St Paul’s School / Academic

Curriculum

Education at St Paul’s School is about far more than exams and the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) allows pupils to work independently, pursue their intellectual passions in depth and develop a wide range of intellectual skills. We offer a wide range of broad subject areas from Astrobiology to Writing for the Stage or Screen and projects are often interdisciplinary in nature by design. We support pupils taking the EPQ with a series of initial lessons on core skills in the Lower Eight Form: researching, constructing a good question, summarising and analysing arguments, collating a bibliography. After the first half term, each student begins work on his specific project, guided by a supervisor in weekly meetings. A final essay, scientific investigation, or artefact is produced, followed by each pupil giving a presentation to an invited audience to demonstrate their mastery. In practice, pupils can work on just about any topic they choose. Recently, we are very proud of our Creative Writing EPQs, which includes workshopping sessions and advice about how to progress in that field beyond St Paul’s, whilst the Engineering Department has pioneered a truly innovative and unique extended project for pupils interested in advanced design work (see here for more info).

Whilst completing their EPQ, pupils are actively encouraged to go out and talk to specialists in the field, visit research libraries, and attend talks and symposia. After studying an EPQ, pupils are armed with critical research skills that universities crave. In fact, the EPQ process, with its close working supervisor/student set-up is one of the most realistic experiences of university life one can have. It has been known for pupils to completely change their career plans based on a discovery they have made whilst researching and writing their EP and for some to have (successful) university entrance interviews based on their project alone.

We’re enthusiastic about the Extended Project Qualifications — and so are top universities. Cambridge, for example, say the following: “We welcome the introduction of the Extended Project and would encourage you to undertake one as it will help you develop independent study and research skills and ease the transition from school/college to higher education.”

Some recent projects have included the below:

  • Should we resist the introduction of cognitive enhancing drugs?
  • Is the NFL really more competitive than the Premier League?
  • Does beetle colour arise in the same way as plant colour?
  • Redesigning an oar for use in elite rowing
  • Writing an outline for a psychological thriller in the style of Thomas Harris
  • Produce a selection of short stories inspired by the style of Cormac McCarthy, Don Delillo, and Douglas Coupland
  • And many more

The course is completed in the Lower Eighth Form and is equivalent to half an A-Level (graded A* to E). Our results have been exceptional: consistently over 2/3 of our boys achieve the top grade.

Photo of Thomas Weller
Thomas Weller