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Making the grade: Sussex students excel in A-levels
1:00pm Friday 16th August 2013 in News
A brave student has defied a life-threatening illness to achieve four top grades at A-level.
Aisling Lyle, 18, has suffered from rare pulmonary hypertension since she was 13 and was forced to miss a month of college in her first term.
Despite this, she scooped an impressive A* in textiles, A in history, B in English literature and B in drama at Varndean College, Brighton.
Courageous Aisling was not alone in overcoming adversity to secure top grades.
Tom Woodward, 18, underwent three rounds of chemotherapy in the middle of his exams after being diagnosed with testicular cancer over Easter.
The Brighton College student went on to achieve an A* in psychology and As in history and English to secure a place at Bristol University.
Aisling and Tomwere among the thousands of A-level pupils in Sussex to be celebrating yesterday.
Sussex schools maintained their high pass rates, but top marks have slipped, in line with the national average.
Aisling told The Argus she now wants to become a teacher after being inspired by her grandparents.
She said: “I just can’t believe I got the grades especially as I missed quite a bit to go to hospital appointments in London or for blood tests and then it can be exhausting then having to catch up with college work while being ill.
“Both my grandparents were history teachers and I am so grateful to my teachers for the support they’ve given me.
“I think that has kind of inspired me to want to become a teacher.”
There is no cure to Aisling’s condition and she must constantly have medication pumped into her heart through a tube.
The serious condition can damage the right side of the heart, making it less efficient at pumping blood around the body and getting oxygen to the muscles.
She said: “It really affects my breathing and my heart can’t take too much pressure and doesn’t function normally.”
Aisling is applying to Warwick University to read history in September 2014.
She added: “I want to take some time out over the next year to focus on seeing my family and concentrate on my music.”
Rugby player Tom, of Lewes, told The Argus of the stress of tackling cancer and his exam.
He said: “It was pretty stressful but I didn't have any choice and I just had to get on with it.
I'm pretty relieved now.
Celebratiing “I have been given the all-clear and I just have to have check-ups done every three months.
“It wasn't too bad because I had the chemo round my exams.”
School-leavers were celebrating yesterday after receiving above average A-level pass rates.
An average of 98.74% in the city received passes in the exams – higher than the national average of 98.1%.
More than half of grades achieved by A-level students in Brighton and Hove schools and colleges were in the top grades A*- B range.
But in line with national trends the number of students getting top marks fell.
While BHASVIC managed a 2% increase in pupils getting A*-B grades, Blatchington, Cardinal Newman and Varndean all recorded decreases.
Independent schools maintained impressively high standards with 100% pass rates and increases in top marks.
Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA), which is undergoing a major transformation, posted a 95% pass-rate, the lowest in the city.
Paul Shellard, Brighton and Hove secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “We would say the way A-levels have been rubbished recently is not helping to nurture young people’s potential.
“I’m not really surprised by the drop because so much is a result of political interference.
“It seems to be working towards an agenda and about doing something quickly and not in line with what the community and professionals want.”
The proportion of top grade A-levels has now fallen for the second year in a row.
The latest drop comes amid rising numbers of teenagers taking A-levels in science and maths – which has been suggested as the reason for the drop.
The University of Sussex said it was demanding better grades from students this year.
A spokeswoman said: “The A-level grades we ask for at Sussex have risen year on year as the quality of our intake has risen.”
STUDENTS IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN
Thousands of pupils were waiting nervously for their A-level results yesterday.
Students lined up along the corridors of colleges, huddling with friends, waiting for the moment they could discover their fate.
But despite being the subject of a political debate and being told A-levels were “too easy”, grades remained high – albeit dipping slightly.
More than half of grades achieved by A-level students in Sussex schools and colleges were in the top grades A*-B range.
The national breakdown of results shows the overall pass rate rose marginally to 98.1% and this mirrors results in the city’s and county’s schools and colleges.
BHASVIC was one college which beat the national trend and posted increased top A-level grades.
More than 900 students sat the exams in June 2013, with 98% of students passing overall and 60% achieving the top A*, A and B grades.
Charlotte Hones, 18, of Worthing, got two As and two A*s.
