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Teenagers and adults applauded for GCSE and vocational results success

Posted: 24 August 2023

Teenage and adult learners at West Nottinghamshire College were celebrating today (Thursday 24 August 2023) after achieving their GCSE and vocational qualification results, earning congratulations and praise from the principal.

The majority were young people who had re-taken GCSE English or maths alongside their main academic or vocational programme, having not achieved a grade 4 or above last year.

Those collecting their results included adult learners who had attended college to improve on their GCSE English, maths or biology grades from their school days – with many setting their sights on higher-level study or re-training for a new career.

Meanwhile, technical and vocational qualification students discovered the results of their studies on level 2 programmes.

A total of 1,468 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 1,706 GCSE exam entries, with highlights including:

  • 85.6% pass rate in English;
  • 87.8% pass rate in maths;
  • 87.5% pass rate in biology;
  • 22.1% of students improved on their previous GCSE result by at least one grade, while 7.1% moved up two or more grades;
  • 28.6% of students improved their English result by one grade or more, while 16.3% did the same with maths;
  • 14% of students achieved the government threshold of a grade 4 pass or above.

Meanwhile, 91% of learners studying a functional skills English qualification passed first time, while 85% passed functional skills maths at the first attempt.

In addition, 252 students sat external assessments and exams on City & Guilds Technical and BTEC First courses.

Andrew Cropley, principal and chief executive, said: “Congratulations to our students who have achieved their GCSE and vocational results today. It’s great to see so many learners, whose school education had been hugely disrupted by the pandemic, engage with the courses on offer at the college and achieve their qualifications.

“Many will now progress onto higher-level courses or apprenticeships to further grow their skills and employment prospects. 

“Well done to those who have improved their grades in GCSE English, maths and biology, whether they’re a young person or an adult returning to education. Increasing grade boundaries have made this much harder year-on-year, so everyone who has improved by a grade or even two should feel justifiably proud.

“Gaining good grades in these subjects will open so many doors, both to further education and rewarding careers, and I’m sure all of our successful students will agree the outcomes were worth the effort.

“Thank you to all our teachers and support staff, who have helped our students to fulfil their potential, develop their skillsets and move their careers forward. Each of them has shown great commitment, skill and understanding throughout the year.

“I’m looking forward to welcoming many of our students back over the next few weeks, along with hundreds of new learners ready to begin their journeys with us. I wish all those who are leaving us every success for the future.”

Students celebrating their results explains what they meant to them.

Kylie McKendrick, from South Normanton, felt “absolutely amazing” after achieving grade 8 in GCSE English.

The 18-year-old had re-taken the subject after not gaining a pass at school.

She studied the GCSE alongside her main vocational programme at college, the Level 3 Advanced Art and Design Practice Image Making course.

Kylie said: “When I opened my envelope, I thought I may achieve a grade 5 – but getting an 8 really shocked me. I honestly didn’t think I had it in me!

“I feel absolutely amazing because I came to college with a grade 2 in English.

“Studying a level 3 qualification is difficult enough, let alone re-taking a GCSE, and English is such a hard subject.

“But I got my head down because I wanted to aim high. The hard work has paid off!

“The English teachers at college have been amazing and have really helped me achieve what I always wanted, which was to pass.”

Gaining GCSE English means Kylie can now pursue her ambition of studying A-Levels, with her sights set on the college’s business, criminology and psychology courses.

“I am going onto A-Levels now at the college, which is what I’ve always wanted to do since leaving school but I never had the opportunity because I didn’t have a GCSE in English,” said Kylie.

“So this has really helped me be able to do what I’ve aimed for.

“I’m going to go out with my family later for a nice meal to celebrate.”

Having collected a double distinction last week on the Advanced Diploma in IT, 24-year-old James Thompson returned to college today to discover he had passed his long-awaited GCSE in English.

James, from Underwood, who had previously attended schools for people with special educational needs and disabilities including Portland College, exceeded his grade expectations with an impressive grade 7 in the subject.

He said: “I am really chuffed because English has been a struggle for me over the years, so anything beyond a pass is amazing! I also got distinctions in my IT course so I’m pretty happy now.”

This double success means James can proudly enrol at Nottingham Trent University this year to pursue his dream of studying games development.

