Advancing Physics is a whole new approach to A-level physics developed under the auspices of the Institute of Physics. Its fresh approach includes modern technology and applications and shows physics as a vibrant, fascinating subject. For example, basic electricity concepts are taught embedded in the sensing topic, looking at miniature circuits and microsensors.
The course has a wholly different take on standard physics material. Topics in the AS include: imaging, sensing, signalling, designer materials, mapping space and time and computing.
The coursework for the ASis new, consisting of three tasks: instrumentation, materials research and presentation.
For the A2, there are nine additional chapters, grouped as models and rules, matter in extremes, fields, and fundamental particles of matter.
These are mirrored in the textbooks, which have links to CD-Roms.
Coursework at A2 is a practical investigation and a research report, each on a subject chosen by the student. Extensive support is provided by the website. For example, the newsletter currently has advice on managing coursework. Good practice and strategies are shared online by Advancing Physics teachers. Teachers can hook into an extensive programme of in-service training as well as local Advancing Physics networks to exchange ideas and give feedback.
Advancing Physics has been evaluated by a group chaired by Professor Mick Brown. Teachers have been overwhelmingly positive about the specification, the textbooks, the CD-Roms and the in-service training.
One teacher said "We invested a lot of work in the course and now its considerable merits of being innovative, relevant and interesting for students are becoming clear."
It has improved the transition from GCSE and increased participation rates, marginally increasing the number of girls studying physics.
Results match enthusiasm; nearly 30 per cent of the 6,000 candidates achieved A grades in the A2 exam of 2002.
Becky Parker is a science education consultant