The mysteries of the universe will come into sharper focus for Portsmouth schoolchildren who have just been given the option of taking a GCSE in astronomy.
St John’s College in Southsea has just announced the brand new qualification for budding stargazers, which will be on offer to Year 10 students from September, 2012.
Boys and girls who show a good understanding of physics will be allowed to take the GCSE, which includes visits to observatories and telescopes across the country, as well as the use of sophisticated new data logging systems that come up to university standard.
Andrew Houghton, 14, is currently considering his options for next year.
He says: ‘I am really keen to take the astronomy GCSE because I really enjoy looking at stars and finding out about different galaxies.
‘I have never been to an observatory before, so am really looking forward to that part of the course.’
Frankie Stott, 14, first gained an interest in the solar system when her dad introduced stargazing to her brother.
She says: ‘I’ve been into the countryside a number of times with my dad and brother to look at stars – there is less light pollution so you see lots more.
‘We saw Mars once. The astronomy GCSE is a great opportunity for students. The school has equipped the lab especially for this course.
‘I would like to do a science-based degree so the course will be especially helpful to me.’
Matilde Wear, 13, who hopes to study 14 GCSEs including the new astronomy course, says: ‘I am really happy to do an extra GCSE in this subject as I love space and have always liked learning about space. I find it really interesting.’
Head of science Andrew Martin is thrilled with the new facility, which he hopes will prepare young scientists for university.
He is also pleased the new lab, which boasts six work stations, a PC and water and gas connections, will benefit science and PE students throughout the school.
Graham Wilce, who will teach the astronomy GCSE, says: ‘This course is an excellent opportunity to observe and study the night sky and the universe, utilising remote viewing and control of real telescopes around the UK and the world.
‘The computers will allow students to access many web-based resources and real probes orbiting the solar system.’