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“In my final year, I was overjoyed to receive an offer to read Medicine at Clare College, Cambridge. I acknowledged that none of what I had achieved would have been possible without the amazing people at Merchiston, who helped and encouraged me…

J TamMerchistonian and Cambridge Graduate


Jonny Tam

Junior School Day Pupil

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The Chemistry Department’s primary role is to stimulate and encourage your son's natural interest in science.

Merchiston-Castle-School-Chemistry Experiment-GCSE - ALEVEL

The subject is extremely experimental from the very start: younger pupils quickly gain experience with the techniques and safety aspects involved, while older pupils ‘learn by doing’ with practical work supporting and reinforcing the theory.

Staff are knowledgeable, experienced and enthusiastic and work hard at establishing a good relationship with the pupils and an effective learning environment.

Public exam results are consistently excellent, thanks to quality teaching and excellent preparation. Both the IGCSE and A-level courses are rigorous and genuinely academic, providing real and useful qualifications for the future.


Robin Greenwood

Robin Greenwood

Head of Department

I studied Chemistry at Imperial College in London and spent 6 years working in the agrochemical industry prior to going into teaching in 2008.  I am passionate about my subject and enjoy the processes and methodology behind understanding how young people learn.

Dale Cartwright

Dale Cartwright

Teacher of Chemistry; Assistant Head Academic; Head of Careers
BSc, PhD

I studied Chemistry at The University of Edinburgh, completing both an undergraduate degree and a PhD. My PhD was focused on chemical synthesis of colour couplers used to produce magenta in photographic film for Kodak. Two years after I completed the PhD, Kodak stopped making photographic film: I maintain this was nothing to do with the quality of my research. I then went on to carry out research on pharmaceutical applications of DNA strands in industry for five years prior to moving into teaching.

In education, I have several areas of interest: skills development, assessment methodology, and use of data to improve learning and teaching. I have been at Merchiston since 2006, undertaking a variety of roles, and I relish the challenge of making a positive difference for our pupils.

Keith Pettigrew

Keith Pettigrew

Teacher of Chemistry
BSc, PhD

I studied Chemical Physics at Edinburgh and have taught Chemistry at Merchiston for 15 years. I have a particular interest in the overlap between my subject and Physics and did a PhD on the subatomic structure of new magnetic materials.

Ilenia Ciani

Ilenia Ciani

Lab Technician

I joined Merchiston in 2018. Prior to starting here I completed a PhD in Analytical Chemistry and spent 10 years as a researcher, both in academia (Edinburgh and Warwick Universities) and the biosensor industry.


There are three Chemistry labs which are furnished to high standard. Each has a data projector, visualiser and a fume cupboard. The department is well equipped with chemicals and apparatus to carry out the relevant practical work associated with the courses. A full time Chemistry technician with a prep room supports the 3 teaching rooms. Junior science is taught in the main teaching labs as well as a specialised Junior Science lab on the bottom floor of the building.


I & II Forms: The Science syllabus for I and II Forms covers the needs of our new intake and is in line with the stipulations of the Curriculum for Excellence and the English National Curriculum.

Chemistry as a distinct subject is taught from III Form upwards.

III Form: This is an introduction to the subject and pupils will meet the fundamental ideas of elements, compounds and the Periodic Table. Important practical techniques are covered and there is plenty of opportunity for experimental work.

IV Form: this year covers many of the key topics of the iGCSE as preparation for the course. It also follows the National Curriculum. There is heavy emphasis on practical work and students will meet many of the subject’s key ideas throughout the year.

Shell, and V Form: The Department follows the new Edexcel IGCSE syllabus in Shell and Fifth Form. This is an extremely competitive qualification and provides unrivalled preparation for the Edexcel A level course which had its first exam cohort in June 2010. This achieved the best ever A level results in Chemistry at Merchiston.

VI Form: The Edexcel A-level course is a challenging 2 year linear course for which the syllabus was adjusted slightly in 2015. The 2018 cohort are the second group of students sitting the modified course. The practical elements of the course are now assessed as part of the final exam and there is no assessed coursework component. A-level results achieved are frequently of a very high standard and pupils are supported throughout to achieve their highest potential.


Co-Curricular Science Club runs as an activity for junior boys and students in the senior school are used as helpers. The department will always support boys willing to undertake additional chemistry projects in their own time. An exciting development in 2018 has seen the department become registered with the Institute for Research In Schools (IRIS). In 2018_19 academic session boys will take part in a real research project in collaboration with Kings college London investigating new uses for Iionic Liquids.

The Department enters boys for the RSC Olympiad in the UVI Form, and has achieved a number of Gold and Silver awards in recent years. In the LVI, boys sit a Cambridge challenge exam and take part in a Chemistry Masterclass at St Andrew’s University. A team is also entered for the annual South East Scotland Top of the Bench competition and Merchiston has won this regional competition several times in the last ten years. In 2018, four II Form boys represented the school for the first time in the Salters Festival of Chemistry at the university of Edinburgh.

A Morning in the Chemistry Department

We are the only Scottish school registered to participate in the Institute for Research in Schools. We are involved in the IRIS Ionic Liquids project, in collaboration with University College, London. Sixth Form pupils are independently working on this, developing study skills crucial for university, designing their own experiments and coordinating with external bodies to discuss their research.

Mr R GreenwoodHead of Chemistry

Approximately 35% of Year 12 students study at least one Science at A Level, compared to the national figure of approximately 10% of boys.”

Dr D Cartwright Teacher of Chemistry

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