The Extension, Culture, Enrichment and Learning course (ExCEL) is an internally constructed programme of study for Sixth Form students. It provides students with the opportunity to maintain curiosity and intellectual breadth having specialised in a small number of academic subjects at A Level. Here, students will pursue an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in a discipline of their choice, learn key thinking skills, hear expert lectures on major issues, gain confidence in presenting and follow short, introductory, courses in a diverse range of topics. The course co-ordinator is Dr Paul Prideaux, who has been in post since 2010. These lessons take place in all parts of the school campus, including the Lecture Theatre and the Princess Alexandra Auditorium.
The EPQ provides the opportunity to pursue a topic of real personal interest – be it in an academic or extra-curricular field – and to produce a project product that is authentic to the topic studied. The EPQ, which is graded from A* to E, is at Level 3 and is ‘worth’ half an A Level. Universities have welcomed it because the skills required to complete a successful EPQ are the same as those they look for in potential undergraduates; evidence of project management and presentation skills account for 70% of the marks making it qualitatively different to other subjects. Admissions Tutors value the qualification enormously; some courses and institutions with highly competitive entry (such as medicine, dentistry and law; Oxbridge, London and red-brick universities) are likely to look at a candidate offering EPQ more favourably. Some universities are now also making EPQ part of their entrance offers.