Chemistry

Find out more about studying Chemistry at Westminster

Chemistry

  • About
  • Curriculum
  • Enrichment
  • Staff
  • After Westminster
  • About

    The principles of Chemistry underpin our understanding of the world around us and are relevant to all areas of science, from the chemical processes in living organisms to the formation of stars millions of miles away. The core concepts introduced in Chemistry form an important part of any professional scientist’s toolkit, regardless of their specialisation. Pupils at Westminster study Chemistry for a variety of reasons: many study it in conjunction with other Sciences and Mathematics, and go on to study Science at university; many hope to study Medicine at university; and a handful study Chemistry on its own because they simply enjoy it.

    The subject has exploration at its core and practical investigation is central to its practice. Development of skills is important, but so too is an inquisitive mind and the ability to problem-solve. Chemists draw on an array of disparate concepts to try to explain fundamentally why it is that things happen.

    Department Contact Mr Ed Coward
    ed.coward@westminster.org.uk
  • Curriculum
    Lower School

    Lower School Chemistry is about developing the foundation of skills necessary to tackle the subject at a higher level. Much of the Fifth Form (Year 9) focuses on writing formulae and balanced equations, and understanding the fundamental concepts of bonding. Thereafter, in the Lower and Upper Shells (Years 10 and 11), the emphasis shifts onto organic chemistry, physical chemistry and applying these skills to understand some important industrial processes. 

    Syllabus & Code
    Edexcel IGCSE 4CH1 Chemistry
    Upper School

    Chemistry beyond GCSE is conceptually challenging and requires good factual knowledge. While the need for the memorisation of facts remains important, much greater emphasis is placed on the understanding of the principles underlying the material and in relating this to laboratory experience. Indeed, considerable time is devoted to practical work and the department has four large, well-equipped teaching laboratories as well as a research laboratory. 

    In the Sixth Form and Remove (Years 12 and 13), we use the CIE International A Level as a guide to teaching, but much of what is done in class goes beyond this and tries to develop a problem-solving toolkit for tackling ideas in unfamiliar contexts, including the challenge that comes in the form of a practical exam. 

    Syllabus & Code
    CAIE A Level 9701 Chemistry
    Sixth Form Entry
    Subject requirements for the course
    Candidates should ideally be on track to achieve a grade 8 or 9 at (I)GCSE in Chemistry (or Double Award) and Mathematics.

    Entrance Examination

    The entrance examination for Chemistry contains a choice of questions in order not to disadvantage pupils who take different GCSE courses. The core fundamentals are assumed (e.g. formula and equation writing), but much of the paper assesses a candidate’s ability to apply their chemical knowledge in a new context. An example of this might be a question on azanes (homologous series of hydronitrogen), which candidates are not expected to have met, but which then draws on knowledge of alkanes, which they have. Application, rather than regurgitation, of an idea is the key.

    Overseas Candidates
    There is no (I)GCSE requirement for those who attend schools overseas that do not prepare pupils for (I)GCSE examinations. Candidates will be considered for a place based on their performance in the School’s entrance examinations and a transcript of results from their current school.
  • Enrichment

    There are many opportunities to study Chemistry outside the timetable, for example via the Options programme or by participating in the Chemistry Olympiad, where Westminster has in the past ranked as the top school in the country. Every year, the Sixth Form is invited to take part in the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge, and a handful of pupils in each of the recent years have ranked in the top 1% nationally. 

    The Huxley Society (Westminster’s science society) gives pupils in all year groups the opportunity to attend, and host, talks on the whole range of sciences and technology. This helps to develop cross-curricular interests, which some then expand on for research competitions such as the UK Junior Water Prize – a national STEM competition aimed at solving environmental challenges with a link to water. 

    In the Election Term (summer) all Sixth Form Chemists take on an independent research project, aimed at developing practical skills outside of the syllabus. In recent years, pupils have synthesised aspirin, paracetamol and a range of complex organometallic and transition metal compounds. 

  • Staff

    * denotes Head of Department
    † denotes Housemaster

    Mr Paul Botton (PAB)
    Mr Matthew Bradshaw (MRB)  †
    Mr Jack Chapman (JPC) — UCAS Adviser
    Mr Ed Coward (ETAC) — New Staff & Review Coordinator; Head of Chemistry  *
    Miss Gilly French (GMF) — Review Coordinator; Head of Volunteering; CR President
    Ms Rino Iida (RI)
  • After Westminster

    Chemistry graduates possess adaptability and an analytical mind, which makes them attractive to a very broad spectrum of employers. For the study of Chemistry at university, it should ideally be combined at A Level with Mathematics (an additional Science is also desirable). About one in three Chemistry graduates will continue with their academic studies and aim for higher degrees such as a PhD or DPhil.

    Many Westminster A-level Chemists go on to pursue courses in Natural Sciences, Biochemistry and, of course, Chemistry, at a variety of top Russell Group universities.

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