with the study of selected compounds of carbon with an emphasis on how reactions occur between them, allowing for the synthesis of more complex molecules; compounds containing a variety of functional groups are studied and an introduction to modern analytical and spectroscopic techniques is also included here. Physical Chemistry deals with the more quantitative side of the theory and the physical laws underpinning Chemistry.
Years 9 to 11
The GCSE chemistry course begins in Year 9 with the study of topics which are found in the combined science courses. Starting early provides the time to cover the material steadily and increase the pupil’s access to practical work. By the end of year 9, pupils will be getting their teeth into the meat of the course and will have built a solid foundation on which to base their final two years of study.
From the start of Year 10, pupils continue to follow the EDEXCEL GCSE syllabus, but opt to follow courses which leads to either a separate GCSE in Chemistry or a GCSE Double Award which is equivalent to two GCSE grades when combined with Biology and Physics.
The course aims to encourage pupils to recognise that learning is enjoyable and enhance a candidate’s enthusiasm for chemistry. The AQA Specification has been tailored to follow on from the chemistry studied at GCSE; the study of separate sciences at GCSE is not essential though candidates with this qualification will have some advantages at first.
The course aims to develop a candidate’s knowledge and understanding in order to provide a pathway to further study. To promote this practice, the course is built on the concepts of How Science Works that are introduced at GCSE. This ensures relevance to contemporary issues whilst stretching and challenging students.
The course is normally taught by two subject specialists over seven of periods per week in a mixture of theory and practical lessons that link to the topic being covered. Practical work is very important in Chemistry and a large proportion of the course is taken up with work related to the topics being covered. The new chemistry laboratories are well equipped to maximise the opportunities to bring chemistry off the page and into life. The Dyson building will provide a wonderful environment for the study of the sciences and build on the links with maths, computing, design and engineering.
The Diploma Programme chemistry course includes the essential principles of the subject but also, through selection of options, allows some flexibility to tailor the course to meet the needs of the pupils. The course is available at both standard level (SL) and higher level (HL), and therefore accommodates pupils who wish to study Science in higher education and those who do not.
The course is normally taught by one or two subject specialists in five periods per week, in a mixture of theory and practical lessons that link to the topic being covered. Practical work is equally important to IB and a similar proportion of the course is given over to practical work as for those studying A level. Pupils produce an internal assessment where they design and complete a project, collect data, and present it to others. This is a fundamental skill for professional scientists and the IA allows pupils to get a taste.
The new Dyson building will mean that IB pupils will spend a significant amount of time in a stimulating environment which will draw together the threads of a great deal of their learning.