Chemistry is the study of the composition and properties of matter. It seeks to investigate and explain why substances will react together via chemical reactions. Chemistry overlaps and supports the study of Biology and Physics and is often referred to as the central science.
Chemistry is taught as a separate subject from year 7 in our well-equipped specialist laboratories. There are five Chemistry teachers on the staff, including the Subject Leader, who are ably supported by a dedicated team of full time technical staff.
Key Stage Three
During a student’s first two years at the school they will study what all things are made of and how these chemicals come together to form substances used in our day to day lives. Chemistry investigates the building blocks of materials and how different substances react together. The aim of the Key Stage Three course is to allow pupils to discover how to work scientifically by planning and carrying out experiments, and then, by analysing their findings, to reach logical conclusions. The course begins with an introduction to working as a scientist which focuses on working in laboratory and learning to use specialist equipment such as Bunsen burners. As the course progresses the topics covered will include atoms, elements and compounds, metals and their reactivity, acids and alkalis and separating mixtures. Our aim is that the students enjoy the subject while developing the skills and knowledge to equip you for learning science at a higher level.
Key Stage Four
For GCSE, we use the AQA GCSE Chemistry Specification which pupils start working towards during Year 9. The GCSE syllabus includes a basic grounding in important chemical principles and students are encouraged to understand and apply these concepts to new situations. Practical work plays an important role in Chemistry and students will be encouraged to work safely and independently in the laboratories and to gain experience in handling a wide range of apparatus. All students will carry out coursework during the course, which will contribute 25% towards their final GCSE grade. The other 75% is based on 3 units C1, C2 and C3, the examinations for these are taken at the end of the course.
Key Stage Five
Chemistry is an extremely popular A-level subject which has more than 65 students studying it in each year of the Sixth Form. It is a well-respected and rigorous academic subject which provides many transferable skills for those who study it. Throughout Year 12 students extend their understanding of topics such as amounts of substance, patterns in the periodic table and equilibria, and are introduced to ideas such as oxidation states and organic mechanisms. In Year 13, the course builds on this foundation by extending the students ideas about organic, inorganic and physical chemistry. It is a practical subject and throughout both years the students’ develop an array of skills based on the experiments completed in class. At the end of Year 13, students will sit three written examinations which make up 100% of their final mark. The inorganic, organic and physical chemistry is split between the three papers, however paper three has a greater synoptic element and assesses a larger percentage of the practical material. Approximately 15% of the total A-level marks available are focused on practical skills, and all students will be required to complete 12 key practical activities throughout the two-year course. All Year 12 chemists can apply to attend lectures at the University of Birmingham to extend their wider knowledge of the subject and allow them the opportunity to hear some extremely well-respected speakers. Our students can also choose to participate in the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge, a written paper set by the university to spark interest in the subject and provide challenge for the brightest pupils. The department endeavours to provide both support and challenge for students at every key stage. We offer a variety of extra-curricular opportunities from Year 12 lectures, the Key Stage Four Chemistry Quiz and the Salters Chemistry festival for Year 8 students. There is also a plethora of supportive measures in place to enable each student to enjoy and access the subject fully. These includes weekly workshops with staff and Year 13 subject champions and specific smaller sessions for students studying for external examinations.