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Our aim is to produce confident, independent learners equipped with transferrable skills, who are ready and eager to take the next steps in their lives.


About Our Chemistry Department

The Chemistry Department aims to aid pupils in developing skills of understanding, problem solving and practical investigation. We hope to produce responsible, well-informed scientists who are enthusiastic to learn and who can communicate their extensive knowledge to others. The departmental staff have a complementary and varied range of experience and interests, both within and outwith the teaching profession. All staff are encouraged to share best practice, ensuring a consistent and dynamic learning experience for pupils.

The High School of Glasgow Chemistry Department offers an exciting range of courses, taught by a dynamic staff in three well-equipped laboratories. We have a dedicated Sixth Year Laboratory on the ground floor of the Science Block which is set out in a University Laboratory style. In addition to teaching all levels of the Scottish curriculum, members of the department participate in the running of a Junior Chemistry Club, as well as in other interdisciplinary areas. All members of staff mark at various levels for SQA Examinations and Mr Robertson, Mrs O’Neil and Dr Penman have also undertaken various development, writing and vetting roles.

The department also benefits from many external links. Pupils annually attend regional competitions and exhibitions run by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Salters' Institute, as well as courses organised by the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Strathclyde and St Andrews.

The Transitus-S2 course is taught via carefully selected practical activities which help the pupils develop practical skills, as well as encouraging them to develop their skills of thinking and enquiry. Here, they learn the basics of inference and deduction as well as an appreciation of the chemistry taking place in their everyday lives.

In Chemistry, we aim to develop study skills from Transitus onwards, introducing the pupils to various revision techniques. They are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning, with self-assessment and the use of goals actively encouraged. The overall aim is to produce confident independent learners, equipped with transferrable skills, who are ready and eager to take the next steps in their lives.


Mrs Kim O’Neil (Head of Department)
Mrs Mhairi Peek
Dr Nikki Penman (S6 Assistant and Junior Science Coordinator)
Mr Kenneth Robertson (Senior Deputy Rector)
Dr Michelle McKie

Curriculum Information

In S3 and S4, pupils are in mixed ability sets for National 4 and 5 - National 5 will normally be sat at the end of S4. A range of teaching approaches is used, tailored to the class. This allows for differentiation, a high level of individual support for pupils and the opportunity to set targets based on ability.

The three units studied in the National 5 Course are:

  • Chemical Changes and Structure
    • Rates of reaction
    • Atomic structure and bonding related to properties of materials
    • Formulae and reaction quantities
    • Acids and Bases
  • Natures Chemistry
    • Homologous Series
    • Consumer Products
    • Energy of Fuels
  • Chemistry In Society
    • Metals
    • Properties of Plastics
    • Fertilisers
    • Nuclear Chemistry
    • Chemical Analysis

To gain the award of this course, the pupil must achieve a pass in all component units as well as the external assessment, which will provide the basis for grading the attainment in the course award. There is an external end of course examination lasting two hours (80 marks) as well as an assignment (20 marks), which will be marked by the SQA and conducted under exam conditions at school.

The Higher course is designed for students who wish to continue their study of chemistry beyond National 5 level and who may wish to progress to Advanced Higher. As a one year course, the study of chemistry at Higher can make an important contribution to the pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the physical and natural world.

The Higher course develops learners’ curiosity, interest and enthusiasm for chemistry in a range of contexts. The skills of scientific inquiry and investigation are developed throughout the course and the relevance of chemistry is highlighted by the study of the applications of chemistry in everyday contexts.

The course also serves to equip all learners with an understanding of the impact of chemistry on everyday life, and with the knowledge and skills to be able to reflect critically on scientific and media reports. This will also equip learners to make their own reasoned decisions on many issues within a modern society where the body of scientific knowledge and its applications and implications are ever-developing.

