Monday, 19 November 2018

GCSE pupils make the grade in spite of tougher marking system

Students celebrate GCSEs despite tougher marking system

SCHOOLS in the Henley area celebrated another good set of GCSE results despite a new, tougher grading system.

The traditional grade boundaries of A* to G have been replaced by a numbered system, with 9 the highest mark available and 1 the lowest.

The system, which was introduced last year for English and maths and expanded to other subjects this year, means the top marks of A* and A are now split into three grades, 9, 8, and 7, while the pass grades of B and C are now 6, 5 and 4.

It also puts more emphasis on final exams and less on coursework, while the top grade of 9 is now more difficult to achieve than the old A*.

At Gillotts School in Henley there were tears of joy as pupils opened their results accompanied by their parents.

Many of the 16-year-olds said it had been an anxious summer while they waited for the day to arrive, while others said they had put it out of their minds and enjoyed the break.

Many were planning to celebrate by attending Reading Festival over the bank holiday weekend, while others said they would be enjoying a party with friends or a meal out with their families.

Fifty-seven per cent of students achieved the benchmark of grade 5 and above in both English and maths, compared with 68 per cent last year, and 80 per cent achieved grade 4 or better in both subjects (82 per cent last year).

Twenty-three per cent of students gained a grade 7 or better in English language (26 per cent last year) and 19 per cent in maths (33 per cent).

Eighty per cent achieved grade 4 or better in English language, 79 per cent in English literature and 85 per cent in maths.

In biology, physics and history more than 30 per cent of grades were grade seven or above.

In the subjects that make up the English Baccalaureate, 33 per cent of students gained passes at grade 5 or better in all of English, maths, two sciences, one language and one humanity compard with 49 per centlast year.

Twenty-one per cent of students achieved five of more passes at grade 7 or above.

Among the highest achievers was Megan Powell, from Binfield Heath, who was awarded eight 8 grades and two 6s.

She will attend Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School in Marlow to study for her A-levels.

Megan said: “All the grades were on or above what I was predicted, so I’m very happy.

“I am hoping to go on to study at university but I am not sure what I want to study. I’m going to celebrate by going out for a meal with my parents.”

Head girl Kiri Cheesman, 16, from Bix, scored one grade 9, six 8s, two 7s and a six.

She will study at Farnborough Sixth Form College and hopes to go on to have a career as a film director.

Kiri said: “Farnborough has amazing facilities for film studies and it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to go there.

“My results were better than I was expecting. I was really close to the next grade up in English language so I am thinking of getting that remarked.

“I’m just so glad it’s all over. My birthday is in early September so I’ll be learning to drive.”

James Wallace, 16, from Henley, will be going to study A-levels at Borlase after achieving seven 7 grades and three 6s.

“I did all right,” he said. “It was probably around what I was expecting. There’s a massive group of us heading to Reading Festival to celebrate.”

Samuel Oldham, 16, from Bix, achieved an A grade, an 8, two 7s, two 6s, three 5s and a 3. He will attend The Henley College to study for A-levels in ancient history, sociology and film studies.

He said: “I’m really pleased and particularly happy with my marks in sociology and French.”

Scarlett Colin, from Henley, was awarded an A in sociology, grade 9 in PE, 8 in two sciences and in history, a 7 in religious studies and grade 6 in maths, English language and English literature.

She said: “I thought I would get was mostly sixes and a couple of sevens. I can’t believe I got a 9 in PE. I’m so happy!”

She plans to study for A-levels in textiles, sociology and history at The Henley College.

Her father David said: “I’m so proud of Scarlett, she’s an absolute star. She worked so hard and she deserves what she got.”

Sophie Print, from Henley, achieved grade 9 in history, English literature and language, grade 8 in French and Spanish, grade 7 in maths and biology and grade 6 in religious studies, chemistry and physics.

“I feel very happy,” she said. “Because of the new system nobody knew what the grade boundaries were going to be so it was quite daunting.

“It’s just a month straight of exams every single day so it takes a lot out of you — I had 26 exams.”

