Physics is the most fundamental of the experimental sciences, as it seeks to explain the universe itself from the very smallest particles to the vast distances between galaxies.

Despite the exciting and extraordinary development of ideas throughout the history of physics, observations remain essential to the very core of the subject. Models are developed to try to understand observations, and these themselves can become theories that attempt to explain the observations.

Through studying a science subject students should become aware of how scientists work and communicate with each other. While the scientific method may take on a wide variety of forms, the emphasis is on a practical approach. In addition, through the overarching theme of the “Nature of Science” this knowledge and skills will be put into the context of the way science and scientists work in the 21st century and the ethical debates and limitations of creative scientific endeavor. 

The sciences are taught practically. Students have opportunities to design investigations, collect data, develop manipulative skills, analyse results, collaborate with peers and evaluate and communicate their findings. The investigations may be laboratory based or they may make use of simulations and databases. Students develop the skills to work independently on their own design, but also collegiately, including collaboration with schools in different regions, to mirror the way in which scientific research is conducted in the wider community.

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Big IdeaUnit / Block of workKey Episodes / QuestionsAdditional DetailsLength of time.Possible Symbol?Learner Attribute(s)
 Topic 1 Measurement and uncertainties1.1 Measurements in physics• Fundamental and derived SI units
• Scientific notation and metric multipliers
• Significant figures
• Orders of magnitude
• Estimation
5 hoursLadybird walking round in circles and a tapemeasureThinker
1.2 Uncertainties and errors• Random and systematic errors
• Absolute, fractional and percentage uncertainties
• Error bars
• Uncertainty of gradient and intercepts
1.3 Vectors and scalars• Vector and scalar quantities
• Combination and resolution of vectors
Forces predict motionTopic 2 Mechanics2.1 Motion• Distance and displacement
• Speed and velocity
• Acceleration
• Graphs describing motion
• Equations of motion for uniform acceleration
• Projectile motion
• Fluid resistance and terminal speed.                                                                    RP – Students will investigate acceleration in freefall.
22 hoursRocket taking offCommunicator
2.2 Forces• Objects as point particles
• Free-body diagrams
• Translational equilibrium
• Newton’s laws of motion
• Solid friction
2.3 Work, energy and power• Kinetic energy
• Gravitational potential energy
• Elastic potential energy
• Work done as energy transfer
• Power as rate of energy transfer
• Principle of conservation of energy
• Efficiency
2.4 Momentum and impulse• Newton’s second law expressed in terms of rate of change of momentum
• Impulse and force–time graphs
• Conservation of linear momentum
• Elastic collisions, inelastic collisions and explosions
Energy is conservedTopic 3 Thermal physics3.1 Thermal concepts• Molecular theory of solids, liquids and gases
• Temperature and absolute temperature
• Internal energy
• Specific heat capacity
• Phase change
• Specific latent heat                                                                                                      RP – Students will investigate specific heat capacity.
11 hoursParticles moving and collidingInquirer
3.2 Modelling a gas• Pressure
• Equation of state for an ideal gas
• Kinetic model of an ideal gas
• Mole, molar mass and the Avogadro constant
• Differences between real and ideal gases.                                                          RP – Students will investigate a gas law.
Forces produce fieldsTopic 6 Circular motion6.1 Circular motion• Period, frequency, angular displacement and angular velocity
• Centripetal force
• Centripetal acceleration
5 hoursMoon orbiting EarthRisk taker
6.2 Newton’s law of gravitation• Newton’s law of gravitation
• Gravitational field strength
Forces produce fieldsTopic 10 Fields10.1 Describing fields• Gravitational fields
• Electrostatic fields
• Electric potential and gravitational potential
• Field lines
• Equipotential surfaces
11 hoursEarth showing gravitational and magnetic fields Thinker
10.2 Fields at work• Potential and potential energy
• Potential gradient
• Potential difference
• Escape speed
• Orbital motion, orbital speed and orbital energy
• Forces and inverse-square law behaviour
Radiation transfers energyTopic 4 Waves4.1 Oscillations• Simple harmonic oscillations
• Time period, frequency, amplitude, displacement and phase difference
• Conditions for simple harmonic motion
15 hoursMusician on stage under a spotlight with a microphone and guitarOpen minded
4.2 Travelling waves• Travelling waves
• Wavelength, frequency, period and wave speed
• Transverse and longitudinal waves
• The nature of electromagnetic waves
• The nature of sound waves.                                                                                   RP – Students will investigate the speed of sound.
4.3 Wave characteristics• Wavefronts and rays
• Amplitude and intensity
• Superposition
• Polarization
