Subject specialists teach students from Year 10 onwards following two years of studying ‘general science’. We teach the CCEA specifications for both GCSE and ‘A’-level (http://www.rewardinglearning.org.uk/microsites/chemistry/). GCSE chemistry is taught as a component of the double award specification and also as a separate science for those who want more in-depth understanding. Students, at all levels, receive notes written by the members of the department which are tailored to the relevant specifications. GCSE classes are taught in mixed ability sets of approximately 20 students per group. An emphasis is placed on practical work, which provides students with analytical, problem solving and project design skills, encourages deep thinking and helps to develop an appreciation of the importance of safety in a working environment. Such transferable skills can then be developed further in both higher education and the workplace.
Chemistry ‘A’- level is divided into 6 modules and builds on all the skills and knowledge obtained in GCSE. Three of these modules are completed in lower sixth and the remaining modules are completed during the upper sixth year. The ‘A’-level specification is taught by specialists; Mrs. Buchanan has responsibility for inorganic and physical chemistry and Mr. Morrow has responsibility for organic chemistry and some aspects of inorganic and physical chemistry. Chemistry is a very popular ‘A’-level choice with approximately 40 students in lower sixth. Many of the students go on to read medical related subjects at university; chemistry is often a pre-requisite for entry to such courses. Other students study chemistry in order to keep their ‘options open’ when applying for university courses as it is recognised as a strong academic subject across the board.
The chemistry department has been progressive in the application of teaching and learning strategies; we endeavour to equip our students with transferable skills (such as independent learning, critical thinking, oral and written communication and team work) that will enable them to thrive in higher education and the workplace.