Resources for Physics.

I’ve been promising to write this for months now and need to apologise to the two guys from Bright Red publishing, but the running of schools is quite manic at the moment so keeping up with the day job is as far as it goes.

Anyway I promised I’d give a shout out for some of the books etc available to supplement your physics teaching in schools which I’m sure is quite brilliant.

I am not receiving any money for any of this, I’m just trying to help out students and parents,”for the love of physics”- now there’s a good name!

So here are my book etc recommendations.

N5 physics

Bright Red Publishing, National 5 physics, new edition by Paul Van der Boon. Published at £14.99 but your school could get this cheaper if they bulk order.

i was also impressed with their revision cards, either for your teachers to test you at the end of the lesson or for your own revision.

These were made during covid lockdown and was time well spent.

if you are someone who teaches for the biscuit run or bread bin as soon as getting in from school; put a pack of these by the food store and challenge yourself to get 3 in a row before diving in for some carbs.

Cheap and cheerful…

Money is tight for everyone so another little number, covering the basics is CGP National 5 Physics.

See if your teacher would place an order to reduce costs for you.

CGP also make a past paper type book with examples which is great for all those who get through the large number of past papers.

Stop the Bomb

Here are the resources for my second escape room that I made for my National 5 Physics class after their revision topic. All of it can be adjusted to differentiate, I just don’t have the time just now.

Sorry to those at the SSERC/ IoP Summer School who got anything wrong because I’d made a mistake, as you saw, it is a bit of a logistical nightmare.

First I’ll try to list what I bought, but you can do it your own way, and for a cheap version each group could bring you the answer to one task and that collects the next.

EquipmentLink to a supplier
Acrylic Box to hold the bomb. I can't recommend this company as they sent the wrong keys and didn't respond to my message.Lockable Acrylic Box
999 day countdown timer. These are great for busy technicians and you so that you can set them well in advance999 day countdown timer
Hasks for 6 padlocks6 hole hasp
Small cash boxesSmall lockable cash box
Chain: our wonderful techy technician cut and welded them to fit the boxFaithfull-2-5m-Zinc-Plated-Chain
Digital padlocks- there are so many you can get but I liked the flexibility of these with good colour choice5 Pieces 4 Digit Combination Locks Combo Locks Long Number Locks OutdoorWaterproof 2.4 Inch Shackle Resettable Padlock for School, Locker, Toolbox, F5 x 4 number combination lock
Oh my look at the price of OHT!Transparency film

The dots are so important, then you can identify which set of locks you’re on!

Task Sheet- some work needs to be done here!

Now the task sheets, edit away and make them yours. Please feed back all my mistakes, I’ve sorted task 3, where for some reason the number in the answers (and hence the lock) didn’t match the activity value in the question- whoops!

User ManualInstructions A5
Instructions 1xA4 8 to a page
Task 1: GridGrid
Task 2: ReceiptShop receipt
Task 3: Questionsquestions radiation v3
questions radiation v3
Task 4: Half LifeHalf Life
Task 4: Half Life graphshalf life graphs
Task 5: Guess WhatGuess who cards
Task 6: DiagramChain reaction v2

Chain reaction advanced

Some info you need

How to unlock the first lock!

Your Physics Lifejacket
May 2022

Laser 1

I’ve been spending a lot of time working on ESCAPE ROOMS so decided if it could be brought online in these difficult times. I’ve made the tasks into a group of posts with the clue to one post being the password to the next.

To complete the ESCAPE ROOM you need to have the correct answers to the following:

  1. In which town/city/village/ scenic place am I being held?
  2. What is the exact place within the above? 
  3. Who has captured me?
  4. What is the contact details of the person who is holding me?

So here goes……….

File- Titled “The Case of the LASER”

On the table is a large handbag, it appears to have a lot of combination locks on the bag. There is a file and a locked folder.

In the Unlocked Part of the Bag

In the bag is a lanyard (see below) with an ID work badge, a mirror and a James Herbert Book- The Fog.

A compact mirror is in the bag
This is in the bag, the only part not locked up.

There is a bookmark in the book that says “the first clue is in the title of the book”.

