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We equip our pupils with a wide body of knowledge and skills that allows them to develop an awareness of the implications of chemistry for the individual, society and the environment. We encourage pupils to understand and use the scientific method, and develop informed opinions and be able to support them with reasonable arguments.The department works on developing girls’ scientific knowledge throughout school life, with Chemistry taught from Junior 7. We offer Higher and Advanced Higher Chemistry, as well as the Science Baccalaureate which provides excellent preparation for studying at university. 

What We Learn in Chemistry 

Junior 7 & Senior 1

In J7 and S1, pupils learn how to work in a laboratory environment and go on to examine different states of matter and learn how substances combine to make new compounds. Pupils acquire basic investigation skills, such as planning effective experiments, carrying them out safely and evaluating their work. More information about these courses can be found on the Science page.

Senior 2
The sciences work on a rotation basis in S2. This allows pupils to gain maximum experience in all three sciences before making their subject choices for S3.

In Chemistry, the course covers a number of the level 3 and 4 outcomes to ensure that even those who do not carry on with Chemistry, have a broad understanding of the basics. It also provides an excellent platform for those wishing to carry on with Chemistry at National 4 & 5 level.

The topics covered in S2 are:

Rotation 1
Introduction to Chemistry
Investigating Chemistry

Rotation 2
Chemical reactions

Homework at S2 level consists of regular homework exercises, research tasks and writing of scientific reports.

Each rotation is assessed with a written test or practical investigation.

Senior 3 & Senior 4

We are embracing the new Curriculum for Excellence National 4 & 5 qualifications.

This course covers a range of chemistry topics, including;

  • Chemical Changes and Structure
  • Nature’s Chemistry
  • Chemistry in Society

The National 5 course will be a great preparation for Higher Chemistry in S5, developing skills in applying knowledge and understanding and investigative skills.

Homework at National 4 & 5 level consists of regular assignments set from pupil notes, textbooks and department developed work. There are also regular research tasks which are required for completion of the course work.

The National 4 & 5 course is rigorously assessed by end of unit assessment, investigative and research reports and an Assignment. The Assignment in marked externally by the SQA and contributes 20% to the overall grade, with the Exam Question paper making up the other 80%.

To find out more about the National 4 & 5 Chemistry courses, visit the SQA site or have a look at the ‘Nationals in a Nutshell documents’.


In S5 and S6 the girls can work towards their Higher Chemistry exam and coursework. Higher Chemistry is both a popular and challenging qualification, and one which Craigholme pupils perform exceptionally well in; the current pass rate for Higher Chemistry is 92%. As from August 2014 we will be running the CfE Higher Chemistry course to link in with the National 5 Chemistry course.

The Higher Chemistry course covers 4 units:

  • Chemical Changes and Structure
  • Nature’s Chemistry
  • Chemistry in Society
  • Researching Chemistry

Unit assessment will be by end of unit tests set by the SQA and additional assessments set by the department. A pass for each unit is required before candidates are presented for the final exam.

Course Assessment will consist of a Question Paper (100 marks) and an Assignment (30 marks), both marked externally by SQA.

Extended homework is issued on a weekly basis and, as we move towards prelim and exam time, past papers are also assigned.

Advanced Higher
Advanced Higher Chemistry is always one of the most popular courses in S6, and pupils learn to use in-depth and independent study to research their investigation. To achieve success at this level, pupils must be proficient in scientific writing, as well as analysing and interpreting results in a critical manner. These skills prepare our girls well for higher education. The pass rate in Advanced Higher is always impressive with 100% pass this year, and 67% A passes.

The Advanced Higher Course consists of three units:

  • Electronic Structure and the Periodic Table
  • Principles of Chemical Reactions
  • Organic Chemistry 

Practical skills are a huge part of the Advanced Higher course and prepare the pupils well for any science degree or occupation. Twelve Prescribed Practical Experiments are carried out within the course and students will be required to provide a structured report for each of these.  Students will also be required to complete a Chemical Investigation.  This is undertaken independently over a period of 20 hours and will be presented as a day - book and final report of no more than 2500 words.  

Unit assessment will be by end of unit tests set by the SQA. Course Assessment will be by externally set examination of two and a half hours duration.  The investigation Report is 20% of final grade.

At this level homework is given out regularly and it is expected that pupils will use their free time for personal study and research for investigation. 

Scottish Baccalaureate in Science

We also offer the opportunity to complete The Scottish Baccalaureate in Science in Sixth Form. It is based on a coherent group of subjects at Higher and Advanced Higher level with the addition of the Interdisciplinary Project, which offers added breadth and value and helps to equip the candidate with the generic skills, attitudes and confidence necessary to make the transition into Higher Education and/or employment.

Beyond the classroom 

At Craigholme, we encourage girls to fulfil their potential by trying out new and exciting opportunities. We try to offer as many of these opportunities as possible — here are a few examples of what Craigholme pupils in the Chemistry Department have achieved in the last year, and what new pupils have to look forward to:

J7 Chemistry Club
Halloween with the Nursery
Salter’s Chemistry Camp
SCIS Masterclass at St Andrew’s University
RSC Bill Bryson competition
RSC Chemistry Olympiad
Salters’ Festival of Chemistry
National Science and Engineering Week Annual Competition

Visiting lecturers and workshop from University of Glasgow and Robert Gordon University

What our pupils say about Chemistry

"I chose chemistry because it’s fun and enjoyable! The experiments are so good!” Molly Hart 

“I chose chemistry because it’s fabulous! It’s also really fun!” Rebekah Kerr 

“I took Advanced Higher Chemistry because I enjoyed the practical work in Higher Chemistry and Advanced Higher Chemistry offers a lot of practical work in terms of experiments and an investigation where you will spending a lot of time working in the lab. I also need Advanced Higher Chemistry to get in to the course I want to do at university.” Iqra Saleem  

“I chose chemistry as it opens up a wide variety of job opportunities, such as pharmacy, biochemistry, dentistry and medicine. I also particularly enjoy the practical work.” Kirsten Buchan 

Meet the staff

Mrs Arthur, Head of Chemistry
Mrs Arthur is originally from Dundee, and studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Glasgow. After graduating, Mrs Arthur travelled across Europe, Asia and Australia. She has worked in a number of schools, and has been with Craigholme since 2009 as a teacher of Chemistry and was appointed Head of Chemistry in 2011. Mrs Arthur is currently working as an Appointee for new SQA National Qualifications.


Useful links

Scholar — an online learning resource
BBC bitesize — for J7–S5 pupils
Doc Brown — a wealth of information for S3–S6 pupils
Chem4kids — for Junior School pupils
Creative Chemistry — for Junior School pupils
RSC – Royal Society of Chemistry
SQA – New National Qualifications in Chemistry
‘Nationals in a Nutshell’ National 4 – a brief outline of the new National 4 course content and assessment.
‘Nationals in a Nutshell’ National 5 – a brief outline of the new National 5 course content and assessment.