Physics is the foundation of all sciences as it is the study of matter and energy, and the interaction between them.

The subject is about asking fundamental questions, such as ‘How did the universe begin?’ and ‘How does the sun keep shining?’ and trying to answer them by observing and experimenting. If you think these questions are fascinating, you will love Physics. Physics is not restricted to theoretical concepts, however. It is applied in every sphere of human activity, including treating cancer through radiotherapy, developing computer games, designing sports equipment and predicting earthquakes. In fact, almost every sector imaginable needs people with knowledge of physics.

Inventor crowned junior engineer of the year

Lisa, in Year 10 at Monmouth School for Girls has beaten around 200 finalists from across the UK to become Junior Engineer of the Year.  MG TV spoke to her at the Big Bang Fair at Birmingham NEC before the judges announced the winner.



At Monmouth School for Girls we endeavour to make all aspects of Physics studied in our lessons enjoyable and understandable, and as relevant as possible to the everyday lives of the girls in our classes, so that they can see the importance and usefulness of each topic. As often as time permits we take groups out of school to see examples of physics in action.

The department teaches Edexcel IGCSE Physics and IGCSE Double Award. IGCSEs are highly respected qualifications, recognised worldwide and by UCAS, and provide a better platform for the study of the sciences at A level.

Girls begin their studies of Edexcel IGCSE sciences in Year 9, in which they receive three lessons of Biology, Chemistry and Physics per week.

While making their GCSE option choices in Year 9, girls choose between continuing with the three science subjects separately (Triple Award) and Double Award IGCSE Science. In both schemes examinations take place at the end of Year 11 and there is no coursework.

Edexcel Physics IGCSE: details of the specifications and a guide for students and parents can be found at:

Physics A level

Physics A level uptake at Monmouth School for Girls is above the national norm and well above for girls, with a total of 29 students last year. The results last year were excellent, with 46.2% of A level students achieving A*/A grades.

Why study Physics?

Physics A level is a challenging and interesting course which is usually studied in combination with Mathematics and the other sciences. Typically, the subject is taken by 30-40 students.

The course includes both traditional Physics, such as mechanics and modern disciplines, such as quantum and particle physics. Students find much to engage their enthusiasm and can extend their interest beyond the curriculum by participating in the Monmouth Science Initiative programme and the Monmouth Astronomical Research Society.

Most candidates go on to study Physics, Mathematics and Engineering at university. A lesser number study Economics and Medicine. Physics is a key subject in a large range of undergraduate courses, providing core numeracy skills and is one of the most highly regarded A level subjects for entry into Russell Group universities. A surprising number of City of London workers are former physicists.

Head of Department: Mr G Dunn

Course content

Board: AQA;   Specification Code: 7408

A level Topics:

Measurements and their errors Further mechanics and thermal physics
Particles and radiation Fields and their consequences
Waves Nuclear physics
Mechanics and materials Astronomy/Turning Points
Method of assessment

Paper 1 – Sections 1 to 5 and 6.1  
Written exam: 2 hours;  85 marks,  34% of A level.
60 marks of short and long answer questions and 25 multiple choice questions on content

Paper 2 – Sections 6.2, 7 and 8 plus assumed knowledge from sections 1 to 6.1  
Written exam: 2 hours
85 marks,  34% of A level
60 marks of short and long answer questions and 25 multiple choice questions on content.

Paper 3 – Section A Compulsory section: Practical skills and data analysis and Section B: Astronomy/Turning Points.
Written exam: 2 hours;
80 marks, 32% of A level
45 marks of short and long answer questions on practical experiments and data analysis.
35 marks of short and long answer questions on optional topic.