She said: “I’m shocked. It’s so much better than expected, I cannot believe it. It hasn’t sunk in yet. The work has finally paid off.
“I’m going to call my mum and dad now and tell them the good news.”
Alice Chapman, 18, of Lewes, got three As despite having glandular fever at the time.
She said: “I’m really relieved because I was quite ill at the time. I’m going to King’s College London. I didn’t have the guts to check online but I’m so happy now.”
Joe Powell, 17, of Brighton, got an incredible 100% in his maths and physics AS-level exams.
He said: “I’m so happy. I was hoping for top marks but I didn’t think it would happen. It’s so easy to make small mistakes. It’s still sinking in.
“I want to keep up with maths and see what happens.”
Not everyone was pleased though.
Student Amelia Torrens-Johnson, 17, said: “I’m not happy. I didn’t do brilliantly at all. I’m quite a chilled out person but if I was sensitive it would be very different.
“I’m going to have to try and go to another university.
“I did try really hard and found the exams really hard. I suppose I’m quite a negative person when it comes to talking about myself.”
Principal Chris Thomson said: “BHASVIC has received national recognition for its ability to consistently deliver high quality teaching and learning.
“This is an exciting and nerve wracking day and I am proud that once again, BHASVIC students have achieved outstanding results.
“I would like to congratulate everyone involved – schools, parents and above all our excellent staff and students.”
Independent school Brighton College celebrated a record-breaking year.
The Sunday Times UK School of the Year is the only school in England to improve its results every single year for seven years.
Nearly 100 pupils achieved AAA or better in their results with 20 securing places at Oxford or Cambridge.
Headmaster Richard Cairns: “I am delighted for the boys and girls of Brighton College.
“They have once again achieved the top grades in Sussex without ever losing their sense of fun or their commitment to life beyond the classroom.
“So many of those celebrating places at Oxford or Cambridge today have been top sportsmen, dancers, artists and musicians. That they have found time to excel academically as well is truly humbling and inspiring.”
Year 11 Dorothy Stringer students were celebrating a 90% pass rate yesterday – despite taking their AS-level exams a year early.
Headteacher Richard Bradford said: “We are committed to providing opportunities for our more able students to stretch themselves beyond what is normally expected.
“Their success in these exams is down to their hard work and that of their teachers and we are all extremely proud of them”.
Sixth formers at Brighton and Hove High School for girls were celebrating a 100% pass rate with almost half achieving A*-A grades and 79% B and above.
Meera Patel, 18, of Brighton, said: “I’m going to Imperial College to study chemical engineering. It’s a male-dominated field so I’m breaking the mould.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I don’t knowwhat to say – I’m ecstatic!”
Ellie Thompson, 18, of, Brighton, said: “I’ve got a place at Oxford to read law. I feel great but a bit weird.
“It feels like a lot of hard work. I want to be a human rights solicitor.
I’ve got the summer off to celebrate then I need to get packing.”
Headteacher Jennifer Smith said: “We have been delighted with the girls’ hard work and commitment and all the staff and governors at Brighton and Hove want to congratulate them on their achievements.
Delighted “We are so proud of our sixth form where girls have excelled in such a broad range of subjects and from where we are sending undergraduates to higher education establishments ranging from St Edmund Hall, Oxford to Imperial College and St. Martin’s School of Art.”
Varndean College was “delighted” with the success of its students who maintained an impressive 98% pass rate with 48% achieving A*-B.
Emily Grimble, 18, said: “It feels really, really good. I’m doing an art foundation year but now I know what grades I’ve got I can start looking at universities.
“I’m not sure where I want to go but probably one of the main art colleges in London.”
George Houghton, 18, of Brighton, told The Argus: “I want to study history at King’s College London or Royal Holloway but I’m torn between the two because I’m just below my first choice but above my second choice.
“I thought I had got an A and a couple of Bs though so it was a pleasant surprise.
“For two months it’s an idea in your head and this morning you wake up and think ‘oh God, it’s here’. It’s a relief to finally know.”
College principal Dr Philip Harland said: “We must remember that behind these figures lie countless individual student success stories at all levels.
