GCSE pupils make grade as the pass rate rises

RESULTS day was worth the wait for thousands of nervous GCSE students in west Suffolk who took home record-breaking grades yesterday.

Shaking hands opened their envelopes across the county as the youngsters finally got a glimpse of their all-important marks.

Provisional results for Suffolk show the largest increase for seven years, with 4% more achieving the benchmark five A*-Cs, including English and maths than last year.

Just over 52% of teenagers reached the standard compared to the 2009 figures which showed that nationally only 49.8% of young people achieved that standard.

County councillor Graham Newman, portfolio-holder for Children, Schools and Young People, said: “This 4% rise demonstrates a significant improvement and illustrates the impact of the county’s strategy to raise attainment.

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“In times where competition for jobs and further education places is strong, gaining good GCSE grades is more important than ever.”

However, Graham White, secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers, claims the A* had lost its sparkle.

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He said: “Clearly the students have worked hard to achieve their A*s and As, but I am personally surprised that the number is so high this year. There is certain devaluing among some of the hard work and effort they have put in.”

Across west Suffolk, the results for following schools give the percentage of pupils who gained five A*-C grades, including English and maths, unless stated otherwise.

Pupils at County Upper School, Bury St Edmunds, were thrilled as 62% of entrants gained their crucial A*-C grades.

County Upper student Sophie Baxter, 16, from Fordham, was overwhelmed to receive 12 straight A*s, just two years after her sister, Megan Baxter, had won exactly the same results.

“I am really happy,” Sophie said. “I was so nervous this morning. My hands were shaking so much, I couldn’t open the envelope.”

The sisters’ parents thanked staff at the school for their work with the two girls.

Headteacher Vicky Neale said: “Once again, at all levels of our ability, our students have done fantastically well and I congratulate them all.”

Screams of delight filled King Edward VI Upper School in the town as tearful friends celebrated exam success, with 60% of pupils gaining the vital grades. Twins Jack and Rachel Barber, both 16, and from Bradfield St George, were stunned to find they had both secured straight A* and A passes.

Jack said he was so nervous, he couldn’t read the letters on the page telling him he had 6 A*s and 4As.

“I am so happy,” he said. “I was a bit nervous after the exams but I didn’t think I had done this well.”

Headteacher Geoff Barton said the stakes for GCSE success were higher than ever as competition for university places heats up.

“These results matter,” he said. “They open doors to college and sixth form places so we are thrilled to see our students do so well.”

Youngsters at St Benedict’s Catholic School, also in Bury St Edmunds, matched last year’s record-breaking results, with 69% of students gaining the A* to C grades.

Students Henry Dunne, Ella Martin and Theo Snudden, achieved straight A*s in all 12 subjects.

Headteacher Hugh O’Neill said: “It is pleasing to see such a great performance across the board.”

At Thurston Community College, 60% of students achieved A*-C grades.

Vice-principal Paul Potter said: “Students of Thurston Community College should be proud of themselves.”

The highest grades were obtained by Jessica Warren and Sarah Cottrell, who each came away with eight A*s and one A.

Andy Prestoe, a deputy headteacher at Samuel Ward Arts and Technology College in Haverhill, said their results had been “excellent”.

Half of their students achieved five A* to C grades.

Mr Prestoe and Mark McCullough, also a deputy headteacher, said it had been another year of “outstanding academic success” at GCSE level for Samuel Ward students.

“We, in terms of academic success and value added, are extremely pleased as once again Samuel Ward has proven just how outstanding it is as a school.”

Megan Willmore achieved six A*s and four As just like her brother Jacob.

Sudbury Upper School students achieved a pass rate of 59% in five subjects graded A*-C.

Headteacher David Forrest said the result was outstanding and many of the students had lived up to the school’s vision of ‘inspiring everyone to achieve more than they think possible’.

He said: “We clearly had some very high performing students but it is worthwhile remembering that everyone’s achievements are individual and for some students in some very adverse circumstances have exceeded expectations.

“For example, Isabella Pawlic, who arrived from Poland two years ago with little English, worked hard to get an A, five Bs and five Cs in what is not her first language.

“It has been great talking to students about their results and future aspirations.”

Great Cornard Upper was just shy of matching its record-breaking achievement last year with a 72% pass rate – including two students who gained GCSEs in Mandarin.

Mike Foley, headteacher, said the pass rate was a fantastic reflection on the children and the school.

He said: “The number of students achieving five A*-Cs is very close to the 75% record-breaking result of last year.”

At the front of the queue to receive their results yesterday were brother and sister Lara and Joe Cotton, aged 15 and 14 respectively, who both achieved A* in Mandarin.

Despite being born in Hong Kong they had little knowledge of the language before starting the subject.

Mr Foley also expressed his disappointment with the constant criticisms that exams are getting easier and the job market could not support the number of well qualified students leaving schools.

He said: “This only measures one aspect of what is being achieved at schools. There are young people who have achieved results that will enable them to continue their education even though they do not register in traditional league tables.

“There are so many pupils who years ago would have left school with nothing and had very little opportunity. Some don’t blossom until they are older and we now see students who achieve enough qualifications to go onto college or further education giving them far greater opportunities in the future.”

Many students turned up to get their results having just returned from a month-long school expedition in Ecuador.

One of those who took part in the trip was Tom Wait, from Davidsons Close, Great Cornard, who passed 11 GCSEs and will be taking A-Levels in history, geography, economics, business studies and chemistry at Colchester Grammar School.

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