The Biology, Chemistry and Physics departments are all housed in the school’s refurbished and upgraded Science Building. Boys are taught in twelve purpose-built laboratories and classrooms, all equipped with excellent ICT resources. Boys also have access to our very own field study centre at Ickwell and the school’s Observatory and Planetarium. 

The Design Technology department is housed in its own purpose-built, modern building which hosts a wealth of resources for boys, from workshops to specialist design studios (each equipped with networked PCs and digital projectors) to an Infinity Cove for photographic work.

Biology

The Biology Department provides dynamic, innovative and challenging lessons, employing the best of traditional teaching methods whilst supported with the use of modern teaching techniques. The challenging and diverse nature of the subject makes it valuable to any profession and instils a passion for life itself. A large proportion of pupils go on to study Biology or a related subject at university and many go on to read Medicine.

Enrichment Opportunities

The Department offers a huge range of enrichment opportunities, providing numerous lectures each year through the Harpur Science Forum, Bedford School Medical Association, Veterinary Medicine Association and Dental Medicine Association. In addition, boys enter essay writing competitions, presentation competitions, and have an excellent record of success. We also encourage all boys to take up membership of The Royal Institution and to attend black tie Friday Evening Discourses.

We also make regular Biology expeditions and, in recent years, these have included a Peruvian Amazon animal survey with Operation Wallacea, a San Salvador reef survey with Earthwatch and the 2014 Isle of Youth, Cuba reef, shark and manatee survey with Operation Wallacea. These are life changing experiences that we encourage students to undertake.

We are also fortunate to have our own Field Study Centre in Ickwell village, with a large lake, woodlands, meadows and laboratories. It is an ideal environment for budding biologists to carry out practicals and learn about active conservation. In addition, we regularly make ecology trips to Dorset and to Whipsnade Zoo.

Prospective medics attend (and run) the Bedford School Medicine Association lectures and events, whilst prospective Vet medics organise and attend Veterinary Medicine Association events. Both groups also give talks to fellow students on topics such as medical ethics, the NHS, mammalian physiology and disease.

Boys also enter a wide range of competitions, including the Peterhouse Kelvin Science Prize, the Imperial Science Essay Prize (we have had boy finalists at the House of Lords in each of the last three years), the Physiological Society Essay and the National Institute for Medical Research essay prize. Upper Sixth Biologists are invited to enter the British Biology Olympiad (we have had numerous Gold, Silver and Bronze medalists and two invited to the National Finals); the elite from this are selected to represent the UK at the International Biology Olympiad. We also run the challenging Talalay Science Presentation competition.

Chemistry

The Chemistry Department provides a supportive environment in which to study one of the most challenging fields of science; fundamental to many areas of modern life.

Chemistry contains some of the most challenging concepts of any of the sciences. Boys must be prepared to work to develop their understanding. We guide this by providing innovative instructional lessons that stimulate the curiosity and share the wonder of the subject whilst also preparing the boys for their examination.

Chemistry is a subject that lends itself to independent learning. The department is well equipped so we are able to offer all boys the opportunity to carry out laboratory work for themselves. Each of our courses will be delivered in their entirety within the lesson time available, but it is vital that students work beyond that framework, and we have put in place several opportunities to do so. At the most basic level, prep is set to test the understanding picked up in class, to diagnose problems as they occur, to analyse and evaluate practical work, and to direct research. However, boys should realise that in the competitive marketplace that is the modern university entrance process, students are expected to be more than just good at a subject. It is necessary to be able to demonstrate a real interest and there is time outside lessons to prove that.

Enrichment Opportunities

Here are some of the opportunities students can take to further their interest in Chemistry:

‘Catalyst’

We provide support for boys who are thinking of applying to Oxford, Cambridge or other universities to study Chemistry related subjects. The sessions vary in content; it could be interview preparation, help with their Talalay competition entry or just introducing some chemistry that’s off the syllabus.

Competitions

  • We encourage entry to the British Chemistry Olympiad; a competition to select representatives for the UK at the International Chemistry Olympiad.
  • We also enter all boys into the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge in the lower sixth. This is a national competition and follows the monthly online challenges.
  • We also run the challenging Talalay Science Presentation competition, the winner of which receives a substantial financial award.

Trips

Over the year, we run various trips for all age groups. In the past, these have been public lectures in Cambridge, Sixth Form lectures in London and bespoke chemical analysis days at UEA.

