The laws of Physics attempt to explain the mediation of all actions and interactions in the world around us.
They explain not only the mundane but are the key to understanding the technological revolution around us from mobile phones to the internet and beyond.
The desire to understand the world around us with the power of our reason has led us from Ancient Greece via Descarte and Newton to Einstein and beyond. The complexity of the world we have discovered has often confounded us and yet perhaps the greatest surprise is that we are able to understand it so well.
Physics lessons at St Paul’s School are thus about encountering new phenomena and inspiring pupils to find out about the world in which they live. As one member of the Upper Eighth (Year 13) 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.”
We emphasise a hands-on approach to verifying both classical and modern physical laws, from Archimedes to Niels Bohr — what we think we know, and how sure are we about it. Physics lessons at St Paul’s School are frequently about finding connections and hidden truths, and are a great source of those light bulb moments – when it just clicks.
For all age groups, the syllabus is extended in a way suitable for an inquisitive mind, offers many co-curricular opportunities, and is firmly aimed at allowing pupils to undertake work of a rigorous and 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.
After GCSE we offer the two year Pre-U 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 pupils 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 successes in recent years.
The Physics Department is proud to house St Paul’s state-of-the-art Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), which can be 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.