A suite of GCSE science courses developed in partnership with the University of York

C1 Air quality Module summary

Environmental and health consequences of certain air pollutants, and ways of improving air quality

This is about the 2006 course. The 2011 modules are mostly similar. See the OCR 2011 specification.

This module summary and the downloadable module map, are taken from the GCSE Science Teacher and Technician Guide published by OUP. We are grateful to OUP for permission to publish these resources on this website.
>> Download Module Map C1 Air quality (76 KB).

Why air quality?

The quality of air is becoming a major world concern. In this module students explore environmental and health consequences of certain air pollutants, and options for improving air quality in the future. The emphasis is on health issues arising from burning fuels, rather than global issues such as climate change, which is covered in module P2 Radiation and life.

Chemicals (Science explanation)

Almost all the chemicals that feature in the GCSE Science course are molecular. Starting with the gases in the air means that the molecules are small and relatively simple.

Air and air pollution also provides a context for revising the distinction between elements and compounds.

Other types of chemical structure and all details about bonding feature in GCSE Additional Science.

Chemical change (Science explanation)

Studying the burning of fuels in vehicles and power stations helps to show why the basic ideas about chemical reactions are so important. The aim here is to connect the knowledge about chemical reactions at KS3 with matters of practical importance. The resources largely use models, diagrams, and animations to help students visualize that chemical changes involve a rearrangement of atoms producing new compounds with distinctive properties.

Concentrating on picturing simple molecular changes leads to a realization that atoms are conserved during chemical changes. This is crucial to understanding pollution and the impact of the use of fuels on the environment.

Data and their limitations (Idea about Science)

The study of data about air pollution provides a good context for discussing the quality of data. Students are introduced to a simple approach to determining the best estimate for a quantity. They collect some data of their own and are introduced to the identification of outliers, the calculation of means, and the value of recording the range of a set of readings.

Correlation and cause (Idea about Science)

By investigating possible relationships between air-quality data and the symptoms of hay fever and asthma, students are introduced to correlation and to the care that has to be taken before claiming that a factor causes a particular outcome.

Making decisions about science and technology (Idea about Science)

Students learn how technological developments can reduce the emission of air pollutants and about the role of governments and individuals in adopting a more sustainable approach to transport and the use of energy in the home.

Skills assessment

The practical activities in this module allow students to make measurements and collect their own data. They can also access up-to-date air-quality data from the Internet.

The analysis and evaluation of this data can allow students to develop the skills involved in the practical Data Analysis exercise.

Health and safety

In particular, note that some of the demonstrations of combustion reactions must be practised before showing them to students.

Advance preparation

Activities involving the analysis of vehicle exhaust fumes will require careful advance preparation.


See our guide to OCR website for the GCSE Science specification to which this module relates.

Module C1 is on pages 12–16: this gives you the Science Explanations and the relevant Ideas about Science.

Read more about Ideas about Science in Appendix F pages 85-91.
For this module you want Idea about Science 1 'Data and their limitations', 2 'Correlation and cause', and 6 'Making decisions about science and technology'. You will find it especially useful to read the overview on page 85.