Independent Learning and the Extended Project Qualification

Pupils at Glenalmond are encouraged to extend their academic development beyond the limits of the curriculum, and the school encourages independent study with the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).

Learning and knowledge is about intellectual liberty: it is about asking the questions and pursuing the answers, in creative and unique ways, not just learning facts ready for examinations. Glenalmond is committed to promoting and fostering big thinkers, and independent research plays a significant role in the academic life of the school.

At the same time, independent research projects provide an individual pupil with the scope to shape their own academic profile and niche subject specialism above and beyond A Level or Higher learning. They provide an opportunity to demonstrate subject knowledge depth and ambition, as well as serving as a testament to a pupil’s ability work in the format of undergraduate studies.  As such they are valued by universities who will take them into account alongside A Level or Higher grades.

A number of initiatives are available to encourage pupils to extend their learning beyond that required for the classroom curriculum.

Extended Project Qualification

Externally assessed qualification accredited by outside authority (AQA). This scheme is universally recognised as superb evidence of independent learning and academic strength; EPQ also carries UCAS points and so can affect university offers in a very positive way.

University link-ups

Fourteen pupils travelled with Dr Gibson to St Andrew’s university to present the findings of their research to a collective of renowned academic specialists in their respective fields. Each pupil presented their research and took questions from the academics. The standards were rigorous and the atmosphere was more akin to a PhD viva than a Sixth Form presentation!
Sample projects included:

  • An analysis of the marginalisation of Soviet-era literature by western academic research
  • An investigation into the relationships between crime, immigration and socio-economic status in the Netherlands
  • A study into the decline of the Moghul Empire

None of the research topics had ever been taught to the pupils; their research was a product of their own study, reading, analysis and interpretation.

Commercial and industrial research projects & Publication in international journals.

Promoting pupil Sixth Form projects to be ambitious enough to contribute to academic research at the highest levels. A number of projects are currently being pursued far beyond the limited confines of A Level syllabi:

  • A small team of Upper Sixth Formers in Geography have been invited by the Editor to submit their work to an international journal for peer review and possible publication. The work is centred around an A Level project but is now challenging ecosystem management practices at a national scale.
  • A group of Geography pupils are being trained to use the commercial software ArcGIS used for terrain analysis and then applying their learning to investigate geological and topographic controls on the Costa Rican tropical rainforest.


None of this work is required by examination bodies for external exams, yet it promotes the intellectual creativity, initiative and ambition that characterises academic pursuits at the very highest level.

The Wordsworth Medal

Open to pupils of all ages, the Wordsworth Medal is named after Glenalmond’s first Warden, Charles Wordsworth (a nephew of the poet).  It is a new prize for scholarly endeavour and achievement outside and beyond curricula study. The Wordsworth Medal is designed to acknowledge the achievements of academically ambitious individuals of any age and to promote the involvement of pupils in original academic research.


The nature of the work may be an extension of school studies but must demonstrate the production of original material- new data or findings, creative analyses or essay discussion- beyond the requirements of an examination course. The successful candidate will have demonstrated initiative, intellectual creativity, precocity and serious academic ambition.


All submissions are reviewed by a committee of academic staff and the successful candidate is awarded the Wordsworth Medal at Commem at the end of the school year.