To solve the first clue write the 3 word phrase (all lower case) for what I need to do to unlock the rest of the clues. This three word phrase is the password to the next post LASER 2. NB, All passwords are lower case or numbers unless stated.

Here is the link to the next task


Need a Hint? Click on the number of the post you are on to give you a hint, or a great big mallet to get you on to the next post.

LASER [mfn reference number=1]What can you fog that is in the bag?[/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=2]I can’t make it any clearer! Just type in the number to get the password[/mfn]


LASER [mfn reference number=4] [/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=5]Check out 16.6 in the National 5 Compendium, [/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=6]3.0 × 108 ms-1, Energy decreases, 1.44 × 1011m, 2m, 0.36 ms-1[/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=7] v=f λ, where v =3.0 × 108 ms-1 f = 395× 10-9 m, Remember your answer is in GHz, so you just need a 3 digit number no decimals[/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=8]2015 m, Z=ENERGY,Y =LONGITUDINAL, X= PERIOD, (6/0.24)×2+1[/mfn]

LASER[mfn reference number=9][/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=10] λ=d/N, λ=20/4 , A=4/2, ☒=x[/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=11] snowflake = T, Hand=I, Sun = R, so find what T.I.R. means with relation to optics. [/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=12]0 not correct for X-rays, 1=in wrong boxes, 2=retina not a detector for IR, 3= radio not a source but a detector of radio, 4=CORRECT, 5= not correct for gamma, 6=CORRECT, 7=CORRECT, 8=Sun lamp not a detector of UV but a source, 9=CORRECT, now that’s enough of a clue, you can put those in the correct order or use trial and error, there aren’t that many combinations! [/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=13] Can you really not find it? Look on page 17.[/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=14] These are the contacts whose name begins with a part of the EM Spectrum.
0141 9496 0829 Georgina
+44 131 9496 0058 Mr Gilmour Shankey
+44 1632 960108 Iain Rennie
029 9496 0929 Moorings
028 9018 0155 Muddle MP
0141 9496 0600 Rebekah & Thomas (Radio and TV)
01224-822566 the eX! (poetic licence)
0131 9496 0243 Una Vine
0116 9496 0396 Vanora


LASER [mfn reference number=15]Well the UV torch wont work if the switch isn’t closed! [/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=16]Question 4 answers a and b had 2 waves, but c and d there are 2.5 waves in the distance. (a) λ=6m, A=1m.(b) λ=10 m, A=3 m .(c) λ=2 m, A=0.75 m .(d) λ=12 m, A=2.8 m [/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=17] Its a building full of sick people! I hope I don’t end up here when I eventually get covid-19[/mfn]

LASER [mfn reference number=18]Come off it, I’ve given you 17 clues, if you need a clue for this last one you don’t deserve to get into this last post. Check out LASER 14 hint, and just try them all! Start with a capital letter! [/mfn]

End of an Epoch

21st September marks Catherine Wilson’s birthday but also an end to the IoP network coordinators as we’ve known it. To celebrate the people who instigated and ran the network and started the fantastic Physics forum met together for a find farewell and catch up. I was honoured to be invited but felt like a gate crasher! The people round the table had all provided advise, help, role models and support through my long career. Each person’s skill set was distinct and eclectic and they are mainly responsible for the positive shape of Scottish physics education.

The amazing movers and shakers of Physics education, and me!

I touch the future- I teach

As usual it is raining in my home town, so, as I wandered off home I got out the umbrella I was given at the Science on Stage Conference 2017 in Debrecan, Hungary. It was left over from the Science on Stage London 2015 event, where the weather was typically wonderful.

I can’t say that I was concentrating on where I was going as one of the quotes around the edge of the brolly was “I touch the future- I teach,” by Christa McCulliffe. For those that don’t know, she was the school teacher selected to be the first teacher in space and chosen for flight STS-51-L. This was the flight that never made it into space as it was the Challenger, that blew apart on January 28 1986, starting 73 seconds after lift-off. It was the 25th flight of the American Space Shuttle program, and disastrous final mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which lifted-off from Launch Complex 39-B, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission ended in catastrophic failure with the destruction of Challenger, and the death of all seven crew members.