She will study history, Spanish and politics at A-level at Borlase.

Her mother Fiona said: “I’m very, very proud. She worked so hard for these exams and she has got everything she deserved.”

Ruby Sarney, from Henley, scored a grade 9 in PE and 8 in maths and biology as well as five grade 7s and two 5s.

She said: “All the hard work has paid off and I’m so unbelievably happy — I’m over the moon! Because the teachers put in so much support we were ready for the exams and if you worked hard you got the grades you wanted.”

She hopes to study biology, chemistry and PE at A-level at Borlase.

Caroline Wilkinson, from Shiplake, achieved grade 6 in history, art and English and wants to study these subjects at A-level at The Henley College.

She also gained grade 5 in five other subjects and two 4s.

“I’m very pleased,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking about it over the summer as the work was done and I couldn’t change it so there was no point in worrying.”

Her mother Kath said: “There were a couple we were worried about but we’re delighted.”

Ellis Tubb, from Henley, achieved a grade 9 in English language, 8 in geography and English literature, 7 in religious studies and German, 6 in history, biology and chemistry and 5 in physics and maths.

She said: “I am really happy — I didn’t think I’d do quite as well as I did. I really wanted to know my results so the summer seemed quite long.”

She will study for A-levels in business, law and German at The Henley College.

Ella Shete, from Shiplake, secured two 6 grades, three 5s and four 4s.

She said: “I’m happy because I didn’t think I was going to pass anything! The exams were a bit overwhelming — I had 21.

“I didn’t think about it until the day before because I didn’t want to ruin my summer.”

She will study English literature and language and photography at A-level at The Henley College.

Rachel Mills, from Pishill, was awarded an A grade in sociology, a grade 8 in German, 7 in religious studies, English literature, biology and chemistry, 6 in English language and physics and 5 in maths and computing,

She said: “I feel relieved honestly because you work that hard for something and you want it to pay off and it has. It means I can take what I want at A-level.”

She will study sociology, psychology and law at The Henley College.

Joe Day, 16, from Emmer Green, achieved an 8 grade in German, two 6s, two 5s and five 4s. He will study German, business and photography at A-level at The Henley College.

He said: “I’m not really sure what I want to do after A-levels, possibly study abroad.

“Now I’m looking forward to going down to Cornwall with my family.”

Headteacher Catharine Darnton said: “Over recent years we have seen a marked and consistent improvement in results at Gillotts and we are delighted with this year’s results, the first in which most subjects have been awarded under the new 9 to 1 GCSEs.

“These results will confirm us as one of the consistently best-performing schools in Oxfordshire. This is a consequence of the commitment and hard work of the students and staff.

“I am very proud of all that the students have achieved and would also like to recognise all the support that they have received from their families.

“These results come about through successful collaboration between students, teachers and parents.”

Ms Darnton said changes to the grading system had been “tough” on the teaching staff and put pressure on students who may have banked 50 to 80 per cent of their grade on controlled assessments such as coursework.

She said: “I’m absolutely in support of students being set exams that enable and prepare them really well for the future and competing internationally [but] I don’t fundamentally believe it’s right to remove the controlled assessments.

“We know that the new grade C is the bottom of the grade 4 and the bottom of the grade 7 is an A. Our staff have really spent the last two years translating that. Although we have had sample papers from the exam boards, they have not given us any grade boundaries.”

At Maiden Erlegh Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common, 20 per cent of all grades were a grade 7 or higher, including almost 40 grade 9s.

Of the 91 students who sat exams, 63 per cent passed both English and maths.

Last year 78 per cent of students passed English, with 11 per cent getting the top 9 score, and 70 per cent passed maths.

Among the top performers was Amber Bellamy, 16, from Wyfold, who achieved six grade 9s, one distinction*, one 8 and one 7.

She will enter the sixth form at Borlase to study biology, chemistry and maths.

Amber said: “I’m really, really pleased with how I have done. I hope to go to university after sixth form so I’m looking pretty good for that.”

