Students at West Nottinghamshire College have collected their “hard-earned” GCSE results, earning congratulations for their achievements from the principal.
National GCSE results day today (Thursday 20 August 2020) saw the college record an overall pass rate of 98.9%.
Principal and chief executive Andrew Cropley praised students for their “resilience” in “these unprecedented and difficult times”, after completing their courses remotely through online learning and having their grades awarded by tutor assessment due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A total of 1,653 entries were graded across the two GCSE subjects offered at the college – English and maths – which produced the following results:
- 98.9% pass rate in English;
- 98.9% pass rate in maths;
- 24.5% ‘high grades’ of 9-4 in English, and 18.9% in maths;
- 21.7% of overall passes at 9-4;
- Almost half of students improved on their GCSE grade from school.
Grades are now awarded numerically, from 9-1, as part of a new-look grading system. Grade 9 is the highest that can be achieved, set above the previous A*. Grade 4 is a ‘standard pass’ broadly equivalent to a grade C, while grade 5 is considered a ‘strong pass’.
There were 1,369 students taking GCSE subjects at the college this year (2019/20), largely due to the government’s requirement for 16 to 18-year-olds without a pass in English and maths to re-take these subjects while in post-16 education.
While the majority have re-taken English or maths alongside their main academic or vocational course, the college also has many adult learners who attend evening classes to improve on their GCSE grades from school – usually to progress to higher-level study so they can re-train for a new career.
Mr Cropley said: “Congratulations to all those students who have achieved their hard-earned GCSEs today. These are critical qualifications for students of all ages, so I’m pleased the grades which our staff have calculated so very carefully have been awarded.
“In these unprecedented and difficult times, the resilience of our students and staff has been outstanding and I’m very proud of them all. I wish those who are leaving us every success as they go forward in their education and careers, and look forward to welcoming many of them back to continue their studies with us.
“Very soon the college will welcome many new students and I’m pleased their efforts have also been recognised through the grades awarded by their schools. We can’t wait to ensure that the next stage in their learning is exciting and rewarding, as they take their next steps with us.”
Students celebrated their results and explained what the grades meant to them.
Corey Ashford, 19, from Mansfield, was “ecstatic” to gain a grade 5 in GCSE English – achieving the qualification at the third attempt.
He studied the subject alongside his main vocational programme, the NVQ Level 2 Diploma in Hospitality and Catering.
While Corey’s grade 3 in maths meant he narrowly missed out on a pass, he insists he’s getting ever closer, having improved on his successive grade 2 results. The teenager is now confident about passing it next year, when he returns to college to study Level 2 Art and Design.
Corey said: “I’m ecstatic to finally pass English and I’ve done even better than I expected. I’ve leapt from a grade 3 last year all the way to a 5, so I’ve gone up two grades.
“I’ve always tried my best in English but my spelling and putting the right words and phrases in order kept letting me down, but I’ve worked really hard – especially in my creative writing – and finally it all clicked.
“Although I need to re-take maths, I’ve managed to go up to a grade 3, which takes me closer to a pass. Fingers crossed I’ll get there next year.
“My tutors have been really supportive and helped me improve. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
“I’m looking forward to telling my family now!”
A rip-roaring cry of “yes!” erupted when Marshall Fairbrother, from Alfreton, Derbyshire, opened his results envelope to reveal a grade 4 in maths.
It means the 17-year-old can focus solely on his second year of studying the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Music when he returns to college in September.
Marshall, who has no sight due to being born with a rare visual impairment, septo-optic dysplasia, uses specialist software and screen-reading equipment which makes learning materials accessible. He is also aided by learning support workers while in class and in the college’s recording studios.
The talented teenager, who plays guitar and performs vocals, has ambitions of working in the music industry, either performing or mixing for live bands or recording artists.
He said: “I’m delighted to pass my GCSE maths because I got a grade 3 last year. It’s a big weight off my shoulders. It means I’m going to have more opportunities in the future because if I go on to work in a recording studio, I’ll need to have a maths qualification before I can step foot inside as an employee.
“Opening my envelope was quite nerve-wracking because of all the chaos that’s been going on nationally with exam grades, but my reaction when I saw the result is probably the loudest noise there will be in college today!
“If I’d taken another shot at the exam, I think I may well have passed anyway – but I’m happy to be awarded the qualification in this way, even though it’s been the strangest year in the world.
“I’ll celebrate with some live music – probably playing guitar, and maybe some singing as well.”
His delighted mum, Michelle Hoyes, said: “I’m really proud of Marshall. He’s managed to do it this time! He really struggled in the last educational setting he was in but since coming to West Notts, he’s thrived.
“He might even have done better in his maths, had he gone through a normal year, but he’s happy with what he’s got – and no more maths!”
Achieving a grade 8 in English has given 38-year-old Louise Hawksley a huge boost to her self-esteem.
The mother-of-five, from Mansfield Woodhouse, said: “I wanted that feeling of self-worth, having suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic attacks for 11 years. I wanted to show my children that you don’t get anywhere in life without trying hard and I’m enrolling on the Foundation Degree in Business Law so I needed a good grade in GCSE English.
“With all the news stories I was worried about getting downgraded and I’d have been really upset if that happened because I’D worked so hard. I’d have been happy with a grade 6, so to discover I got an 8 is amazing.”
As well as studying extra hours and working part-time as a cleaner throughout lockdown, Louise also set-up an online support group for PTSD sufferers.
“I did my course presentation on PTSD and secondary PTSD following my own personal experiences,” she said.
“Someone I know went through a really harrowing experience which I witnessed, meaning I developed anxiety. I set-up a support group on Facebook to share advice, details of other support groups and share the understanding of what it’s like to struggle.”
Louise admits that coming to college wasn’t always easy, adding: “I really had to push myself to come in on the bad days. But pushing myself often made me feel better. I’m really looking forward to coming back to college on the foundation degree and, after that, I can explore all the different career paths I could follow.”
For single dad Kevin Gibson, getting his GCSE in maths is the stepping stone he needed to take him towards his dream of becoming a teacher.
The 33-year-old, from Alfreton, is delighted to have achieved a grade 5 in the subject, which he studied alongside the Foundation Degree in Children and Young People at the college.
He said: “I studied the maths GCSE in the evenings to fit alongside my university-level course and being a dad to two young boys. I’ve had a lot to plan and juggle. Getting this grade 5 is great and it’s a huge weight off my shoulders and means that after my foundation degree, I can go on to get my PGCE teaching qualification.
“I’m so pleased I’ve got the grade that my teacher had assessed me on. I would have loved to have taken the exam but the teachers see us every day, they know the work you do, the effort you put in and how well you adapt to the studies – so I know I’ve had that accurate all-round judgment of my studies.”
Kevin has embraced the challenge of online learning alongside his eight and 10-year-old boys.
He added: “When we entered lockdown I was coming to the end of my university-level studies and trying to squeeze that in as well as the maths. It’s worked well and I’ve also combined that with teaching the boys each day from 9am to 1pm. We’ve all been in it together!”
Kevin has worked as a teaching assistant at Riddings Junior School in Alfreton for the past year. His ultimate goal is to be a teacher.
“I’d love my own class, do my own lesson-planning and put my own stamp on young lives in education,” he said.
Students were unable to sit exams this year due to the pandemic and have instead received a ‘centre assessment grade’ (CAG), or calculated grade if higher, for each subject. CAGs are the grades tutors felt they were most likely to achieve had exams gone ahead, taking into account a range of evidence.