Mr R Holdroyd - Head of Science Faculty and Head of Chemistry

Mrs J Jones - Deputy Head of Faculty and Head of Biology

Mr M Maxwell - Head of Physics


The motto of Devizes School Science Department is ‘Life’s a lab’. We embody this motto and aim to develop our students into well rounded, global citizens who observe and think critically about the world around them. We aim to develop their interest and enthusiasm for science and promote future study and career prospects within the subject.

Studying science at Devizes school will give every student the opportunity to:

  • develop essential knowledge and understanding of different areas of science and how they link together.
  • develop and demonstrate the skills, knowledge and understanding of scientific methods
  • develop competence and confidence in a variety of practical, mathematical and problem-solving skills
  • use theories, models and ideas to develop scientific explanations
  • carry out experimental and investigative activities
  • analyse and interpret data to provide evidence
  • evaluate methodology, evidence and data in different investigative contexts
  • consider the applications and implications of science on the human race
  • consider ethical issues in the applications of science
  • evaluate the role of the scientific community in validating new knowledge and ensuring integrity
  • evaluate the ways in which society uses science to inform decision making.

Students start their journey in Year 7 and 8 following a newly designed and resourced course structured around the KS3 National Curriculum for Science. Students begin their KS4 programme of study in Year 9 following the AQA specifications for GCSE combined science (2 GCSEs) or GCSE Separate Sciences (3 GCSEs in Biology, Chemistry and Physics). Post-16, students have option of studying A-levels in all 3 sciences, following the AQA specifications for Biology and Chemistry, and the OCR specification for Physics.

Updated: 04/01/2024 122 KB

KS3 Science

Science students in Years 7 and 8 at Devizes School will develop a deeper understanding of a range of scientific ideas in the subject disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics. Students should begin to see the connections between these subject areas and become aware of some of the big ideas underpinning scientific knowledge and understanding.

Students should understand that science is about working objectively, modifying explanations to take account of new evidence and ideas and subjecting results to peer review. Students should decide on the appropriate type of scientific enquiry to undertake to answer their own questions and develop a deeper understanding of factors to be considered when collecting, recording and processing data. They should evaluate their results and identify further questions arising from them.

Students should develop their use of scientific vocabulary, including the use of scientific nomenclature and units and mathematical representations.

Practical Skills

Through all three disciplines students will be able to plan, carry out and record data during a number of science investigations. They will be confident and accurate when drawing graphs and reaching conclusions. They will also develop their evaluation skills. All of these will be vital when students move onto Key Stage 4 study, especially when conducting core GCSE practicals. More able students will be able to identify further questions arising from their results.

A good Devizes science student will work collaboratively with their team and be able to organise their apparatus and work accordingly.

Subject content

Science students in Years 7 and 8 will gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the key concepts. This will lead to students having a good foundation for further study of topics at
Key Stage 4. Some students will want to find out more and will be encouraged to read further around the topics taught in lessons.


Key concepts include:

  1. Structure and function of living organisms
  2. The skeletal and muscular systems
  3. Nutrition and digestion
  4. Gas exchange systems
  5. Reproduction
  6. Health
  7. Material cycles and energy
  8. Interactions and interdependencies
  9. Genetics and evolution


Key concepts include:

  1. The particulate nature of matter
  2. Atoms, elements and compounds
  3. Pure and impure substances
  4. Chemical reactions
  5. Energetics
  6. The periodic table
  7. Materials
  8. Earth and atmosphere


Key concepts include:

  1. Energy
  2. Motion and forces
  3. Describing motion
  4. Forces
  5. Pressure in fluids
  6. Balanced forces
  7. Waves
  8. Electricity and electromagnetism
  9. Matter
  10. Space physics

KS4 Science

GCSE Biology

We start the Biological journey in year 9, summarising the basics of cell biology and organisation. To this end, we encourage students to start developing their application of knowledge by linking different key points from the specification. Questioning and recall skills that have been developed in year 7 and 8 will be extended upon by getting the students to develop their own arguments and explanations all of which should be coherent.