Another high-flyer was Hamzah Ahmed, 16, from Caversham, who attained seven 9 grades and two 7s and will study for A-levels at Reading Boys’ School.

He said: “I’m really pleased with how I’ve done and that I’ve got into the sixth form I wanted.

“I hope to go on to university, maybe to study medicine or dentistry.”

Leah Tilley, from Sonning Common, acheived two 9s, six 8s and two 7s and will go on to The Henley College to study maths, economics and psychology.

She said: “It was much better than I was expecting. I was worried there would be more six and seven grades. I saw the eights and nines and did not know what to do with myself.

“I want to go on to do a degree in marketing. I’ve already done work experience at several companies and the style of life it provides seems really fun.”

Megan Jeffreys, from Caversham, achieved one 9 grade, three 8s, two 7s, two 5s and a four.

She will attend Pegasus Theatre School in Oxford, starting next month.

Megan, 16, said: “The results are way better than I was expecting. I was gobsmacked when I opened them.

“I chose the theatre school as that is what I am interested in pursuing.”

Her twin brother Tom scored two 9 grades, two 8s, a 7, three 6s and a 5.

Freya Handley, 16, from Sonning Common, achieved two 9 grades, two 8s, two 5s and two 4s.

She is going on to study for
A-levels at The Henley College.

She said: “I am over the moon and excited to go to college. I want to go on to study English language at university.”

Oliver Sayer, 16, from Sonning Common, said he felt he had overachieved after being awarded a grade 9, an 8, four 7s, two 6s and a 5.

He will study for his A-levels at either The Henley College or Borlase.

Oliver said: “I’m still to decide where I am going to go. I put in a lot of hard work, particularly at Saturday school. It was definitely worthwhile as I was due to fail English.”

Adam Cooper, 16, from Caversham, scored seven 8 grades, a 6 and a 3 and will now go to The Henley College to study for
A-levels in maths, chemistry and biology.

He said: “I was due to fail English but ended up doing much better. I feel happy about that and my results on the whole. The support we were given at Saturday school really helped.”

Headteacher Moira Green and other staff decorated the school’s results collection area with messages congratulating the students on their performance.

She said: “I am hugely proud of the success of the students who thoroughly deserve the grades they have been awarded.

“Their commitment to lessons, revision and attendance at Saturday school has truly paid off. The results are the outcome of the hard work and dedication of staff, students and parents and herald a bright future for the school. I’m really, really proud of the students and staff.”

The school was put into special measures early last year after being rated as “inadequate” by Oftsed.

Following Mrs Green’s appointment in June last year, inspectors revisited the school and found it was improving.

Mrs Green said: “The school is on an upward trajectory from last year and we are moving positively. It shows how hard everyone has been working.

“I want our results to be equal to, if not better, than our local rivals. Aiming for that is right for our students.

“I want to be able to go to sleep at night knowing we have done the best for the young people here.”

The 137 students at Langtree School in Woodcote who sat GCSEs represented its biggest ever year group.

Seventy-four per cent achieved at least five passes at 4 or above, including English and maths compared with 76 per cent in 2017.

Twenty-six per cent of all grades were a 7 or above while 72 per cent of eligible students passed the English Baccalaureate at grade 4 or higher and 56 per cent achieved grade 5 or higher.

High achievers included Erin Varnes, who was awarded eight passes at grade 7 or above, including three 9s in maths, English language and English literature.

Harry Smith, the school’s student leader, passed all his exams and scored highly in many despite being severely dyslexic.

The 16-year-old, of Queensway, Caversham, arrived at the school unable to read but improved with extra help from teachers as well as a private tutor.

He was awarded grade 8 in drama and religious studies, 7 in history, 6 in English literature and language and food preparation and nutrition, 5 in physics and biology and 4 in chemistry and maths. He intends to study an NVQ Level 3 course in social and health care at The Henley College with a view to entering nursing.

Harry said: “I’m so happy, especially with English and maths because of my dyslexia. Those subjects are a real struggle for me and I wasn’t expecting those results at all.

