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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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GCSE results joy mixed with concerns over exam changes

Headteachers in west Cumbria have voiced their concerns over changes to marking of English GCSEs while many celebrate record results.

GCSE exams photo
St Joseph's pupils Rebecca Gregson, left and Courtney Wilson

They fear some pupils may be prevented from moving on smoothly to their next stage of education, work or training because of national changes to grade boundaries.

Ian Smith, executive headteacher of St Benedict’s School in Whitehaven, said: “It is worth noting that whilst, in my view, the quality of teaching and leadership in schools has remained constant and high, the only variable element outwith the school’s control is the work of the exam boards.

“Although schools need a little time to get to the bottom of the GCSE and other Level 2 results this year, I am of the view that there is a risk that the work of individual markers and exam boards has been influenced to lower overall pass rates in a spurious political attempt to return to what the Secretary of State for Education has described as ‘standards’.”

He said it was “simply unfair” to change grade boundaries.

At St Benedict’s School, the pass rate for the number of pupils leaving with five A* to C grades is 89 per cent up from 70 per cent last year. The rate for five A* to C, including English and Maths, percentage is 52 per cent.

Chris McGrath, head of Stainburn School in Workington, said: “In English there was a statistical fix, supposedly to raise standards but it has seen pupils miss out on a vital C grade.

“This one set of results will adversely affect overall school performance figures. “I view this as a very cynical exploitation of young people who may have their opportunities for further education and work limited by this manoeuvring of grade boundaries.”

He added: “There were some outstanding performances this year.

“We were especially delighted also that our SEN pupils performed really well getting their five plus A to G grades.”

At Cockermouth School, 70 per cent of students got five A* to C grades including English and maths and 80 per cent of grades were at or above C in all subjects.

Headteacher Geoff Walker said: “Following last year’s English language marking problems which caused us so much upset we have seen significant improvements and our English results are the best we have ever seen.

Overall we are very pleased and have maintained standards despite tougher marking.”

Stephen Cole, 16, of Alice Lane, Little Broughton, got 11 A*s.

He said: “I’m really happy and it’s great that all the hard work has paid off.

“I’m looking to study bio-chemistry or science journalism at university.”

Hannah Lewis, 16, of Willow Lane, Cockermouth, got a distinction in performing arts, an A* in textiles and English language, As in English literature, history and German and Bs in maths, biology, chemistry and physics.

She said: “I’m really relieved because I was really scared about my results.

“I worked really hard for them and I had no idea what I would get.”

Southfield Technology College in Workington is celebrating the best results in its history.

All of its year 11 pupils have achieved grades A* to C in five subjects.

Of those, 53 per cent achieved grades A* to C including English and maths.

Headteacher Lynda Dalkin said: “I’m absolutely delighted with the results. This is a truly outstanding result, the best results in the history of the school.

For the last four or five years each year has been better than the one before.”

Mhairi Taylor, 16, of Moorclose Road, achieved a crop of As with an A* in health and social care and plans to go to Workington Sixth Form.

Emma O’Connor, 16, of Westfield, is doing an apprenticeship as a trainee administrator in Cockermouth with Castlegate surgery after clinching nine A*-C grades.

Emma said: “I’m more than pleased with my results, it’s amazing.

“They are better than I thought and I’m so relieved that I passed English.”

Daniel Williamson, 16, of Lorton Avenue, Workington, gained eight A*s and four As at Stainburn School.

He said: “I’ve worked really hard for these results so I feel amazing to have done this well.

“I hope to go to university to study mechanical engineering so my next step will be to sixth form to study maths, further maths, physics and IT.”

Classmate Alice Short, 16, of Low Seaton, gained three A*s and nine As.

She said: “I’m really shocked with these results, although they were what I was predicted, you still worry that you’ll be able to achieve them.

“I’m going to make sure I celebrate hard at Solfest this weekend.”

St Joseph’s School in Workington saw its pass rate go up eight percentage points this year from last year’s figures with just over 58 per cent of all pupils gaining five A*-C passes including English and maths. Nearly 80 per cent of all pupils gained five A* to C passes.

Courtney Wilson, 16, of Burrow Walls, Northside, got five A*s in RE, geography, biology, chemistry and physics, and six As.

She said: “I’ll be starting Gen II in September on an electrical and instrumentation apprenticeship with Sellafield. These results are pretty much what I was predicted but it’s still a relief to finally know them.”

At Netherhall School in Maryport, headteacher Jonathan Johnson said: “The number of children getting five GCSEs A* to C went up to 95 per cent.

“We beat our target for the number getting five GCSEs including English and mathematics with 44 per cent.”

Scott Peel, 16, of School Close, Maryport, got nine A*s and As in English language and literature and is going to do A-levels.

He said: “I did miles better than I expected I am really chuffed with my results I started my revision as early as possible and all that hard work has paid off.”

At Beacon Hill School, Aspatria, results have improved.

Headteacher Julie Richardson, said: “I am really delighted with some of the excellent individual results this year, for example two students gained more than 15 A and A* grades between them and we have had more top grades than previous years.

More students are gaining nine or more good GCSEs this is up from a quarter to almost a third of students.”

Keswick School matched its previous best performance, with 73.3 per cent of pupils achieving five or more A* to C grades including English and maths and 83 per cent of students getting five or more A* to C grades.

Three students got 10 A* grades – they were Lucy Mather, Hyatt O’Callaghan and Emily Pratt.

At Whitehaven School, 90 per cent of students gained five A* to C grades, while 45 per cent of students gained A* to C grades including English and Maths.

At West Lakes Academy in Egremont, 99 per cent of students gained five or more A* to C grades and almost 60 per cent gained five or more A*-C grades including English and maths.

St Bees has achieved a 100 per cent pass rate, with three pupils achieving a clean sweep of A* and A grades – Danika Lewis, Amelia Tyson and James Brookes.

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