I can’t begin to imagine the effect on this event on her family, friends and students she taught, and yet, in her short life she really had grasped something about the privilege of teaching. As teachers we really do have the chance to see students who will go on to have their own amazing lives, whether seemingly dull or interesting. Each student chooses their own future and makes their own life. Even getting through life for some is an achievement in itself.

Thanks Christa, that after all these years, you can still influence people and give renewed enthusiasm for the special job we do.


IoP Physics Teacher Award

IoP Teachers of Physics award

The Teachers of Physics awards celebrate the success of secondary school physics teachers who have raised the profile of physics and science in schools.

The IoP acknowledge that teachers contribute an immense amount to society and wish to accord them the recognition they deserve.

The IoP Teacher of Physics awards, honour teachers alongside distinguished research scientists and industrialists.

In this way the IoP recognise that without dedicated teachers there would be no physics research community or technological base in society.

IoP Award 2015- Winner Andrew Ogilvie

Andrew Ogilvie

What are the Key Challenges in Education?

The key challenges for me teaching physics at the moment are threefold. A drop in the number of candidates choosing physics perhaps because of a perception (which is partly real and partly imagined) of the comparative difficulty of the subject , pressures of time due to course content and assessment and also that the rate of technological advance now makes many applications of physics so hidden behind opaque user interfaces as to be invisible.

For the first problem I try to  emphasise that the subject is not only comprehensible ( and can be constructed from our existing experience with a bit of imagination) but that  general principles are both economic ( learn a little understand a lot) and  satisfying.  For the second , well that’s just doing the job,  and for the third I try to make links explicit links from the curriculum to the technology and always  try to recruit the pupils experience and imagination, though Its hard to give a concrete example of this sitting here right now.

I think that contexts for learning are extremely important and I feel I’ve done my job best if I can do good by stealth without the kids noticing that they’ve learned something useful.

How do you manage your time?

To be honest in response to your second question I don’t feel that I do manage my time terribly effectively . It would be a very different , and less efficient ,world if I had been recognised for any sort of excellence in time management.  One thing I do think, though, is that if you’re going to try to do something you should try your best and , as a corollary, that its better to do a small thing well than a big thing badly.

What concerns you in Education?

I don’t “dread”  teaching anything in the Higher or Advanced Higher but that’s not to say  that there aren’t challenging bits.  I find I enjoy understanding things better myself through teaching them.
My concern for Higher and Advanced Higher is to try to  give students some sort of insight into ideas like Particle Physics, Relativity, Stellar Physics or Cosmology  and making  these areas seem accessible to reason..
While I understand some of the reasons for the inclusion of these topics  I really feel there is a danger of presenting them in an “unscientific” way  just demanding they be  accepted  by virtue of  our authority as teachers with the justification being inaccessible both to them and often to us.  (The inclusion of these topics seems similar to trying to study Finnegan’s  Wake in Higher English or Stockhausen in Higher Music ) It  might be better to defer that particular form of gratification until  such a time as we have acquired the analytical tools to experience it fully but, if we must do it, then it must also be done well.

What are your top teaching tips?

Top tips : no particular order

Try to enjoy the privilege we have in spending time with the pupils ;  learn the pupils’ names and make time to say hello to them passing in corridors etc ;

Remember that sometimes the teacher can be wrong.

Always try to explain – if you’re not explaining,  its not Physics ( its “stamp collecting”)

When someone outside of work  learns you’re a teacher and  asks you “how you put up with the wee blighters” stick up for the kids.  95 % of them  are thoroughly admirable and wonderful in their own ways and if you’re not like that when you’re eleven years old its not your fault.

When I was at Jordanhill one of the lecturers said  always say you teach “children” not a particular subject… this sounds glib but is in fact very good advice – the job isn’t to produce the best  exam results  that’s just a by product of trying to develop the best people we can.

No-one’s fond memory of school is doing Ohm’s law calculations so you’ve got to try to make your lessons about more than that, even when its Ohm’s law you’re teaching .

Given the opportunity you should speak truth to power and if not given the opportunity you should probably try to make an opportunity. (The truth,  incidentally, doesn’t always have to be bad news.)

