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  The Science faculty offers courses in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and General Science

Magnetometric Space Weather Sensors

Recently we took possession of one of the first 3 axis magnetometric space weather sensors, provided by the British Geological Survey.  The sensor is connected to a Raspberry Pi computer and contains magnetic field sensors which are oriented North, East and Vertically, a temperature sensor and an internet connection in order to upload the data. It is designed to monitor fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field which are heavily affected by the Sun and the weather in space.  The hope is that the University of Lancaster can use the data from the network to monitor for solar storms and increased likelihood of UK visible Aurora.

The data and plots are available to the public at – which takes you directly to our page.


Bioinformatics @ Strathclyde University

On both Tuesday 20th and Thursday 22nd September 2016 Higher Human Biology pupils and Advanced Higher Biology pupils were taken off timetable all morning to attend a Bioinformatics workshop.  Dr Heleen Plaisier and Dr Daniel Barker came to VoLA from The University of Edinburgh in order to teach us about the use of ICT in Biology.  All pupils had experience of using BLAST software to search a huge American  database for specific DNA sequences, as well as using the latest Raspberry pi computers.  This helped with the pupils’ understanding of the Genomics part of Unit 1 in Higher, and gave Advanced Higher hands on experience of bioinformatics prior to going to University.



Biolab @ Strathclyde University

On 28th and 30th September 2016 our 2 Higher Human Biology classes visited the Biolab at Strathclyde University.  They had lots of practical ‘hands on’ experience with extracting DNA, learning how a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) thermal cycler works, and running electrophoresis gels.  They used lots of equipment and pieces of apparatus that they hadn’t seen before and each took away their own DNA gel, as well as a Biolab pencil and badge!  It was a jam packed lab but pupils all had valuable experiences that will help their understanding of Unit 1 of the course, and it was highly enjoyable!



BAE STEM Roadshow

BAE Systems visited on Tuesday 13th September 2016 with their Waves STEM roadshow. The roadshow is funded by BAe Systems, the RAF and the Royal Navy. Pupils from S1 and S2 experienced a number of wave related demonstrations relevant to their BGE Science course choices and had STEM related careers promoted to them.



West of Scotland Physics Education Group Competition (WOSPEG)

A huge congratulations to our S5 WOSPEG team who stormed to victory in the first heat of the 2016 West of Scotland Physics Education Group competition.

Scott Cameron, Cameron Campbell & Rowan Markwick with reserve Rhys Bourhill vanquished the competition from Renfrew High, St Ninian’s High & Duncanrig Secondary.


Energy Quest Programme 2016

VOLA Science department are delighted to be involved as one of 40 Schools across Scotland participating in the Energy Quest programme this year and we are really enjoying the experience.  It's a two step programme - the first step is the delivery by Smallpeice Trust of Energiser STEM event(s) for S2 pupils followed by a minimum of 30 pupils working through the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) programme with a kit provided by Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI).


S2 Physics Fun! 

As part of a Physics topic on Waves and Radiation a group of S2 pupils were involved in a project to build a model of a wave using jelly babies. The wave was used to demonstrate different types of waves and characteristics such as reflection. The pupils thoroughly enjoyed building and using the wave machine.




Advanced Higher Physics at Strathclyde University

Vale of Leven Academy and Dumbarton Academy Advanced Higher Physics pupils joined forces and attended an Advanced Higher Physics day at Strathclyde University Physics Department. The pupils are in the process of applying for university places. A number of these pupils are applying for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) related disciplines at university including: Electrical Engineering and Physics with Astrophysics.  The pupils found the experience very valuable, attending lectures and practical labs, and S6 pupil Lewis Pennycuick said "I found the trip very worthwhile. The Physics lectures were interesting and it has made me excited for university life."


West of Scotland Physics Education Group Competition

On the 11th of November teams of pupils from Vale of Leven Academy and our Lady & St Patrick’s participated in the West of Scotland Physics Education Group competition. The annual quiz is similar to University Challenge but designed for Higher Physics pupils who have just completed the National 5 Physics course. During the heats and the semi-finals, both teams faced other teams of pupils from across the West of Scotland in a quiz that included, National 5 Physics questions, general knowledge, physics anagrams and buzzer rounds.

After winning their respective heats and semi-final they faced High School of Glasgow, St Thomas Aquinas in the final. Like previous rounds they faced Physics and general knowledge questions with the additional of a picture round and extended problem solving questions.

Staff and pupils of both schools are very proud of the effort and commitment all the pupils have given to getting so far in the competition for the first time.

Vale of Leven Academy Pupils - Hugh Tyson (S5), Gary Wood (S5) & Sandy Perrie (S5)






Reciprocal Teaching in Science

Please click on the image below to watch a video outlining Reciprocal Teaching as carried out by Mr Berrie with an S2 Chemistry class. 


