Chemistry is a fascinating subject, which allows students to investigate and understand the world around them. The department aims to stimulate students’ curiosity and cultivate a life-long interest in the central science by looking at how our everyday lives are touched by Chemistry. For example, each time we light a match, cook a meal or simply breathe in and out, we are performing chemical reactions. Our homes are manufactured using materials obtained by chemical processes and we use chemistry to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, including how to feed our growing population and how to take positive steps to tackle climate change.
Chemistry is not studied in isolation; students will often find topics overlapping with biology and medicine, with physics and engineering, and with geology and earth science.
It is a challenging yet rewarding subject to study, as demonstrated by the popularity of the subject at Key Stage 5. Many of our students go onto read Chemistry or chemistry related courses, including Pharmacy, Dentistry and Medicine, at the UK’s top universities as well as non-related courses such as Law and Accountancy.
Curriculum and Assessment Maps
We have a group of four highly trained and experienced specialist teachers, who are easy to approach and have excellent subject knowledge. The department is supported ably by a full time laboratory technician.
- Mr J Whitehead (Head of Department)
- Mrs G Bajaj
- Miss N Samuels
- Dr R Perrins
- Ms N Hussain
- Miss I Dirie (Chemistry Technician)
What your daughter may do in lessons
The lessons are fast paced and packed with lots of activities. All students are encouraged to participate in all areas of each lesson. Students work independently or in small groups to complete the tasks with an emphasis on building learning habits.
How your daughter’s progress will be assessed.
A variety of assessment techniques are employed by the Chemistry department. Constructive feedback is an essential way to help students improve and this is given regularly as verbal and written feedback during class tasks and homework assignments. Girls are encouraged to reflect on their progress and take action after each summative assessment period. There is also an end-of-year examination.
In Year 8 pupils have one chemistry lesson each week.
The Year 8 scheme focuses on three main topics: The building blocks of the earth, Chemical reactions and The Earth and its atmosphere.
The priority in year 8 is to lay down the foundations required to begin GCSE Chemistry in year 9. Pupils will build up their knowledge and understanding as well as develop the skills required to start the course.
Throughout Year 8, each section of study 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 Chemistry.
In Year 9 students begin their GCSE studies following the AQA 8461 specification. This is a new specification which is assessed through two written papers both taken at the end of Year 11.
The focus is on studying processes, making links and applying knowledge rather than rote-learning facts.
There is also a great emphasis on Practical skills is made through 12 required practical investigations which are carried out during the course and these are assessed within the written papers.
Post 16 (A Level)
We follow the AQA A Level Chemistry specification 7405 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.
Students wishing to take the AS qualification follow the same programme of study as those studying the full A level in the first year, but they are assessed through two written papers at the end of Year 12.
Throughout the course the girls have nine lessons a fortnight, two of which form a double lesson that is usually used for practical work. During the course they are assessed by both 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?
There is a list below of different ways you can encourage your daughter to achieve highly and develop a wider knowledge of the subject:
- Read the teacher comments and where relevant act on them.
- Reflect on assessments to enable them to identify how to improve.
- Make revision materials at the end of each topic.
- Review their work frequently.
- Use the text book to consolidate classroom learning and read ahead to be ready for new topics.
- Explain their learning from lessons to you or their siblings.
- Ask their teacher for a more detailed explanation.
- Watch science related programmes (e.g., Bang Goes The Theory, Brainiac, Horizon).
- Read scientific literature. This is available in the school library, science articles in newspapers or on the BBC News website.
The skills developed while studying for a chemistry qualification are highly desirable to employers in all sorts of sectors. Skills like:
- Logical thinking
- Data handling
A degree in chemistry opens the door to a wide range of career options – far more than you may have realised. Chemists are not just confined to the lab! Chemists play a vital role in developing many of the everyday products we take for granted and help to sustain and improve our quality of life.
Many of the jobs chemists do cross the boundaries between chemistry, biology and physics and many chemists work with other scientists, not to mention other professionals in marketing, law, ICT and other areas.
Nanotechnology – designing structures on an atomic scale for use in medicine, communication and industry
Environmental science – understanding and safeguarding our environment
Sustainability – developing alternative energy sources for a cleaner, healthier planet
Innovation – developing exciting new technology products
Product development – improving our cosmetics, toiletries and household cleaning products
Forensics – helping to solve crimes
Archaeology – dating and analysing artefacts
Drug discovery – discovering new medicines
Biotechnology – seeking treatments for diseases, experimenting with new energy sources and creating the next generation of consumer chemicals
Marine chemistry – reducing pollution and discovering new natural compounds for use in food production and medicines
Sportswear development – producing smart new materials for trainers, lightweight materials for bike frames and racquets, or aerodynamic suits for cycling and athletics
Teaching – inspiring the next generation of chemists
Food technology – inventing new foods or flavours
Whether you know what you want to do after university or you’re still unsure, a chemistry qualification stands you in good stead for the future.
Studying chemistry is also great training for careers in:
- Sales and marketing
- Central and local government
- Business and finance
Independent research* shows that the average chemistry graduate earns substantially more over a lifetime than graduates of many other disciplines:
- £190,000 more than those with two or more A-levels (no degree)
- £60,000 more than most other graduates – including those with degrees in subjects like History, English and Psychology.
* The economic benefits of higher education qualifications. Price Waterhouse Coopers LLP January 2005