“Our A-level success follows our equally impressive International Baccalaureate results in July.”
At Hove Park sixth formalmost 40% of A-levels and BTECs taken at the school were awarded an A*-B grade – up from 25% last year.
The overall pass mark was 99% – described as an incredible achievement for students and staff.
Headteacher Derek Trimmer said: “Even though nationally exams are getting tougher, Hove Park School and sixth form continues to buck the trend.
“We are always working to narrow the gap between our students and students in the top schools in the country and our sixth form has made a huge leap towards that this year.”
Blatchington Mill School had a 97% pass rate with 74% of grades A*-C – equal to its record achievement last year.
Deputy head Ashley Harrold said: “This has been another excellent year for Blatchington Mill Sixth Form results. Building upon the success from 2012, where the school got the highest results of the past five years, results are again the best Blatch has ever achieved.”
Students at Cardinal Newman Catholic Sixth Form College were a “credit to themselves”, with one student achieving 4 A* grades.
Headteacher Dr James Kilmartin said: “The students are a credit to themselves, their families and the school. They fully deserve their success and I know that they will want to join me in thanking their teachers for the support and advice which has made a big contribution to their success.
“We wish our students the very best for the future, which for many of them will include taking up places at some of the country’s best universities, including Oxford.”
Roedean Independent School had an overall pass rate of 100% with 94.9% getting A*-C.
Headmistress Frances King said: “I am delighted that our additional investment in teaching and learning is already paying dividends in terms of higher grades. Furthermore, our encouragement of independent learning – so prized by both universities and employers – is being acknowledged by some outstanding results in the Extended Project Qualification.”
Meanwhile Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) got an overall A-level pass rate of 95% but a Btech pass rate of 100%.
As part of the £12.7m refurbishment of its Chalky Road campus PACA will be opening a brand new sixth form centre in the autumn.
Principal James Fox said: “I would like to congratulate our students and wish them well in their future careers.”
Councillor Sue Shanks, chair of Brighton and Hove City Council’s children and young people committee, said: “I am delighted with the results achieved by the city’s students in their A and AS-levels, supported by their many able and talented teachers as well as their parents or carers.
“It’s great to see the continuing improvement in results in the school sixth forms, and the continuing excellent results in the sixth form colleges which are a cause for much celebration.
“I wish all the students every success with their next steps to higher education, to employment or training or during a gap year.”
Results in . . .now clearing
Now that A-level results have been announced, universities are receiving a surge of phone calls from students looking to secure a place through the clearing process.
Both the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton have spaces available for additional students, with the University of Sussex even taking out a full page advert in the Guardian yesterday.
Places are expected to be snapped up quickly with the University of Sussex expecting most vacancies to be filled by the end of the weekend.
Like other universities in the country, Sussex is now allowed by the government to recruit unlimited numbers of UK and EU applicants who achieve A-level grades of ABB and above.
This means the establishment now has a capacity of up to 2,900 new students, 200 of which it hopes will come through clearing.
Additionally, due to new government funding, the university is also able to consider applicants who may fall slightly below the desired ABB.
Rob Evans, head of admissions for the university, explained: “For example, if an applicant has achieved BBB grades at a school where the average A-level performance is only BCC, we would recognise the potential demonstrated by this student, even if they are seeking entry to a course at Sussex that normally requires AAB.”
At the University of Brighton, a limited number of places are available across courses, although fewer places in comparison to last year.
The advice being given to students is to take time to look at the UCAS website.
A spokesman for the University of Brighton said: “They need to make sure that they are prepared for this, perhaps take some time to grab some fresh air and then sit down in a quiet space where you can really concentrate on the phone calls that they need to make.
“If you are made an offer, try to get to visit the university before the start of term, at Brighton we are running open days for those students that may be coming to us through clearing.
“The most important thing is that they make the right choice for them.
|2013 pass||2012 pass||A*-B 2013||A*-B 2012||-/+%|
|Sir Robert Woodard Academy||100%||36%|
|Lavant House School||100%||78%|
|St. Paul’s Catholic College||100%||61%|
|St Philip Howard, Barnhan||97%||57%|
|Our Lady of Sion||100%||61.5%|
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