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Teenagers and adult learners celebrate eagerly-awaited GCSE results

Posted: 12 August 2021

GCSE students at West Nottinghamshire College are celebrating today, after achieving the qualifications that “open doors into further study and employment” against the backdrop of another Covid-hit year.

National GCSE results day today (Thursday 12 August 2021) saw the college record an overall pass rate of 91.8%.

A total of 2,013 entries were graded across the three GCSE subjects offered at the college – English, maths and biology – which produced the following results:

  • 91.5 % pass rate in English;
  • 91.9 % pass rate in maths;
  • 95.5% pass rate in biology;
  • 29.4% ‘high grades’ of 9-4 in English, 39.1% in maths and 66.7% in biology;
  • 34.6% of overall passes at 9-4;
  • More than half of students (52.6%) improved on their GCSE grade from school, while almost a quarter (22.7%) moved up at least two grades;
  • 36% of students achieved the government threshold of a pass – grade 4 or 5 – compared to 21% last year (an increase of 15%).

GCSE grades are awarded numerically, from 9-1, as part of a revised grading system introduced in 2017 which replaced the previous A*-E 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 1,546 students taking GCSE subjects at the college this year (2020/21), 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 in these subjects, or in biology – usually to progress to higher-level study so they can re-train for a new career.

Students were awarded teacher-assessed grades, drawing on a range of evidence including comprehensive assessments and tests, after exams were scrapped for the second year running due to the pandemic.

Andrew Cropley, principal and chief executive, said: “I’m delighted for all our students who have achieved such good results today in their GCSE English, maths or biology subjects. These qualifications, more than any other, open doors into further study and into employment – so it’s great news that so many have achieved the key threshold of grade 4 or above. 

“Students responded very positively to the challenges presented by the pandemic and worked hard to make the most of the teaching and support offered by the college. They engaged really well with the exceptional grading process this year, frequently overcoming significant personal challenges to participate in learning and complete their assessments.

“Teachers did a fantastic job in helping students make up for missed learning and continue to progress through a turbulent year, and then provided an assessment process which was fair and robust so every student had the opportunity to demonstrate what they could achieve.

“We look forward to welcoming back many of those students in September so they can continue their studies in, hopefully, a much more normal environment – and we wish those leaving us to pursue their careers or a higher education programme the very best of fortune.”

Students celebrating their results explained what they meant to them.

Bartosz Rawski said he felt “relieved” to pass his GCSEs in English and maths – gaining a grade 4 in both subjects – after re-taking the subjects at college.

It meant his English improved by two full grades from school, while his maths went up a grade.

The 17-year-old studied the subjects alongside his main vocational programme, the BTEC Level 2 Extended Certificate in Creative Digital Media Production (Digital Design), where he gained two merits.

He’s now looking forward to studying Level 3 Creative Digital Media Production at the college from September.

Bartosz, who lives in Mansfield, said: “I feel relieved I don’t need to study my GCSEs again because it will be difficult enough studying the level 3 course, so at least I can concentrate on that.

“When I came into college to collect my results I didn’t want to look at the numbers – but when I saw I had a grade 4 in English and a grade 4 in maths, my hands started shaking and I was very happy about it.”

The teenager said he put maximum effort into passing his GCSEs, even doing work after lessons had finished.

“If my teachers set an assignment in English, for example, I made sure I did it in the same day so that I didn’t fall behind,” he explained.

Bartosz moved to the UK from Poland with his family when he was eight-years-old and paid tribute to them for spurring him on in his studies, especially during the various lockdowns.

He said: “Without my parent’s support I wouldn’t have come this far. I also tried my very best to do everything my teachers asked so that I could focus on the work.

“My parents will be very happy. To celebrate I’ll be going to the seaside with my family. They haven’t told me where, they’re keeping it as a surprise. All I know is I’m going to the beach!” he said.

Aron Bajko, 18, described himself as feeling “really happy” after gaining grade 4s in both GCSE English and maths at his very first attempt.

