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Success for Sixth Formers Stretched Beyond A Levels

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) results have brought a bumper crop of A*s for Sixth Form students at Bolton School Boys' Division. This is the first year Bolton School boys have been entered for the qualification, and out of thirteen boys, eight gained A*s, three gained an A,  one gained a B and one a C.

The EPQ is an extended project designed to develop independent learning and self-management. The boys were asked to identify, design, plan and complete a project, which could be a written report, performance, piece of art, community project, or CD, DVD or even computer software. They were encouraged to be creative with their choice of topic which could be either directly related to, or completely independent of, their main study programme, and this resulted in a wide range of choices from Ant farms to Architecture! The boys had to prepare and deliver a presentation when the project was complete, and were assessed on their ability to manage, develop and realise their projects. As the process was just as important as the end product, students were asked to produce a production log of all stages of the project to review and evaluate their progress, which was also assessed.

Sixth Form pupil Elliot Yates, a Nuffield Scholar, chose to research Osteoarthritis for his project and gained an A*. He said: "Whilst being hard work, this was a real opportunity to get into Manchester University's laboratories and for us to stretch ourselves beyond the confines of the curriculum."

Ryan Sarsfield also got an A*. He commented: "The extended project offered a real chance to pursue our own interests and I focused on Oscar Wilde; I am finding it has provided me with a valuable talking point at university interviews."

Increasingly, universities and employers place a higher value on a student's ability to research and analyse material independently, and the EPQ promotes this type of independent learning and provides evidence of a student's ability to use a range of skills that are vital for successful study in higher education, including management, research, organisation, decision making, problem solving and evaluation skills. It makes students responsible for their own learning and allows them to study a subject they enjoy, even if it is not available at A-level.

Deputy Head of Boys' Division Sixth Form, Heather Tunstall, said: "I am incredibly proud of their achievements. This has been an extremely exciting project that celebrates the value of education and independent learning. The enthusiasm shown by the boys has been absolutely fantastic, and their projects show real originality, flair and diversity. We've been invited to view the intimate workings of an ant colony; journeyed through the life and works of Eric Clapton and been introduced to cutting edge research on Osteoarthritis." 

The EPQ is a stand alone qualification, but it also forms part of the AQA Baccalaureate, a new baccalaureate-style qualification adopted by over 100 schools across the country, which gives a broader picture of student's achievements by recognising all the valuable out-of-classroom activity already done by sixth formers, alongside academic achievement. A students' EPQ grade contributes to the level of AQA Bacc awarded, along with their three A-levels in any subjects, an AS in either General Studies, Critical Thinking or Citizenship, and "Enrichment Activities" which could be work-related learning, community participation or personal development such as sport or music.

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Sixth Form Celebrations

Students celebrate outstanding Extended Project Qualification grades