Aquinas now offers a tailor-made additional course to the approximately 10% of students with arrive at college with exceptional GCSE results. Its purpose is to develop critical thinking skills beyond the confines of A Level subjects, with a view to enhancing university applications in the autumn term of the upper sixth, and preparing students for the transition to study at higher education.
|Exam Board||Level||Qualification||Assessment Method|
|AQA||Level 3||AS/A level||Coursework (Extended Project)|
Enriching, Enhancing and Extending the Curriculum
Academic success requires well-developed critical thinking, lateral thinking and problem-solving skills. Aquinas meets the needs of students with aspirations to study at the UK’s top academic institutions through an integrated programme, AQ Scholars. The Programme’s guiding principle has been to follow advice from Oxford and Cambridge admissions tutors; we do our best to do the things which would help a student if they were to be offered an Oxford or Cambridge interview. All of the top UK universities – places such as Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College, the LSE, Manchester, Edinburgh and Durham – are seeking students who engage with their subject beyond the confines of the A level specification, and who can think through problems by employing a variety of perspectives, often from different disciplines. AQ Scholars fosters this kind of thinking. We have a track record of helping students gain places at the UK’s top universities.
The AQ Scholars programme has core and optional elements. Every student does the core, and each student is expected to participate in at least two of the options. Over the course of the two years AQ activities are recorded in the AQ Passport – a record of achievement and academic extension.
CORE 1: The Extended Project (EPQ)
This central part of AQ Scholars is delivered through two timetabled lessons a week. It involves a piece of research, on a subject of your own choice, and is examined through a 5,000-word EPQ report, a ‘production log’ recording the research process and a presentation in class. EPQ is the equivalent to an extra half an A level: an A is worth 24 UCAS points. It is all about enhancing your academic skills, which can then be applied in other subjects too. You’ll develop the analysis, evaluation and critical thinking needed for an EPQ by exploring a variety of interdisciplinary topics in the arts and sciences, such as climate change, medical ethics and the British Empire. You’ll also learn about research methods, structuring extended essays, source evaluation and academic citation. We expect all AQ Scholars to complete an EPQ over their two years. About half of the group complete and submit in the lower sixth. Others complete their projects in the upper sixth, alongside a further course covering major thinkers such as Darwin, Einstein and Mary Wollstonecraft. The EPQ is highly valued by top universities for the independent learning skills it builds; universities increasingly reduce their grade offer to students who successfully complete good EPQs.
CORE 2: the Lecture Programme
Every two weeks in the autumn and spring terms, there is an AQ Scholars lecture from either a university speaker or a member of the Aquinas staff with expertise in a particular field. These follow the university lecture teaching model: 45 minutes of presentation, then questions. The lectures enable students to enrich their knowledge of all sorts of subjects, and to be able to see the connections between them.
OPTION 1: Oxbridge Applications Support
Alongside the AQ Scholars Programme, Aquinas provides students aspiring to go to Oxford or Cambridge with additional support. This involves an overnight visit to Cambridge in January or March, and talks at Aquinas from Oxbridge admissions tutors on the applications process and interviews. We also provide tailored pastoral support and seminar-style classes during the run up to admissions tests and interviews.
OPTION 2: The Olympiads in Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Linguistics
Aquinas students take part in important national competitions as a means of deepening their scientific skills. In addition, the Linguistics Olympiad is a brilliant way for all students to develop their logical thinking. The competitions take place in the spring term of the upper sixth year.
OPTION 3: Trips and Visits
Experiential learning outside the classroom is a vital part of the AQ Scholars Programme and a central part of academic enrichment. In recent years trips have been run to the Science and Natural History Museums in South Kensington, orchestral concerts, ballet and opera and – perhaps most memorably – the Cambridge University Earth Optimism Conference, where Aquinas students listened to lectures in person from David Attenborough, Jane Goodall and Steven Pinker. The trips and visits programme changes every year in response to emerging learning opportunities.
OPTION 4: AS Philosophy
Philosophy is a foundational subject, and it is a effective way to enhance the critical thinking skills you need to succeed in the modern world. Over two years you will study moral philosophy and how to make decisions. You will also cover a course on the nature of knowledge (epistemology). You will come away with a grounding in the ideas of great philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume and Kant.*
OPTION 5: AS French
When you study a language you discover a whole new world. AS-level French will give you confident communication skills in the language and a deep understanding of Francophone culture. You will develop as a linguist in the broadest sense — and if you take part in the week-long French exchange, you will also get direct experience of living in France! The Russell Group Universities view French as a ‘facilitating subject’ – it will help you gain a place on the most competitive courses in the country. So if you want to be well-equipped to take your place in a globalised society, have a skill that is prized by employers and universities, AS French could be the subject for you.*
*Please note that both Philosophy and French will only be available should there be sufficient interest.
Trips and events
Stretch and Challange students also enjoy a programme of lectures by external speakers, museum visits and cultural events. Over the last year students have attended a major international conference, Earth Optimism featuring lectures from David Attenborough and Jane Goodall.
Entry Requirements 2021
You can download provisional entry requirements for courses that start in 2021 below. Please note that your enrolment on to a particular course must be approved by the Head of that department.