Stimulating Physics Network SPEED2015, 3 October 2015

Details and booking for SPEED2015

Stimulating Physics Network SPEED2014, 4 October 2014

The fourth annual SPEED (Stimulating Physics East of England Day) was held at Netherhall School in Cambridge on 4th October. SPEED is completely free for teachers and technicians of Physics and Science - the day is supported by the Institute of Physics (IOP) and by the Ogden Trust. ["I can't believe it was free!"] Sessions themselves are run by the IOP's team of experienced Physics teachers as part of its ongoing support for Physics teaching ["I'm the only Physicist in school, so days like this are invaluable for seeing good practice and developing my own ideas"].

On arrival, the delegates were welcomed by Ally Davies - Head of Physics at Netherhall - who organised the day. He introduced Dr Helen Mason who amazed and enthralled the audience with her talk "Our Dynamic Sun".

"I knew we were in for a treat", Ally said, "Helen's enthusiasm for her subject really comes across - I was thrilled to hear that she had been awarded an OBE this summer for her Physics outreach activities." ["Keynote speaker was excellent", "absolutely loved the talk by Helen Mason, and I am in awe of her work"]

In the first workshop, some delegates made dragster launchers or cloud chambers ["I loved making the cloud chamber"] to show the paths of invisible radiation and subatomic particles; others practised using the van de Graaff generator or enjoyed a set of 'Phourteen Physics Phun Phenomena'. ["very helpful Physicists who are happy to share ideas", "engaging - everything explained and great ideas", "enjoyed the circus style"]

This year had a new strand - a specialist Technicians' Workshop - supported by the Ogden Trust. ["delighted that there was a set of sessions specially for technicians this year"] Their technician workshops provide customised training with great bits of Physics kit, developing practical skills that a busy technician might not get the chance to hone during the hectic working week. This year, technician delegates got to grips with dataloggers - finding hidden 'earthquake victims' and seeing how computers can help pupils to learn about motion and forces. ["all sessions excellent", "The 'Make & Take' was SO fun!", "loved the hands on nature of the activities"]

Lunch break ["fantastic food!"] gave teachers and technicians time to network and discuss what they had done and learnt so far.

After lunch, it was back to work, with discussions and practical workshops covering Dark Matter ["Really enjoyed thinking about dark matter"], Electricity ["easy to do and very informative"], Lenses ["very informative"] and Outdoor Physics ["good to see how to fit into the curriculum"]. There were also ideas for running successful Science Clubs, a thought provoking "What Happens Next?' ["loads of ideas for enquiring minds"] and sessions on interpreting and applying the evidence from educational research and teaching with dragsters and rocket launchers. ["The demonstrations were really exciting, and could easily be incorporated into lessons"]

Finally, the day finished up, as always, with last minute doughnuts, a (free) raffle of physics-related prizes ["excellent and very generous range of freebies, will definitely use them in school", "great to have something to take away with you"] , and delegates already planning for 3 October 2015. ["looking forward to next year already", "Just like last year - another pleasurable and useful event, very well-organised"]

A final endorsement from Nigel Betts, Bedfordshire, who has been to all four SPEED days: "Having been every year, I'm still spoilt for choice with wanting to select more than one of the workshops … I keep coming back because the sessions are of the highest quality, well-resourced and facilitated in a knowledgeable and professional way by the session leader. Above all, the session leaders are enthusiastic to the point of being infectious - it's brilliant!"

To access the resources posted by the session leaders, and to comment on the activities of the day, how you have used the materials/ideas in your teaching etc,

SPEED2015 will be on Saturday 3 October 2015

Photographs - Rory Williams

Feedback quotations used: "I can't believe it was free!" - CP, Beds

"I'm the only Physicist in school, so days like this are invaluable for seeing good practice and developing my own ideas." - OG, Herts

"Keynote speaker was excellent" - KT, Norfolk

"absolutely loved the talk by Helen Mason, and I am in awe of her work" - KR, Essex

"I loved making the cloud chamber" - LB, Suffolk

"very helpful Physicists who are happy to share ideas" - JB, Herts

"engaging - everything explained and great ideas" - JB, Cambs

"enjoyed the circus style" - JC, Cambs

"delighted that there was a set of sessions specially for technicians this year" - RC, Staffs

"all sessions excellent" - TO, Cambs

"The 'Make & Take' was SO fun!" - KRdS, Suffolk

"loved the hands on nature of the activities" - PB, Cambs

"fantastic food! - RS, Cambs

"really enjoyed thinking about dark matter" - LA, Cambs

"easy to do and very informative" - II, Kent

"very informative" - DC-S, Norfolk

"good to see how to fit into the curriculum" - SE, Suffolk

"loads of ideas for enquiring minds" AD, Norfolk

"The demonstrations were really exciting, and could easily be incorporated into lessons" - LW, PGCE Trainee

"excellent and very generous range of freebies, will definitely use them in school" - AB, Suffolk

"great to have something to take away with you" - AF, Norfolk

"looking forward to next year already" - SH, Essex

Just like last year - another pleasurable and useful event, very well-organised" - JG, Cambs

"Having been every year, I'm still spoilt for choice with wanting to select more than one of the workshops … I keep coming back because the sessions are of the highest quality, well-resourced and facilitated in a knowledgeable and professional way by the session leader. Above all, the session leaders are enthusiastic to the point of being infectious - it's brilliant!" - NB, Beds

Stimulating Physics Teaching on World Teachers' Day, 5 October 2013

“Teachers’ professional knowledge and skills are the most important factor for quality education” Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General

World Teachers’ Day aims to support and celebrate teachers. The third annual SPEED (Stimulating Physics East of England Day), was held at Netherhall School in Cambridge on World Teachers’ Day (5 October), and had this ethos at its very heart - a full day of free talks and workshops aimed at supporting Physics teaching.

70 teachers and technicians came from as far afield as Staffordshire and Kent to give up a day of their much-needed weekend to spend time enhancing their Physics teaching. Sounds a real drag, but the overwhelming feedback from those lucky enough to attend was that it managed to be great fun whilst being extremely useful for their work in school.

SPEED is completely free for teachers - the day is supported by the Institute of Physics (IOP) with a great lunch provided by the Ogden Trust (Netherhall is one of their Physics Hub Schools). Sessions themselves are run by the IOP's team of experienced Physics teachers as part of its permanent support for Physics teaching.

Attendees made kit to take away like dragster launchers and cloud chambers, had a go at practical experiments to strengthen their teaching of electricity, sound and magnetism, and learnt how best to deal with common misconceptions in the classroom, such as getting to grips with Newton’s Laws, which had them literally on their knees.

The keynote talk, about Astrophysics and what it can tell us about the origins of life on earth, was given by Professor Jim Hough, from the Centre for Astrophysics Research at the University of Hertfordshire.

A small selection of the overwhelmingly positive comments from the attendees:

  • Absolutely brilliant day. Thank you!
  • It was all very interesting. Thank you for the time take to organise this. It was most useful when the ideas were directly related to how to deliver physics ideas in the classroom.
  • The day was brilliant. Can I come again?
  • Great day - good pace, good venue, and kept up a high level of interest.
  • This was an amazing day. Thank you, really appreciate it!
  • Great day! I am a Newly Qualified Teacher and have taken lots of ideas from the day to bring into my teaching.
  • Great, easy to access for a non-specialist like myself.
  • Great ideas and methods of explanation to help with my teaching and raise my confidence.
  • Great to see so many people giving up their own time to improve and expand their teaching. Thanks!

To access the resources posted by the session leaders and to discuss the day, login to and click here

Book a place for SPEED2014

Photographs - Fay Visaya

Physics Phlair and Fun, 2 July 2013

This year's East Anglian Physics Competition for Gifted and Talented Year Nine students was an amazing event. Twenty seven schools brought teams to King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds on Tuesday 2 July.