Sometimes, if you like that sort of thing, ( and I do ) you should talk about poetry,  or  music , or mountains, or crocodiles…. (To be honest, the crocodiles only really work  if, like me, you are missing a finger or two and I can’t recommend that as CPD)

I think I could go on and on ( although its equally possible that that is all I know) but its also worthwhile reminding myself that a) I’m just an ordinary teacher with no special insight and b) what works for someone else might be completely different.

I’m very flattered to have been asked my opinions , so thanks for that , but I recognise it as flattery and I’d  be a fool to believe my own hype so neither should anyone else.  Please don’t imagine that I think I’ve got all, or even any, of the answers its quite the reverse.

Today I have been waiting for Godot – and  I have failed. Tomorrow I shall wait for him again- “fail again, fail better”

IoP Award 2016

Mrs Physics

Here is a copy of an interview I gave with Sally Weatherall from Guzled after hearing of me being awarded the Scottish IoP Physics Teacher Award in 2016.

How can I better what Andrew Ogilvie wrote last year? (See above) He summed it up perfectly. If you want to know all about Physics and teaching his answers are there, fully formed and written so much more eloquently than anything I could do.

When I started teaching we worried about telling people what we did. Telling people at a party you were a  teacher was easy but when you got to the “what do you teach” I found the best reply was “children”. If you made the mistake of saying Physics it would lead to a tirade about how bad their Physics teacher was at school and how hard the subject is and how clever you must be. At this point they would leave to talk to someone else. A friend and colleague of mine was so fed up with having no one to talk to at parties when he said that he was a Physics teacher that he either told them he was a basic rocket scientist, or told them he worked for the Government, in a lab. . How times have changed. I think in the old days some teachers were excellent but just didn’t relate to the student. Such cannot be said for my Physics teacher who is a fantastic guy and inspired me.

What key challenges are you facing in teaching physics right now?

I think the crucial two points are the number of students taking the subject and the workload.

When the subjects are limited to five or six then students will often tackle the ones that appear easier. I think that by making students see the relevance of Physics to everyday things then you’re half way there, but too many still want the easy option and the increased likelihood of higher grades. I think it is vital to put Physics into context, even if the information sounds obscure; at least you can show students how to weigh up the arguments and get them to think for themselves. In my classes I always make students feel that it is OK to get things wrong. The worst sin in my class is not putting forward any idea, not thinking anything. Science is all about having an idea, testing it and if it doesn’t work out try something else. What better recipe for life!

As to the work load, the Physics community have been amazing and I am one of those who would have gone under if it wasn’t for the kindness of others who willingly shared their materials on SPTR and GLOW. If you are one of those people who have allowed me to use their materials then I thank you, and I’ll buy you a drink to celebrate your part in this award. If you are someone who has used my stuff, I hope it has helped you. If you are a teacher that has never produced anything I suggest you give it a go. We all need to add our contribution to surviving and I know some feel it isn’t their skill but they will still have something positive to contribute. We all need to give and take.

How are you trying to overcome these challenges?

I have mentioned much of this already. We need to get students to see the relevance and importance of choosing Physics. I describe some subjects as a walk in the park, and Physics as climbing the mountain. A walk in the park is very nice but the sense of achievement at climbing the mountain remains with you for much longer. For the students who have found it a mountain to climb, I tell them it will be the one they check first on their certificate- they usually rush back in September and tell me it was, and how good it feels. I think getting the students to see that you appreciate that it will be hard work but worth it can inspire them to at least try it. If students know that it is a team effort, you’re on their side doing your bit, then the mutual respect is there and the synergy is obvious. (Oh can I use that biological word in a physics piece?) . Another important key is to ensure the students know that the teacher doesn’t always get things right. This is a great get out clause for anyone. I can’t understand teachers who tell students they are never wrong. That doesn’t lead to mutual respect.

Time constraints affect teachers worldwide. How do you manage your time effectively?