Spectroscopy in a Suitcase - 1st June - 10th June

10 of VoLA’s best and brightest S5 Chemistry pupils were given the opportunity to get hands on experience of very specialised, and expensive!, equipment to further advance their understanding of Chemistry and provide excellence preparation for university.


The Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC) ‘Spectroscopy in a Suitcase’ scheme is an outreach activity which gives school students the chance to learn about spectroscopy through hands-on experience and at VoLA we were lucky enough to loan out this equipment for 10 days.  As well as covering the principles of spectroscopic techniques, the activities use real-life contexts to demonstrate the applications of the techniques.  


Lightwave II UV-VIS spectrophotometer with integrated printer.



Alpha Platinum ATR FT-IR spectrometer with laptop and mobile printer.



Our pupils thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would like to thank the Royal Society of Chemistry and the University of the West of Scotland for allowing them the opportunity to take part!  


FREE Start-up Science Master Classes for S1 and S2 Students

Apply by 1st May 2015

The Royal Society of Edinburgh is inviting applications for the Spring Start-up Science Master Classes. These are run in partnership with, and will take place at Glasgow University. The Masterclasses are intended to give young people who have shown an interest in science and technology the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and experience.

Four Master Classes will take place on successive Saturday mornings and will comprise of a mixture of talks and fun, practical activities with guidance and encouragement from session leaders. Below is a link to access the flyer for the spring classes which includes the dates for the classes and how to apply:


Please note: you can apply by getting your parent or guardian to fill out the application form on the back and returning it to the Royal Society of Edinburgh by the date stated on the form.

Places for each class are limited and allocated on a first come, first served basis. Once applications have been received the RSE will correspond with students and parents at their home address.


This is a fantastic opportunity for students aged 15-18 (National 5 and Higher pupils) to attend a FuseLab Go course. It is organised by Edinburgh International Science Festival and will take place in Greenock and Glasgow in June / July.

The first round of allocations for places will take place on 31st March and there are 40 places on each session.  You will need to submit your own application.

Fuselab GO will encourage participants to pioneer a new way of life by asking them to imagine the reality of human beings populating a new planet. They will be asked to think bigger than ever before on a completely blank canvas, developing out of this world solutions to real world problems through a series of workshops, skills, sessions, talks and games. Each event will be attending by a number of industry specialists whose role will be to provide support and guidance to all participants.

See and the pdfs below for more information and the application form. 




S3 Pupil Visit to the Institute of Engineering and Technology Christmas Lecture


On the 3rd December S3 pupils studying physics visited Strathclyde University for the IET Christmas lecture. Pupils from several other schools also attended to hear a lecture on electricity generation and power supply in Scotland. The lecture incorporated videos, a slide show and demonstrations of energy transformations that take place in fossil fuel power stations and wind farms. During the talk several pupils were asked to participate in demonstrations, including cycling a bicycle to power various household objects. The talk gave pupils a flavour of what studying at university might be like and was an opportunity to recap on some of the work they had learnt in S1-S3 which will be expanded upon in National 4 and 5 courses. Pupils behaved in an exemplary manner and University staff commented that we should be very proud of our young people. Well done everybody!


FAO of Parents: FREE Start-up Science Master Classes for S1 and S2 Students

The Royal Society of Edinburgh is inviting applications for the Autumn Start-up Science Master Classes. These are run in partnership with, and will take place at Glasgow University. The Masterclasses are intended to give young people who have shown an interest in science and technology the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and experience.

Four Master Classes will take place on successive Saturday mornings and will comprise of a mixture of talks and fun, practical activities with guidance and encouragement from session leaders. If you wish your child to attend, below is a link to access the flyer for the autumn classes which includes the dates for the classes and how to apply:


Big Biology Day Scotland - the Science of Life


event icon
Start time10:00
End time 15:00
Mugdock Country Park
 Join the Society of Biology and our partners for a day of activities during Biology Week
Big Biology Day is a one day science festival that celebrates the life sciences and engages the general public with an array of biological topics through hands on activities, crafts and displays, bringing together a number of biological organisations under one roof.

Find out about bacteria, antibiotics and health, meet a GP, search for bugs with the OPAL team and create your own bacteria and parasites with Glasgow Science Festival and Crafty Critters. 

More activities are still to be confirmed.

Find out about other Big Biology Days taking place throughout the UK.?


Schools Innovation and Enterprise Event - BioCity Scotland - 13th June 2014

12 Vale of Leven Academy pupils  ‘made history’ at a first of its kind event event designed to spark school pupils’ interest in other areas of Scientific business and industry.  Pupils spent the day at BioCityScotland, the hub for life science businesses developing new medicines and medical devices.




The day included presentations by BioCity Scotland and the ProScience programme, with a STEM ambassador display and demonstration.  The Royal Society of Chemistry and the Society of Biology were present, and students from the University of Edinburgh as well as from Modern Apprenticeship schemes at Forth Valley College were there to share their experiences.  Two Nuffield research scholars also discussed their placements in Chemical Engineering and Medical Sciences.