“I was worried that I’d messed them up but I’ve actually done really, really well. Mum will be so happy and will probably be jumping up and down on the roof.

“I couldn’t read a thing when I came here and they’ve helped me so much. I’ve enjoyed my time at Langtree and the chance to have some responsibilities.”

Saoirse Coveney, of Milldown Road, Goring, achieved grade 9 in geography, religious studies and art, 8 in biology, chemistry and physics, 7 in English literature and language and French and 6 in maths.

She will study for A-levels in biology, chemistry and geography at The Henley College and hopes to study either medicine or a science at university.

Saoirse said: “I’m relieved and really glad because I worked really hard. The exams were easier than I’d expected but still harder than the older papers we’d prepared with.

“I’ve just got back from a holiday in Spain and I’ll be going to the Reading Festival to celebrate, then I’m doing a four-day canoe expedition on the River Wye for my Duke of Edinburgh’s gold award.”

Laura Ogden, of Church Road, Benson, was awarded grade 9 in history and religious studies, 8 in English language, physics and music, 7 in maths and biology, 6 in French and English literature and a B in further maths.

She will study psychology, sociology and possibly English literature at The Downs School in Compton and hopes to become a detective specialising in child protection.

Laura said: “I feel really good because I was only expecting 5s or 6s. I was shocked but ecstatic when I opened the envelope.”

Sam Swaine also hopes to join the police after finishing a public services course at Berkshire College of Agriculture.

His grades included 5 in English literature and drama and 4 in maths despite having severe
dyslexia.

Sam said: “I’m absolutely chuffed and couldn’t be happier because my dyslexia really held my education back for a couple of years and I’ve had to work really hard to get these grades.

“Once I finish college I will look to become a special constable and work from there into a regular police role.”

Headteacher Rick Holroyd, who is leaving to take over as head at King Alfred’s School in Wantage, said: “We’re very, very pleased indeed, especially considering this year’s large cohort and the new exam specifications.

“As I prepare to move on, it’s fantastic to see that staff and students have maintained consistently high examination results over many years.

“I’m very pleased and they deserve congratulations, as do the parents who have supported their children and now have good cause to celebrate. The progress measure is often overlooked but it is also incredibly important because it shows that students of all abilities have worked very hard to get where they are today.”

At Highdown School and Sixth Form Centre in Emmer Green, 75 per cent of students achieved a grade of 4 or higher in English and maths.

Just over 25 per cent of English grades were at grade 7 or above while almost a quarter were at that level in maths. Thirteen per cent of students achieved a 7 or higher in both.

Out of all grades, 23 per cent were at grade 7 or above while 22 per cent of students achieved the English Baccalaureate.

Top student was Matthew Curtayne, who achieved grade 9 in history, religious studies, maths, biology, chemistry, physics, English language and literature as well as an 8 in Spanish and a 6 in drama.

He will stay at Highdown to study A-level maths, physics, politics and engineering and hopes to study politics at Oxford University.

Matthew, of Berrylands Road, Caversham, said: “I’m very, very happy. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all.”

Amy de la Harpe, of Merthyr Vale, Caversham, was awarded an A* in further maths, five grade 9s, three 8s and two 7s.

She will study A-level maths, physics and art at The Henley College and plans to take a degree in architecture.

She said: “I’m very happy indeed. I deliberately lowered my expectations as I didn’t want to be disappointed.

“A few of the papers were difficult but there were none where I got completely lost and I was confident that I had at least passed.”

Anton Whitehead, of Westdene Crescent, Caversham, achieved an A in further maths, four grade 9s, three 8s, two 7s and a 6.

He will stay on at Highdown to study A-level maths, physics, chemistry, biology and possibly the extended project qualification.

Anton said: “I’m pretty happy apart from the 6. I thought I might get only one 9. Most of my friends found the exams hard but are pretty happy with the results. Some papers were easier than we expected but the sciences and maths in particular were tough for most people.”

Sam McDougall, of Peppard Road, Emmer Green, achieved an A* in further maths, four grade 9s, two 8s, three 7s and a 5 in English literature.