I find this really difficult to manage, but I would rather put something up for the students on my website, or do a little more marking than clean behind the sofa? I do get hung up with minutiae and like things to be just right instead of ok. I think the students appreciate the effort that you put in for them and sometimes it motivates them to try harder. It’s all part of the team work. I am also happy to answer student questions on Edmodo at silly o’clock. I’d rather them manage their homework than make excuses that they couldn’t do it.

Do you have any “top tips” for physics teachers who are new to the profession?

  • We are teaching the best subject in the school, although many students don’t know it, so we need to get students to realise it’s the best subject. We can do that by showing the relevance to their everyday lives and, if it is an obscure topic, then at least you can get them to think. Think about asking the whys and how things happen.
  • If you can make the learning fun and relevant then that will keep down discipline problems. If you still have discipline problems then ask the students if they are following what you’re doing. Bad behaviour is generally a cry for help or boredom.
  • I treat all students differently. Each one needs a different amount of boot, carrot, praise laughter, and understanding. Find out what makes each student tick. Try to find out what interests the students and then find examples to fit that interest. If all your speed/ distance calculations need to be about tractors that’s fine!
  • If the students know you won’t give up on them they’ll certainly try hard, but also tell them when they’re not delivering what they are capable of. Even Physics can be completed by 95% of students if they really go for it, I mean I’m teaching Physics so it can’t be that difficult.

Oh yes, go and do amazing things! Who would have ever thought as a Physics teacher that I would spend 7 weeks working in a nuclear power station on a Royal Society of Edinburgh Teaching Fellowship? Visiting astronauts in their houses (Scottish Space School), going underground around the LHC, sharing a meal with a Nobel Prize winner (Royal Society Partnership Grant Scheme), speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (Royal Society), being invited around Renault HQ (Yourideasyourinitiative), testing the reaction time of the Queen’s cousin (Summer Science Exhibition), spending two weeks at the Royal Society and getting students produce a Scientific paper published in a special Young Scientist Journal, spending 3 days in a shooting hotel working at the Optoelectronics College, or spending two great weekends with snoring Physics teachers exchanging notes and making IoP rockets in the middle of the forest (I think now the police would be on to us as a terrorist cell) (Regional CPD event). There are so many opportunities for teachers and students. Grasp each one, as it keeps you invigorated and excited by the amazing things around you. As we are in a rural area we don’t have the same access as some of you do to Universities, Science Centres, great speakers and so on, so try to make these opportunities available for students so they can be inspired by the Science around them and realise that Science will bring them great opportunities. I think I sound like a seven year old- maybe that is the secret, be as inquisitive as the students and show it is OK to be curious!

I would also like to mention a guy who really ought to have won this award but didn’t live long enough to see the nomination process through. That is Kevin Bailey from Wallace Hall Academy in D&G. He was an amazing teacher, would give up everything to help his students and had the respect of all those he knew. He is still sorely missed.

Teacher of Physics award 2017

Martyn Crawshaw
Millburn Academy, Inverness
Awarded in 2017 for outstanding contributions to the teaching of physics

Martyn is a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher who instils a thirst for knowledge in his students and enjoys the challenge of presenting new concepts to them. He has made a very significant impact on his school’s science faculty and the wider school community, and is seen as a “go-to” person for physics support in the north of Scotland, particularly by schools with single-teacher departments, new staff or challenging issues. His students appreciate his engaging and encouraging teaching style and his ability to relate physics to life outside the classroom, while he is a supportive and challenging mentor to new teachers. Throughout his extensive efforts in organising visits, links with industry and hosting CPD, his work-rate has been phenomenal while his ability to empathise with students and colleagues has been exceptional.

(from the IoP Website)

Teacher of Physics Award 2018

Michael Murray
Ayr Academy, Ayrshire


Michael strongly believes that teachers should be facilitators, putting students in control of their own learning. His quirky and humorous approach makes lessons enjoyable while he strives to continually improve his own teaching by incorporating new ideas. Keen to inspire the next generation of physics teachers, Michael is a friendly and supportive mentor. He has contributed to the wider education community in a number of ways, from his work to support staff in delivering the science curriculum in local primary schools, to educating future physics teachers on the University of the West of Scotland PGDE course.

From the IoP Pages

Teacher of Physics Award 2019