Head of Department

Mr T.R. FearnBSc, PGCE

Overview

Physics is entering into a very exciting period and has featured prominently in the media over recent years. Whether it be the work carried out at the Advanced LIGO facility that has led to the discovery of Gravitational Waves, the latest space missions to Mars and comet 67P or simply a Brian Cox series on the BBC, Physics is never far away from the spotlight and is probably enjoying its most prominent position since the Space Race of the 1960s.

All Lower School students study Physics. The Fourth Form are introduced to the subject with the aim of getting them excited about Physics whilst giving them the skills that they will need later on. All Cranleigh students study Physics at GCSE either separately or as part of a combined science qualification (Double Award Science). Physics is a popular choice in the Sixth Form with around 30 students in each of the Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth years. Students follow the Edexcel International GCSE specification in the Lower School and the new AQA specification at A-Level.

The Department itself is located in modern and well-resourced labs within a purpose built building (the Emms Center). The teachers within the Department have a range of experience and are all enthusiastic and dedicated to transferring their passion for the subject to the students through their teaching; which might explain why Physics is one of the most successful Departments within the School in terms of exam results. 

Lower School (iGCSE)

The Fourth Form curriculum gives pupils an introduction to elements of the GCSE course as well ensuring they develop their practical and
mathematical skills that will stand them in good stead in subsequent years. The main topics covered include Waves, Radioactivity, Forces and Space whilst we also look at the history and discoveries of great physicists such as Newton, Curie and Faraday.

In the Lower Fifth and Upper Fifth, pupils focus entirely on studying the Edexcel International GCSE specification which involves plenty of practical as well as theory work. The topics covered include Forces and Motion, Electricity, Waves, Energy, Magnetism & Electromagnetism, Radioactivity and Solids, Liquids & Gases. Students either opt to work towards a stand-alone GCSE qualification in each of the sciences or a combined science qualification called Double Award Science (DAS) which equates to two full GCSEs.

Sixth Form (A Level)

AQA’s A-Level Physics specification provides the basis for an innovative Sixth Form course that has been designed to engage and inspire students. The exam specification has been developed with input from teachers and universities so that it enthuses and motivates students and suits a variety of interests. In addition, there is a strong focus on practical work and developing experimental skills throughout the two years. The practical element is assessed in the written exam papers and by the completion of 12 core practicals.

The full A-Level is examined by three papers testing material from both the Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth year. The last of the three A-Level exams includes questions on one optional topic that the Department selects from a range of five.

Further details of the topic areas can be found below, some will seem familiar to GCSE students and others will be entirely new:

  1. Measurements and their errors
  2. Particles and radiation
  3. Waves
  4. Mechanics and materials
  5. Electricity
  6. Further mechanics and thermal physics
  7. Fields and their consequences
  8. Nuclear physics
  9. Optional Topic (one will be studied)
    • Astrophysics
    • Medical physics
    • Engineering physics
    • Turning points in physics
    • Electronics

Trips and events

The Physics Department runs an annual lecture series which is open to all Physicists at Cranleigh as well as local state-schools. Previous topics have ranged from ‘The Life and Works of Einstein’, ‘Liquid Hydrogen, 50,000 tonnes of Water and a Nuclear Reactor’ to ‘The Physics of Electron Spectroscopy’ and ‘Radiating Health: an α, β, γ of Radionuclide Imaging’. The lecture series aims to introduce our students to real physicists doing cutting-edge and interesting work out in the real-world.

In addition, the Department runs a biennial trip for the Sixth Form to Geneva and the CERN facility. The purpose of the trip is for students to experience, at first hand, the work of the world’s leading particle accelerator project, linking it to relevant material in the A-Level modules and stretching the pupils beyond the syllabus. We also spend some time taking in a few of the cultural highlights in Geneva itself.

Furthermore, there are also opportunities for smaller trips for the Lower School and Sixth Form to local lectures and events as well as masterclasses and extension programmes.

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