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Teenagers and adults celebrate GCSE and vocational results

Posted: 25 August 2022

There were celebrations at West Nottinghamshire College today (Thursday 25 August 2022) as teenage and adult learners gained their GCSE and vocational qualifications.

It came after most of them sat formal exams and assessments for the first time following two consecutive years of cancellations due to the pandemic. The majority were young people who have re-taken English or maths alongside their main academic or vocational course having not achieved a grade 4 or above in their teacher-assessed grades last year.

A total of 1,099 students studied one or more GCSE subjects at the college this year, largely due to the government’s requirement for young people aged 16-18 who have not achieved a grade 4 or above in English and maths to re-take these subjects while in post-16 education.

There were 1,575 exam entries across the three GCSE subjects offered at the college – English, maths and biology – which produced the following results:

  • 90.2% pass rate in English;
  • 86.6% pass rate in maths;
  • 96.2% pass rate in biology;
  • Almost half (45.5%) of students improved their English result by one grade or more, while nearly a quarter (22.4%) did the same with maths;
  • One-third (33.4%) of students improved on their GCSE grade from school, while 10.3% moved up two or more grades;
  • 26.1% ‘high grades’ of 9-4 in English, 10.3% of 9-4 in maths and 73.1% of 9-4 in biology;
  • 19% of students achieved the government threshold of a pass – grade 4 or above – compared to 15% in 2019, the last year students sat exams.

In addition to students that retake their GCSEs, the college also has many adult learners who attend evening classes to improve on their original grades – usually so they can move on to higher-level study and re-train for a new career.

Meanwhile, students also received results for technical and vocational qualifications, including City & Guilds Technicals and BTEC Firsts, both at level 2.

Andrew Cropley, principal and chief executive, said: “Well done to all those who have achieved their passes in GCSE English, mathematics and biology today.

“Most of these students had never sat a formal exam before coming to college and last year they received a disappointing outcome through the teacher-assessed grades process after two hugely disrupted years. This makes their achievement all the more creditable.

“We’ve also seen many adult learners improve on their GCSE grades in key subjects, having made the decision to return to education as a mature student, often with a career change in mind. Many have combined their studies with working full-time, which requires major commitment.

“Achieving these GCSEs is a huge benefit in opening doors to further study and future employment opportunities and I’m very proud of all those who have done so.

“Congratulations also to all those who received the results of their level 2 vocational and technical courses today. Again, these demanding qualifications will provide a great springboard onto further learning, employment or apprenticeships.

“Huge thanks to all those teachers and support staff who have shown great creativity, dedication and patience in helping their students achieve these important and demanding milestones.

“We’re excited to be welcoming back many of these students over the next couple of weeks so they can take their studies to the next level, and we send those leaving us to pursue their careers or a higher education programme our very best wishes.”

Students celebrating their results explains what they meant to them.

For Dayna Bell, her 18th birthday yesterday (Wednesday 24 August) came with an extra special gift as this morning she opened her GCSE English result to reveal an impressive grade 9.

As a student on the multi-skills in engineering course at the college’s Engineering Innovation Centre, she needed to resit her GCSE English having only achieved low GCSE grades at school.

Dayna, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, said: “When I opened the envelope I couldn’t concentrate on the page and it was such as shock to finally see a number 9 there!

“At school I was predicted a grade 2 and got a grade 3 so it wasn’t great. As I wasn’t able to resit the exam that year at school I did it this year alongside the engineering course at college. I knew I wanted at least a grade 5 – I was determined to get a high grade because I never got any at school.

“When I did the mock exam at college I got really good results and my tutor Rachel recognised that I had the potential. She gave me harder work because she knew I could do it and she pushed me. I could feel my confidence growing and Rachel gave me that boost to do well.

“I’d love to further my engineering skills and get a job with good prospects and decent wages. My course has predominantly male students but that doesn’t intimidate me. Life at college has been really good so far.”

Dayna’s mum, Michelle Harrold, was very emotional and said: “She’s worked so hard. From getting a grade 3 at school to being predicted a 7 at college and today seeing that grade 9 – I am just so proud of her and can’t stop crying.

“We’re going shopping as I said Dayna’s reward would be two more pairs of gym leggings to add to her collection and, having turned 18 yesterday, these will be extra presents for her!”

Eduard Bociu said his GCSE grades of 8 in maths and grade 5 in English means he can follow his dreams of working in medicine.

The 17-year-old studied these subjects alongside his main vocational programme, intermediate computer science, in which he gained two distinction grades.

Eduard has lived in Mansfield since 2020, when his family moved permanently to the UK from Romania following a previous spell in this country in 2016.

He said: “I am very happy about these results; they will help me a lot. I had been living in Romania until two years ago and this is the first time I have taken GCSEs.

“I have always wanted to study A-Levels, for my future, but I couldn’t do that because I didn’t have any GCSEs, only Romanian results. With these GCSEs I can now study A-Levels at West Notts and follow my dreams of working in medicine.

“I will be starting my A-Levels in September, studying biology, chemistry and maths.

“I took GCSE chemistry and biology mock exams in June and got a grade 9 in chemistry and a grade 8 in biology, so with my English and maths I now have what I need.

