The Extended Project Qualification [EPQ] is a course which college students can take whereby they decide upon a topic of their interest and - in most cases - write a 6000 word dissertation on the subject. Hanna Rowe is the Head of EPQ at Steyning Grammar School [SGS] and offers us an insight into what the course is all about, previous research projects which students have undertaken and why she thinks more students should undertake the qualification.

One of the most important stages of the qualification is selecting a research topic which students are passionate about, interested in and able to write about at length. Hanna Rowe says this results in the projects being “specifically tailored to students because they are interested in going into that field in the future”. Additionally, the course gives students the “opportunity to do further research on something which is not directly in their A-Levels”.

This year, students have been working on a “real variety” of projects as they are responsible for drafting their research question, carrying out extensive primary and secondary research, writing the dissertation and presenting their findings. 

For example, topics which the students have selected include; the use of AI in medicine, peaceful vs violent protest, veterinary science & breeding, the Hanoverian period of literature and immigration detention. 

From this year’s cohort, Hanna Rowe found an EPQ about the benefits of reading aloud to children particularly fascinating as she has young children herself. It made her question how often she reads with her children - “I thought: how often do I read with my children? Is it 20 minutes a day, is it an hour a day, is it just 5 minutes a day, and what difference does this make to their academic achievement at school? I realised that it would make a difference, but I probably didn’t realise quite what a difference it made. So it was really good for me as a parent - it was an interesting topic which I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise”.

Due to the academic nature of the course, there are many benefits for students in taking an EPQ. Hanna Rowe believes that the course “teaches students to argue well” as a large part of the course is weighing up both sides of the discussion. In addition to this, students learn skills such as referencing and conducting primary research, which are “absolutely vital for further study”.

Students not only acquire academic skills throughout the project - the course also offers “a really good insight into university writing”. In fact, Hanna Rowe suggests that students who undertake the qualification are at a “headstart” compared to other students as it shows that students have “gone the extra mile” with their studies - this is why she encourages many more students to take up this brilliant opportunity.