The teenager moved to the UK from Romania with his mum, step-dad and sister in October 2019 and had not attended secondary school in this country before. Although he briefly studied the subjects at Inspire Learning, Mansfield, shortly after arriving, he joined too late to undertake any formal assessments, although he was delighted to achieve a Certificate in Hospitality.

Aron, who lives in Mansfield, joined the college in September 2020 to study his core GCSEs in addition to the Level 1 Introductory Certificate in Art and Design.

“It was great,” he said. “Everything was new but the teachers did a great job at helping me understand the stuff we had to learn.

“The lessons were well organised so I didn’t find it overwhelming. I still felt like I had enough free time and enjoyed it a lot. The teachers were great – really helpful.

“It was a bit harder to concentrate at home but I made sure I didn’t have too many distractions, so I was just fine.”

Aron said he felt “excited” coming to pick up his results, adding: “I wasn’t nervous because I felt I’d done quite well, so I was really happy to see the results and to know that I’ve passed.”

He will return to the college in September to study Level 2 Art and Design – with a clear career path in sight.

“I want to be a tattoo artist,” said Aron. “My mother owns a tattoo studio in Mansfield town centre so I’m going to practice there.”

Dylan Elliott, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, was “proud” to pass his GCSE English, achieving a grade 4 – saying it gives him extra motivation to continue progressing in his studies. 

The 16-year-old studied the subject in addition to GCSE maths and Level 2 Uniformed Public Service, his full-time college course.

Although he was slightly disappointed not to pass maths on this occasion, he felt confident of achieving it next year.

“I was a bit anxious this morning but I feel relieved because at least I’ve passed my English, which means I’ll have a bit more time to focus on my other courses and do better in my GCSE maths for next year’s results day, when I’m confident I’ll get that pass,” said Dylan.

“I’m proud of myself and it keeps me motivated to keep going on my other courses, knowing I have passed my English and that I can succeed.”

Dylan will re-join the college in September when he will progress on to the Level 3 Uniformed Public Service programme.

He was full of praise for the support it gave him during a year disrupted by the pandemic.

“The learning has gone quite well, even with all the lockdowns,” said Dylan. “I got all the support I needed, even online. I was given equipment so that I could learn, and I borrowed a laptop, which was a life-saver.”

Dylan is still deciding on his career path but is considering training to become a paramedic.

But first he can’t wait to share news of his results with his nearest and dearest.

“I’ll go home and tell my parents my results and then tell my friends how well I’ve done,” he said.

“Hopefully my mum will treat me to something nice to say well done!”

For mother-of-three Sally Cook, her dream of becoming a nurse is one step closer after collecting her GCSE maths result today.

The 40-year-old, from Selston, Nottingham, said: “I’ve studied the pre-access course and GCSE maths and I needed a grade 4 in order to move on to Access to HE Nursing at the college. I’ve got a grade 5 which is better than I expected! I feel so relieved. It’s such a relief to know that it’s done and I haven’t got to repeat it next year.”

Sally has held on to her wish to become a nurse for many years, waiting until her children were independent enough before she took up her studies again. In fact, it was her offspring – Alex, 21, Anna, 19, and Aiden, 14 – who inspired her to become a student in the first place.

She explained: “I’m a healthcare assistant in a doctor’s surgery and I went into the sector aged 16. I’ve always wanted to become a nurse. I had my first child aged 19 and from then on life was all about raising my three children. Now they’re growing up I felt the time was right to begin my studies. The natural progression was to follow my dream to become a nurse and get that degree.

“Alex has just finished three years at university and Anna has completed her first year. It was watching them do it which made me think ‘you know what – I’m going to give it a go’”.

Becoming a student during the pandemic hasn’t been a barrier to Sally’s experience of college life either, rating the support of her tutors as “brilliant”.

She said: “Because of the type of course this is, we’re all adult learners in the same boat and we’re all there because we need to study to get on to the next part of our learning journey. There was a wide range of people on the course, with the youngest being 20. I didn’t feel out of place at all, just a little apprehensive on day one but I soon felt fine.