We employ the use of the light microscope at the start of Year 9 and use this to discover cells, being the key units of life, they are an important foundation for Biologists. We look at the cell contents, how they are adapted to meet their function and how the organisation of organisms into cells, tissues, organs and organ systems is crucial to the inner workings of all organisms.

During year 10, we review at how Disease affects the body and why humans are adapted to resist infection. Primary and secondary defence systems are studied and the use of drugs to treat these ailments will be discussed. On the plant side, we look at energy transfers and nutrient cycles within ecosystems. We open the students minds to the fact that living organisms interdepend on each other and thus show adaptations to their environment. We will start by looking at the foundations of life itself, photosynthesis and respiration, and the cruciality of these processes to occur in living organisms. The details of photosynthesis will be covered, including the core processes of aerobic and anaerobic respiration.

By the end of key stage 4 we expect students to have a thorough understanding of basic biological principles and be able to use them in both GCSE papers. Homeostasis allows students to realise that the body works within specific conditions and everything is monitored by the body’s internal systems. Inheritance topic is one of the last we look at in year 11 and includes: meiosis, the principles of variation, how gametes fuse and sexual and asexual reproduction. The students will gain a large breadth of information on how an organism’s characteristics are affected by their genome and its interaction with the environment. We can interconnect this topic with Bioenergetics from year 10 to ensure deeper understanding of evolution and biodiversity.

Challenging Key stage 4 students to consider the wider world by looking at case studies and journal articles before progressing into A Level ensures they are well prepared for the questions that face them in the future.

GCSE Chemistry

In KS4 Chemistry, students will build on the solid foundations from KS3 and apply this knowledge to the complex and diverse wonders of the natural world. This is achieved through the teaching of the fundamental concepts and key ideas of Chemistry.

Students begin their journey in Year 9 learning about what matter is composed of, the properties of elements of the periodic table and their relationship to their atomic structure. Moving on to how substances react, the structures they form and the reasons why they behave in the way they do. Students will gain a good understanding of how scientists use this knowledge of structure and bonding to engineer new materials with desirable properties. The properties of these materials may offer new applications in a range of different technologies.

Year 10 builds on this and delves deeper into the specifics of chemical reactions. Students will learn about the reactions of metals, acids and bases, as well as, energy changes during those reactions. These fundamental reactions and the process of investigating them led to, and is still leading to, the development of numerous useful products, materials and processes. Year 10 continues with the study of the rate of chemical reactions. In industry, chemists and chemical engineers determine the effect of different variables on reaction rate and yield of product. Towards the end of Year 10 students will study crude oil, the useful products obtained from it and how they are obtained. Chemists are able to take organic molecules and modify them in many ways to make new and useful materials such as polymers, pharmaceuticals, perfumes and flavourings, dyes and detergents.

Year 11 begins with quantitative chemistry. A topic covering the essential calculations that any budding chemist would need. Chemists use quantitative analysis to determine the formulae of compounds and the equations for reactions. Given this information, analysts can then use quantitative methods to determine the purity of chemical samples and to monitor the yield from chemical reactions. The year then moves on to the study of the chemistry of the atmosphere and the use of the Earth’s resources. Both these topics focus on the ideas of green chemistry and sustainability, which are crucial concepts for students to grasp in our changing world. Pollution, disposal of waste products and changing land use has a significant effect on the environment, and environmental chemists study how human activity has affected the Earth’s natural cycles, and how damaging effects can be minimised.

GCSE Physics

Our KS4 scheme of work is designed for versatility and accessibility for all ability ranges. The broad nature of the course is designed to allow all students to succeed in physics, regardless of their post-16 paths, with particular emphasis on theoretical, practical and assessment skills.

The sequence of learning is designed for:

  • Exposure to a wide breadth of topics, consolidating on the depth offered at KS3, to produce well rounded adults;
  • Trialled practical experiments that hone the general skillsets introduced at KS3, requiring more critical and analytical thinking for the students to justify their choices by application of theory to shape their outcomes;
  • Contextual immersion into relevant societal issues related to physics, in order to further enrich the interest of students;
  • Developing independent research and critical thinking skills, reflected in the nature of the home learning that is set;
  • Championing success in summative assessments, to achieve the GCSE grades that the students deserve;
  • A drive to advance the use of scientific vocabulary, as we believe that adequate exposure will result in functional life skills, in later life.

