Teenagers in Knowsley celebrated their GCSE results today, but their celebrations were tinged with “relief” that the government had abandoned its controversial marking algorithm.
There were success stories from across the borough as students were awarded their teacher assessed grades, avoiding the chaotic scenes that accompanied last week’s A Level results.
At Kirkby High School, high achievers included Abbie Hayes, who received four 9s, an 8 and four 7s, and Charlotte Mainwairing, who got four 8s, four 7s and a 6.
There was also success for Owen Newsome, who achieved three 8s, four 7s and two 6s and will now go on to Liverpool Media Academy to pursue his dream of one day performing on Broadway.
He said: “I’ve missed school, I loved school. It’s been an uncertain time for us all, but it’s all worked out and I’m looking forward to studying at LMA in September.”
Headteacher Rochelle Conefry said: “It has been so lovely in school today to have students in and feel almost a sense of normality. The students were all sent their results by email, actually, but many of them felt they wanted to be together when they opened them, so they waited until they got here and opened them together. It was lovely.”
Lord Derby Academy headteacher Vicky Gowan was also full of praise for her Year 11 cohort, saying they had “risen to the challenge” of “a year like no other”.
She said: “It is a real joy to see them again on site today and to join in the celebration of their success.
“Pupils should feel so proud of what they have achieved and give themselves the credit they deserve.Today their dedication has been recognised and rewarded. I am so pleased for our pupils and their families. Their resilience is admirable.”
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Among the successes at Lord Derby was Damien Rochowicz, who could not speak a word of English when he arrived in the UK from Poland four years ago. Today, he leaves the school with one 6, seven 5s and two 4s and will study chemistry, maths and computer science at Carmel College, St Helens.
He said: "I moved to the UK in 2016 and when I came to this country I couldn't speak a word of English.
"It was sort of weird but also exciting for me because it was the first time I'd moved to another country for quite a long time.
"I obviously had English lessons in Poland but it wasn't as effective as here."
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There were emotional scenes for the school’s head girl, Kate Horne, as well, who cried “tears of joy” as she learned she had achieved one 9, three 8s, one 7, three 6s and one 5.
She said: "I was expecting 4s and 5s in everything and my average grade was about an 8.
"I’m absolutely made up. It doesn't feel real at all and I'm surprised in the best way.”
In Whiston, there were top marks for St Edmund Arrowsmith student Chloe Forrester, who received seven 9s as well as an 8 and a 7.
Headteacher Helen Pinnington said: “I think the last few months have been a real challenge, but it’s also made people really pull together, be creative and think differently.”
At Prescot School, executive principal Jamie Jardine echoed the thoughts of his fellow heads, saying: "Let’s not shy away from the fact that this has been the most disrupted year in education since World War 2.
“How our students have coped with this has been incredible. We should be immensely proud of the grades that they have achieved today, but we should be prouder still in the manner in which the class of 2020 has achieved them. They have worked tirelessly, and it is great that their talents and abilities have been correctly recognised.
“While it is impossible for us to compare the results this year with those that have been secured in the past, we can still use them as barometer to see sense check the progress that we are making. In 2019 we were amongst the most improved schools in the country, and I think we have taken another significant step forward again this year."
Despite the GCSE successes, however, there was still uncertainty for those students waiting for BTEC results after a last-minute decision to review how grades were awarded.
Knowsley Council’s deputy leader Sean Donnelly described the decision as an “ utter shambles” while cabinet member Margaret Harvey said it had caused “unnecessary stress”.
Cllr Harvey, the cabinet member for children’s services, said: “This is going to mean a large number of students with incomplete results today. It’s also added enormously to schools’ workload and is another last minute change which is causing unnecessary stress and worry for all concerned. It’s absolutely essential that this is sorted out as quickly as possible.”
But on the borough’s GCSE results, Cllr Harvey said: “It’s a huge relief to know that they walk away today with a mark which has been carefully assessed by those who know and understand them best.
“This is a far fairer way of judging their skills and aptitude than a faceless algorithm, and arguably better even than a one-off three hour exam.
“We know our young people and teachers have been working incredibly hard towards this day for years, and the fact that these results show an improvement in performance at many of our schools is testament to that hard work.