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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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GCSE joy for thousands of Cumbrian pupils

Teenagers at schools across north Cumbria today reported impressive GCSE results.

GCSE photo
At Caldew School, Dalston, are, from left, Hannah-Mae Graham, Katie Hannen, Lucy Wright, Katie Butcher and Claire Foster

Schools had been warned to expect “volatile” results following sweeping government reforms to exams.

But the early indications in the Carlisle area today suggest many local schools have defied predictions of falling success rates.

At Caldew School in Dalston, more than 170 teenagers got their results – and the headteacher Chris McAree declared himself delighted with “a significant” improvement in top grades.

“We’re very happy,” he said. “Our number of A and A* grades has increased significantly. Nearly a quarter of students have got at least three As or A*s and nine have got straight As or A*s.

“Despite predicted volatility in this year’s results our five A* to C including English and Maths pass rate is on a par with our best ever.”

For many pupils, the relief was obvious – and profound.

Despite shaking as she collected her results just after 8am today, 16-year-old Alex Graham, of Morton West, Carlisle, need not have worried. She got four A* and six A grades, and now intends to do A-levels. She said: “My target was getting As but this is far better than expected.

“I thought I’d messed some of them up. I couldn’t sleep last night, I was so scared about today.”

Samuel Byrne, 16, of Dalston Road, Carlisle, got two A*, four A, three B, and a C. “I’m really pleased, particularly about my C in French,” he said. “I thought I’d completely failed it.”

Nigel Pattinson, head of Ullswater Community College, Penrith, welcomed more than 240 pupils this morning.

He said: “Our figure is down slightly on last year but when you look at the average grade per student, we’ve gone up a whole grade.

“And in English, despite the loss of speaking and listening, the grades are the best we’ve ever been.”

Keswick School saw its best ever set of GCSE results.

More than three quarters of pupils clinched at least five A* to C grades, including in core subjects maths and English.

More than 80 per cent of the school’s 170 year 11 group at the school are expected to stay on study at A-level.

Headteacher Simon Jackson said: “We’re ecstatic because the GCSEs have smashed previous records and our five A*-Cs including English and maths measure is 76.4 per cent, more than three per cent higher than last year.

“In maths, there’s a huge jump – up more than six per cent than last year. 89.1 per cent of students got A*-C grades.”

He revealed that the school, for the first time, staged Easter and evening revision sessions due to concerns about the reforms.

He said: “The reforms have been our biggest concern.”

In west Cumbria also, the early indications are that schools have turned in impressive results.

Whitehaven School’s acting principal Jacki Smith said her school has today seen some of its best ever results.

She said: “The academy has seen some significant changes this year with the conversion to academy status in January and both staff at the academy and Bright Tribe Trust are absolutely delighted at these results.

“Our students have worked exceptionally hard and, supported by our staff, have produced some fantastic results. Indeed these are our best results ever.”

At the school gates today, many sixteen year olds had caused to celebrate.

Emma Middleton, 16, from Whitehaven clinched one A*, five As, 3 Bs and distinction in IT. She said: “I wasn’t expecting this its come as a massive shock. I’ll be going onto sixth form at Keswick studying English, Maths, Chemistry and Business Studies.

“I’m just going to celebrate with my family today.”

Anna Newlands, 16, of Highlands, gained seven As, four Bs and a Merit. She said: “I’m really really chuffed I got a B in Maths. I’m so chuffed at that. I’ll be going onto sixth form in September.”

Michael Johnson, 16 of Hensingham, got four A* grades, six As and two Bs. He said: “It feels really good to get my results. It was on target for what I was expecting and I will be staying here to go to sixth form.

Elsewhere, Stainburn School in Workington reported an 11 per cent increase on last year’s pass rate of the proportion of students leaving with five or more A*-C grades, including English and maths. In 2013, it was 47 per cent.

Meanwhile Netherhall School in Maryport achieved its best-ever GCSE results.

There was an 11 per cent improvement in A*-C English, bringing the total to 62 per cent. In maths there was a 15 per cent increase to 70 per cent A*-C.

Overall the school has improved by 13 per cent to 58 per cent A*-C including maths and English.

It was an especially happy day for Emily Hayhurst, 16, of Grasslot, who achieved seven A*s and six As. Her A*s were in sciences, history, art and French.

She’s returning to Netherhall for sixth form next year and wants to become a teacher.

Two boys, Jonathan Cameron, 16, of Camp Road, and Scott Merrin, 16, of Allanby Close, Flimby, will both leave school this year to take up rugby scholarships.

Jonathan Johnson, headteacher, said: “I think our results show what the school here has to offer.”

At St Benedict’s School, Whitehaven, pupils scored a 74 per cent pass mark in English which is up from 65 per cent last year.

Ian Smith, executive head for St Benedict’s, said: “I am so proud of the results, especially considering we were in special measures in February 2012, the school has come so far.”

The West Lakes Academy, in Egremont, has seen a rise in results giving them the current pass rate of A*-C grades including English and maths at 61 per cent compared to 27 per cent five years ago.

St Bees School pupils’ achieved an 100 per cent pass rate with 47 per cent of the exams at A* to A grades.

James Davies, headmaster, said: “These results are testament to the hard work of our pupils and the quality of teaching they receive from the dedicated staff.”

At Millom, the pass rate is up from 52 per cent to 59 per cent. English remains at 70 per cent and maths is up to 67 per cent from 58.

Exams regulator Ofqual warned schools to expect ‘volatility’ in this year’s exams results following the changes brought in by former education secretary Michael Gove.

They include the move to linear exams with pupils sitting exams at the end of two-year courses rather than modular tests.Other changes include the raising of the bar and increases in grade boundaries, cuts to resits, and the scrapping of speaking and listening components in the English GCSE.

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