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Bethany Scientists Competing in National Competitions

Mr Thomas, Head of Science at Bethany School, gives the latest thoughts from his department and how a broad knowledge of all the sciences may just help you eat your breakfast.

A fistful of Gold Awards in National Science Challenges for Bethany Pupils

There is a longstanding national myth that today’s school pupils are not challenged in sciences because all they do is spend more time on their screens while others are landing on the Moon and Mars! Well, this isn’t always true for Bethany scientists. They also go through gruelling national competitions in Science including sitting Olympiads and Science Challenges in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

Social Sizing (14)One of our highflyers, Max B, sat the Chemistry Olympiad and he is waiting for the results to be released in March this year.  The Physics Challenge, another national competition, ran from Monday 24th to Friday 28th January 2022. Max B, Alex B, Nathan Y, and Sebastian S all achieved Gold Awards in the Senior Physics Challenge.  Arthur C, Albie C, Kelvin C all achieved Silver.  Edward A and Olaoluwa A each achieved a Bronze Award.  Biology Olympiads will take place from March onwards.

The Physics competition usually consists of two sets of challenging questions which are largely about physics ideas, but also encourage some wider reading and interest in the subject. It is an opportunity for pupils to take part in a national physics competition and to develop their confidence in the subject. This is not merely for the very top pupils, but for all those who like to engage in problem-solving questions and develop those skills. Of course, the best preparation is through working through some past papers.

The Science Challenges and Olympiads for A Level pupils are an exciting opportunity for them to stretch their problem-solving skills and apply fundamental science principles to novel situations. ScienceOlympiadLogo(2)The Challenges and Olympiads provide an excellent tool to assess and challenge pupils’ ability to work at a high level in Key Stage 5 and beyond. Little knowledge of A Level topics is required, whilst the style of questions is more advanced than pupils will generally be acquainted with. Thousands of pupils take part in the Biology, Chemistry, and Physics national competitions each year.

Here is the advice from the organisers of the Physics Challenges:

“This is not an exam. It is a competition. Some answers you may think you do not know, but they may be worked out by a process of elimination, looking for clues. If you feel it is difficult, it probably is. Top physicists in the country will take this test too. Give it a go. It is an opportunity.

The key aim is that you should enjoy taking part and are encouraged to try out questions that make you think.”


The good news is that it is not expected that pupils train up for this. They are only encouraged to read around the subject and be familiar with the ideas. Science pupils should develop a broad outlook and an interest in science and not see it all as an exam. This is a competition!

Also, there is a never-ending debate about which science is the best to study or which challenges pupils more. Here lies part of the answer. Chemistry is a discipline that lies on some ground between Biology and Physics, with some strong interrelations between the three sciences. While some academics argue that Biology can be reduced to Chemistry and Chemistry can be reduced to Physics, this is not entirely true. The three disciplines cannot be entirely reduced to one another.  At Bethany, our top GCSE pupils, for example, study all three to enjoy the links that the sciences share with one another. In fact, we encourage them to dip into multiple disciplines because understanding one discipline is like a table that stands on one leg. Should that leg break, the whole table comes down, crushing to nothing that is useful. Compare that with a table that has 4 legs. If one leg breaks, this won’t stop you from having breakfast on it! The table still performs useful functions. I, therefore, urge our pupils to develop multiple skills and knowledge than just digging deeper into one field of study. The scientist who is multi-skilled is paid more too!

Well done to all the Bethany scientists who took part in the Science Challenges! I also wish good luck to those who are still to sit their Science Challenges and Olympiads this academic year!

Mr Thomas
Head of Science

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