We believe pupils are best served by a joyful approach to Physics which is focused on teaching a clear conceptual understanding of the underlying principles that form the rule book of the universe.
Examinations may, of course, sometimes be passed by candidates for whom key concepts remain opaque or even incomprehensible. However, we contend that examination success can be secured more easily if a robust and nuanced understanding of the physical law studied is the central aim of the teaching and learning process. Not only is that the most pleasurable and satisfying way to approach Physics, but it also best reflects the motivation of physicists who spend careers in research at universities and in industry, pushing back the frontiers of our understanding of the physical law.
For those boys without a marked talent or interest in Physics we still seek to engender some appreciation of the beauty of the subject. Those ending their studies at GCSE should gain an intimation of the deep structures of physical law which govern energy and matter, while we also hope to demystify things that surround us, such as the mains electricity supply, for example.
At A-level, pupils are expected to develop an understanding of the activity of modelling – physicists employing mathematical structures and tools to create a mathematical model of physical reality. We hope to give the boys some elementary experience of how these abstract models are used to predict and explain the patterns observed in the concrete world of physical reality. On a more mundane and pragmatic level, we recognise that many of our A-level students are progressing to degrees in Engineering, Economics or Medicine and not moving towards tertiary study of Physics: we help those boys get the best grades through the most efficient use of their time.
For pupils with a gift for Physics and a love of the subject for its own sake, we seek to nurture that ability and passion, and, with time, to alloy these attributes to a rigorous, analytical approach. This will prepare them for continued study of Physics (and closely related disciplines) as they leave QE and head off to leading universities.
Technology is used in Physics at QE in the presentation of computer simulations (for example, the PhET interactive simulations begun by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman) and extensively at A-level in the use of data loggers, with a range of sensors including ultrasound motion sensors, light-gates, voltmeters and ammeters.
Extra-curricular opportunities in Physics include participation in the Institute of Physics Challenges and Olympiad, in which QE has enjoyed considerable success.