Activity When? Age group
Harris Scientific Society Evenings/after school Years 12 & 13
Monmouth Science Initiative Wednesday p.m. Years 12 & 13
Engineering Education Scheme Wales Lunchtimes and after school Year 12
STEM Club After school Years 9 – 13
Monmouth Astronomical Society First Tues evening of the month at Monmouth School All ages
British Physics Olympiad and Physics Challenge Competitions Michaelmas Term


Year 13

Years 11 & 12

Science, Technology,  Engineering and Mathematics Challenge, sponsored by Renishaw plc In students’ own time from Christmas until the end of February Years 6 – 13
Oxbridge Physics and Engineering Lunchtimes and after school Year 13
Astronomy Club Lunchtime All ages
Faraday IET Competition TBC Year 8
Engineering Education Scheme Wales

The EESW has been helping Sixth Formers to gain experience of working together with professional engineers from companies across the country to complete a real-life engineering project, and this year celebrated its 25th anniversary. 

Girls have been taking part in the scheme for over a decade and this year the team was sponsored by Network Rail.  The company runs, maintains and develops Britain’s rail tracks, signalling bridges, tunnels, level crossings and viaducts, and also owns nineteen of the largest railway stations, including London Waterloo, one of the busiest stations in Britain.

Network Rail is investing heavily in attempting to improve safety at level crossings, as with express trains running on the network at 125 mph, many people who have disregarded the warning and safety systems that are already in place have paid with their lives.  Georgiana, Stephanie and Lisa were set the task of developing a system for Network Rail which could monitor a crossing 24 hours a day and record every unsafe event.  The company could then use the recordings to improve the risk assessment and hopefully prevent further loss of life.  The girls visited a level crossing in Gloucester to observe the way it works and to observe cars, cyclists and pedestrians making their way across the rails on a busy weekday afternoon.  Having learned about its workings they were then in a position to set about researching ways in which the crossing could be monitored and any unsafe activity recorded.  Currently CCTV is used, ’24-7′, at some known black spots and British Transport Police also do occasional checks from their vans.  The team’s favourite solutions involved an ISpy and a Raspberry Pi; the latter was settled on because it has the capability to be programmed so that when an infrared beam is broken across the inside of the barriers when they are in position ready for a train to pass, the camera records a certain number of seconds before the event, as well as a set time period afterwards.  Analysis of the recordings by Network Rail may enable them to understand why people take unwise risks, and possibly be in a position to prevent future unnecessary deaths.

At Celtic Manor Resort Hotel on March 16, 2015, 69 teams from across South Wales set up display stands and presented their projects to teams of professional engineers who assessed them in eleven different categories.  Monmouth School for Girls’ pupils were nominated for four separate £500 awards, but the EESW rules of the competition state that each team may win only one.   Georgie, Lisa and Stephanie were awarded “Best overall written report”.  In their conclusion the girls wrote:

“In conjunction with our brief, the solution has the potential to perform and meet all of the requirements given.  Primarily, it is lightweight and compact, hence allowing it to be portable and easily moved from one location to another.  There is limited external activity in terms of wiring and social and environmental impacts are few in number.  Most importantly, the solution is able to capture unsafe behaviour at the crossing before, during and after it has happened.  The videos are short and concise and eliminate the need for unnecessary surveillance or impractical 24 hour monitoring.  Also, the IR LEDs are effective as they illuminate the crossing at night and the camera automatically processes this and the video becomes visible to the human eye.

Further to this, the box will be placed high above human activity to minimise criminal action or accidental disturbance.  This has the added effect of being able to scan the whole area of the crossing, too.  The solution is compact and the container is waterproof so weather conditions will have limited effects on the capability of the electrical components.  As we are yet to test the design in a real life situation over a long period of time, it is difficult to evaluate whether it would remain consistent.”

During their six-month project Georgiana, Stephanie and Lisa developed a whole range of new skills including: learning Python programming; using SolidWorks for 3D printing; report writing; electronics; time management; and team work.  Network Rail intends implementing the girls’ design, particularly if they can include a 5V Wi-Fi transmitter to enable the Raspberry Pi to send a text message with time, date and GPS location immediately the safety of the track is breached.  All three are well on the way to realising their ambition to study engineering at university and already have a successful, real life project behind them.