Physics

Physics is an intrinsically challenging subject which demands logical and mathematical rigour, but it also requires precision and clarity of interpretation and explanation. We encourage students to be able to articulate their thinking on paper and in discussion, so that they can do more than remember facts and equations: they can come to understand the laws that govern the universe around them and apply them in order to solve problems. We have a strong practical bias to our teaching, as we believe it is essential for boys to gain first-hand experience of the phenomena they are studying and to develop a feel for the values and properties that they meet.

The department is extremely well resourced, with a range of excellent equipment that allows us to amply demonstrate and explore the key topics of Physics from observing simple wave patterns in an illuminated ripple tank to watching the tracks of sub-atomic particles in a home-made liquid nitrogen-cooled, cloud chamber. The school’s Observatory is another excellent resource that inspires students to connect with the awe and wonder of the heavens.

Enrichment Opportunities

Here are some of the opportunities students can take to further their interest in Physics:

STEM society
This society is run by a member of staff but the responsibility for making things happen lies with the boys. They provide the ideas and turn them into reality. In the past, they have organised trips to Engineering companies and lectures from University Professors.

Oxbridge tuition
Dr Calverley provides support and tutorial sessions for students who are thinking of applying to Oxford or Cambridge for Physics or Engineering. The sessions include preparing a presentation on an interesting area of Physics, as well as looking at how to develop Physics problem-solving skills. Students are also given mock interviews which can provide vital experience.

BPhO competition
All Oxbridge candidates, and other top Sixth Form Physics students who are interested, are entered for the first round of the British Physics Olympiad. The questions are designed to go beyond Sixth Form topics, to see if students can think their way through problems logically.

Physics lectures
A variety of lectures are publicised, from the School’s own Harpur Science Forum, from The Open University and from the University of Cambridge.

Trips
In recent years, the department has run trips to the Joint European Torus project, the Diamond Light Synchrotron, the European Space Centre in Belgium.

Astronomical Society
This open society meets regularly in the evenings to make use of the School Observatory and to hear Astronomy lectures from various speakers.

Library resources
The department has several hundred books on a range of topics, as well as a recommended reading list (in collaboration with the main School Library) for students who are keen to learn more about specific areas of Physics or who want to gain a wider overview of the subject. The library also subscribes to a number of scientific publications (New Scientist, Scientific American, Physics Review and Astronomy Now) which students can access online or from the library directly.

Design Technology

Design and Technology challenges pupils to combine their knowledge and skills to develop their creativity and problem-solving skills. 

All boys are given the opportunity to tackle design problems of their own choice and to explore and develop effective and innovative solutions. And with the choice of architecture, environmental, furniture, product and transport design, to name just a few, the range of projects produced by boys is extremely wide ranging.

We encourage boys to develop their own individual thoughts and ideas about design. Central to the ethos of the department are Dieter Rams' 10 Principles of Good Design which are used to develop the critical thinking of each boys own work and that of others.

As well as preparing boys for university and future careers in design and engineering, we aim to:

  • develop creativity and problem-solving abilities
  • develop cognitive skills where thinking is directed to action
  • facilitate the ability to look for and identify needs, wants and opportunities and respond to them by developing a range of ideas, making products and systems
  • promote creative thinking to improve quality of life and facilitate becoming innovators
  • build and apply a repertoire of knowledge, understanding and skills in order to design and make high-quality prototypes and products for a wide range of users
  • develop hand-eye co-ordination in the precise use of tools and materials and to combine practical skills with an understanding of aesthetics, social and environmental issues, function and industrial practices
  • promote discriminating and informed users of products
  • facilitate their ability to critique, evaluate and test ideas and products of their own, as well as the work of others
  • develop the creative, technical and practical expertise needed to perform everyday tasks confidently and to participate successfully in an increasingly technological world
  • encourage reflection on and evaluation of present and past design technology, its uses and effects.

Enrichment Opportunities

There are many enrichment opportunities available to boys who study Design and Technology, including the opportunity to showcase their design work in the School’s prestigious Design Technology exhibition, held every other year. They also regularly compete in national competitions, including The National Science & Engineering competition, which is the largest celebration of science, technology and engineering for people in the UK.

Each term, boys have the opportunity to attend a range of lectures at the University of London and Institute of Education, as well as visit the 100% Design Show in London, The Design Museum and the Victorian & Albert Museum.

We encourage boys interested in a career in design to apply for an Arkwright Engineering Scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarship schemes in the UK, only awarded to high-calibre students through a rigorous selection process. We also encourage boys to attend university residential courses, and support them in their preparation for university life and in identifying which particular courses they may wish to follow.