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GCSE results: ‘In hindsight, we could have held exams here at the school’

Headteacher praises pupils for dealing with ‘changing goalposts’ amid Covid-19 crisis

21 August, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Haneen Ali said she was delighted with her results after scooping six 9s, two 7s and one 8. “Now I’m going to go home and register for Woodhouse College,” she told the Tribune. “I’m on the waiting list there, and hopefully these results will get me in to study law, chemistry and history. I want to be a barrister. My parents are going to be really proud of me. It’s a good day.”

A SECONDARY school head has said students could have sat their exams in June, with the benefit of hindsight, but has praised pupils and staff for dealing with “changing goalposts” right up to yesterday’s (Thursday’s) results day.

Students across the borough queued outside schools to get their grades, having spent weeks worrying about how they would be assessed and awarded.

After the fallout of last week’s A-level scandal, which saw grades initially determined by a computer algorithm, before mass protests and criticism forced the government into a U-turn, younger students this week found out their exam results would be graded by teachers.

But as late as 9pm on Wednesday night, changes were still being communicated to teachers.

Kinga Patrycja Kowalik received three 7s, six 8s and one 9. “I expected lower, especially with of the situation around coronavirus,” she said. “ It’s been stressful watching everything going on and wondering what will happen with our results. We’ve all been really worried about it. But I’m really happy with the way mine turned out.”

City of London Academy Highgate Hill principal Prince Gennuh told the Tribune: “It’s been extremely challenging, to say the least. It’s been tough since March actually, when the announcement was made that exams would not be sat.

“That’s when we started thinking about how we were going to do this.”

He added: “In hindsight, I think the students could have been made to sit exams in June.

“It was safe enough, and we had measures in place for students to come in for some lessons. We had Year 10 come in, and other schools had students coming in too.

Trenyce Sylvester said she is facing an anxious wait, but is hopeful of being accepted to Brampton Manor college to study Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Psychology. “My results are not what I needed, I’m one short,” she said. “But I’m still very happy with it, as it’s not far off what I needed. I’m hoping to go on to study at college and eventually train in medicine.”

“But at the time when the decision was made, the government didn’t know that was possible, and I think the right decision was probably made then.”

As well as contending with delivering exam-less results, Mr Gennuh said teachers struggled right up to Wednesday evening to understand the changing processes sent down by the government and exams body OFQUAL (the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation).

On Wednesday evening, just hours before results were due to be handed out, schools were told they had to withhold BTEC awards until next week.

Aliza Zahra, who lives in Holloway, said her results were better than she had anticipated. “I’m just very happy,” she said, after receiving seven 9s, four 8s and two 7s.  The A-level U-turn a few days ago threw everything into confusion for us again, and we didn’t know what was going to happen.” She added that she hopes to become a doctor in the future.

And at 9pm, the school received an email from OFQUAL, adding further changes to the exams appeals process.
Mr Gennuh said: “We’ve been trying to concentrate on educating students who are at home, and at the same time you’re trying to get as accurate as possible grades for exam boards.”

He added: “As a school we had to make sure our students were not disadvantaged by the changes.

“That meant a huge internal quality assurance effort, and then after that we had the A-level saga.

“We just didn’t know if it would be the same for GCSEs. They kept changing the goalposts. It was really, really stressful to say the least.”

City of London Academy Highgate Hill principal Prince Gennuh

Students at the academy in Archway overcame the confusion to record good results, with an overall improvement, and a particular improvement in the music department, Mr Gennuh added.

“The students got what they deserved, and I’m very proud of their efforts,” he said.

“Everyone who got results should be able to continue in education or go on to college.”

Islington Council leader Labour councillor Richard Watts said: “It’s been a really tough year for young people and they deserve massive credit for doing so well.”

He added in a message of congratulations on social media: “As an aside, I was pleased to speak to lots of young women planning to do sciences at A-levels and university. It’s brilliant Islington schools have been promoting this. It’s just what the country needs.”


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