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Chemistry stands at the pivot of science. On the one hand, it deals with Biology and provides explanations for the processes of life. On the other hand, it mingles with Physics and finds explanations for chemical phenomena in the fundamental processes and particles of the universe. Chemistry links the familiar with the fundamental. P.W. Atkins

The Chemistry Department at St Columba’s College offers students the opportunity to explore the big questions of how the elements are held together by the different types of bonding, how they interact with one another to create new substances and the energy changes and the rates at which they do it.  Students experience their introduction to the main chemistry concepts through a variety of practical activities, problem solving exercises, higher thinking and research tasks.

From the study of Chemistry the students develop their awareness of the world around them.  At GCSE level we take a deep look at our use of limestone, metals, crude oil and alternative fuels, and the substances that can be made from crude oil and plant oils.  In lessons the students learn to recognise and evaluate the environmental, social and economic implications of our use of the Earth’s resources.  The issues surrounding use of these resources will only become more real in their lifetimes.  So it is very important that the students gain an understanding of how their decisions and actions will have consequences for future generations.  To develop the students’ communication and information technology skills they are encouraged to carry out their own research, writing and presentation when weighing up the pros and cons of using the various Earth’s resources.

From there we go on study the traditional areas: the historical development of the periodic table, bonding and structure, quantitative chemistry, rates, energy changes, aqueous chemistry, electrolysis, industrial processes, and organic chemistry.  Throughout their studies students experience the classical chemistry demonstrations and experiments that we all remember enjoying.  In addition to the old favourites they also carry out some new and popular practical activities: making and testing concrete, blast furnace on a match head, experimenting with hydrogels and the very popular methane bubbles; just to name a few.


The students start their GCSEs in Form 3 and sit their exams in Form 5.  We follow the AQA GCSE Chemistry course while for those students who find the sciences more challenging the Double Award Science option can be taken. 

Please note decisions about the GCSE course may change.

A Level

For A level we follow the OCR A syllabus.  Students study a traditional approach to chemistry encompassing physical, inorganic, organic and analytical chemistry fields, alongside the development of practical skills assessed in written examinations and the practical endorsement.  Every year a significant number of boys continue with their studies in the sciences and engineering fields at university.

Please note decisions about the new A Level course may change.

Beyond the classroom

To support learning in the classroom there is a weekly lunchtime clinic for all years. At A Level students are encouraged to broaden their experiences by getting involved in outside schemes and competitions, for example, the Nuffield Research Placements and the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge.