Rugby 2014


The Rutherford Schools Physics Project

The Rutherford Schools Physics Partnership (RSPP), directors Professor Mark Warner and Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright, works collaboratively with teachers and schools delivering extension materials, on-line (MOOC) learning, workshops for students, and CPD support and materials for physics teachers.


The aims of the project are to increase applications for STEM courses, allow physics and maths students to gain expertise beyond school level and prepare them for applying for physics and other STEM degree courses.

The activities can be used in and out of the classroom. The students can do the work with or independently of their teachers.

It will enable teachers to monitor, lead and reward. It will also enable peer group learning, reverse learning, personalised learning and give extra support for students.

There are clear wins in that the project is location and school independent and no input is needed by teachers.

Motivation & Aims

University physics and engineering require students fluent in mathematics and in physics problem-solving. Being able to use physics in a technical way is a measure of how deeply you understand it. Universities hope to admit students who are beginning to think like physicists. The most important skill is the ability to deconstruct a problem through, sketching diagrams to digest the information within it, assembling ideas from different areas of physics, and using mathematical skills to understand a phenomenon quantitatively and symbolically.

The RSPP provides extension materials for students, aged 16-19, to develop these key skills within areas of the existing A-level curriculum, enabling students from all backgrounds to gain expertise beyond school level which will help them to apply for physics, engineering and mathematics at highly-selective universities throughout the UK.


Hub events are held in partner schools, typically a half day with a theme – e.g. physics and vectors, exponentials…. Organisation and materials is provided by the RSPP, as well as collaborating in the delivery of the material with our partner teachers. To date CPD residentials for teachers have been held in Cambridge and, in future, elsewhere.

The on-line platform (MOOC) is both for student self-directed learning, and as additional materials and lessons directed by teachers. Graded problems in 6 levels spanning the GCSE/AS transition to the A2/university transition are available in mechanics, and soon in waves/optics and fields (electricity/gravity), and also across all mathematics relevant for physics at this level.

Hints to each question, both text and scribble videos, will be available to be consulted, along with relevant physics and maths concepts that are linked to each question.

The prototype site is at:

Future functionality will include registration for students so they can follow their progress, have questions suggested to them, confer with other students doing similar work, be notified when hub events are available in their area, be told of featured problems and challenges, . . . Registered teachers will be able to follow their own students’ progress, suggest activities for the students, and also be notified by the RSPP about materials and CPD that is relevant to their needs.

Do register, be partners in our hub events, write material for the project . . .

The RSPP is funded by the DfE and is based in Cambridge.

Project Background

The Rutherford Physics Partnership is a national project funded by the Department for Education and run from the University of Cambridge. The project is designed to offer support and activities in physics problem solving to teachers and students transitioning from GCSE (Y11), through to Sixth Form (Y12 & 13), through to university, by combining an on-line study tool with face-to-face events at partner schools and institutions across the UK.

Their aim is to enable physics and maths students from all backgrounds to gain expertise beyond school level which will help to prepare them for applying to physics, engineering and maths courses at highly-selective universities across the UK.

Through their extension materials, students will develop an intuition and understanding of physical principles by tackling a range of examples from idealised problems through to real-world situations. Their online course also provides pages that give insight and practice in fundamental mathematical and physical techniques that are essential for potential physicists and engineers to have at their fingertips.

Become A Rutherford Schools Partnership Lead Teacher

What is a RSPP lead teacher?

The Rutherford Schools Partnership Project is looking for enthusiastic teachers of physics to help the RSP project team deliver face-to-face events all around the UK to students aged 16-19 and their teachers.

Acting as one of our lead teachers can vary in commitment from helping us identify a room or rooms in your area and which schools and teachers to contact, to suggesting new topics and developing content and problems in that topic.

Benefits for students and teachers

Lead teachers will receive multiple benefits for themselves and their students:

1. Regular free CPD events in Cambridge (and in future across the UK) for lead teachers,

2. Workshops held at the school site,

3. Teacher cover* and other costs (e.g. catering) covered by project funds,

4. University physicists and Lecturers initially supporting and attending workshops,

5. Students and teachers learning new problem solving skills,

6. Students given advice on applying to University,

7. Publicity and promotional material supplied by the project team,

8. Content developed for use in class, in topics such as vectors, exponentials. …

9. Further problem solving content provided at the website:

10. No fees to pay for students or teachers attending workshops,

11. Online workshops available and support.

What’s involved?

• Identification of surrounding partner schools and teachers to invite to events.

• Liaising with the project’s administrator to choose suitable dates for events.

• Discussion with the project’s physicists about suitable programmes and content.

• Booking a local venue and suitable room(s).

• Liaising with the project administrator who will publicise events and register students.

And the option to:

• Create content for new topic workshops and events (from within the curriculum).

Support will be provided by the project team:

The project has a dedicated administrator and an event manager who will take the main burden of organisation, publicity and registration for any event.

The project’s aim is that teachers will eventually, with their support, deliver the content at the events too and content support and delivery is provided by their project physicists and their project directors:

Prof Mark Warner and Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright

Rutherford Physics Partnership

Cavendish Laboratory Department of Physics JJ Thomson Avenue University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0HE

Phone: 01223 337066



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s