The Extended Project Department was established at the College in 2010 after several successful years of offering the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) outside the timetable. There is now a dedicated Extended Project Centre where all teaching takes place and upwards of 120 pupils start the two-term course. The qualification is open to Upper and Lower Sixth. Since the Department welcomed its first pupils, we’ve supported the delivery of more than 750 projects, with over 75% securing an A*/A. Now the EPQ is better known, there are a growing number of universities that are reducing entrance requirements (by as much as two grades) if this qualification has been successfully undertaken.
The Extended Project gives pupils the chance to embark on a serious piece of research similar to a first year university study that plays to their interests (academic or personal) and their learning style. Whereas the majority of pupils complete 6,000-word (minimum) dissertations, we are perhaps unique in supporting an unrestricted choice of project outcome. Pupils can choose a more scientific investigation, involving statistical analysis of data, or a performance where an audience is present, an art exhibition, concert, play or even an artefact, which may be a portfolio, composition, physical item or a restoration project. As long as a project is safe, ethical, legal, supportable, affordable and achievable in two terms, it can be taken on.
Our course is based on the Edexcel qualification and specification, which uniquely allows pupils to enter one of the four units with different outcomes: dissertation, investigation, performance or artefact. We have opted for a short course of two terms so that the project is typically completed and finished by Easter of the Lower Sixth. Tutorials end at Lent half-term after which the taught course resumes to prepare for the oral exams. Five lessons a fortnight are allocated to a pupil’s timetable and, from September to Michaelmas half-term, we introduce them to the project structure and the skills of research, referencing and critical thinking. Pupils are allocated a tutor to meet once a week.
The projects are marked on four key skills: time management, research and referencing, synthesis and argument, and evaluation and communication. They are completed by a 10-minute examined viva or oral presentation. The projects are marked internally by the Tutor-Assessors and then moderated by the Head of Department before a sample is sent off in early May. The Qualification is Level 3 (A level standard) and as such is awarded up to A* grade. Certificates are issued with associated UCAS points (50% of an A level) in August.
The high levels of pupil motivation originate from ownership of the project and from being able to go far deeper than any conventional secondary level course. Most pupils will have email contact or liaise with experts in their fields of study. Many will travel to art exhibitions, sports meetings, lectures and university seminars. Some will base projects on work experience, both in the UK and abroad. Visiting speakers across departments throughout the year provide a rich resource for EP pupils. There is a significant bank of past A* projects and the College Library not only stocks or purchases books relevant to particular projects, but offers one-to-one guidance sessions on research techniques. EP pupils are engaged in their topic, invested in the process and driven by their research.