The course content has been selected to allow learners to study key chemical areas within situations of personal relevance, using up-to-date contexts. Skills of scientific investigation, communication, literacy and numeracy are all developed within the course. The units of study offer opportunities for collaborative and independent learning, set within familiar and unfamiliar contexts, and for high-quality experimental work.

The course has been designed in independent units which provide a wide and varied experience. The units follow on from those studied at National 5 level and have the same titles:

  • Chemical Changes and Structure (half unit)
  • Researching Chemistry (half unit)
  • Natures Chemistry
  • Chemistry in Society

To gain the award of this course, the pupil must achieve a pass in all component units of this course as well as the external assessment, which will provide the basis for grading the attainment in the course award. The external course assessment is structured in two components - a two and a half hour question paper made up of 20 marks objective and 80 marks for restricted and extended response questions, and an assignment (20 marks) completed under supervised conditions in school and externally marked. There will be a total of 120 marks overall.

Pupils may choose to continue with Advanced Higher Chemistry in school. Chemistry is also a pre-requisite for many degree courses such as Biochemistry, Medicine, Dentistry, Forensics, Pharmacy and many other science-based courses.

Qualifications in Chemistry can of course lead to employment in traditional chemical industries such as the oil and pharmaceutical industries. Chemistry graduates have many opportunities for employment or studies in research, teaching, commerce and industries.

The study of chemistry at Advanced Higher level develops the candidate’s knowledge and understanding of the physical and natural environments beyond Higher level.  The Course builds on Higher Chemistry, continuing to develop the underlying theories of chemistry and the practical skills used in the chemical laboratory.  The Course also develops the skills of independent study and thought that are essential in a wide range of occupations.  The Course provides a sound basis for direct entry into chemistry-related employment.

The Course is also particularly suitable for candidates who wish to progress to degree courses either in chemistry or in subjects of which chemistry is a major component such as medicine, dentistry, chemical engineering, and the environmental and health sciences.

In addition to providing an excellent grounding for the future study of chemistry and chemistry-related subjects, the Course also equips all candidates with an understanding of the positive impact of Chemistry on everyday life.

It also serves to equip all candidates with the knowledge and skills to be able to reflect critically on scientific reports and media reports concerning chemistry and to make their own reasoned judgements on many issues within a modern society increasingly dependent on chemistry, science and technology.

The development of skills is central to this Course.  Practical investigative skills are particularly important at this level.  This is reflected in the opportunities to carry out high quality experimental work within all of the Course Units and particularly in the Researching Chemistry (AH) Unit which incorporates both practical techniques and skills of scientific investigation.  Communication skills, literacy and numeracy are all further developed and assessed within the Course.

There are also many opportunities to develop the skills required in working with others. Collaborative and co-operative practical work is promoted throughout, particularly within the skills and techniques part of the Researching Chemistry (AH) Unit.  By working with others in the laboratory, candidates can achieve self-awareness and develop an enhanced sense of self-worth and respect for others.

The Course should also equip candidates with the knowledge and understanding to make well-informed personal decisions.


Course Structure

The Course is made up of four mandatory Units:

  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Researching Chemistry (AH)

The Researching Chemistry Unit develops skills and techniques, equipping candidates with the practical, investigative and reporting skills demanded by employers and further and higher education.

While each Unit is valuable in its own right, candidates will gain considerable additional benefit from completing the course, since there will be opportunities for the integration of knowledge and skills developed through study of the Units, and for tackling problem solving of a more complex nature than that required for attainment of the Performance Criteria of the individual Units.


Assessments (Internal and External)

To gain the award of this course, the pupil must achieve a pass in all component units of this course as well as the external assessment, which will provide the basis for grading the attainment in the course award.

The instrument of assessment will be an externally set question paper of 2 hours 30 minutes duration and a completed Investigation report.

  • External Course assessment structure
    • Component 1 — question paper made up of 30 marks objective and 70 marks for restricted and extended response questions
    • Component 2 — investigation 25 marks
    • Total marks — 125 marks