“Physicists can do pretty much anything. Our [physics] training can be applied to almost any activity, and it allows us to see things in ways that might not be obvious to others.”

Simon Singh, science writer and broadcaster

We study physics for three main reasons: physics is interesting, physics is useful, and physics enables a wide variety of careers. Physics can be as practical as calculating the stresses in a bridge or as abstract as mapping the curved space-time near a black hole. It studies systems ranging in size from the smallest elementary particles to the entire universe. Physics is at the heart of everything.

Physics learning and teaching at St Paul’s

Teaching physics at St Paul’s is a privilege. We have superb facilities – dedicated laboratories, excellent IT provision, modern equipment and a specialist technician – but what makes our jobs as teachers distinctive is our students. Even after decades of teaching, Paulinas can still astonish us with their intense dedication, their delightful idiosyncrasies and the quality of their questioning. In addition to our teaching experience, the physics department staff have postgraduate qualifications in astrophysics, superconductivity, quantum computing and supersymmetry.

Paulinas are supported throughout their physics studies through interesting and challenging teaching, incorporating a rich practical programme. We also run twice-weekly “Physics Workshop” sessions, where girls are helped to catch up missed lessons, obtain advice on homework, work on personal projects and competitions, or just have a physics-related chat.

In the UIV we cover a broad range of topics (including moments, optics and electronics) to prepare girls for their IGCSE work in the LV-V. We follow the Pearson Edexcel specification for this, leading to the girls’ first public examinations at the end of the VI.

In the Senior School, we follow the Pearson Edexcel linear A level. Each year approximately 30% of the cohort in Year 12 chooses to study physics A-level.

Beyond the curriculum

We regard the curriculum as a spring-board for exploring all fields of physics, which we encourage through a broad range of co-curricular activities, including competitions and trips.

Examples of these include:

  • Physics Olympiad, AS Challenge and GCSE Challenge; Paulinas have won numerous gold, silver and bronze awards.
  • talks organised by our Physics Society (run by girls in the VII and VIII): recent topics have included quantum computing, dark matter and organic solar cells.
  • the Engineering Education Scheme, working with CH2M, for senior girls thinking of pursuing engineering at university.
  • Trips to the Kennedy Space Center and Orlando, Florida; CERN; Diamond Synchrotron; Culham Centre for Fusion Energy; the Extreme Physics Competition; engineering and particle physics masterclasses at Imperial College.

“Nature’s imagination is so much greater than man’s. She’s never going to let us relax.”