Extended Project Qualification

Initially developed to stretch and challenge gifted International Baccalaureate students, the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is a qualification that we encourage all Sixth Form students to undertake.

By doing so, every girl, whatever her level of ability, has the same opportunities for enriching her learning and developing her skills in a way that suits her interests – and to do incredibly well.

The EPQ is a self-motivated project that requires self-discipline and independent research on a topic of the girl’s own choice, and so it is seen as a good option for those who want to stand out and get into a good university or an alternative post-18 pathway. It is also an opportunity to follow a passion, and not be limited by the A Level syllabus. The EPQ encourages academic engagement and thought beyond what is needed for A Level examinations, develops critical thinking, independence, resilience, and interdisciplinary skills, and gives the girls a chance to be original and individual in their work. This is a valuable part of the girls’ preparation for life beyond school.

University admissions officers hold the qualification in extremely high regard: Mrs Karole Lewis, our EPQ Co-ordinator, can recount numerous occasions when girls’ offers have been honoured despite them not achieving the required grades, thanks largely to the strength of their EPQ project. The primary, and enduring, benefit of the project, however, is the key skills that the girls develop simply by working through the project process. For university admissions officers, future employers and colleagues, and even for the girls themselves, it is these essential key skills that will be most valued.

Read through the synopses of the 2015/2016 cohort’s EPQs by viewing our EPQ and Work Experience brochure here.

Course introduction

Mrs Lewis first meets with the Lower Sixth students to kick off the project in the first half of the Autumn Term, and the project runs through to the following Autumn Term, by which time they are Upper Sixth students, ready to present their completed projects to an audience of peers and staff. The first stage of the project sees the group meeting with Mrs Lewis for two lessons each fortnight, in which they investigate ethical considerations of undertaking research projects and focus on developing key skills. Using some of the syllabus content from what was the Critical Thinking A Level, the girls consider planning and Gantt charts; critical analysis; credibility criteria; research methods; interviewing techniques; surveying tactics; interpreting statistics; report writing, and much more.

Choice of topic

By the February of their Lower Sixth year some of the girls will have selected their topics and started thinking about framing their projects. Each girl has the first of four one to one meetings with Mrs Lewis, to confirm their topic and to discuss their research plans. The EPQ topics that are covered vary enormously each year, as the girls really are able to build a project that is unique to their interests and preferred styles of working, but some recent examples include: the role of graffiti; the music of Henry Purcell; differences in the social construct of gender between the UK and the USA; the love-hate relationship between society and punk rock; technology as a tool to combat human trafficking; child marriage in Nigeria; and an analysis of factors influencing the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa.

Research phase

The next meeting takes place in June, once initial research has been completed, and at which point Mrs Lewis will work with the girls to finalise a title. The girls will then spend as much time as they like over the summer break between their Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth year conducting primary research – for instance through surveys and questionnaires or site visits – analysing the information they have found, and beginning to construct their projects. Projects can vary depending on the topic and the student in question, from the more traditional 5,000 word essay to, for example, a devised dance performance or the production of an artefact (both of which would require a 1,500 to 2,000 word supporting report).

Presenting the project

By the November of their Upper Sixth year, the girls will all have met with Mrs Lewis for the third of their one to one meetings for a mid-project review, to discuss how things are going and to iron out any problems that may have arisen over the summer. The girls have until Christmas to meet with Mrs Lewis for the final time, for the final project review, and to then submit their project before the Christmas break.