“I’m very excited about the future and can’t wait to start studying.”

Eduard’s father, Constantin, said: “I feel absolutely fantastic. I was sure my son would get good results in his exams because he learned very well back in Romania and he’s learned very well in England. He’s a very hard worker.

“My wife and I are very proud of him.”

Mother-of-three and full-time hospital theatre worker Rebecca Roberts somehow found the time to study GCSE maths and English at the college – and was delighted with grade 4 and 5 respectively.

Rebecca, 38, said: “At school I got D grades in my GCSEs so I knew I needed to improve my maths and English in order to get on to an Access to University course at the college. I would have been happy with grade 4s in both subjects so I’m very pleased to have got a 4 in maths and a 5 in English.

“I have a full-time job at King’s Mill Hospital and three young children so I would have been happy with just a pass – grade 4s were all I expected – so I’m delighted.

“I’ll be enrolling on the Access to Nursing course at the college next because I want to train to be a paramedic. I might do the paramedic course at Nottingham Trent University’s Mansfield campus although I will apply to a few places and see where it takes me.

“Studying while working has not been easy and was sometimes a struggle. However, I couldn’t have given it any more effort. Together with working, caring for the children and volunteering for a charity, it’s taken a lot of hard work but I’ve passed and I’m so pleased about that.

“I am working night shifts this week so I won’t be celebrating tonight but it’s my little boy’s birthday party this weekend so we’ll all celebrate together!”

Lee Rodgers described his grade 4 in GCSE maths as “potentially life-changing.”

It means the 36-year-old, from Mansfield, can finally pursue a career in the police.

Lee previously worked at major car dealership in Sutton-in-Ashfield for 13 years but was made redundant during the pandemic, which coincided with him becoming a father for the first time when his wife Stacey gave birth to their son, Bradley, in June 2020.

He has worked as a warehouse associate at the Amazon fulfilment centre in Sutton-in-Ashfield since October 2020 but can now apply for a position with the police, which requires the equivalent of a grade C in English and maths.

Lee said: “Being furloughed and then made redundant during lockdown forced me to re-evaluate what I want to do.

“I got mostly grade Cs at school, except in maths, and a lot of the jobs I wanted to do, including the police, needed a C grade equivalent in English and maths. That’s why I came back to college.  

“This grade opens up a new world of opportunity. It’s massive – it means I can now apply for a job with the police.

“I’ve been keeping my eye on vacancies and Derbyshire Police is about to open up to a new intake, with a closing date of Sunday (28 August) for applications, so I will literally be applying today, as soon as I get home.

“I’m hoping to get my foot in the door and seeing where it takes me.

“If I can go on to have a 20-year career with the police, then that will be even longer than my previous career, which I thought was going to be for life. This could be life-changing.”

Although Lee initially found returning to education “a bit nerve-wracking, especially studying alongside a full-time job”, his worries soon disappeared.

He said: “Once I got into the classroom I could see there was a mix of ages and we were quickly put at ease by the tutor.

“The class was really good, the course was taught at a pace appropriate to each student, and everyone was really friendly.

“I thought it was going to be a struggle coming straight from work to study maths at college in the evening but it never felt particularly stressful. We got all the help we needed.”

Father-of-two Sam Williams-Duncan said getting a grade 5 in GCSE biology had “finally removed a monkey off my back.”

The 39-year-old stay-at-home dad, who has five-year-old twin daughters Meredith and Isla, also works as a part-time gardener and was determined to pass the subject he had never previously managed to obtain.

He said: “This grade is what I wanted. I sat my GCSEs at school in 1999 and got two Ds in science, which was a source of frustration for many years.

“I re-took my science GCSE in 2012 but for personal reasons wasn’t able to sit one of the exams, so it carried on being a frustration for another 10 years. To get this grade has finally removed a monkey off my back.”

Sam, from Nottingham, said returning to education as an adult learner was a rewarding experience – and he urged others to consider doing the same.

“As a stay-at home dad and part-time gardener, I decided I wanted to do something for me,” he said.

“Studying a biology GCSE might not sound very relaxing but it was really just a bit of ‘me time’ and about achieving something that I wanted to. Sometimes it’s good to do these things – not just to further your knowledge but to do something for yourself.

“I previously worked in student support roles at various colleges, including West Notts, for about a decade until my children were born in 2017, so I’m familiar with these settings but it still felt intimidating at first.

“But I quickly realised I wasn’t the oldest person in the class – there were people of all sorts of ages and backgrounds. I would totally encourage anyone to give it a go. You might think ‘I’m no longer aged 16, 17 or 18’ but that’s no reason to not do it.”

Paying tribute to his family, Sam said: “My wife, Elizabeth, has been amazing. She’s the bread-winner and since Covid has been working every hour that comes, yet she’s still found the time to look after the kids when I’ve been attending classes and studying, so all credit to her.”

Check out this video to see the moment Dayna, Eduard, Rebecca, Lee and Sam opened their results!

West Nottinghamshire College offers a wide range of academic, technical, vocational and professional courses, from entry-level and GCSE to A-Level and access to university level, plus apprenticeships in major employment sectors. Anybody interested in studying at the college should call 0808 100 3626.

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96.2% A Level pass rate in 2022.

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