The pupils were keen, competitive and ready for a challenge. They needed to be, because Gerry Blake, the organiser, had prepared an amazing array of tasks - 5 short experiments and two forty minute investigations for the morning alone. Jo Bradley, a teacher from St Bede's School in Cambridge, said "The students had a great time. Every single experiment was new, stimulating and interesting."

Teachers and pupils were impressed with the excellent organisation and planning. Alan Denton, Head of Science at King Edwards said "It was this attention to detail that made the day go so smoothly".

During their lunch 'break', each team made a poster to illustrate the physics of one of their experiments. Once all the morning's activities had been marked, the leading teams were told to prepare a presentation describing and explaining the physics in their poster.
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The pupils enjoyed an exciting demonstration lecture given by the Physics Roadshow - this incredible presentation had been developed, scripted and was delivered by a group of physics students aged just 17-20! The year 9 pupils loved it - Nico from the Netherhall School in Cambridge said "The sixth formers' presentation was very well explained", Jessica added that she "liked the Physics Roadshow, because they did cool experiments."

However, the day was not over for the leading three teams - they each gave their presentations to a panel of three judges. Helen Pollard (the organiser of the Physics Roadshow, and one of the judges) commented on the very high standard of Physics knowledge and understanding demonstrated by the students.

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The competition was very tough with only a few points separating the top 10 teams. The overall winners were Colchester Royal Grammar School, with Farlingaye High School in second place and Impington Village College finishing third.

All the pupils and teachers would like to thank:

  • Gerry Blake, for organising the whole event
  • The Institute of Physics and the Stimulating Physics Network, for financial and administrative support
  • The Ogden Trust, for their support of the Physics Roadshow
  • King Edward VI School Bury St Edmunds, for hosting us

Stimulating Physics East of England Day, 6 October 2012

The last thing most teachers want to do at the end of a week's teaching is go into school on Saturday as well. Especially if they aren't getting paid for it! But this Saturday, 6 October, 60 science teachers did just that. Netherhall School in Cambridge hosted the second annual SPEED (Stimulating Physics East of England Day) - a full day of talks and workshops aimed at supporting Physics teaching in the region. Some teachers were so keen they travelled from well outside the region, too!

So why do they come? Ally Davies - Head of Physics at Netherhall - explains:

The key is in the name - we aim to stimulate their Physics teaching in the classroom - giving them fun resources and new easy-to-action ideas that they can use back in their own schools straight away. They are inspired to think more deeply about what they've learned and they usually come back for more!

SPEED is completely free for teachers - the day is supported by the Institute of Physics (IOP), the Ogden Trust (Netherhall is one of their Physics Hub Schools) and the Science Learning Centre. Sessions themselves are run by the IOP's team of experienced Physics teachers as part of its permanent support for Physics teaching. Phil Badley - network regional leader - ran two of the sessions:

"One of our key goals is supporting science teachers who are not Physics specialists - to help them capture their students' imaginations - we believe this will help to increase the numbers of girls and boys going on to do physics at A Level and beyond. Judging by the feedback from the day, we seem to be getting it right. We got lots of comments about confidence levels increasing."

Dragsters, Air Rockets, Birdsong and Teaching with Toys were just some of the sessions on offer. This year, even Cambridge's Deputy Mayor, Paul Saunders, got into the Physics of Surfing on Air - "This is really enjoyable - it's very impressive. I would love to come again next year!"

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Making Dragster Launchers; Making Rocket Launchers; Teachers and the Deputy Mayor watching a launch

One of last year's attending teachers hoping for another dose of inspiration was Kirstie Urquhart: "Again it was a super fun day. The organisation and refreshments were excellent. As a teacher, I don't often feel as valued as I do at Physics Network events."

