Subject Overview

Studying Physics is about attempting to explain the universe in terms of simple models.

At Stonyhurst you will learn a great deal about the universe and the amazing range of different ways that nature’s building blocks can be put together and interact with each other.

We also teach you to look critically at the world and how our ideas about it have developed through the ages.
At Stonyhurst, we aim to help students develop skills and capabilities that will help you in your adult and working lives. Many of our students go on to study science based courses at university.

Key Stage 3 (Year 9)

The Physics course in the final years at Stonyhurst St Mary's Hall and the first year at the College (year 9) uses the KS3 section of the National Curriculum as a basis and is intended as a sound preparation for GCSE. 

Our pupils are taught to plan different types of scientific enquiries to answer questions, including recognising and controlling variables where necessary; take measurements, using a range of scientific equipment, taking repeat readings when appropriate: record data and results of increasing complexity using scientific diagrams and labels, 

They learn to use classification keys, tables, scatter graphs, bar and line graphs; use test results to make predictions to set up further comparative and fair tests; report and present findings from enquiries, including conclusions, causal relationships and explanations of and degree of trust in results, in oral and written forms such as displays and other presentations and identify scientific evidence that has been used to support or refute ideas or arguments. 

We interest and engage students in the world around them, with topics including: 

Calculation of fuel uses and costs in the domestic context; Energy changes and transfers; Changes in systems; Motion and forces; Describing motion 

Pressure in fluids; Balanced forces; Forces and motion 

Observed waves; Sound waves; Energy and waves; Light waves 

Electricity and Electromagnetism 
Current electricity; Static electricity; Magnetism; Electromagnetism 

Physical changes; Particle model; Energy in matter 

Space Physics 
In Lower Grammar, students are encouraged to participate in the Rube Goldberg Challenge

GCSE (Years 10 & 11)

At GCSE Physics we follow the AQA specification. View the specification here.

This is a wide-ranging course which provides sound depth suitable for progression to A level. It also requires knowledge of practical scientific principles to facilitate coursework. Our pupils continue to develop their scientific skills base, engaging with scientific enquiry in the pursuit of greater understanding of the world and their place in it. 

The department aims to stretch more able pupils in Lower Line with the provision of challenging, thought provoking and inspirational teaching in class, supplemented by extension work in studies. 

We teach exam specifications “from above”, with GCSE pupils often tackling questions and ideas which might appear on papers at AS level. Extension work includes participation in the British Physics Olympiad competitions (LFI), run by Oxford University; visits to “GCSE Science Live” for Grammar/Syntax triple science pupils (past speakers have included Prof. Robert Winston, Prof. Jim Al-Khalili, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock);  Electronics GCSE (BOC); Astronomy GCSE (FOR); Robotics including international competitions (JBI) 

Topics covered at GCSE include: 

  • Electricity and magnetism 

  • Forces and motion 

  • Waves and communication 

  • Earth, space and the universe 

  • Energy resources and energy transfer 

  • Radioactivity and atomic physics 

Assessment is by two 1 hour and 45 minute written papers, which students sit at the end of the two year course. Each paper assesses half of the course content and is worth 50% of the total GCSE. The papers include a variety of questions including mutiple choice, structured, closed short answer and open response. 

A Level

Year 1

  • Development of practical skills in Physics
  • Fundamental data analysis
  • Imaging, signalling and sensing
  • Mechanical properties of materials
  • Waves and quantum behaviour
  • Space, time and motion

Year 2

  • Development of practical skills in Physics
  • Fundamental data analysis
  • Creating models
  • Matter
  • Fields
  • Fundamental particles


IB (sixth form)

International Baccalaureate Standard/Higher Level

  • Measurements and uncertainties
  • Mechanics
  • Thermal Physics
  • Circular motion and gravitation
  • Oscillations and Waves
  • Electricity and magnetism
  • Atomic, nuclear and particle
  • Energy production
  • Additional units (Higher Level only).