Academic projects are open to all students in the school at any age and at any time. They would be suitable, for example, for a student in Years 7-10 who felt that he or she could rise to the challenge of researching and producing GCSE or even Sixth Form standard work in a particular subject. The qualification is also an ideal way of enhancing a UCAS application and is increasingly “rewarded” by universities in a number of ways by being used as part of the admissions process.
Academic projects should be the most enjoyable piece of schoolwork students ever do, because it is something entirely of their choosing. The opportunity to carry out in-depth research allows a subject or topic to be studied in much greater detail than would normally be possible, owing to the constraints of the core curriculum. Projects allow students to demonstrate their enthusiasm for a subject, in showing a willingness to research beyond the confines of the general classroom provision.
Projects can also allow students to obtain an academic qualification for work related to co-curricular activities or hobbies pursued either inside or out of school. For example, students have produced projects relating to mountain biking, equestrian activities, girl guiding and performing arts.
They demonstrate the skills of self-management, planning, information literacy and refining objectives. A presentation allows students to demonstrate an ability to communicate research findings to a non-specialist audience, and students are required and encouraged to evaluate their own work, skills and attitudes. Projects often take the form of extended essays. However, ‘artefact’ projects are popular, encompassing architectural models, computer programs, art installations, staging concerts and much more. Students are encouraged to think creatively in designing their own aims and objectives.
Most students will have at least one hour of timetabled support each week, usually two, and all are encouraged to seek more from Librarian and Projects Co-ordinator, Miss Tait, as well as subject specialists and supervisors. Students use Project Q software to track and organise progress, learn specific skills such as referencing, and enjoy the opportunity to discuss their work with supervisors in the style of academic tutorials.
Academic projects lead to GCSE and A Level-equivalent qualifications at three levels. Senior Divisions students usually enter Level 2 or Level 3, and we are very proud of the 35 Year 6 pupils who have achieved A*-B Level 1 qualifications in 2015-17.
In 2016-17, 79% of students achieved A*-B grades in the A Level Extended Project, including a year 10 student who achieved an A for his project on electronic dance music. Other successful projects included essays on fascism, vegetarianism, Durer and financial crises, a wrist-mounted catapult, and a Radio 3-style introduction to Milhaud’s La Création du Monde.