The opening talk was from Professor Sir David King, formerly Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government. He gave the teachers the latest insider info on the issues surrounding climate change - something they all have to teach. Feedback for this talk was that it was "absolutely excellent" and "massively inspiring".

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Guest speaker, Professor Sir David King; Delighted teachers chose teaching toys from the raffle table

Other teacher comments show just what a valuable experience the day was - well worth missing that lie in for!

  • "Loved the chance to network and swap ideas, and the talk was massively inspiring."
  • "Ideas for lessons in all sessions will help immediately"
  • "Using toys to teach physics was fascinating"
  • "Good to have chance to make equipment and to be shown how to use it as well"
  • "Lots of ideas to take away and also equipment for a good practical lesson - amazed this was given away free!" Sponsored by Ogden Trust - July 2012

Fantastic News - the Ogden Trust has agreed to support the development of This will mean more online materials to support the teaching and learning of GCSE Twenty First Century Science. And in 2013, Cambridgeshire schools will have the chance to become myPhysicsSatellites - as affiliated schools, they will receive free guidance and support to enable them to have their own pages linked directly from - clubs, trips, coursework deadlines and exam dates can all be publicised on you very own myPhysicsSatellite pages.

Changes to - February 2012

I've been working on some significant exciting updates to this weekend (11 and 12 Feb) - two big changes:
  1. Revisions to GCSE pages for the new Twenty First Century Science course.
  2. New interactive quiz pages
Revisions for the New Course

This school year (2011-2012) sees the introduction of a new GCSE Science course. In terms of what students need to know for the exams, lots has stayed the same, but there have been some significant changes.

  • Key Stage 4 page now links to new pages for the new course:
    • there's a brand new page for the new chapter 3 (Sustainable Energy);
    • there's a new page for the new chapter 6 (Radioactive Materials)
  • I've added some links to the pages for chapter P1, chapter P2 and new course chapter P3.
    • Bitesize has been updated for the new course. I've checked many of their pages, sent in lots of corrections and now have added links to appropriate chapter pages.
    • I've produced checklists for all seven chapters of the new course - these are all available to download from the appropriate chapter pages.
    • I've added some new links, videos, simulations for chapter 1 and for chapter 2 to include the few new bits of content in these chapters.
Interactive Quizzes

I've just learned how to use some software (Hot Potatoes) to make some interactive quizzes. My first four quizzes are online now.

The Cambridge Machine - Netherhall group wins prize

Sunday 23 October 2011, at the Guildhall, The Cambridge Machine was started by local MP Julian Huppert when he pulled a string to launch this extraordinary Heath Robinson contraption. Netherhall pupils were delighted to be awarded the prize for the best school section - for including the best range of science.

Dozens of ideas had been suggested, considered and trialled during many lunchtime meetings by the team members: Ellie, Isabella, Isabelle, Helene, Madeline, Sarah, Sarah, Salvy and Sushil.

Isabelle said "In the end, we had to limit what we included as we knew we had to assemble all the pieces on the day; and it had to work reliably."

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The team with their section of the Cambridge Machine

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The team receive the Ł100 prize from Chris Lennard, Founder of the Cambridge Science Centre

"It was great fun - it was brilliant to put lots of physics ideas together." - Sarah.

"I loved it. Physics is really fun, and it was excellent working on a cooperative project like this." - Salvy.

Ally Davies (Physics teacher at Netherhall) said "I am so proud of them all; they were incredibly creative, very determined and they worked fantastically well as a team. What's more, they were all so good at explaining the physics of our machine to the public."

Watch the movie of our section.

SPEED 2011 - Stimulating Physics East of England Day 2011

On Saturday 1 October Netherhall welcomed over 50 physics teachers to a fantastic day of hands on training. The day began with an amazing talk by Chris Lester (from the University of Cambridge High Energy Physics Group).