“I’ve felt generally positive doing my studies online and haven’t really struggled throughout lockdown. I always interacted each week and logged-on regularly to keep myself involved. Our tutors, Sally and Helen, were brilliant and we’ve all gone through these hurdles together. I’m really looking forward to studying again in September.”

Sally added: “We’ll be celebrating as a family later – for me completing this first stage of college and for Alex finishing university and moving on to his master’s degree next.”

Learning has also been very much a family affair for mother-of-four Kathleen Rawlinson, who studied GCSEs in maths and English alongside the pre-access to HE course at the college.

The 48-year-old, from Wellow, was overjoyed to achieve grade 5 in maths and a grade 6 in English.

She said: “It’s more than what I needed – I can’t believe it! I was more nervous this time around than when I was at school. This is great as it means I can now do the Access to HE nursing course at the college.”

With those grades achieved, Kathleen, with the support of her four children – Thomas, 23, Emily,  21, Matthew, 16, and Joseph, 12 – is raring to go on to the next stage of her studies with West Notts, taking her closer to her dream role in healthcare.

“I really want to be a community nurse and it’s something that’s interested me for a long while now,” she said.

“Now my youngest child is at secondary school I feel that it’s my time to do the studying.

“My children have all been cheering me on and they think it’s funny that mum was learning maths! It’s been quite nice – if I’ve been stuck my youngest has been helping me out.”

So much was her commitment to her studies and her family, Kathleen gave up work last year and mastered balancing her learning, home life and health issues in the family.

Kathleen said: “I gave up my job at Center Parcs a couple of months into studying as my husband got poorly and was admitted to hospital. In fact, I did some of my lessons from the hospital car park! I decided to finish work and concentrate on my studies. I knew I needed to do well on this course before I could study further and I wanted to concentrate on my husband’s health too.”

Despite the later start to her studies, Kathleen insists she’s found pleasure in her learning.

She said: “Studying as an adult felt a bit daunting at first. I’d thought about coming to college the year before and talked myself out of it, but this year I decided to do it. It has been a hard year with the lockdowns but I just rolled with it. I’ve really enjoyed it. My tutors have been absolutely fabulous. Helen, my maths tutor, is nothing like the maths teacher I had at school!

“I’m off now to collect Matthew’s GCSE results so hopefully it will be a double celebration for us all later.”

Inspired by the care given to her in hospital in recent times, Clare Davis is determined to forge a career in nursing so she can look after others with the same professionalism.

And she has moved a step towards her ambition after gaining the GCSE and pre-university qualifications that unlock further study.

The 32-year-old, from Mansfield, studied Access to HE nursing at the college alongside GCSE maths – and needed grade 4 or 5 in the latter to secure a place on a degree course.

She proudly announced: “I’ve got a grade 5, which I wasn’t really expecting. This is just what I need so I can go to the University of Nottingham.”

Clare explained: “Nursing is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve had plenty of personal experience of nurses looking after me in hospital, which has really inspired me to pursue this career. I want to be able to help people like they have helped me.

“I have intestinal failure so I get fed intravenously overnight. It’s something I’ve had to deal with while studying so life hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had this illness for the last six or seven years and it’s meant I’ve had a number of hospital admissions throughout my studies but I’ve managed, and my tutors really supported me through the difficult times. I’m doing well at the moment thankfully.”

Clare gave up her job as a support worker for a vulnerable adult with severe autism once she joined the college, so that she could dedicate herself to her studies.

“It’s been a strange time studying in this way during the pandemic but I’ve managed it and my mum has been such a great support,” she said. “My tutors have been really understanding and always there when I’ve needed help; they couldn’t have been more helpful.

“I’m going out for coffee somewhere quiet today with a fellow student for a mini celebration and to toast our results!”

West Nottinghamshire College offers a large range of academic, professional and technical courses, from entry-level, GCSEs and A-levels to NVQs, BTECS, higher national certificates (HNCs) and higher national diplomas (HNDs).

Anybody interested in studying at the college should call 0808 100 3626.

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