The birth of Project Q – a Founder's story

By Alan Cree
Published 10 October 2023

Alan Cree, Founder of Project Q, shares his story about how Project Q was born, its success and his hopes for its future.

I often hear that Project Q is intuitive, easy to use and that it must have been built by teachers; they’re right, it was.”

Over the past 10 years, Project Q has grown from a small, niche product to one that’s trusted by thousands of centres across the world.

My career has been diverse, beginning as a software engineer and progressing through roles in business and project management, before I finally took the leap and realised my childhood dream of becoming a teacher.

I took on the role of Head of Enrichment at a large Sixth Form along with a heavy teaching commitment. In this role, I became involved with the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) as a supervisor and coordinator.

Preparing learners for their next steps

The benefits of the EPQ are wide-ranging. It provides an unlimited ceiling for learning and helps to develop critical, reflective and independent learners. The skills acquired not only help prepare learners for their next steps, whether they’re moving into industry or university but also have an immediate impact on their other subjects. I was an advocate from the start, although I found some management aspects difficult to manage.

The challenge – finding a way to manage the EPQ

Although I shared timelines with learners, each project is individual and so it’s quite normal for learners to be at different stages. From a coordinator perspective, I found keeping up-to-date with the status of both learners and supervisors stressful! The endless sharing, emailing and printing of Production Logs in their various revisions was difficult. Another complication was that learners wanted to do a good job and submit their best work to the extent that some reworked their previous log entries, removing valuable evidence of their struggles, mistakes and improvements, which are a key component of the Assessment Objectives. There had to be a better way to manage the course.

Using my skills as a software engineer, I created a basic management tool to provide a place for learners and supervisors to record their Production Log entries. Supervisors could set a section as complete which prevented learners from editing and re-working completed sections. It gave me a whole cohort status at a glance, as well as a view of when work was being added and who hadn’t logged in for a while, including supervisors! At the end of the process, work could be exported into the exam board format. It made a difference in delivering the course and it gave me peace of mind. A colleague mentioned that I should take it to market as it will be a huge help to other centres; a seed was planted.

A few years later, an opportunity arose to start a consultancy business with an education technology focus. It gave me time to revisit the idea of making a commercial version of my EPQ software and see if it could help other centres manage their courses. Project Q was born. The system was designed for a busy teacher. It needed to be intuitive, and fast to set up, with almost no training and administration. We achieved this by building it specifically for Project Qualifications and not attempting to make a generic tool to support lots of different courses.

The success of Project Q

The feedback and support we receive each year has been humbling. Centres tell us that it makes a big difference and that they wouldn’t run the qualification without it. Aside from the wonderful anecdotal comments, some have gone further and shared their analysis, with some centres demonstrating an increase in learner retention and improved grades; attributing the improvement to the structure and workflow of Project Q.

The future

Project Q helps many learners and supervisors each year and we’re very proud of the difference it’s made. We’ve always been supporters of the AQA specification and we were delighted when they signalled they’d like to acquire it and make it available to all their centres with no separate charges. It’s been great news for our existing centres who are saving money and also to the hundreds of centres who are signing up for the first time. We’re happy that Project Q is in safe hands and that it’ll continue to make a difference.

For the team behind Project Q, we’ll continue to develop our other educational products, but for me personally, I’m hoping to step back and make a return to teaching. Hopefully, I’ll be back in a classroom again soon and at a sixth Form championing the EPQ once more.

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Alan Cree

Alan Cree

About the author

Alan Cree is the Founder and Director of Project Q.

In his previous role as Head of Enrichment at a large Sixth Form he became involved with the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) as a supervisor and coordinator.

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