The science department is based on the ground floor in nine linked science laboratories and two preparation rooms. Each science laboratory is relatively new; three having been built in phase one and the other six during phase two. Each laboratory has the full range of services including data points, electrical and gas cut-out points and full black-out. Five of the laboratories have fume cupboards. One laboratory is specifically used for AS and A2 biology teaching. One laboratory has a whiteboard and all laboratories have overhead data projectors. One laboratory has 15 networked PCs and we also have access to the ICT rooms.
In the Sixth Form Centre there are two further AS/A2 science rooms and a prep room. One of these rooms is for AS and A2 physics and contains eight networked PCs and an overhead data projector. There is also an overhead data projector in the other laboratory which is for AS and A2 chemistry – this room has two fume cupboards. The teaching staff are all fully qualified science teachers with excellent qualifications with each one able to teach science across the whole range of ages from year seven to eleven. Between us we can also teach the three major AS/A2 science subjects with specialist teachers. Technician support is provided by a senior science technician and four further technicians. We are well resourced with equipment and chemicals.
Key Stage 3
In years 7, 8 (and 9) we teach small modules of work, each based on a section of the National Curriculum, of about three to four weeks duration and with a test either at the end of each one or after two modules. The emphasis is on practical and investigative work with a constant effort to relate what we teach to the world around the students. We have very good contacts with our feeder schools. Classes are taught in broad bands of ability and are mainly blocked for science in half year groups. We use “Exploring Science” as our main resource. We teach a two year KS3 course based on “Explaining Science”. Year 9 will be developed as a transition year.
Key Stage 4
Science is a compulsory “double award” or “triple award” subject in year 10 for the vast majority of students and either “single”, “double” or “triple” in year 11. We teach the OCR Twenty First Century specification. Classes are taught in bands of ability and are blocked for science in two half year groups. There are nine modules of work in year 10 and a further nine in year 11 (twenty-one in total for “triple” science). Each module is recognisably one of biology, chemistry or physics and each one has an associated test. Again the emphasis is on practical and investigative work with a constant effort to relate what we teach to the world around the students. GCSE module tests are taken in January and June of year 10 and year 11. We currently have three year 11 ‘triple’ Science groups and four year 10 ‘triple’ Science groups.
At some point in year 10 coursework is started. This builds on the skills that have been developed in years 7, 8 and 9. It is a chance for students to spend a longer period of time on a particular “investigation” or “case study”. The final coursework selection, from three or more pieces of coursework, is worth up to 33% of the final GCSE.
Key Stage 5
We have at least two groups of AS Biology, Chemistry and Physics and one or two groups of A2 Biology, Chemistry and Physics. We offer AQA Biology, OCR Chemistry and OCR Physics. The first cohort of students to take the ‘new’ A2 courses performed very well indeed. We had one AS Science group in September 2009 for the first time who achieved very well. We run AS Science and AS Environmental Studies.
The science department has a wide view of our role in the school. As well as teaching what is required of us by the specifications we try and show how science is linked to the world around each student. Reference is made to current scientific TV programmes or popular science books; the school library has a very good selection of science books. The school grounds are increasingly being used as a resource, particularly as the trees, shrubs and hedges mature. Our “Ecology” area has benefited from a joint SBE/BP project when a group of volunteers from BP built a “pond dipping” platform with access for wheelchairs. Students also have a chance of being selected to go to OU lectures at Christmas and/or the MK Chemistry at Work exhibition in the summer or other educational visits.
We are seeking to widen our ‘outside experiences’. Visits have been to Kew Gardens, with the Art department and we visited the Space Centre in Leicester with the Design department. Visits to the National History Museum with Humanities are being planned. With Science being the school’s second specialism, we are looking to be distinctive within Ecology. We have a large greenhouse and an allotment area close to the school.