4.4 Wave behaviour• Reflection and refraction
• Snell’s law, critical angle and total internal reflection
• Diffraction through a single-slit and around objects
• Interference patterns
• Double-slit interference
• Path difference.                                                                                                         RP – Students will investigate refractive index and calculate it experimentally.
4.5 Standing waves• The nature of standing waves
• Boundary conditions
• Nodes and antinodes
Radiation transfers energyTopic 9 Wave phenomena9.1 Simple harmonic motion• The defining equation of simple harmonic motion
• Energy changes
17 hoursDouble split pattern diagramKnowledgeable
9.2 Single slit diffraction• The nature of single-slit diffraction
9.3 Interference• Young’s double-slit experiment
• Modulation of two-slit interference pattern by one-slit diffraction effect
• Multiple slit and diffraction grating interference patterns
• Thin film interference                                                                                            RP – Students will carry out Young’s double slit experiment.
9.4 Resolution• The size of a diffracting aperture
• The resolution of simple monochromatic two-source systems
9.5 Doppler effect• The Doppler effect for sound waves and light waves
Electricity transfers energyTopic 5 Electricity and magnetism5.1 Electric fields• Charge
• Electric field
• Coulomb’s law
• Electric current
• Direct current (dc)
• Potential difference
15 hoursCircuit diagramsInquirer
5.2 Heating effect of electric currents• Circuit diagrams
• Kirchhoff’s circuit laws
• Heating effect of current and its consequences
• Resistance expressed as RI = V
• Ohm’s law
• Resistivity
• Power dissipation                                                                                                    RP – Students will investigate resistivity.
5.3 Electric cells• Cells
• Internal resistance
• Secondary cells
• Terminal potential difference
• Electromotive force (emf)                                                                                       RP – Students will investigate EMF and internal resistance.
5.4 Magnetic effects of electric currents• Magnetic fields
• Magnetic force
Big IdeaUnit / Block of workKey Episodes / QuestionsAdditional detailsLength of time.Possible Symbol?Learner Attribute(s)
 Internal assessments  10 hours lesson time Inquirer
Electricity transfers energyTopic 11 Electromagnetic induction11.1 Electromagnetic induction• Electromotive force (emf)
• Magnetic flux and magnetic flux linkage
• Faraday’s law of induction
• Lenz’s law
16 hoursNational GridCommunicator
11.2 Power generation and transmission• Alternating current (ac) generators
• Average power and root mean square (rms) values of current and voltage
• Transformers
• Diode bridges
• Half-wave and full-wave rectification                                                                      RP – Students will investigate rectifier circuits.
11.3 Capacitance• Capacitance
• Dielectric materials
• Capacitors in series and parallel
• Resistor-capacitor (RC) series circuits
• Time constant
Radiation transfers energyTopic 7 Atomic, nuclear and particle physics7.1 Discrete energy and radioactivity• Discrete energy and discrete energy levels
• Transitions between energy levels
• Radioactive decay
• Fundamental forces and their properties
• Alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays
• Half-life
• Absorption characteristics of decay particles
• Isotopes
• Background radiation                                                                                                 RP – Students will carry out an investigation for half life.
14 hoursLarge Hadron ColliderCaring
7.2 Nuclear reactions• The unified atomic mass unit
• Mass defect and nuclear binding energy
• Nuclear fission and nuclear fusion
7.3 The structure of matter• Quarks, leptons and their antiparticles
• Hadrons, baryons and mesons
• The conservation laws of charge, baryon number, lepton number and strangeness
• The nature and range of the strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force and
electromagnetic force
• Exchange particles
• Feynman diagrams
• Confinement
• The Higgs boson
Radiation transfers energyTopic 12 Quantum and nuclear physics12.1 The interaction of matter with radiation• Photons
• The photoelectric effect
• Matter waves
• Pair production and pair annihilation
• Quantization of angular momentum in the Bohr model for hydrogen
• The wave function
• The uncertainty principle for energy and time and position and momentum
• Tunnelling, potential barrier and factors affecting tunnelling probability
16 hoursRutherford scattering experiment diagramReflective
12.2 Nuclear physics• Rutherford scattering and nuclear radius
• Nuclear energy levels
• The neutrino
• The law of radioactive decay and the decay constant
Energy is conservedTopic 8 Energy production8.1 Energy sources• Specific energy and energy density of fuel sources
• Sankey diagrams
• Primary energy sources
• Electricity as a secondary and versatile form of energy
• Renewable and non-renewable energy sources
8 hoursGreenhouse effect diagram Principled
8.2 Thermal energy transfer• Conduction, convection and thermal radiation
• Black-body radiation
• Albedo and emissivity
• The solar constant
• The greenhouse effect
• Energy balance in the Earth surface–atmosphere system