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Then there were workshop sessions given by the team of IOP Teacher Network Coordinators and visitors from the University. Among the twelve workshops on offer were: Radioactivity, Making Rocket Launchers, Encouraging Groupwork, Using Audacity. Not only was all the training free, but teachers were treated to a delicious free lunch.

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Feedback from the day was overwhelmingly positive. 98% rated the sessions as 'high' or 'very high', and 95% said they would incorporate ideas into their scheme of work.

Teachers interested in future Stimulating Physics events should email me -

Physics at Work Exhibition September 2011

  • Both Year 11 triple award science classes went to Physics at Work for the whole day. They came back to school buzzing about how physics is used in so many different jobs and careers.
  • see last year's photo gallery

Physics Heaven - East Anglia Year 9 Gifted and Talented Competition July 2011

On 4th July the Netherhall School participated once more in the East Anglia Physics Tournament 2011. On this tremendous day Helene, Timo, Noah and myself arrived at school armed with three teachers and something comfortable to sit on. But nothing could have prepared us for the difficulty of the Physics problems we were about to face.

When we arrived in Ipswich to attend the event that had been named "Physics Heaven", we discovered that it was not so much an afterlife, more a sort of aprčs-vie. After signing in we received information pertaining to the many experiments in which we were about to enrol. The experiment zone looked daunting - but we soon got over that.

We were given a briefing by co-ordinator Gerry Blake as to how the day would unfold. Afterwards, we put our minds to carrying out the range of experiments and figuring out the causes of their outcomes. We would expand our ideas, and then create in-depth theories. I really enjoyed this because it was so different to formal school lessons where they give you all the answers. We could think independently, and apply already gained knowledge to new and extraordinary situations. However, it may have been beneficial to include something we had already learnt. Or at least, that's my hypothesis.

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When we had finished gaining as many points as we could, we were told the ranks. When the winners received their prize, those of us lower down the evolutionary ladder sat and clapped and watched in awe at those students with brains the size of planets. A fun day was had by all, as was confirmed by our "Physics is FUN!" rubbers - just one of the items in our goody bag.

I am very pleased to have taken part in this event and I hope that similar things are on offer in the future. I would like to thank everyone who was involved in making it such a pleasant day.


Smashing Particles

Students from Netherhall School, Cambridge, teamed up with particle physicists at the University of Cambridge for a programme of practical investigations and research to mark the start of the world’s biggest ever physics experiment - the switch-on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The LHC is the world’s largest particle accelerator and hadron collider, located at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland. It has been created by the collaboration of hundreds of universities in more than 30 countries and is expected to answer fundamental questions about the universe, such as the relationship between the four fundamental forces which make life on Earth possible.

The Netherhall students worked on a project called ‘Smashing Particles! – let’s celebrate the LHC’. Not only did the students from Years 10, 11 and 12 undertake practical experiments to accelerate electrons, they also created a new website for the project, and prepared posters for their own stand for National Science and Engineering Week.

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In conjunction with pupils and teachers from Yardleys Science College in Birmingham and researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Birmingham, the students at Netherhall School attended an inter-school conference and created and manned a stand at the Cavendish Laboratory Open Day.

The project was made possible by funding from both the Institute of Physics (IOP) and the Royal Society.

“I understand a little about the LHC and I want to expand my knowledge as well as helping others to expand theirs.”
Carl Suard, physics student involved in project.

“I love science, especially physics. This project has been great fun and a wonderful experience.”
Sean Hughes, physics student involved in project.

“It is especially rewarding to share the tremendous excitement about the Large Hadron Collider as it starts to zoom in on our universe further than we’ve ever seen before. Some of the Netherhall school children are the scientists of tomorrow and all are citizens in a world where science and its applications are everywhere."
Dr Deirdre Black, research partner at the High Energy Physics Department, University of Cambridge

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© 2010 Ally Davies  Cambridge UK  Bookmark and Share Follow myPhysicsorguk on Twitter