Practical work is at the core of student learning – regular practical work demystifies chemistry for the younger students and develops crucial observation and interpretation skills in the older students.
Pupils study chemistry as a separate subject from Year 7 onwards. Creative, stimulating and varied teaching encourages students to think independently.
We aim to stimulate a deep interest in chemistry. Students develop an appreciation of how modern chemistry underpins a vast range of science, technology and medicine. They develop essential knowledge and understanding of chemical concepts along with the skills and confidence to apply their knowledge and understanding to practical situations.
Very many students go on to study chemistry in the Lower and Upper Sixth – it is one of our most popular sixth form subjects.
- Learning journey - Years 7 and 8
New students tend to be excited by chemistry laboratories when they first arrive. We build on this enthusiasm by including as much practical work as possible from the very start, ensuring pupils quickly become confident handling equipment.
In Years 7 and 8 we focus on the chemistry of everyday life, from cooking to cosmetics, and chocolate to concrete.
- Learning journey - IGCSE
Our rigorous course strikes the right balance between traditional and contemporary chemistry, and is sufficiently challenging to provide an excellent platform for A level or Pre-U studies.
Pupils learn the basic principles of chemistry through a mix of theoretical and practical studies and, although there is no coursework, the practical skills of pupils are assessed in written papers.
Study during Years 9 to 11 develops students’ scientific enquiry skills; their ability to explain changes observed at macro and microscopic level; the capacity to interpret and critically assess others’ interpretations; and their dexterity in practical work.
- Providing stretch
Students wishing to take their learning further can carry out one of the optional investigations set each term, from identifying the uses of acids and alkalis in cooking to exploring qualitative analysis in forensic science.
Each year students enter a variety of competitions to extend their knowledge. They are past winners of the regional final of the RSC’s practical-based competition Top of the Bench. We regularly take part in the Salter’s Chemistry Festival at the University, and in 2016 our team completed two practical challenges – a murder mystery and setting up a chromatography column – to secure second prize. In addition, two teams of Perse students headed to Uppingham School for the 2015 inter-school chemistry quiz. Perse team A came in second place, narrowly missing out to victory to… Perse team B!
These challenges are a precursor to the prestigious Chemistry Olympiad. In 2016 Perse pupils secured 15 gold awards – six of which were awarded to Lower Sixth students – 27 silver and 16 bronze awards, with one pupil selected to take part in the second round, putting him in the top 50 in the country. In 2015 a Perse sixth former was selected to represent the UK at the international final in Azerbaijan, where he came first in the team, and 45th in the world, and was just 3% short of a gold medal.
- Beyond the classroom
Students regularly hear from eminent chemists, both through our own ‘42’ programme of speakers or on trips, such as to lectures at the University of Cambridge and GCSE Science Live talks.
We celebrate national events such as Chemistry Week, and on 6 February The Perse marks ‘Mole Day’ – a day dedicated to the chemical mole when the whole School, from the catering team to the Sports Department, organises mole-themed fun.
A weekly after-school club for Years 7 to 9, Science Club provides an opportunity to carry out fun practicals such as identifying what gives fireworks their colour, extracting DNA from fruit, making bath bombs and conducting experiments with light.