Mum Glenis and dad Ian came to the college to support James with collecting his results.

Ian said: “I am so happy and we’re both really proud. James has worked so very hard and today shows all that effort coming to fruition. It really is a good day.”

Glenis said: “He just needed to nail this English grade and he’s done it – this is amazing! The staff at the college are marvellous. Everybody has been so good and helped him along through all of his studies. University here he comes!”

A very modest but proud Patricija Stech revealed a grade 6 in both her GCSE English and maths results today.

Originally from Lithuania, Patricija moved to the UK with her family before relocating to Poland. Upon returning to the UK, she came to West Nottinghamshire College to improve her English and maths skills, so that she could be prepared for studying A-Levels later on.

The 17-year-old said: “I really expected my maths grade to be lower as I don’t feel I’m as strong in maths but I’ve ended up with a 6! With my English I didn’t really know what to expect, but I knew it would be a good grade.”

Patricija, who lives in Shirebrook, also studied the Advanced Diploma in Forensic Science at the college and is fluent in Russian and Polish.

She added: “I’ve studied the first year in forensics and was waiting on my GCSE results before considering A-Levels, so this means I can go on to study chemistry, biology and maths at the college’s sixth-form campus.

“So far I’ve found college quite fun and there’s plenty of positive things about West Notts. I’ve found it a lot easier studying here compared to my studies in Poland, and I’m looking forward to next year.”

There was double joy in at the college as adult learners Rebecca Mussett and Rebecca Mason hugged in jubilation. Both had studied GCSE maths – and both achieved a grade 4.

The pair became firm friends after meeting on the course. They decided to study the subject to simply improve and be able to help support others with their new skills.

Rebecca Mussett, 34, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, said: “We both said we’d be perfectly happy with a grade 4 and that’s what we’ve got – it’s brilliant.”

Rebecca, who works full-time as a buyer for Huthwaite firm Performance Health, added: “I mainly wanted this qualification because when my 11-year-old daughter Leila did her SATs, I helped her to go through her preparation work but felt like I didn’t know much. 

“I realised I needed to learn more to be able to help her in the future. I’m delighted to say Leila went on to do really well in her SATs, which is great.”

A mother to two children under the age of two and an 11-year-old step-son, Rebecca Mason has had a very busy year, giving birth to her youngest son part-way through the course and caring for him through a period of illness.

The 30-year-old said: “My little boy was born in November and at the beginning of this year he became ill and had to stay in King’s Mill Hospital. He was struggling with a milk allergy and wasn’t keeping his milk down. It was emotionally and physically tough, but while I was sat with him all day in hospital, I would take my study books with me and did maths revision while he was treated.”

Happily, her baby boy is now “thriving” and Rebecca continued with her studies with the aim of improving her skills to help in her role as a teaching assistant at special education school, Westbourne School, in Sutton-in-Ashfield.

She said: “It’s been a rollercoaster year and it was my third time of sitting maths; once at school and twice at college. I’m so glad that I have finally passed!

“I’ll also be able to help my 11-year-old step-son, who has just done exceptionally well in his SATs, scoring well above his age range.”

Rebecca Mussett added: “It’s been great to make friends at college. To have those two hours on a Wednesday evening, meeting other mature students, has been wonderful. When you go to work all day, come home and look after the family, going to college made for a great social experience.

“Being an adult student, you’re not afraid to ask questions and we’d ask our teacher questions until we understood it. We’re even looking at studying other courses next year as Rebecca would like to enrol on the teaching assistant course and I’m thinking of doing Spanish.”

Tara Keogh says she “absolutely hated” English studies during her school days because she “just wasn’t confident”.

However, the 41-year-old has discovered a new-found love for the subject, having gained a GCSE grade 5 in English language today – although she admits she was fearing the worst.

She said: “I truly thought I’d failed because I messed up on paper one. I totally forgot to infer, where you suggest what you think the question means, so to find out I got a grade 5 is brilliant!”

Tara, from Annesley, last studied at school in 1997 and insisted that returning to education after a 26-year-break felt a little daunting but she soon made friends.

“Being an adult student has been very enjoyable,” she said. “I actually met my boss on this course and another work colleague studied closely with me. We thought we’d be the oldest ones in class but we were absolutely fine.

