“The chemists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost maniacal impulse to seek their pleasures amongst smoke and vapour, soot and flames, poisons and poverty – yet amongst all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that I would rather die than change places with the King of Persia.” Becher, Physica Subterranea, 1667

This vibrant department is staffed by a team of highly qualified and enthusiastic chemistry specialists and provides a modern and academically stimulating environment for the pupils. The chemistry department is housed in spacious accommodation, on the first-floor of the science block, in beautifully refurbished and extremely well-resourced laboratories.

Chemistry is the study of atomic particles and how they combine and react. Students acquire a knowledge and understanding of chemical patterns and apply them to familiar and unfamiliar situations. This is a highly practical subject and approximately one-third of lesson time is spent carrying out practical work, which students are encouraged to link to theoretical ideas. The subject puts emphasis on the importance of the scientific method, enabling girls to design, carry out and evaluate experiments. Through this, pupils develop chemical knowledge, skills and understanding that enables them to problem-solve in a wider context. At the same time, they develop virtues of scholarship, a love of independent thinking and creativity.

We work towards the Edexcel IGCSE chemistry course, which all pupils sit at the end of the VI. Uptake of the subject at Advanced Level is strong: over half the year-group in both the VII and the VIII study chemistry at A-Level. We follow the Pearson Edexcel Advanced GCE Chemistry specification, which involves the endorsement of students’ practical work over the two years of the course.

Annually, four selected UIV pupils attend a Salters’ Chemistry Festival and two V pupils attend a residential Salters’ Chemistry Camp at a leading university. VII students enter the L6th Cambridge Chemistry Challenge and our VIII students have had considerable success in the Chemistry Olympiad.

Popular subjects studied at university by A level chemists are pure science, medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and engineering. This is in addition to non-science subjects, such as law and economics.

It should be remembered: half of all female British Prime Ministers gained a chemistry degree!