Nuffield Advanced Chemistry 1965

Organisers: Ernest Coulson (1960s), Bryan Stokes (1970s), and Michael Vokins (1980s and 1990s)

The rationale for teaching chemistry that had been set out in the Nuffield O-level Chemistry Handbook for teachers really came into its own with the development of the advanced level course.

The teaching developed students’ imaginative thinking. Theory was integrated with practical work. The teacher introduced theories which explained primary and secondary data.

Aids to understanding included:

  • The use of the Periodic Table to provide unifying patterns for the diverse properties of elements and their compounds.
  • The relationship between structure (atomic and molecular) and the properties of chemicals.   
  • the way in which energy transfers can determine the feasibility and outcomes of reactions.

Nuffield chemists worked with the London Board to develop new styles of assessment to support new approaches to teaching and learning, building on the successful methods developed for the O-level course.


This course developed the most commercially successful of the Nuffield patterns of publications, producing easy-to-use student books. These maintained the spirit of developing understanding through practical investigation, while providing sufficient guidance and support for students, teachers and technicians.

Refreshing and sustaining the course

During the 1970s and 1980s the examiners and teacher trainers took over Nuffield Advanced Chemistry, led by Michael Vokins at Bristol University. This took place largely without Nuffield assistance throughout the 1970s and 1980s, though Nuffield helped the team to produce new editions in the mid 1980s, the early 1990s, and again in 2000.

Every year, for over 40 years, local enthusiasts hosted summer meetings at which teachers could meet with each other, hear from the examiners, and be updated on new developments.


The development of the Nuffield Advanced Chemistry course started in 1965, and by 1979, 34% of schools and colleges were either doing the Nuffield Advanced Chemistry exam or making substantial use of the materials. The Nuffield Advanced Chemistry course which started in 1968 ran for 40 years, continuing to be taught in schools and colleges until 2009.

Nuffield Advanced Chemistry teachers were leading contributors to Salters Advanced Chemistry in the 1980s; like Nuffield Chemistry, Salters adopted the approach to entropy developed by the Nuffield Physics team.

The teaching approaches and the books were also adopted overseas, with a Greek edition published in the 1990s.

The Nuffield Chemistry Re:act student website ran from 2002–2011, providing a question-and-answer service with replies from real teachers and publishing useful answers on the site. In 2010 there were 289,398 visits. This site also made it possible to publish online a 4th edition of the Special Studies of Applied Chemistry which had always been an important feature of the course.

The Re:act service for students is now part of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Learn Chemistrywebsite.