Chemistry is right at the heart of all science. Just about everything you can think of is made of atoms and it is the chemists’ job to study how these tiny particles of matter interact with each other.
Everything we touch, taste and see are made up of chemicals. The DNA in our cells, proteins in our hair and skin, the enzymes that carry out essential reactions – all are all made of chemicals. Mankind has benefitted enormously from the study of chemistry - from medicines to protect from disease, to fertilisers to feed us, to polymers in the clothes we wear. Chemistry also has a crucial part to play in the future of the planet - it will be the emerging generation of chemists that help the transition from our reliance on polluting fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy producing technology.
About the Curriculum
Students opting to take subject in the Sixth Form follow the AQA Chemistry specification (code 7405). This relatively new course seeks to inspire pupils and nurture their passion in the subject. Practical work is at the very heart of the Sixth Form Chemistry syllabus, with every pupil having the opportunity to complete over forty laboratory tasks over the two years, including a four week project on the synthesis and analysis of aspirin. The course content is divided into the three traditional branches of chemistry (physical, organic and inorganic) and has been updated to include exciting new areas such as the action of the cis-platin anti-cancer drug, time of flight mass spectroscopy and the chemistry of DNA. The A Level course is taught in 8 periods a week and is split between two teachers. There is no coursework or practical examination, giving more scope for pupils to carry out multi-stage experiments. Pupils sit three 120-minute papers in June of the Upper Sixth year, with each paper containing a mixture of short and long answer question types; test paper 3 will additionally contain multiple choice type questions. Practical work is assessed across all three papers, with a total of 15% of the total A Level marks for practical knowledge and understanding.
The A Level specification has been designed by AQA, in conjunction with teachers, universities and other professional organisations, to enable pupils to develop key transferable skills such as analysis & problem solving, time management & organization, written & oral communication, data & record maintenance, teamwork and IT competency. Learning where possible at sixth form level is problem centred, with pupils being the primary agents in the whole process. Each teacher is an expert in his or her own area of chemistry and encourages pupils to be active, questioning, critical and discriminating. The practical nature of the subject allows us to embed a wide range of skills and competencies into over forty laboratory tasks taken over the two years, giving pupils plenty of opportunity to hone their skills.
The Chemistry Department offers a wide range of academic enrichment activities, including guest speakers, competitions, visits and interactive workshops. In the past year alone our pupils have taken part in the following activities:
Chemistry in Action Lecture Day at UCL (December 2016): Lower Sixth pupils experienced several lectures including ‘The Chemistry of Smell’ and ‘From Breaking Bad to making good – the chemistry of drugs’.
Chemistry Lectures at Lancing: ‘Designer Drugs for Designer People’ (January 2017) given by Dr Nick Plant of the University of Surrey; ‘Tackling Cancer: the Old and New Way’ Lecture (May 2017): given by Professor John Spencer of the University of Sussex.
Royal Society of Chemistry’s Schools’ ‘Top of the Bench’ Competition (January 2017): four Senior School pupils represented Lancing in a regional heat of this annual competition, held at Ardingly College. We finished fourth out of the twelve participating schools.
International Chemistry Olympiad Competition (February 2017): Fourteen pupils entered this challenging competition aimed at Sixth Form Chemists. Two students achieved Bronze Awards, five obtained Silver Awards and one achieved a Gold Award (finishing in the top 200 of 5000 students).
RSC ‘Spectroscopy in a Suitcase’ (June 2017): An interactive workshop organised by the University of Sussex allowing our Sixth Form pupils to get some hands on experience of operating analytical instruments such as infra-red spectrometers.
A good A Level pass in Chemistry opens up a wide range of possibilities when applying for higher education courses; in the past five years our pupils have gone onto study Biochemistry, Chemistry, Natural Sciences, Medicine, Engineering and Economics at university. A good degree in Chemistry indicates to employers that an applicant is intelligent, hard-working, numerate and literate, with sound problem-solving skills as well as possessing practical ability. It is for this reason that graduate Chemists have an excellent record in gaining employment in a range of professions such as Finance, Teaching, Law and Medicine as well as in Scientific Research and Development.