The Science Department at The Downs School is the largest and one of the most successful departments in the school. The department has been teaching in a new, self-contained Science centre consisting of 12 purpose built laboratories, two preparation areas and three breakout zones of eight computers.

All Science staff at The Downs School are committed to providing a balanced science education to students of all abilities, from age 11 years to age 18 years. Every student receives a thorough and rounded education in Science and is given encouragement to succeed to his or her potential. The department comprises 11 teaching staff and four technicians. The staff work as a team and carry out responsibilities across the department.

Chemistry topics are covered throughout the school as part of Key Stage 3 Science, based on the QCA Schemes of Work. The highest achievers at Key Stage 3 are offered the opportunity to study the separate sciences, Biology, Chemistry and Physics, at GCSE (Key Stage 4).

Key Stage 4

The Science Department adopted a new and exciting course for Chemistry study at GCSE (9-1). This is based on the AQA Chemistry syllabus 8462.

Course Aims:

  • encourage students to be inspired, motivated and challenged by following a broad, coherent, practical, satisfying and worthwhile course of study;
  • encourage students to develop their curiosity about the physical world, and provide insight into and experience of how science works;
  • enable students to engage with chemistry in their everyday lives and to make informed choices about further study in chemistry and related disciplines and about career choices.

Subject content

Students will study a variety of Chemistry subjects from the structure of the atom to how to control rates of reactions. The specification is split into 10 topics

1. Atomic structure and the periodic table

2. Bonding, structure, and the properties of matter

3. Quantitative chemistry

4. Chemical changes

5. Energy changes

6. The rate and extent of chemical change

7. Organic chemistry

8. Chemical analysis

9. Chemistry of the atmosphere

10. Using resources


The qualification is linear which means that students will sit all their exams at the end of the course. There are two papers that students must sit, one covering topic 1-5 and the other topics 6 – 10, with each contributing 50% of the marks towards the final GCSE qualification.

Both papers are 1 hour 45 minutes, with 100 marks available in the form of multiple choice, structured and closed questions with at least one open response question.

There is no coursework element with this qualification.

Advanced Subsidiary/Advanced Level

Chemistry aims to provide a stimulating and worthwhile range of experiences which will engage the interest of students, motivate them to the study of chemistry and encourage them to:

  • acquire knowledge and understanding of modern chemistry;
  • develop intellectual and practical skills in the study of chemistry;
  • develop the ability to study both independently and co-operatively;
  • become aware of the nature of scientific and technological endeavour and of the various contexts in which the work of chemists is important to society.

Entry Requirements

Grade B in Chemistry at GCSE or BB in Science and Grade 6 in Mathematics at GCSE.

Course Content

Course Content

Module 1 – Development of practical skills (A level and AS)

Module 2 – Foundations in chemistry (A level and AS)

Module 3 – Periodic table and energy (A level and AS)

Module 4 – Core organic chemistry (A level and AS)

Module 5 – Physical chemistry and transition elements (A level only)

Module 6 - Organic chemistry and analysis (A level only)

Students completing the AS qualification will sit two exams at the end of year 12, both of 1.5 hours. Those students wishing to do the A level qualification sit three exams at the end of year 13, two of 2hours 15 minutes and one of 1.5 hours.

There is no coursework element with the new A level science courses however students completing the A level qualification (not AS) will be awarded the practical endorsement certificate for successful completion of 12 key practicals which are delivered throughout the two year course.

Career and Higher Education Opportunities

Chemistry is an essential qualification for a large number of careers as well as being an excellent subject to study alongside any other A level. A large number of students move into areas such as Applied Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Biochemistry, Biotechnology and Environmental Science. If students want any science-based career, then Chemistry keeps their options open.

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