Through the workshops presented by BioCity life science tenants, and from businesses from Roslin BioCentre, —pupils learned through hands-on  activities how these companies have taken a ‘good idea’ , supported that idea with scientific research and developed it into a business. 

This is part of the Skills Investment Programme, initiated by Skills Development Scotland, which was launched in April at BioCity Scotland.  Jane Kennedy, Operations Manager at BioCity Scotland said: “By bringing together researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry and from industry, this event gives S3 –S6 pupils a unique insight into cutting edge research and scientific enterprise.  We are delighted to be hosting this event here in our labs and on our premises which are ideally suited for events like this.”

For more information about this event:

Scottish Network for Able Pupils - Glasgow University Visit  - 4th June 2014

6 articulate Vale of Leven Academy pupils were involved in a joint project with Glasgow University and the Scottish Network for Able Pupils (SNAP).  

This project involved pupils researching an area of Science they found interesting and creating a scientific poster which they were able to display and talk about at Glasgow University, alongside 27 pupils from Clydebank High School.  On the day of the visit pupils were also given the opportunity to visit the Anatomy Museum, the Hunterian Museum and have a tour around some of the University grounds. 


Moorland Indicators of Climate Change (MICCI) Project – 2nd May


On the 2nd of May four pupils from S3 Biology took part in some real scientific research contributing to the UK wide Moorland Indicators of Climate Change Initiative (MICCI) project. This involved walking for about an hour up Conic Hill, initially following the walker’s path and then going off around the hill to some upland peat moorland. The walk was challenging and on rough terrain but the pupils handled themselves brilliantly. When we arrived at our site, we split into two groups; the boys went off and set up a 30m survey site, while the girls tested the river and ground water for pH, temperature and mineral content. Once the survey site was set up, we all helped to conduct vegetation surveys, soil temperature and pH and to measure the peat depth. We also took a sample of peat back to school, where we measured the soil moisture and carbon contents.


Over the last week or so we have been heating and burning the peat sample, doing it 4 times and taking an average to improve the reliability of our results. The results from the day and our experiments will be sent to the University of Manchester to be analysed alongside data from many of the National Parks in the UK. The findings will be published in academic journals and will be available for scientists around the world to use.



Girls into Physics Event - 23rd January 2014

This event was held in response to the publication of the research project, ‘It’s Different for Girls’ by the Institute of Physics in 2012 and the government placing an increasing emphasis on the role of Science & Technology in the UK economy.  The Girls into Physics event, hosted 130 girls in S3-S6 from West Dunbartonshire, Argyll & Bute, Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire and Scottish Government funded schools.  It was the first event of its kind in the West of Scotland.  VOLA senior girls were involved in organising the event and were group leaders on the day.

Photos to follow....

Lab in a Lorry – Monday 4th and Tuesday 5th November 2013

A mobile interactive Science laboratory visited the Vale of Leven Academy on the Monday the 4th and 5th November 2013 bringing the expertise of practising scientist’s and engineers to our doorstep. All S3 Science and S2 Physics pupils were selected to take part in this event and carried out a variety of interesting experiments including ‘resonant wine glass’,  ‘climate change and energy efficiency’ and ‘camera optics/optoelectronics’. You can find out more details of these experiments on the lab in a lorry website. Visit

Lab in a Lorry is a joint initiative between the Institute of Physics and the Schlumberger Foundation. It is one of several outreach programmes organised by the Institute of Physics and aims to make physics and scientific careers more attractive to young people.

Click here for pictures


Green Aspirations Scotland - 18th September 2013

S3 enriched Biology pupils visited a broad woodland in Kilearn on Wednesday the 18th September. They learned about native and non native species of trees and learned to build a den using tree materials. They also enjoyed lunch by the campfire. The trip was a great success and the organisers commented on how knowledgeable and well behaved our pupils were. 

click here for more photos


British Heart Foundation Competition

As part of their in-depth study of a Curriculum for Excellence Biology, S2 pupils recently took part in an exciting Inter-Disciplinary Learning (IDL) competition to build a 3D working model of the heart and circulatory system. Click here to see the videos and find out more.  


Zombie Science: Worst Case Scenario - Monday 3rd June 2013

Click here to find out more


S2 Biology in the garden 2013  Click here to find out more  



Nuffield Placements 2013  

For the second consecutive year four of our talented S5 pupils were selected to complete a Nuffield Project.  The pupils worked throughout the summer in research departments in both Glasgow and StrathclydeUniversity. The project culminated in a celebration event at the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh where our pupils presented their research at a poster question and answers session.  Click here to read comments from pupils who took part.


Raising Attainment - National Qualifications in Science  

to see a letter issued regarding textbooks available for purchase for National 5 Sciences.  Please note that purchase of these books is NOT compulsory.  Click here