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An EPQ Experience

"One of the most fascinating things in my first year as Academic Deputy Head at The Grange School has been discovering the ingredients that give this fantastic school its distinctive flavour and which feed into its enviable academic success. Whilst, like brewing guru and EPQ presenter Duncan Lee, I can only give away some of the recipe, it is abundantly clear to me that the EPQ programme is one of the key ingredients in the success of our Sixth Form. If I needed any persuading, the EPQ Presentation evening left me in no doubt.

I had the privilege of introducing the evening and explaining what the EPQ was and the commitment that had been required for our 15 students to get to presentation evening. The EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) is an in-depth study of a topic of the student’s choice, conducted over a year, spanning Lower and Upper Sixth, and culminating in a 5,000 word essay and a 20 minute presentation, with audience questioning at the end. To get to this point, students had to be trained in research methods, commit much of their Summer holidays to research, and then decide upon and write up their findings whilst not neglecting their A-level studies. Studying for an EPQ is entirely voluntary at The Grange School, although many students find it of huge practical value, for example in university entrance.

My first EPQ evening (The Grange’s sixth) was an absolute delight. I only saw a small fraction of the projects that had been undertaken, but if they were in any way representative (and I am assured that they were), the work that went into them is some of the most impressive independent study I have ever seen in a Sixth Form environment. Speakers spoke with an assurance, a depth of knowledge, originality and a passion for their subject that was truly inspiring. In more than one case, the process of study had shaped future career intentions, and the students’ unbridled enthusiasm for their area of study was a real privilege to see. Each talk was totally different to the previous one, united only in their quality and their frequent ventures into areas of expertise way beyond A-Level syllabuses. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the level of support and engagement from the audience. Questions and answers are a key part of the EPQ evening, and our students did themselves proud in terms of comprehending, engaging with and questioning the speakers around highly specialised areas of study. It was also very encouraging to see such high numbers of Lower Sixth students coming along, in anticipation of writing their own EPQs next year, and my plea to families to stay to the end was entirely unnecessary – no-one wanted to leave early from an evening of this quality.

Reflecting on the evening afterwards, I felt I had seen part of The Grange’s Sixth Form DNA first-hand, and the crossover to students’ A-Level success was not hard to see. It had also become a lot clearer to me why our EPQ results have been so impressive since 2010 (97% A*-A, and 86% A*), and I came away with no doubt that this success would be repeated this year. I also came away profoundly grateful to Mrs Eaton and Mrs Hoyle, as well as Mr Lumley and Mr Wilson, for their selfless support of these students, not to mention our small and dedicated army of staff EPQ supervisors, which I will be joining this year. As I contemplate another year of EPQ at The Grange, I know that we will see another sustained burst of originality, scholarship, independence and discovery which has the potential to change the academic lives of those willing to invest in it, and to continue to influence the academic success of the school."

Mr A Crook
Deputy Head (Academic)