We are delighted that the Science Department was awarded the Platinum Science Mark Award in November 2017. St Mary's Calne is now one of an elite group of just ten schools in the country to be holders of the Platinum Science Mark and the first independent school in the UK to achieve this accolade.
An understanding of Science is crucial for life in the 21st century and we take that responsibility very seriously. Whilst the curriculum itself is important (see below) we believe there is so much more to a full science education. Students at St Mary’s are taught to question, to challenge the extents of their intellectual curiosity and to think seriously about the implications of the applications of Science. This is achieved through lessons that are carefully planned to challenge misconceptions, to give students the opportunity to hone the key skills of science communication, to lead their own learning through inquiry and to read.
Alongside the lessons we run a number of key projects, both in house and through external partners that expose the students to ‘real’ Science.
Through IRIS (Institute of Research in Schools) LV students take part in different projects each year such as Amazing Atmospheres where they evaluated data from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. Through UCL, Sixth Form Chemists are taking part in an exciting scheme to investigate novel properties in ionic liquids and through the Microbiology Society Sixth Form Biologists are part of a crowdsourcing project analysing the soil here in Calne for antibacterial compounds with the support of the Bristol University Plant Pathology Department. Our A Level Physicists undertake the BPhO Experimental Project where they fulfill a brief set by Oxford University and submit a report, competing against other schools.
We are extremely fortunate to have an established orchard in front of the science block. We have recently set up the Orchard Biodiversity Project as a long-term monitoring project and are currently focusing on lichens and moths. Our moth trap is set twice a month and students are learning to identify the extraordinary range of moths found with the help of a local moth expert. Every year in the autumn the Science Department runs Apple Day, a celebration of the year’s harvest where the juice is pressed before being taken away to be pasteurised and bottled.
Our clubs and societies are very active. Lego Robotics have already built a robotic snake and will be working on their programming skills this year with the aim of reaching competition standard. Zoological Society (Zoo Soc) is a weekly meet up looking at the anatomy and adaptations of the animal kingdom through dissection.
Our outside speakers are very important to our enrichment programme. In the last three years we have been fortunate to listen to the likes of Professor Dame Frances Ashcroft, Professor Alice Roberts Dr Helen Czerski and many more. In 2018-9 we are welcoming Dr Lucinda Bellingham from the Institute of Cancer and Genomics at Birmingham University and Libby Jackson from the UK Space Agency.
National Science Week is a much anticipated event in the school calendar. In 2017-18 over 700 individuals from St Mary’s, local primary schools and the Calne community participated in 13 Science events such as an Engineering in the Military evening fixing mini tank go karts, a lecture on personalised genomic medicine, a focus day on Gravitational Waves, Dry ice workshops and our annual Great Science Bake Off competition. The highlight of the week was the launch of a bear, Mary Margaret, into near space. The data collected from her flight is used in our science lessons.
Our curriculum is built on the Big Ideas in Science to ensure that when students complete their compulsory science education with us they have a deep and holistic understanding of the nature of science.
We have a bespoke science curriculum for students joining us in the first two years. The aim is to stretch, inspire and to introduce the girls to the endless possibilities of science. Students in LIV study the three sciences separately but in two cross-curricular themes, the science of light and the science of the environment. For the MIV it is engineering – in Biology we look how nature allows us to see the laws of engineering in practice from the shape of a heart valve to the structure of a leaf. In Chemistry we explore the engineering involved in the contents of the girls’ wash bags - the science behind emulsions, pigments and the distillation of fragrances. In Physics it is the science of bicycles, planes, bridges and skyscrapers. At the end of the MIV, students choose a project from one of the three science disciplines and complete a Bronze CREST award.
Girls in the UIV, LV and UV study for the Edexcel IGCSEs. Links to the courses can be found below:
• Edexcel IGCSE Biology
• Edexcel IGCSE Chemistry
• Edexcel IGCSE Physics
Biology: WJEC Eduqas A Level Biology (A400QSL)
Chemistry: OCR A Level Chemistry
Physics: Edexcel A Level Physics
The students use practical books in each subject to record evidence towards the important practical endorsement.
All Science students at Sixth Form take part in Journal Club. The students are given an article from a scientific journal or a link to, for example, a TED talk and are asked to read the material carefully before attending the meeting. The articles cover a range of scientific disciplines and all students are expected to attend, regardless of the specific Science subject they might be studying. The meeting is chaired by a teacher and the article is discussed in detail. Students keep the articles in a portfolio and by the time they reach UCAS applications they have built up a considerable body of wider reading.
Alexandra Haydon, Head of Science and Senior Teacher