ISEB Project Qualification


Two years ago, the school made the decision to no longer follow the Common Entrance syllabuses for History and Geography. We have continued to teach both subjects in Years 7 and 8, of course, but we have replaced CE with our own thematic curriculum.

From our point of view, the Common Entrance syllabuses were too narrow in their scope and the exams too restrictive. The CE History paper requires pupils to answer a detailed sources question and write an essay, all in one hour. Expecting a 13-year-old to plan and write an essay in half an hour is a big ask, so, recognising this, just about every prep school makes sure the children have four or five essays up their sleeves that they can reproduce in the exam. This means that rather than developing children’s creative and critical thinking skills, valuable lesson time ends up being spent learning essays by rote. The Geography CE exam does not require pupils to write an essay, but success is generally contingent on children learning a seemingly endless list of definitions.

Our primary aim in creating our own curriculum was for learning to be relevant and meaningful. To do this, each of the themes explores a broad historical or geographical concept, but then examines how these concepts relate to contemporary issues. Over the past two years, the current Year 8s have studied the following themes: Conflict, Planet Earth, Equality and Rights, Climate Change, Migration and Revolutions.

In their final term, rather than preparing for History and Geography papers, the Year 8s have completed the ISEB Project Qualification. This new qualification requires the children to come up with their own research question and then answer that question, developing their research skills, their critical thinking skills and their ability to work independently. Below is a selection of the research questions that the current Year 8s came up with.

Does sport help people manage their mental health?

Why do people believe conspiracy theories?

To what extent is the US election system fair and democratic?

Is space exploration a waste of money?

Were witch trials a medieval form of discrimination against women?

Is the population of our planet too large?

Completing the ISEB Project Qualification means that Vinehall pupils join their senior schools with a broader skillset than they would if they only sat exams at the end of Year 8. When reflecting on their projects, the children commented on how much they had enjoyed being able to find out about something that they were particularly interested in.

Below are links to two of the completed projects. Francesca F (Brighton College) chose to answer the question ‘Can money buy happiness?’ and Delilah G (Sevenoaks) answered the question ‘What was the contribution of alchemy to modern science?’  I am incredibly proud of what all of the Year 8s have achieved and I hope you will agree, having read the projects below, that the quality of the work they produced is really quite impressive, especially given that they are only 13.


Paul Borrows