Independent school pupils collect GCSE results

One head said the pandemic has taught the whole school that learning and experiences matter ‘much more than any examinations’

Pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving their GCSE results today (20 August) after the government reinstated teacher-assessed grades last week.

GCSE passes for England’s pupils have risen dramatically. Data shows 78.8% of papers were rated grade 4 or above, whereas in 2019 it was 69.9%.

After much protest about the way exam results were decided this year, after no exams were sat, the government scrapped its algorithm in a last-minute U-turn, opting instead to award pupils based on the grades their schools or colleges had estimated.

Although GCSE results are going ahead as planned, BTEC students won’t receive their results yet as grades are still being brought in line with GCSEs and A-levels – which the National Union of Students called an “absolute disgrace”.

Ofqual said: “Everyone is working as quickly as possible to confirm results as soon as possible, recognising the impact that delays are having on schools, colleges and students. No learner’s result will go down as a consequence of regrading.”

Commenting on GCSE results, Shaun Fenton, head of Reigate Grammar School and vice-chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, reinforced his standpoint that character education is more important than exam results.

He said: “This year has taught us all that the learning and experiences matter much more than any examinations. These students have demonstrated fine qualities of character; they have been good friends to each other, they have fun, they work well, they are growing up into fine young men and women. That is much more important than any clutch of certificates.”

The headmaster of Bradford Grammar School, Dr Simon Hinchliffe, echoed this sentiment: “The BGS ethos is not just about academic results, and this year more than ever has proven the power of a well-rounded education to foster a strong character, sense of decency and kindness, and genuine sense of community.”

Pupils at the school take a mixture of IGCSEs and GCSEs. This year, 56% were awarded 9-8, 79% achieved 9-7 (A and above) and 100% 9-4 (C and above). Twenty-three students achieved a clean sweep of grades 9-8.

Bradford Grammar will welcome students back to school to collect their results with friends, family and staff outside on Governors’ Lawn (pictured above).

Eaton Square Senior School received its first ever GCSE results this year, having opened in 2017. Overall, 97.5% achieved grades 9-4 and 47.1% obtained grades 7 or higher (A-A*).

In maths and English literature, 100% of students were awarded grade 9-4, and in English language this was achieved by 95% of pupils. The year group’s modal GCSE grade was 7 (A).

A statement from the school read: “It has been a difficult year for students everywhere as the Covid-19 pandemic forced schools to close and home learning to commence. However, the GCSE pupils at Eaton Square Senior School did not let this get in their way, achieving fantastic results in their inaugural year.”

The headmaster of Millfield School in Somerset, Gavin Horgan, called the way the government has handled exam results “shameful”, but said there are bigger hurdles ahead.

He said: “The results received by students and the hiatus in education for many across the country, means that we will have legacy issues which will, in all likelihood, last a generation.

The results received by students and the hiatus in education for many across the country, means that we will have legacy issues which will, in all likelihood, last a generation – Gavin Horgan, headmaster, Millfield School

“The pressure on the university system, the threat to post-92 universities (which are a vital element of our further education tapestry), and the knock-on implications of grade inflation for Year 11 students going into A-level studies this year and for those same students next year when they look to apply to university, cannot simply be written off in the same way that results have been this year. Sadly, we are just at the very start of the problem.”

Burgess Hill Girls head Liz Laybourn said today she is celebrating the strength and resilience of her pupils.

She said: “In any other year on this day, we might well be analysing statistics and making comparisons but this year I would like to pay respects to the 16-year-olds who, despite their young age, have managed to meet the cruel effects of this pandemic on their schooling with such grace and fortitude.

“Many have spent lockdown learning useful skills or completing epic athletic challenges to raise money for charity. They have put their worries about their own future to one side and made the best of a very bad situation. It’s that strength and character and resilience that I celebrate today.”

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