“My colleague and I are coming back next year to enjoy some more studies in maths!”

Tara teaches for Mansfield company First Class Tailored Solutions, where she helps children who struggle with schoolwork. She visits their homes to give additional tuition and support.

She added: “Now I feel I have the confidence to bring the children that full support. I absolutely hated English and I just wasn’t confident, but I think I’ll love it now. I am definitely coming back to college in September to re-take my maths.

Tara was accompanied by her son Harley and daughter Ebony, who joined her for moral support.

“Harley has just collected his GCSE results today and he’s done very well,” said Tara. “He’s going to study at the college’s engineering centre next term. Ebony also came to cheer me on, and she’ll be next to do her GCSEs in a couple of years’ time.”

Seventeen-year-old Finley Maguire celebrated after achieving a grade 5 in GCSE maths and 4 in English, having not studied them at GCSE level before.

Finley was home-schooled during the final eight months of his secondary education after making the decision to leave school as a “personal preference”. During this time he studied functional skills maths and English, which meant he joined the college without any GCSE grades in these subjects.

Last September Finley enrolled on an entry-level joinery course while also studying GCSE maths and English for the first time, and has spent the last year working hard on these subjects.

He said: “All I came to college with was a level 2 in maths functional skills, as I didn’t pass English. I enrolled on the joinery programme too, so it was a bit of a challenge studying a full-time course and doing maths and English at the same time, but I just took up the challenge and put in lots of hard work.

“I wasn’t too nervous coming to get my results today but I certainly felt relieved that I’d passed. I’m really happy.”

Finley is looking forward to an even brighter future. He added: “It’s good to know I’ve not got to study English and maths again. It means I can concentrate on joinery.

“I’ll hopefully study the level 2 course, then progress to level 3 before looking at getting a job in the joinery trade.”

Jacob Lowe was “so happy” to finally achieve grade 4 in GCSE maths at the fourth attempt.

The 19-year-old had re-taken the subject three times at the college, having wanted to improve on his grades from school – and insists his perseverance has paid dividends.

It comes after he achieved a grade 4 in English last year.

“I’m pleased because they were pretty high marks,” said Jacob, from Sutton-in-Ashfield.

“This time round I was nervous, because last year I only got a grade 3 in maths because I didn’t revise. This year I knew that I would be getting a better grade because I had done some revision, so I felt confident I would see a higher grade.

“That said, I feel so happy now it’s over.”

Jacob has studied a range of vocational subjects at the college, from computer science to business, which he combined with his GCSE studies.

He said: “Studying GCSEs alongside my main programmes wasn’t too bad to be honest. The teachers weren’t too harsh, and they weren’t too light with you either. I think I’ll be a bit sad if I leave college, as I did like the teachers!”

Jacob hopes to begin an apprenticeship with an electrical company in September. If his application is unsuccessful, he plans to return to college to study business at level 3.

For now, he’s just happy to relax, knowing he’s passed his exam.

“I might celebrate later but first I’ll go home and catch-up on some sleep!” said Jacob.

Maria Arlandis-Gosp, 47, is set to follow her dream of training to become a teacher after gaining a grade 6 in maths and 5 in biology.

Originally from Valencia, Spain, the mother to 23-year-old twin girls and a 17-year-old son moved to the UK in 2019 to “give my children a better life”.

Maria, who lives in Sutton-in-Ashfield, originally took the subjects at the college last year, achieving grade 5 in both, and wanted to improve on those results.

She said: “I wanted to improve on the grade 5 in maths because I want to go to university to study to become a maths and Spanish teacher in this country. I would like to teach secondary school students. It’s my dream.

“I will study through the Open University because I have a job as an administrator for a finance broker in Kirkby-in-Ashfield.

“I am very excited about the future.”

Maria described studying in England as “so different to Spain.”

“Studying here, I find the exams suit the people. You can study a higher paper if you wish. You have the ability to do better if you wish,” she said.

“I enjoyed my time at college. I made some really good friends and the teachers are amazing. They always encouraged me and helped me to do more.”

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.

Click here to see video of Kylie opening her GCSE results envelope, and here to see James revealing his GCSE result.

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