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Students prove their class as Sussex schools buck national trend
Brighton and Hove schools were celebrating yesterday after it was revealed students have beaten the national average for GCSE results with a huge increase in passes.
National statistics show GCSE students achieving top grades is down by 1.3 percentage points on last year.
The national average for students achieving any five A* to C grades has dropped to 68.1%.
Exams watchdog Ofqual has predicted the number of students achieving five A* to Cs, including maths and English, will drop further from last year’s 58.6% when figures are released by the Department of Education in October.
But Brighton and Hove’s schools are up six percentage points from 56% to 62%, which is likely to propel the city’s students above the national average.
Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) made the biggest jump, with headteacher James Fox taking the academy from 38% last year to 60% this year.
He said: “I’m extremely pleased, but I’m more pleased for the students.
“Sixty per cent is just a number, and although it’s a very good number for us, we’re talking about people’s lives and that is what I said that I’m about – 60% of our students will now have doors open for them and not close so I’m absolutely over the moon.
“The results have vindicated the results we’ve made at PACA and we can move on from that now – we’re aiming for 68% next year.
“Fundamentally, there’s a belief that we can achieve anything at PACA now and that belief is what has driven us to that 60%.
“There’s no reason why any child in this school can’t reach for the stars and I’m delighted that so many of them are choosing to stay here.”
The other big mover in the city was Blatchington Mill High School in Hove, which shot up 11 percentage points from 61% to 72% of students achieving the benchmark.
Headteacher Janet Felkin said: “We knew what we wanted to do with the world getting tougher for our students out there, and English and maths are things they could not escape.
“It’s been a lot of hard work from both students and staff and one of the things we’ve insisted on this year is excellence in the classroom.
“Looking at the turbulence around the country, we’re pleased to see that almost every measure has improved here.
“Qualifications and exams are key to our students’ future but if that’s all we turn out when they leave us, then we haven’t done our jobs and it’s got to be that we turn out youngsters that can hold their place in the world.”
Two standout pupils were Jaimee Taylor and Natasha Wilcock, both 16, who clinched top grades and admitted feeling a mixture of relief and shock when they opened their results yesterday.
Natasha, who achieved a clean sweep of A* grades, said: “The exams were difficult this year and marking was a bit tougher so nowit’s on to Varndean to study chemistry, biology, maths and French.
“I hope to go on to study medicine at university.”
Jaimee, who achieved four A*s, four As and a distinction, said: “I wasn’t expecting to do as well as I have, especially when we saw the grade boundaries, which were quite high.”
Sir Rod Aldridge’s other academy, Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA), also saw its grades climb from 41% to 46%, to the delight of interim headteacher Michael Brett, who said: “I am particularly pleased with the English results.
“In English we achieved 74% A* to C grades, with over 80% of students making three or more levels of progress, which is likely to be well above the national average.
“These results are a credit to the hard work and dedication of all the staff and students at BACA as well as the continued support of parents and the localcommunity in helping to raise aspirations.”
It has been a good year for the city’s independent schools too, with Brighton College churning out yet another record-breaking year by becoming the top co-educational school ever, with news that 95.3% of grades awarded were at A* or A.
Fifteen Brighton College pupils living within the city achieved at least nine A* grades, which has delighted headteacher Richard Cairns.
He said: “The boys and girls have obviously worked hard but they have never lost their sense of perspective.
“They are also just really nice people.
“I really do believe that if you have a kind, considerate and supportive environment, children will achieve more than you might expect.
“Happy children are, by and large, successful children.”
Top performers Megan Jones, Sandra Li and Silas Whiteley all achieved 11 A* grades, while Aidan Ball gained ten A* and two A grades.
The chair of the council’s children and young people committee, Councillor Sue Shanks, said: “We’re pushing hard for excellence in all our schools.
“Our schools team has developed a new approach to school improvement over the last year.
“There is no room for complacency, but with a strong set of primary results and 80% of our schools now judged by Ofsted as good or outstanding, there is room for optimism.
“I would like to congratulate staff and students at all our schools for their hard work and professionalism, and in particular Portslade Aldridge Community Academy and Blatchington Mill for the exceptional progress they have made this year.”
Sir Rod tells of his pride
Sir Rod Aldridge, who established The Aldridge Foundation that funds both BACA and PACA, said: “I am delighted for the students at BACA and PACA. The year on year progress both academies have made is making a real difference to the life chances of young people in Portslade and Falmer.
“For far too long they have not had the same opportunities as students in other communities in the city. Since becoming academies this is changing.
“They now have top class learning and sporting facilities and an increasing belief that anything is now possible for them to achieve.
“I am very proud of the academies and of the dedicated staff.
“We are all committed to continuing the journey to take these schools to outstanding status.”
Hove Park on a high
Derek Trimmer, headteacher at Hove Park School, has seen 36 of his students achieve A* grades this year.
He said: “The achievement of Hove Park students is phenomenal, and shows that if you have the ambition, you can succeed.
“These students joined the school at its lowest point, but their results are now the standard that other students will aspire to.
“It is crucial to these children’s life chances that we prepare them for the opportunities that are out there.
“Industry needs adults with strong skills in science, so I am especially pleased to see how successful Hove Park students have been in sciences this year.
“The gap between students’ achievement in English, maths and science has now closed completely.
“Hove Park School continues to buck the national trend.
“As schools across the country see results stagnate, Hove Park is still seeing significant progress.
“And it is not only at the top grades. Students across the board are achieving higher grades, with an amazing 20% overall increase in the number of exam entries achieving C or above this year.
“Our target for next year is to continue the improvement and celebrate a five-year upward trend.”
The good news spread throughout the county, with 62.5% of Burgess Hill High School for Girls students awarded the top grades of A* and A.
Downlands School was also up on last year, with 77% of students achieving the five A* to C including English and maths benchmark, and Eastbourne College celebrated a 100% pass rate.
Meanwhile Bede’s improved for a fourth year in a row, with 10% of students achieving A* or A grades across the board.
Maths whizz Paras gets an A* four years early
A 12-year-old found out yesterday that he had aced his maths GCSE and claimed an A* with a superb 91% in his exam.
Paras Patel, who studies at Brighton College Prep School, sat his exam four years early at Brighton Steiner School after having to swot up on his numeracy at home.
The maths whizz did not want to collect the results himself, so sent his dad and sister to fetch them for him.
When they returned to the house in Dyke Road Avenue, Brighton, he congratulated his son and told him that he had got an A.
Paras said: “I was quite happy when dad came in and told me I’d got an A, but then I read it properly and told him ‘I got an A*’, then I was really, really happy.”
Proud father Sanjiv said: “He had tears in his eyes after the little joke we played on him, but once he realised he’d got his A* he was over the moon and perked up.
“I think his achievement is all the more extraordinary because unlike the GCSE students at Brighton College who have been sitting past paper after past paper for months in lessons, Paras was unable to do so in maths lessons at the Prep School as he had to continue with maths lessons for 12-year-olds.
“I’d like to thank Suresh Kumar, of the Kumon Centre Brighton for teaching the syllabus, Christine Szekely, of Brighton College, for helping him increase from an A to an A*, and Mr Anderson and all his maths teachers at Brighton College Prep School.”
Paras was sitting the linear 1MAOH higher maths GCSE.
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