During their time in the Sixth Form, the students are offered the opportunity to take the AQA Extended Project Qualification as part of their A Level course. The qualification is explained to the students early in Year 12 so that they can give it careful thought before signing up in June of that year if they wish to take part.
The EPQ involves study in greater depth of a topic chosen by the student. This can be something related to one of their A Level subjects, but not on the specification, or something totally unrelated. The project can take the form of an extended essay, an artefact or model, a CD/video/DVD or a photographic record. Most students opt to write an extended essay but we have had some very interesting models, DVDs and posters. In all cases, the student is required to complete a production log which is submitted with the project. Each student is allocated to a supervisor who is available for advice throughout the whole process and will ensure that the student has chosen a feasible topic and title. The main focus is that the project is a research assignment where students are encouraged to search for a wide range of credible sources and to select appropriate information. They are also required to employ high level skills such as synthesis, evaluation and analysis.
There has been a wide range of very interesting titles over the six years we have been offering the qualification with some examples listed below.
Should Catalonia become independent from Spain?
In what ways have scientists and engineers taken inspiration from nature to create new materials and structures?
How did we benefit from the 1960s' Space Race and why do we need a new adventurous space programme in the 21st Century?
An evaluation of current treatments for Type 1 diabetes.
What does the future hold for prosthetic limb technology?
How did Fermat's Last Theorem affect the world?
An evaluation of the viability and use of some potential applications of graphene in Medicine and Technology.
To what extent can humans be held responsible for the damage to, and destruction of, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and how might this be avoided in the future?
Should we diagnose Dementia?
Students also attend formal sessions in the skills they will need to employ to complete the project including planning a project, research methods, assessing the credibility of evidence, referencing, project/task and time management and presentation skills.
The EPQ is valued by universities as it requires much independent research and demonstrates a love of learning beyond that which is required by the A Level curriculum. It enables students to stand out in the university application process and can be the basis of discussion at interview. Moreover, the skills acquired are transferable to other areas of study and are particularly useful to students embarking on degree courses.
The results since the first cohort in 2010 have been outstanding with over 80% achieving an A or A* in the EPQ.