In Year 9, our students begin by looking at matter, the 4% of the universe that we interact with. The particle model is used to predict the behaviour of solids, liquids, and gases, and has many applications in daily life, from keeping our food hot or cold to the design of submarines or spacecraft. This unit links closely to the work covered during KS3, and dives deeper into the relationship between the states of matter and the effects of temperature. Students follow this later in the year with a unit on energy, perhaps the singularly most important concept in physics. Our universe runs on energy, and all objects, people, and devices work by changing energies. Add to that a world moving ever closer to its physical limits, and an understanding of energies, fossil fuels, and alternative methods for generating energy become crucial for scientists globally to design innovative solutions to global warming and the effects of climate change.

Year 10 begins with electricity, the foundation of the information age and modern society. Discovering the atomic-scale mechanics of electric circuits, and the grand scale in which they are used, means that students can develop an understanding of the way they are utilised in our own lives. With continually more powerful devices fitting into our pockets and into our homes, we develop a broad knowledge of the behaviour of circuits, devices, and electrical safety. The students then follow this with one of the more dangerous and unstable aspects of physics: radioactivity. It is hard to imagine a world without nuclear energy – or indeed the effects of it – but physicists over the last one hundred years have managed to tame the unpredictable decay of atoms and use in everything from medicine to agriculture, and even to probe the nature of matter itself.

In their final year, our students will turn their attention to three topics. First look at forces, the invisible mechanics of the universe that are responsible for pushing and pulling everything around, and motion, the observed effects of forces. An understanding of forces is important for anyone wishing to design… anything! Cars, washing machines, chairs, even cat beds – whether it’s aerodynamics or softness, they have all been designed with forces in mind. The second half will look at the ways in which these forces change objects. Developing the language to describe these interactions as well as quantifying them through experiments is important for budding engineers and textile designers alike. The second topic focuses on waves and the mechanics behind them. Water waves at sea, sound waves at a concert, and light emitted from our sun all obey some fundamental rules, and our students set out to determine these. This knowledge is taken further as we look for uses for waves in modern life, from solar power to fibreoptic internet. The third topic is on electromagnetism, and ties together aspects from across the physics course. Here the understanding of electric circuits, energy, and forces work together to either generate an electric current or produce a magnetic force. This relationship is an old, well respected core of physics, and it’s application can be seen in the 1890’s when electric motors were used for the first electric cars.

Devizes students who study the single science Physics course will have an additional unit in Year 11: space physics. Here, students question where everything came from, and how long it has been around, and just how far apart everything is. Astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology are all delving deeper into the universe around us and the objects that are discovered, and we look at the fundamental concepts that have been used to uncover the history of the universe.

KS5 Science

A-Level Biology

A-level Biology is a stepping stone to future study, which is why we allow students to develop the skills that they will need. We believe that Biology is fundamentally an experimental subject. This course will provide numerous opportunities to use practical experiences to link theory to reality, and equip students with the essential practical skills they need.

Lessons will inspire students, nurture a passion for Biology and lay the groundwork for further study in courses like biological sciences and medicine.

By the end of Year 12 our Biologists will have studied:

That all life on Earth shares a common chemistry of biological molecules, which provides indirect evidence for evolution

All life on Earth exists as cells. Cells have basic features in common. Differences between cells are due to the addition of extra features, providing further indirect evidence for evolution

The internal environment of a cell or organism is different from its external environment. The exchange of substances between the internal and external environments takes place at exchange surfaces. To truly enter or leave an organism, most substances must cross cell plasma membranes.

Biodiversity is reflected in the vast number of species of organisms, in the variation of individual characteristics within a single species and in the variation of cell types within a single multicellular organism.

By the end of Year 13 our Biologists will have studied:

That life depends on continuous transfers of energy between photosynthesis and respiration.

Stimuli, both internal and external, are detected and lead to a response. This could be via hormones and nerves in animals or hormone-like growth substances in plants.

