Nuffield Advanced Physical Science c1965

Organiser: John Spice

Nuffield Advanced Physical Science combined Physics and Chemistry in a single subject, so that A-level students could do Biology or an Arts subject as well as Physics, Chemistry and Maths.

It was a concepts-led course focussing on the structure and properties of materials, in which the physics focused on the interlocking roles of matter, energy and radiation, and the chemistry on the interpretation of material properties on the atomic, microscopic and macroscopic scales. The course culminated in a study of one of three types of materials: metals, polymers, or ceramics and glasses.

The extensive practical work was mainly designed to help with the development of concepts. Mastery of particular practical skills was not one of the aims.

Intellectually challenging

The course was intellectually challenging and hard to fit into the time available for a single A-level. Medical schools demanded more organic chemistry than Nuffield Physical Science provided. At its peak there were nearly 1000 candidates but this soon declined, and it ceased to be examined.

A major influence

Nuffield Physical Science had a major influence on teachers who were subsequently active in a range of curriculum projects and in defining the National Curriculum. Materials science has continued to be valued as context for developing ideas in the physical sciences.

Resources consisted of a general introduction, student workbooks and teachers’ guides, together with a collection of reference material – the sourcebook. 

Also on the web

Download the publications from the STEM Centre website. See particularly the Introduction and guide.

Nuffield Advanced Physical Science

Entry in the King's College London archive

Nuffield Physical Science papers