It is no exaggeration that physical laws mediate all actions and interactions throughout our lives, not only in day to day experience, but within our minds, and any of the exciting opportunities offered by technological change. Physics lessons at St Paul’s School are thus about inspiring pupils to find out about the world in which they live. As one member of the Upper Eighth Form recently said (paraphrasing Richard Feynman), "When playing any game, it's good to know the rules, and physics is about the rules of the game that is our reality."
So we emphasize a hands-on approach to verifying both classical and modern physical laws, from Archimedes to Niels Bohr — not just what we know, but how we know it and, importantly, how well. Physics lessons at St Paul’s are frequently about finding connections and hidden truths, and are a great source of those rare moments when things all click. For all age groups, the syllabus is extended in a way suitable for an inquisitive mind, offering many extra-curricular opportunities, and always aiming to allow pupils the ability to undertake work of a rigorous, scholarly nature, to better explore the links between the different areas of this vast academic discipline. Teaching is varied and as the emphasis shifts to questioning the laws of nature, there are plenty of opportunities to plan and carry out experiments, communicate complex ideas, create simulations, think critically, and solve problems. All of which are skills highly valued by universities and employers.
At A-Level we have pioneered a redesigned 2-year Linear A-Level Course, which has allowed us to redesign the syllabus from the ground up to give us the time to teach the subject to a depth that we think best prepares students for life beyond the school, whether they go on to study physical sciences or not. Pupils are encouraged to read around the subject, write reviews of new publications, and enter the Physics Olympiad competition. In the latter, we have had notable success in recent years.
The Physics Department is proud to house St Paul’s state of the art Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), which is frequently integrated into lessons across the year groups, and is a hub of a growing centre for research carried out both inside the school and by visiting professionals. Recent trips have included to CERN, the Rutherford Appleton Lab, European Space Agency facilities in Norway and Portugal, Mclaren F1, and UCL’s astronomical observatory, not to mention a number of talks closer to home.
After St Paul's
After completing a Physics A-Level, many pupils go on to read straight physics at Oxford and other leading universities, or natural sciences at Cambridge. Physics is also an important subject for those wanting to pursue careers in engineering and architecture. A physics background has helped the careers of many Old Paulines who now work in the City. Others stay in research. A recent graduate of St Paul’s was placed second in the year in Natural Sciences 2015 at Cambridge, and is currently completing his PhD.
The Physics Department is always on the lookout for talented individuals who could further enhance the teaching at the school. If you are interested in working with the St Paul's Physics Department please register your interest here.
Physics Staff Members
Xiao Xiao Qin