The aim is to encourage more youngsters to apply for physics, mathematics and engineering degrees at university as well as help them to gain physics expertise beyond school level and equip them with the analytical skills they need for university study.
The Department for Education (DfE) is supporting the initiative with a £6.9 million grant over five years.
The Rutherford Schools Physics Project will be led by Mark Warner, professor of theoretical physics at Cambridge, and Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright, outreach officer for the university’s physics department.
Working collaboratively with teachers, schools and other universities, the project will deliver a mix of online resources and activities, workshops for students and support for school physics teachers – within the framework of the existing A level curriculum.
Professor Warner said that the DfE grant will enable the project to “reach almost all school physics students in the UK and to work with their teachers”.
He added: “University physics is ideally suited to students who are fluent in mathematics and have an appetite for problem-solving.
“Universities want to admit students who are beginning to demonstrate that they think like physicists. This includes them sketching diagrams to access a problem, deconstructing problems, sifting information, assembling ideas from different areas of physics and using their mathematical skills.
“We hope that the project will result in an increase in the number of talented and ambitious young physicists with the skills to make strong applications to university.”
Education secretary Michael Gove said: “Professor Warner’s brilliant project will give state school pupils access to advanced materials so they can develop problem-solving skills in maths and physics. Cambridge physicists will provide support for science teachers and online resources, enabling many more state school students to succeed at university.”