Aim: To encourage further participation in Physics outside lessons to give students the skills to enable them to participate in future advances in STEM related projects.
Background: In 2015 the school was judged to be Outstanding by Ofsted. It is exceptional in that it has a large number (approx. 9) of Physics teachers. About 120 students study AS Level Physics, but they tended to be restricted to learning exactly what was on the exam specification.
Year 1: An essay competition was introduced at the end of Year 12 to encourage students to engage with physics concepts which were not necessarily part of the curriculum. This required students to develop their research skills, take more responsibility for independent learning and present their information in a professional fashion, including Harvard referencing. All of the department’s Physics teachers were involved in producing the list of essay titles and shared in essay assessment. Prizes were awarded for the winning essays, which were judged by Professor Hugh Griffiths from UCL.
Year 2: The Biology and Chemistry departments introduced similar non-curriculum based projects such as posters, investigations and presentations. In addition to the end of year activity, Physics and Biology teachers offered a number of their lessons in a lecture format. This involved a Science teacher delivering a lecture to between 80 and 130 students. There were also talks and presentations from guest speakers.
Year 3: The main focus for this year was sharing the good practice available to students at The Thomas Hardye School with neighbouring schools. This was facilitated by introducing Trevor Plant, Teaching and Learning Coach for the Stimulating Physics Network. This involved three events at The Thomas Hardye School: ‘Changes to the KS3 Physics curriculum’, ’Physics starters to promote thinking’ and ‘A Level Physics from September: The endorsed practicals’. These sessions were very popular and included teachers from several Dorset schools.
Evidence: Participant feedback, exam results, university applications.
Impact: Over the project there was a slight increase in the number of students attaining grade A* in Physics and this is expected to improve even more. The number of students studying Physics at university increased from 3 in 2012 to an expected 15 in 2015. Teachers travelled reasonable distances to attend the supportive events and all the feedback provided was positive.
Reflections: Students can become very passionate about a subject when they are not constrained by the limits set by the specification. They have developed the skills necessary to conduct research that is typically reserved for undergraduate students. The main challenge posed by this project, inevitably, is time constraints. This is particularly relevant in a rural area where travelling implications are involved. The Institute of Physics provides excellent online support for delivering A Level Physics - http://tap.iop.org/
Contact: Andrew Ellison, firstname.lastname@example.org