He hopes to study A-level history, maths and physics at Reading School.

Sam said: “I’m pretty pleased. The exams were difficult but I spent a lot of time revising so I was well-prepared.”

Headteacher Rachel Cave said: “Changes in the syllabus don’t throw up anything unusual for us because we’ve always been confident that our teachers know how to teach.

“As long as the students work hard and follow their advice, they will continue to get excellent outcomes and this year’s students did indeed work hard.

“As the first year of new qualifications for many subjects, we’re extremely pleased that progress has been at least as good as in previous years.

“I was chatting to one student for whom 5s and 6s was a tremendous achievement and as worthy of celebration as 8s or 9s might be for another. They’ve all applied themselves.”

At the Piggott School in Wargrave, 84 per cent of students achieved five passes including English and maths (the equivalwent of 96 per cent A* to C gades), down on the record 86.5 per cent set last year.

The combined English and maths pass rate was 85 per cent, compared with 88 per cent last year, while there was a 100 per cent pass rate in biology, chemistry, physics, Chinese, computer science, history, media studies, dance and photography.

There was also a 100 per cent pass rate for the diploma in digital applications, an optional IT course equivalent to a GCSE.

Elena Ball, 16, of Victoria Road, Wargrave, was awarded nine 9s as well as A*s in product design and Chinese.

She was one of just 800 people nationwide to achieve top grades across the board.

Elena will study for A-levels in biology, chemistry, maths and further maths at the school before applying to study biochemistry at university.

She said: “I’m over the moon. People told me they were sure I’d do well but I never expected to do this well. I’ve never been this elated in my life.

“I’m so proud of all my friends, who have all done so well. I’m having a barbecue with my friends to celebrate our results.” Megan Edwards, of High Street, Wargrave, achieved five grade 9s and five 8s as well as an A* in Chinese. She will study for A-levels in maths, physics and chemistry at Kendrick School in Reading. Megan said: “I’m so relieved. It was hard work this year but I’m really proud of myself.”

Imogen Wayland, of Ridgeway, Wargrave, scored a grade 9, six 8s, three 7s and a 6.

She will be staying at Piggott to take A-levels in physics, maths and Spanish.

Imogen said: “I’m very pleased. I was very nervous but I’m relieved now.”

Headteacher Derren Gray said: “Our students and staff work incredibly hard and this is shown once again in this year’s results.

“The vast majority of our students will be returning to study at our sixth form, together with a significant number of external candidates.

“I thank all the teaching and support staff for their continued hard work, dedication and professionalism. Congratulations to all our students on their richly deserved success and thank you to all their parents for their unstinting support.”

At Icknield Community College in Watlington, 70 per cent of students achieved five or more passes, compared with 72 last year.

Sixty-three per cent passed maths, down from 74 per cent in 2017, and 75 per cent passed English, compared with 79 per cent last year.

Alfie Ford, from Ewelme, achieved one grade 9, two 7s, a 6, two 5s, a 4 and a 3.

He will be going to drama school in Reading and hopes to become an actor.

Alfie said: “I was stressed for the first exam but after that I thought, ‘I can do this’.

“I was less nervous than the average person because my acceptance into drama school was unconditional but it was still a big relief. My parents were over the moon.”

Sam McCrindle, 16, from RAF Benson, was awarded four grade 9s, three 8s and two 7s.

He will study for A-levels in maths, further maths, physics and music at Wallingford School.

He said: “I was secretly expecting to do this well in some subjects but I thought other exams didn’t go as well as I’d hoped so I’m pleased.”

Headteacher Mat Hunter said: “Students have once again achieved exam results of which they can be rightly proud.

I am particularly pleased that our students have performed so well across such a wide range of new GCSE specifications this year.

“This is testament not only to the hard work of so many students but also to the high quality of teaching in all areas.”

Nationally, the overall pass rate increased by 0.5 per cent to 66.9 per cent and about four per cent of entries received the top grade of 9.

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