Praise for ‘resilient’ students collecting A-levels as local head slams government downgrading

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a-level results
Brockenhurst students celebrate their results

STUDENTS receiving their A-level results yesterday (Thursday) won praise for their “resilience and adaptability” following an exam season “like no other”.

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Due to the coronavirus pandemic they were unable to sit exams so the results were calculated on the basis of mock tests, predicted grades and assessments by teachers, followed by the government’s algorithm.

As the results came out, one local head teacher hit out at the government for “ignoring improvement in standards”.

At Brockenhurst College the overall pass rate stood at 97%, with the percentage of A*-B grades 45%, and more than 70% achieving A*-C grades across all subjects.

More than two-thirds were given A*-B grades in A-level subjects such as further maths and sociology, electronics, Chinese, and the extended project qualification.

Principal Di Roberts, who is retiring after 14 years in the role, paid tribute to her students for showing “outstanding resilience, adaptability and determination”.

She said: “It’s been an exam and results season like no other due to the impact of Covid-19.

“I am proud of our students for the way they have accepted the unique circumstances posed by the coronavirus pandemic, and I wish them every success in the future.”

She told the A&T that while nationally around 40% of students had their results downgraded, at Brockenhurst the figure was about 28% – which she attributed to its past excellent exam record. There would be some appeals against marks, she said.

Students said it had been “surreal” studying at home and doing coursework for weeks on end without knowing if they would sit exams.

Opening the envelopes at Highcliffe School

The circumstances did not stop high achievers. Isabel Williams (18) managed A* in maths, further maths, economics and chemistry to go to Bath. She said she had achieved above what she was expecting. Her delighted mum Kay added: “I’m so, so proud of her.”

At Brockenhurst vocational course students collectively achieved a 100% pass rate, with 56% achieving a triple distinction or above – the equivalent to achieving three A*/A grades at A-level. Top marks went to performing arts, IT and business students.

Holly Wateridge (18), from Lyndhurst, attained a triple distinction in B-Tech business and is off to study event management at Bournemouth.

“It was very different sitting at home studying, and difficult to keep concentrated with all those distractions, but I’m really chuffed with how I did,” she said.

Elizabeth Devane (18), from Blackfield, who won the Greenwood bursary to study at the college, was a top achiever in biology, chemistry and maths.

She was “delighted” to get into Imperial College London to study medicine.
At New Milton’s Arnewood School almost a third of sixth form results (31%) were A* or A grades, with well over half (55%) B grade or better.

Head teacher Nigel Pressnell said: “We are delighted with another outstanding year of results. The teachers and the students worked incredibly hard over the last two years, and overall the results were broadly as anticipated.

“Because an algorithm is less able to make nuanced judgements than people are, there were a few students who received grades that were unexpected. But there is an appeals process and we’ll use that to do what’s right by our students.”

At Arnewood, from left, Josh De Caux (A* A A B), Charlotte Robinson-Green (A* A* A), Ronnie Marshall (A A Dist*), headteacher Nigel Pressnell, Sophie Rudd (A* A A), Freya Wood (A* A B) and Lily Romley (A* A* B)

Among the top performers were Joss Grimwood and Joe Constable who received three A*s each and are both going to Manchester University to read computer science.

Highcliffe School refused to publish its results this year, with head teacher Patrick Earnshaw saying: “Many are struggling to understand why any of their grades were arbitrarily downgraded by an exam board when the standard of their work over two years, including their mock exams, was clearly much higher.

“Students who really improved academically from their GCSE results during their time in our sixth form seem particularly affected by the algorithm, as though the boards failed to understand students can and do improve over time.

“Subjects which had improved massively and were genuinely achieving much higher standards this year have also been arbitrarily penalised and downgraded.

“To staff and students affected by this I can only offer my sympathy, as the government seem intent on ignoring improvement in standards.”

Ringwood School did not publish its results either, with head teacher Leanne Symonds citing the “extraordinary circumstances”.

She said: “This is a process that has never been attempted before and was forced by circumstances which nobody could possibly have foreseen.”

In a statement, Twynham School said staff were “incredibly proud” of its students for meeting the challenges of the A-levels awarding process and their approach to the Covid crisis.

It said an “unprecedented” number had gained Oxbridge places as well as spots on the degree apprenticeships at top employers such as JP Morgan.

The school added: “There will be much debate nationally and locally about the fairness of the awarding process and, as a school, we are surprised and disappointed by some of the decisions made as a result of the algorithm applied to arbitrarily create the grades.

“There will be time for this debate but it is not today. Today is all about our students and we will spend it celebrating with and supporting all of those who have been a part of our school.”

Burgate Sixth Form also declined to publish its grades, which head teacher David Pover said were “broadly in line” with its average performance of previous years.

Unhappy students can appeal through their school or college to have their results changed to their mock exam grade or resit in the autumn.

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