Science is taught to all girls in Years 7 to 11, and is a compulsory core subject at IGCSE, either as a combined Dual Award Science course, or as three separate courses in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. All three sciences are then available as options at A Level.
In Year 7, the girls follow a modified version of the AQA KS3 science course, covering topics such as reproduction, the solar system, electrical circuits and acids and alkalis. In addition, they follow a course of fortnightly lessons covering the enquiry process in science: they develop skills such as how to pose a scientific question, carry out an investigation, and question the results and conclusions obtained through scientific research.
In Year 8, the science course is divided into its separate disciplines, Biology, Chemistry and Physics, each taught by subject specialists. In Biology girls look at food, digestion and respiration. In Chemistry, they cover elements, compounds and mixtures, and types of reactions. In Physics, they learn about motion, magnets and waves.
In Year 9, pupils begin the IGCSE course, following the Edexcel specification. Topics include cell structure and basic biochemistry in Biology, atomic structure, bonding and the periodic table in Chemistry, and forces, energy and motion in Physics. There is a strong emphasis on basic scientific principles, investigative work and practical skills.
In Year 10, girls choose either to take Dual Award science or to take three separate IGCSEs in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. In either case, the girls continue to receive separate lessons in each of the three sciences. The Dual Award Science course leads to an award of two IGCSE grades, and the Triple Award course leads to the award of three IGCSE grades.
At IGCSE, pupils follow the Edexcel course. The Biology syllabus covers topics such as the nature and functions of living organisms, reproduction, ecology and the use of biological resources. The Chemistry course includes principles of chemistry, the elements, organic chemistry and physical chemistry. The Physics course covers areas such as forces and motion, electricity, waves, energy, magnetism and radioactivity.
At A Level, pupils of Biology, Chemistry and Physics follow the OCR courses.
All three A Level science courses place an emphasis on the development of experimental skills, with a practical endorsement reported on separately to the theoretical, examination-based grade. Experimental work is thus embedded in all three science courses. Lessons devoted to the gaining and refining of such skills as are required to complete the practical endorsement occur on a regular basis throughout the two-year programme.
The Biology A Level explores foundations of biology, exchange and transport, biodiversity, evolution, disease, communication, homeostasis, genetics and ecosystems.
Topics covered in the Chemistry course include foundations of chemistry, the periodic table and energy, organic chemistry, physical chemistry and transition elements.
The Physics course covers foundations of physics, forces and motion, electrons, waves and photons, the Newtonion world, astrophysics, particles and medical physics.
Beyond the Classroom
The Science department runs CREST awards, a programme offered by the British Science Association, which involves pupils conducting hands-on investigations into real-life problems in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. St Mary’s pupils frequently receive Bronze and Silver awards for their work.
Junior Science Club is a precursor to the CREST award project. It allows Year 7 and 8 pupils the chance to plan and carry out the experiments that they may not have time to try during lessons.
Junior Engineering Club encourages students to try their hand at applying their scientific knowledge and their problem-solving skills in practical situations. They take part in national competitions based on engineering, design and robotic challenges. In addition, the Medical Society organises its own events, as well as visiting the Eton Medical Society for regular talks. Pupils compete successfully in Olympiads in all three sciences.
The department runs numerous trips each year. Year 7 enjoy a day out at Legoland, looking at forces in action. IGCSE pupils go on a Biology field course at Juniper Hall, and also attend Science Live!, a full day of lectures and presentations from some of the UK’s top scientists. The Lower Sixth conduct ecological investigations in the field, and visit university laboratories to gain hands-on experience with analytical apparatus not usually seen in schools, and attend lecture programmes such as Physics Live!