Science

The Science Department comprises a team of dedicated teachers who love their subjects and communicate them effectively.

From the very start, students learn science content and skills which they develop as they move up the school. Our three subjects collaborate with each other to help students see the connections between biology, chemistry and physics. From STEM activities to our Chemistry CREST awards and Biology Week, we offer a wealth of extracurricular activities to inspire a wide range of students with diverse interests.

We aim to develop girls who are scientifically literate—helping them develop the knowledge and skills which will enable them to think critically about scientific questions and give them the scientific background understand complex issues that face all of us today. We also endeavour to foster future scientists who can take up careers in pure science or science-based professions.

The Science department occupies temporary, purpose built laboratories which provide excellent accommodation until our new science facilities are completed in September 2021. There are ten labs, each specially designed for work in biology, chemistry or physics. We are extremely well equipped and this enables teachers to be creative in the lessons that they plan. Science teachers are well-versed in the use of digital technology to support learning; they frequently make use of chromebooks, iPads, and laptops coupled with specialist software and sensors which enable girls to use a wide variety of learning resources and data logging equipment.

Year 7 and 8 are taught biology, chemistry and physics as separate subjects as part of a programme which focuses on teaching rich content through practical work and encourages girls to make links between disciplines.

In Year 9, girls start on their International GCSE programme of study. When girls choose their options in January of Year 9, half opt to take the Triple Award, which is three separate GCSE’s (Biology, Chemistry and Physics), while others choose the Combined Science (Double Award) option where they still study all three sciences but to less depth. As A Level specifications assume double award knowledge, it is not necessary to study separate science in order to pursue science at A Level. Year 9 girls also have a STEM lesson once a fortnight which is co-taught by teachers from the science and computer science departments where girls are given specific design and coding challenges to explore and help them develop their problem-solving skills.

Science is a very popular option for many of our girls; in most years, over half of the Sixth Form choose to study one or more science subjects at A Level as a precursor to university study in such areas as medicine, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, engineering and pure sciences.

    • Biology provides a wide breadth of knowledge which touches on many varied topics. These range from the internal workings of organisms in physiology and the interdependence of living things in ecology, to social issues including human influences on the environment and the ethical considerations of genetics. The study of biology therefore encourages an appreciation of these issues and their implications as well as providing an insight into the living world
    • GCSE Biology begins in Year 9 and continues into Year 10 & 11 taught by subject specialists. Students follow the Edexcel International GCSE Biology specifications in Double Award Science or as a Separate Science.
    • At Advanced Level, the girls study the OCR A Syllabus, which provides an excellent foundation to support the further study of biological courses at university. We take an investigative approach to studying biology in which girls participate in many investigations, including fieldwork which is currently undertaken during Year 12 at Amersham Field Centre. Biology is a very popular A level, providing an excellent preparation for further study of either a natural science subject or clinical courses such as medicine, dentistry or pharmacy.

     

    Biology Department extracurricular activities:

    • Students can participate in a number of biology activities throughout the year starting with Biology Week in October and drop in dissection activities throughout the year.
    • Girls interested in ecology can get involved in the Eco-Warriors club.
    • We have also started to run optional conservation trips every two years to important biological sites across the world, with Madagascar currently planned for 2021.
    • For aspiring medics, we have Biomedical Society and provide support for taking the BMAT and UCAT exams.
    • All girls take part in many Royal Society of Biology competitions including: Biology Challenge in Year 10; the Intermediate Biology Challenge in Year 12 and the British Biology Olympiad in Year 13.
  • Chemistry is everywhere in the world around us. It is in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the medicines we take, and even the art we make. Our bodies and how they work are as much about chemistry as they are biology. It

    is exciting to learn about the composition and structure of materials, including biological molecules and the development of smart materials such as thermochromic pigments or carbon nanotubes.

    Chemists learn to look for patterns and to control chemical changes. They ask questions such as ‘What causes an explosion?’ or ‘Why are plants green?’ and they develop new theories, planning investigations to test these theories.

    Chemistry is taught by subject specialists from Year 7 to Advanced Level. At GCSE, students follow the Edexcel International GCSE Chemistry specification in Double Award Science or as a Separate Science.

     

    Chemistry is a very popular Advanced Level subject. We follow the OCR A syllabus and through it students develop their interest in chemistry, with excellent preparation for further study and careers in chemistry and other related scientific disciplines such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy or engineering.

    Chemistry department extracurricular activities:

    • Students can take part in chemistry activities during Science Week or through CREST Award sessions.
    • The Chemistry club runs interactive and creative practical activities on applications of chemistry.
    • There are visits and lectures organised for GCSE and A Level students.
    • Students in Year 8 to 11 can participate in competitions including the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) ‘Top of the Bench’ competition and Salters’ Festival of Chemistry.
    • The Sixth Form take part in the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge and the Chemistry Olympiad.
  • Physics is the study of the fundamental laws that govern all natural phenomena. It pervades every part of the world of science, technology and engineering. Its methods and insights are widely applicable. A key ingredient is a curious, questioning mind. Physics is an exciting subject to study, stretching the mind and helping to develop critical reasoning and analytical abilities. Without physics there would be no space rockets, digital cameras, mobile phones, non- invasive imaging techniques in hospitals or fibre optic technology to name a few applications. Focusing on everyday applications of the principles of physics stimulates interest. Experienced teachers ensure that physics is accessible to everyone by placing it in context.

    GCSE Physics begins in Year 9 and continues into Year 10 & 11 taught by subject specialists. Students follow the Edexcel International GCSE Physics specifications in Double Award Science or as a Separate Science.

    At Advanced Level we consider the development of pupil practical skills crucial to the enjoyment of learning physics and the department is very well resourced with equipment for investigations into topics such as heat, light, sound, electricity, forces, motion, radioactivity including the use of data-logging probes and motion sensors.Students also learn how to use our fantastic refractor telescope to make astronomical observations both of the night sky and of our closest star, the Sun.

    Physics department extracurricular activities:

    • The Physics department organises several trips, lectures at the Institute of Education for both GCSE and A Level student’s as well as a trip to CERN, Geneva.
    • Students can join the Astronomy Society and make use of our school Astronomical telescope as well as our solar telescope. This includes daytime observations of the Sun at high magnification using our Herschel wedge.
    • The department has helped pupils organise summer school activities between Years 11, 12 and 13. Examples include the “Headstart” engineering courses at university. The Year 13 students take part in the Physics Olympiad competition and Year 11 students take the Physics Challenge.
  • Across science, we offer a wealth of extracurricular opportunities.

    Girls in all years may attend lunchtime sessions working towards CREST Awards or take part in one-off events such as Engineering challenges, British Science Week, Dissection club, Biology Week, Biomedical Society and Astronomy Club nights.

    We have a STEM book review challenge for girls across all year groups to read STEM-related books; reviews are entered into a drawing each half term.

    Year 8 girls can apply to become STEM Ambassadors as part of the GDSTEM programme and work toward their Silver and Gold Awards by helping out with and organising STEM events.

    We are an Associate School of the Royal Society and take Year 12 girls to the Summer Exhibition each year.