Physics

Find out more about studying Physics at Westminster

Physics

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

    Physics is a tremendous subject that combines numeracy in mathematical problem-solving with clear-thinking logic and communication. It encompasses the study of the universe from the largest structures to the smallest particles, from the start of time to predicting probabilistic futures, from pen and paper theory to hands-on laboratory work. No one specification or examination can test all of these wonderful skills. Our department of specialist physicists and technicians bring their love for the subject to the classroom and our internal scheme of work allows us to prepare pupils for examinations, for university and for life with our wide-ranging suite of opportunities to learn independently and to develop a powerful skillset.

    Department Contact Dr Helen Prentice
    helen.prentice@westminster.org.uk
  • Curriculum
    Lower School

    Physics in the Lower School introduces a wide range of topics in a spiral of learning. We revisit and build on topics each year as pupil understanding develops and matures. Bucking the national trend to remove coursework from assessment, we value the skills developed in independent practical work and include a coursework element in the Lower Shell (Year 10). Pupils are offered opportunities to compete in problem-solving competitions. 

    Syllabus & Code
    Edexcel IGCSE 4PH1 Physics
    Upper School

    Sixth Form (Year 12) physicists follow an internal specification that includes applied topics, such as electricity and material science, but also introduces gravitational fields and quantum physics. Teachers will go beyond the specification where appropriate and where interests lie to explore extension topics that include special relativity, optics, signal processing and rotational dynamics. We value practical and independent work, and all pupils pursue exciting internal coursework opportunities. We also ensure that all pupils are introduced to or develop their understanding of using code in computational physics. In the Remove (Year 13), topics include modelling, astronomy and particle physics alongside thermodynamics and electromagnetism. 

     Throughout the course, pupils will have opportunities to develop practical skills, practise data handling, use their imagination, use ICT as a research tool, increase their understanding of the importance of Mathematics in Physics and to see Physics in social and historical contexts. There will be internal coursework elements that will focus on using and developing instrumentation, and on collating and presenting information. The often deliberately open-ended nature of the investigative work reflects the emphasis on experiencing Physics as it really is.  

    Syllabus & Code
    CAIE A Level 9702 Physics
    Sixth Form Entry
    Subject requirements for the course
    Candidates should be on track to achieve a grade 8 or 9 in Physics (or Double Award) at (I)GCSE, as well as a good grade in Mathematics. Whilst it is not compulsory to take A Level Mathematics when opting for Physics, it is strongly advised to do so; in most years, nearly all A Level Physics pupils take at least one A Level in Mathematics.

    Entrance Examination

    Whilst the entrance examination consists of some short-answer questions designed to test basic knowledge and recall, the emphasis is on testing a candidate’s ability to encounter a new idea and run with it quickly. The exam combines a variety of questions, some for which pupils are expected to perform calculations – for example, a question might require a candidate to calculate the acceleration of a rocket of a certain mass, with a certain combination of forces on it. Other questions may introduce an area of physics they have not seen before and ask them to think critically about it – for example, a question might give some information about a recent experiment they will not have come across, perhaps at CERN or NASA, and the candidate will have to demonstrate that they can analyse what the data are showing.

    The exam is not based on any particular (I)GCSE course and, as such, no particular knowledge is assumed beyond Key Stage 3 (i.e. Year 9). Extensive revision is not required but problem solving is a skill that requires practice; Isaac Physics or Intermediate Olympiad style questions might be a useful resource for a pupil to decide if Physics is right for them.

    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

    Physics offers a wide range of enrichment activities both as extra-curricular opportunities and integral to the internal course. These include lectures, independent projects, problem-solving competitions, engineering club, robotics competitions, presentations, seminars and astronomy evenings to name but a few. The department is exceptionally well equipped with a seismometer, solar telescope and up-to-date data-logging equipment, and there are opportunities to use the facilities for research. Indeed, some pupils have had their work published in journals. Our observatory offers incredible possibilities in Astronomy and we plan to develop a workshop to enhance pupil independence in practical project work. Pupils are also offered the opportunity to compete in Physics competitions throughout the year.  

  • Staff

    * denotes Head of Department
    † denotes Housemaster

    Mr Ryan Anderson ( RDA)
    Ms Bhavna Choraria (BC)  †
    Dr Dario Duo (DD)
    Mr Matthew Perrins (MWDP)
    Dr Helen Prentice (HJP) — DoE Award Scheme (Gold); Head of Physics  *
    Mr Sirio Quintavalle (SWQ)
    Mrs Lydia Timpson (LXT) — Head of International Universities
    Mr Charles Ullathorne (CJRU) — Head of Science  *
    Prof. Kevin Walsh (KAPW) — Astronomer-in-Residence
  • After Westminster

    Those thinking of pursuing Physics, Physics with Mathematics, Theoretical Physics or Engineering at university should consider taking physics, Mathematics and Further Mathematics plus a fourth arts or science subject. It is extremely helpful to study Further Mathematics if a pupil is considering Physics or Engineering at one of the top universities. Without Mathematics, Physics cannot be taken beyond school level. Physics as a subject is well regarded by medical schools, so it is worth considering it with Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. Many universities now offer degree courses in Physics or Engineering with a foreign language, so it could be worth combining Physics with a modern language. Beyond university, graduates with physics-linked degrees have skills (including numeracy, problem solving, data analysis and communication of ideas) that are in high demand in diverse sectors.

Astronomy
About this subject

Please find information on our Astronomy page.

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