The Sciences are popular subjects within the School and large numbers pursue them successfully to 'A' level and beyond. They also provide a sound preparation for thinking logically about many issues and problems encountered in the modern world.
Throughout the Lower School all students study a balance of the sciences. This is taught in the three subject areas of Biology, Chemistry and Physics, but with a strong emphasis on the inter-relationships between these areas, and close collaboration of the departments involved.
In Year 9 students will do KS3 and KS4 work in preparation for embarking upon the Edexcel GCSE Science and GCSE Additional Science. The main emphasis will be on stimulating an interest in, and enjoyment of, science and its everyday applications. The aim is to develop practical skills and concepts in science in order to provide a firm foundation for the later years of the courses.
Our Year 9 Biology course contains several GCSE topics, and therefore serves as a solid foundation for further study. Equal emphasis is placed of both theory and practical work, for example, our students begin the course by learning how to use a microscope so that they can better study cell structure. During the Spring Term, Year 9 biologists focus on the British Science Association’s CREST AWARD scheme. This nationally accredited awards scheme sees students design and carry out their own investigations, which fits nicely with the variety of teaching techniques we use to challenge and motivate each student within the department.
The Units have been designed in-house to take into account that students have come from many different schools. The first unit ‘Being a Chemist’ introduces students to the importance of Chemistry in our everyday lives and shows students how to conduct experiments safely in the laboratory. Students learn how to use apparatus and the types of chemicals they will be handling. Once students have acquired the necessary skills to use a Bunsen, they will be issued with a Bunsen Burner license. In addition they will receive a ‘Chemistry Competency Certificate’ on passing their practical exams.
The second unit ‘Separating Mixtures’ comes in two parts and allows students to develop their practical skills so that they gain confidence in the laboratory.
Students carry out techniques such as filtration, evaporation, distillation and chromatography. The separating techniques are related to Industries such as: Perfume, Oil, Paint, Forensics and Wine/Whiskey.
The third unit ‘Materials and their Properties’ introduces students to more abstract ideas to prepare them for the New GCSE Course. Students are given the opportunity to make, glass beads, concrete bars, coloured slime and metal alloys. They test the properties of each and relate them to their uses.
Electric charge, basic electric circuits, magnets and electromagnets, waves, sound and light.
In Year 10 students will embark upon the Edexcel Science course and continue in Year 11 with the Edexcel Additional Science course. As students progress through the course, recommendations will be made as to the most suitable level of questions to be answered in the individual science papers. Assessment of GCSE Science is by a written paper and practical coursework in each of Biology, Physics and Chemistry.
The topics covered in Year 10 are:
Classification, Responses, Changing Environment
Sea and Atmosphere, Materials from the Earth, Acids, Metals, Fuels
Solar System, The Electromagnetic Spectrum, Waves and the Universe, Waves and the Earth, Electricity, Energy and the Future
In Year 11 recommendations will be made as to whether Foundation or Higher level examinations are the most appropriate on an individual student basis. Assessment of GCSE Additional Science is by a written paper and practical coursework in each of Biology, Physics and Chemistry.
The topics covered in Year 11 are:
Cells, Organisms and Energy, Common Systems
Atomic Structure and the Periodic Table, Ionic Compounds, Covalent Compounds, Groups in the Periodic Table, Chemical Reactions, Quantitative Chemistry
Static and Current Electricity, Controlling and Using Electrical Current, Motion and Forces, Momentum, Energy, Work and Power, Nuclear Fission and Fusion, Using Radioactive Materials
The successful completion of both GCSE Science and GCSE Additional Science is viewed as suitable preparation for students to follow any of the sciences to A-Level.
Biology involves the study of a wide range of contemporary topics, ranging from molecular biology to the study of ecosystems, and from microorganisms to mammoths. As media headlines continue to be dogged by biological challenges such as climate change, disease spread and the ethics of stem cell technology, the subject can play a lead role in making informed choices relating to the world around us. Success in the subject can form the foundations for a number of varied career paths. For example, the physiology aspects of the course link well with careers in the clinical or health professions, such as medicine or midwifery, whereas the environmental modules provide a solid basis for those interested in sustainable development.
Biology is assessed by a combination of practical coursework and written examinations, and throughout the course there is ample opportunity to carry out practical work, project work and fieldwork using the local environment.
A minimum of grade B at GCSE Science is required.
The course offered at Gordonstoun is the OCR A-Level Course (A). This course has been developed in consultation with the Royal Society of Chemistry, GlaxoSmithKline and a large variety of teachers in OCR Centres throughout the country.
Its aims are to encourage candidates to:
- develop their interest in, and enthusiasm for chemistry, including developing an interest in further study and careers in chemistry;
- appreciate how society makes decisions about scientific issues and how the sciences contribute to the success of the economy and society;
- demonstrate a deeper appreciation of the skills, knowledge and understanding of How Science Works;
- gain essential knowledge and understanding of different areas of chemistry an Course Structure
The Advanced GCE is made up of three mandatory units at AS and three further mandatory units at A2. Two units at AS and A2 Level are assessed through written examination. One unit at AS and A2 Level is assessed through internal assessment.
Advanced Level Physics has undergone considerable reappraisal and redirection during this period of unprecedented curriculum reform. No longer is it solely the province of those aiming at a career in the physical sciences and engineering, with a few intending doctors and vets as reluctant fellow-travellers; increasingly it is being seen as a training in a particular mode of thinking with much wider vocational application. Answers to A-Level questions are becoming more and more qualitative, with a need to express oneself succinctly becoming the vital skill. Those with good English skills will therefore find themselves at an advantage. More students are taking Physics with Arts A-Levels, a combination finding a favourable response in university admissions tutors, particularly for Law, Psychology, etc.
The mathematical demands of the syllabus have been reduced even more with the advent of the new syllabuses, making it possible to pursue it successfully without taking a post-16 Maths course. A minimum of grade B at GCSE Science is required.