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The study and practice of Chemistry has played, and continue to play, a major role in shaping our civilisation. It is the central science.

At The Oratory we aim to make pupils aware of the effects Chemistry have in the world around us. All age groups attend lectures, practical sessions and presentations in order to make Chemistry accessible to all, as well as complementing the IGCSE (Edexcel) and A Level specifications that are studied at school.

At The Oratory School the accommodation of the Chemistry Department consists of two interlinked laboratories, prep and resources room and a small seminar room. The subject is taught by two full time members of staff, with an experienced laboratory technician who provides technical and clerical support.

Our Laboratory

The Oratory Chemistry lab is equipped with high-quality equipment in order to help pupils to perform all necessary exercises in the curriculum. The equipment enable all students to perform laboratory tasks and see Chemistry in practice.


Chemistry at The Oratory exemplifies the modern aspects of the subject and is taught by highly qualified practitioners who have a wealth of experience in both academia and industry. The subject is taught using a variety of styles and pupils are actively involved in the learning process; practical work is particularly important and all classes encounter lab work of varying complexity.

Many transferable skills are developed within the Chemistry curriculum; these are of use in many subjects, in addition to the Sciences and Mathematics. Consequently, Chemistry is particularly liked by university admission tutors for non-scientific subjects, who often consider it to be a good indication of an applicant’s wider ability and intellect.

The study of Chemistry to A Level is essential for a wide variety of university courses, including Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Pharmacology, Veterinary Science, many Biological subjects and Chemistry itself. Whether the subject is studied for its own sake or as a qualification to proceed to other degree courses, the successful pupil will have shown that they have an analytical mind and that they are a logical and capable problem-solver.

Dr Tim Danks - Head of Chemistry



Junior Chemistry

St Philip House Chemistry (years 7 and 8) is taught as a single science and it provides an introduction to the subject. The basic principles and background to the subject are introduced and expanded using practical work. The aim is to bring all boys up to a common standard by the time that they join the senior school. This allows a seamless transition into the start of the introductory GCSE material that is taught throughout the third form.

Third Form Chemistry

In the third form (year 9), the first half of the Michaelmas term is used to ensure that all the boys have reached the same level of knowledge. For the remainder of the academic year the GCSE chemistry syllabus is started and the boys are taught the fundamentals of the subject. The aim is to give each boy a flavour of the topics so that they are sufficiently informed at the time of deciding on their GCSE options at the end of the third form.

 The third form examination paper is of 1 hour duration and is composed of GCSE style questions. It is taken in June of each academic year and grades A – E are available. Most boys receive A to C grades.

GCSE Chemistry

Chemistry is a very popular choice at GCSE. The boys are enthusiastic about the subject and they particularly enjoy practical work.

At GCSE the Edexcel international GCSE specification is followed. The aim of the course is to provide pupils, through study and experiment, with an understanding and knowledge of the subject that will enable them to:

Develop their interest in, and enthusiasm for, chemistry

Develop a critical approach to scientific evidence and methods

Be informed about chemical matters in a technological world

Appreciate the usefulness of scientific methods

Recognise the relevance of chemistry to everyday life and the economic importance of the chemical industry

Develop accurate and safe experimental skills

Be suitably prepared for those Sixth Form courses in which the study of chemistry to GCSE is either an essential or desirable prerequisite.

Acquire and apply skills, knowledge and understanding of how science works and its essential role in society

Acquire scientific skills, knowledge and understanding necessary for progression to further learning.

The examinations taken at the end of the Fifth Form year comprise of two un-tiered written examination papers; there is no controlled assessment.

AS and A Level Chemistry

The study of Chemistry to AS and A Level is essential for a wide variety of University courses including Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Pharmacology, Veterinary Science, many Biological subjects and Chemistry. Whether Chemistry is studied for its own sake or as a qualification to proceed to other subjects, the successful pupil will have shown that they have an analytical mind and are a capable problem-solver.  These skills are particularly welcomed by employers and university admission tutors.

Chemistry is traditionally divided into the three major sections, Physical, Organic and Inorganic and this is reflected in the OCR linear specifications (H032 and H432) are taught within the Department.


Departmental Staff

T. N. Danks BSc PhD (Head of Chemistry)

S. A Bowles BSc PhD