The theory of evolution underpins modern Biology. All new species arise from an existing species. This can be investigated by studying genetics and populations.

  • The control of gene expression within cells and humans are applying these ideas to many medical and technological applications.

A-Level Chemistry

In KS5 Chemistry students will develop many of the key concepts from GCSE further and cover more complex and detailed explanations to there is a seamless progression between qualifications.

As well as building on GCSE content new topics are introduced and the division of Chemistry into it sub topics of physical, inorganic and organic Chemistry. The course aims to inspire students, nurture their passion for chemistry and lay the groundwork for further study in courses such as chemistry, medicine and pharmacy.

This Chemistry content is a stepping stone to future study allowing students to develop the skills that universities and other higher education establishments are looking for in prospective students.

Chemistry is fundamentally an experimental subject and both AS an A Level provide numerous opportunities to use practical experiences to link theory to reality, and equip students with the essential practical skills they will need for post 18 choices.

In AS Chemistry is split into the following topics and content:

Physical Chemistry

  • Atomic structure
  • Amount of substance
  • Bonding
  • Energetics
  • Chemical Equilibria, Le Chateliers Principle and Kc
  • Oxidation and redox equations

Inorganic Chemistry

  • Periodicity
  • Group 2, the alkaline earth materials
  • Group 7 (17) the halogens

Organic Chemistry

  • Introduction to Organic Chemistry
  • Alkanes
  • Halogenoalkanes
  • Alkenes
  • Alcohols
  • Organic Analysis

In A Level in addition to the AS Level content topics include:

Physical Chemistry

  • Thermodynamics
  • Rate Equations
  • Equilibrium constant Kpfor homogenous systems
  • Electrode potentials and electrochemical cells
  • Acids and Bases

Inorganic Chemistry

  • Properties of period 3 elements and their oxides
  • Transition metals
  • Reactions of Ions in aqueous solution

Organic Chemistry

  • Optical Isomerism
  • Aldehydes and Ketones
  • Carboxylic Acids and derivatives
  • Aromatic Chemistry
  • Amines
  • Polymers
  • Amino Acids, proteins and DNA
  • Organic Synthesis
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy
  • Chromatography

A-Level Physics

A-level students at Devizes school follow a flexible, content-based physics course, divided into six topics. Each topic will cover key concepts in physics as well as practical skills for students to utilise and develop across the course. This approach will enable students to build their knowledge and apply their understanding to problem-solve across broad topic areas such as Newtonian physics, wave mechanics, gravitational forces, and nuclear radiation.

In the first year, Year 12 students will start by developing their practical ability and understanding the important conventions needed for physicists to effectively communicate their findings with the wider scientific community. From there, we delve into the concepts of forces and motion and wave physics, taught concurrently by both teachers. Our students will learn how to model the motion of objects using mathematics, understand the effect forces have on objects, learn about the important connection between force and energy, appreciate how forces cause deformation, and understand the importance of Newton’s laws of motion. Before any sophisticated work can be done on quantum physics, students need to appreciate what electrons are and how they behave in electrical circuits. A basic understanding of wave properties is also required. In the fourth module, students will learn about electrons, electric current, electrical circuits, wave properties, electromagnetic waves and, of course, quantum physics.

For the second year, our Year 13 students will delve into the greatest and the smallest concepts of physics. The microscopic motion of atoms can be modelled using Newton’s laws and provide us with an understanding of macroscopic quantities such as pressure and temperature. Newton’s law of gravitation can be used to predict the motion of planets and distant galaxies. Students will explore the intricacies of stars and the expansion of the Universe by analysing the electromagnetic radiation from space, and students will be considering how the development of the scientific model is improved based on the advances in the means of observation.

By the end of the course, a Devizes physicist will have:

  • essential knowledge and understanding of different areas of the subject and how they relate to each other;
  • a deep appreciation of the skills, knowledge and understanding of scientific methods;
  • competence and confidence in a variety of practical, mathematical and problem-solving skills;
  • interest in and enthusiasm for the subject, including developing an interest in further study and careers associated with the subject;
  • understanding of how society makes decisions about scientific issues and how the sciences contribute to the success of the economy and society