ENTHUSIASTIC students have initiated an astronomy course at their school and say they are thoroughly enjoying it.

Pupils at Burgess Hill Girls School in Burgess Hill were so fascinated by the school’s astronomy after-school club that they asked the teacher if he could offer the subject as a full GCSE course.

Andy Gillaspy, who is head of physics at the school and a graduate of astronomy, was happy to teach the course.

He said: “I am an astronomer and I have an abiding passion for it.

“We study where the universe came from, where it is going, the Big Bang, black holes and supernovas – some of the most fascinating aspects of the universe.

“Academically, astronomy has a big link with GCSE and A Level physics, as well as Engineering and all the other professions that come from it.

“It is a hugely important and well-respected academic subject.

“The girls drove it – they asked if we could do a GCSE in astronomy, and I said yes I can.”

The first astronomy course started in September for this academic year, and 22 Burgess Hill pupils will take the GCSE exam in June next year.

But the GCSE is not only being offered to students at the school.

Parents and teachers are also enrolled on the course.

Maths teacher Catherine Kempton said she is enjoying a bit of role reversal by taking the course herself.

She said: “It’s a brand new GCSE and we’re one of the first schools to offer it.

“It just feels great to be a part of that.”

One of the Year 11 pupils, Phoebe, said she is enjoying being in a class with a more eclectic mix of students.

She said: “It’s unusual to study with parents and teachers in my lessons.

“But I like it because you can see different perspectives in class.

“I decided to study astronomy because it’s really different to all my other subjects.

“It seemed like something I’d be really interested in.

“My favourite part of studying astronomy is learning about planets that aren’t our own, because you don’t learn about that in any other subject. It’s a really rewarding add-on subject and you learn a lot of things you wouldn’t learn otherwise.”

Roy Brazier is one of the parents taking the class who has been impressed by Mr Gillaspy’s teaching.

He said: “Mr Gillaspy is very knowledgeable, extremely passionate about his subject and quite inspiring.

“I wish I’d had a science teacher like him when I was at school. Studying with the teachers and the students is quite a rare and unique opportunity.

“One thing that always impresses me is the girls’ energy after what has obviously been a long day of study.”

Due to the success of the course, the school has plans to run more sessions in 2020 for students and enthusiastic astronomers in the Burgess Hill area.

Anyone interested in taking the course can contact the school on 01444 241 050.