At its heart, Chemistry shows how every process and reaction in the universe is governed by a simple set of rules. Throughout their time at school, pupils go on a journey of discovery: from their first introduction to the elements, the building blocks of all matter, to multi-step organic syntheses. At each step, the foundations of the subject are built and then revisited, as more complex models allow a deeper understanding of each topic. Pupils learn how the structure and shape of a water molecule leads to the patterns of ice on a frosty morning, how the colour of a copper sulfate solution is explained by the electronic structure of the copper ion, and how simple classroom experiments show the mechanism by which reactions take place.
Many chemical elements are named after countries but Argentina is the only country to be named after an element: silver.
The department is staffed by experienced and passionate teachers, with a background of academic excellence. We each believe that learning the subject is about much more than just preparation for exams and instead, aim to foster interest in science more broadly. Pupils leave the school not just with top-class grades but also an appreciation and understanding of how chemistry has helped shape the modern world, for good and bad. They learn the social and environmental impacts of the march of technology, as well as how modern science is at the forefront of solving the challenges that face their generation.
Chemistry is an exciting, dynamic field that influences every facet of life. A strong grounding in the subject gives students a deeper understanding of everything from test-tube reactions to changes on a planet-wide scale.
Pupils in the Lower School follow a bespoke course designed to enthuse and excite them whilst not shying away from difficult concepts. Ideas are reinforced by extensive practical work, allowing the pupils to get used to handling equipment and chemicals. They are encouraged to ask questions and explore the boundaries of their understanding.
Topics build from their first introduction to the concept of the atom, and the subatomic particles it contains, to the idea of valency. Pupils are encouraged to research a number of topics such as famous scientists and the history of the structure of the atom.
The middle school years mark the beginning of the Edexcel iGCSE course and, whilst this is inevitably the focus for the pupils’ learning, the aim of the teaching is to engage and extend well beyond the confines of the specification. Again, practical work is to the fore, with the boys beginning to learn the principles of the scientific method. They also study new concepts such as the mole, equilibria, electrolysis and organic chemistry. Recent cross-curricular work has involved examining the social and moral implications of chemical developments, in the context of German scientists in the First World War, as well as a collaboration with the art department to celebrate the International Year of the Periodic Table.
One bucket full of water contains more atoms than there are bucketfuls of water in the Atlantic Ocean.
Pupils who have chosen to take Chemistry into the Sixth Form are challenged to think for themselves, to unpick simplistic models and open their eyes to the world of chemistry beyond the A-level course. Each class is taught by two teachers, with the course broadly split into Physical and Organic chemistry modules. The pupils study the OCR A specification and they are encouraged to explore ideas such as molecular orbitals and a range of organic mechanisms.
Analytical chemistry is learned through titrations and kinetics experiments.
Refer to the Sixth Form Curriculum guide for a more detailed breakdown of the A-level chemistry programme.
If you are thinking about studying Chemistry in the Sixth Form at MCS, you might want to start reading around the subject before you join. Our Study Preparation guides are a useful tool, detailing further reading around key topics.
Outside the normal curriculum, there are a number of ways that students can explore the subject in more depth and stretch their understanding. Aside from a large collection of books that can be borrowed, and a recommended list of both texts and popular science, students are encouraged to take part in the Royal Society of Chemistry Olympiad and the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge. We have had considerable success in these competitions but the benefit comes not from the certificates but from confronting new chemistry. The discovery that there is a whole world of science beyond the realms of the school curriculum is a powerful. The skills and lessons learned from the papers not only enhance students’ resilience but also teach logical problem solving.
The Waynflete program, and the interns that assist in the department, ensure that students learn to research ideas and are exposed to recent scientific publications. The interns also assist with clinics and problem sessions designed to support and stretch the students.
Lower sixth form students visit a local drug design and development company where they get a sense of chemistry in industry. The strong links to the university also provide a wealth of interesting speakers in a range of scientific fields.
Chemistry at A-level provides the foundation not just for the further study of the subject itself but also many other disciplines. The combination of conceptual ideas and logical thinking lends itself to everything from pure science to Economics, Engineering to Law.
Students who have studied Chemistry leave MCS to read degrees at leading universities across the UK and beyond. This has included a significant number who gone on to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge; pure sciences at Oxford and Medicine at a range of universities. The students are given advice and support when making these choices, with staff having expertise across a range of fields. MCS has a dedicated program, MedSoc, for the Medical applicants.
It is a testament to the enjoyment and hard work of the students that so many leave to study Chemistry and Chemistry-related subjects at university.