PICTURES: South West A-level students among best in country
Students in the South West were among the best performing in the country yesterday as the anxious wait for A-level results ended up in jubilation for many.
Top A or A* grades were awarded to students in well over a quarter of papers sat in the region, placing it alongside the South East, London and East Anglia as the highest achieving.
Students in the South West were also awarded the second highest amount of overall passes, with 98.3% achieving a grade A-E.
But the good news for the region’s educators was set against a slight overall dip on the previous year.
Sign up NOW for a 6 week training program starting in January 2014 and get a 30% discount!
Start a fresh in 2014 with a Personal Trainer! I come to you and design a program to achieve your goals!!
Terms: Within the Mid-North Devon Region. One Voucher per person.
Contact: 07855 055 682
Valid until: Friday, January 31 2014
The amount of papers awarded the top two grades across the country fell to just 26.3%with overall passes dipping to 98.1%. However, the results were greeted warmly by most head teachers, with some going on to achieve their best ever year.
There were standout straight A and A* students at schools across the region, including Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley.
The Plymouth College student added an A in maths and an A in Spanish, to the A* in photography he achieved last year.
Tweeting earlier in the day he said: “Got my A Level results!! Now officially have an A* in photography, A in Spanish and A in maths :) so happy!!!!”
Determined teenager Penny Banks, from Taunton, overcame dyslexia and dyspraxia to score A*s in Maths, Economics and Physics to secure a place at Girton College, Cambridge.
The 17-year-old put her success down to wearing ear plugs in her exams to help her concentrate.
She said: “I was finding it really difficult to concentrate in exams and now wear ear plugs – something I would never have thought of – so that I can sub vocalise better and block out any exterior sounds.”
“I can’t think in a straight line and find it really difficult to write fluidly but the support at school has really made a difference.”
Identical twins Megan and Kayleigh Liddle, Cornwall College students from St Austell, also got in on the act racking up a string of As between them. The 18-year-olds, who studied almost identical subjects, were over the moon at gaining the grades they needed to take up places at university in Plymouth.
Some of the biggest institutions in both Devon and Cornwall were celebrating excellent results.
Students at Exeter College achieved a 99.4% pass rate, with almost half of 691 students earning A*, A or B grades.
Almost a third of pupils at Blundell’s School in Tiverton secured an AAB grade with the vast majority gaining their chosen place at university.
Every pupil who took an exam at Ivybridge Community College passed with 1 in 5 of those an A or A*, similarly Maynard School in Exeter achieved passes across the board.
Students at Kingsbridge Community College in Devon got A*– B in almost two-thirds of papers.
Just over 99% of students at Cornwall College in St Austell and Camborne passed exams, while almost 90% of students at Colyton Grammar School in Devon got an A*, A or B.
Truro High School students got an A* – C in 79% of exams with a 99% pass rate.
While at Exeter School pupils, parents and staff are celebrating another set of very good A-level results with an overall pass rate of 100% for the tenth year in a row, matched by South Devon College.
David Walrond, the principal of Truro College, where more than 1,000 students achieved a 99% pass rate, said it was another outstanding set of results. He said: “It is another wonderful set of outcomes for our students.
“The focus today is understandably on the moment, on celebrating these great final results, on the numbers and the grades and the university progression secured.
“Results days like these are great, but they mark the end of a two-year cycle of very hard work, and a new cycle is about to begin as we welcome the next student cohort to the college in just a few days’ time.”
Call to break 'gender divide' of stereotypical subjects
While many teenagers in the Westcountry were left celebrating the fruition of two-years’ hard work yesterday the debate had already started on the future of the exam and how to address a “worrying” gender divide.
As the results were published, experts in education, while congratulating students and teachers, expressed concern about the fall in top grades, Government plans for A-level reform and a trend in which subjects were chosen by each sex.
Broaching the issues, Nansi Ellis, head of education policy at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said it hopes the Government will rethink its plans for A-level reform.
She said: “We hope the Government rethinks its plans to return to a system of A-levels that only benefited an elite group of students who did well with an intensive regime culminating in one set of final course exams. We think the current system, with AS-levels as the first half of an A-level, is better for the vast majority of students. And the Government must not ignore the needs of the 40% of students who won’t achieve level 3 qualifications.
“We don’t think the Government’s proposed time scale gives enough time to implement such a large scale reform of A-levels and to ensure the new exams are fit for purpose.
“Introducing this raft of reforms over such a short time scale, and without piloting them, is a recipe for disaster for young people and teachers.”
As part of major exam reforms in England, Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced that AS-levels are to be separated from full A-levels to form a qualification in their own right. It means that unlike the current system, AS-levels – which are taken after one year of study – will no longer count towards a student’s final A-level grade. Instead, A-levels will become “linear”, which means students take all of their exams at the end of the two-year course. Ministers have asked universities to advise on the content of the revamped qualifications, which are due to be introduced in September 2015. An advisory body, involving top universities as well as other institutions and education groups is due to be set up, to help develop courses.
Dr Kevin Stannard, director of innovation and learning at the Girls’ Day School Trust, a group of private girls’ schools, expressed concern at the way the current examining bodies are setting out papers.
He said: “Examinations should hold no surprises: their role is to validate candidates’ ability and hard work. A pupil’s results should not depend on which year they sat the exam in, which subjects they studied, and which exam board’s syllabus they followed. Unfortunately, in the last few years, uncertainty has increased, and with it unfairness to individual candidates. It is not particularly surprising that schools have started to look elsewhere for fairer and more consistent qualifications.”
Three quarters of psychology exams and seven in ten English A-levels were sat by girls this year, while four in every five entries for physics were for boys as well as 60.7% of maths exams. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was worrying. “We need, as teachers, to try and raise awareness of these stereotypical views that occur,” he said. “It’s a societal thing as well; in wider society we need to try and break those stereotypical models. We need to show role models of people who are doing different things. I have seen some very good examples of role models, for example female engineers and scientists who go and talk to students.”
'Accept your exam failure – and then move on'
Sixth-formers who miss out on their predicted A-level grades should not dwell on the disappointment, and realise the situation could be worse, according to an academic.
Dr Matthew Smith, a senior lecturer in psychology at Buckinghamshire New University, said the best way for students to cope is to accept their results and start looking for other opportunities.
Exploring other options helps people to “move on” from their failure, he suggested.
His advice comes as England, Wales and Northern Ireland learn their A-level results. Would-be university students can log into the Track service on the UCAS website to see if they have secured their degree place, or if they are eligible to enter clearing.
Clearing is the process that matches students who have not received offers, or who have been turned down by their original choices because they failed to meet the required grades, with available courses. A second system, adjustment, allows students who have done better than expected to trade up to a different course or institution.
Dr Smith said: “The best way to cope with disappointment is acceptance. Look to get it out of your system as soon as possible and look on the bright side. One of the first and most important steps is acceptance and accepting that you have not achieved what you wanted to achieve. This is not easy and can be quite challenging and it comes as a shock to people that they have not achieved what they wanted and immediately wish things had gone better. Here, acceptance must come in as quickly as possible.”
Students should try to turn the situation to their advantage and look for other courses based on the results they have, he said. “Exploring other options and opening up other opportunities will help you move on. Also, keep perspective. This is not the be-all and end-all and what has happened doesn’t mean that your life is over. In a way it presents an exciting new amount of challenges and opportunities.
“Look at what has happened and realise that it could have been worse. For example, if you hoped for three As and have ended up with three Cs, think that you could have three Ds. Adopting this way of thinking helps you look on the bright side and to move on.”