It was great to see so many Year 13 students in yesterday celebrating their achievements following such an abrupt end to their schooling and the cancellation of exams. They have done fantastically well to get through such a difficult period of uncertainty and we hope for many it gave some closure and some excitement about future plans.
Students had been working incredibly hard in preparation for their final examinations and, based upon their proven ability and the school’s previous attainment, were on target for great success.
Despite this years’ unique grading system we are extremely pleased that the vast majority of students have succeeded in gaining their places at university next year. Our destination figures have always been a huge strength of our Sixth Form and continue to be this year. Currently, 216 students have gained places including 84 of them to Russell Group universities, 8 students to Oxford/Cambridge and 10 students leave to study Medicine/Dentistry. Others will start degrees in a range of subjects, from Graphic Design to Occupational Therapy and from Fashion Design to Environmental Sciences. There are also a number of students continuing to engage with universities, accessing the support of the Sixth Form team throughout. (Any students who require progression support should get in contact).
We are equally proud of those students who have opted for another route. Some of them will be starting employment with the likes of Barclays Bank, the Royal Marines whilst others begin professional rugby careers with Newcastle Falcons. Meanwhile some of our students have opted for gap years or college courses. We know that they will all go on to be very successful.
It was inevitable that the manner in which this year’s results were calculated would lead to discrepancies and the potential for results that might seem inaccurate, confusing or unfair. Unfortunately, that has been the experience this year for many schools and has been widely reported in the media. Whilst we are overjoyed that the grades students received yesterday have secured most of them plans for next year we are concerned about how the school’s historic performance data has been ignored, for example, last year 60% of entries were at A*/A/B grades, this year exam boards have only awarded Gosforth students 51% at those grades.
We engaged fully and fairly with the guidance and modelling developed by Ofqual and we are deeply frustrated that over a third of our grades sent to exam boards have been downgraded. In some cases it feels like the exam boards have not taken into account the teachers grades at all which is so disappointing when we are the people who know them best. Coupled with this Gosforth Academy has both an excellent track record of results and an upward trajectory from 2017 to 2019 and it appears Ofqual have failed to recognise either.
I would like to reassure students that we are analysing the results very carefully and that we will use all of the available evidence in order to take this further. The hard work of our students, professional judgement of our experienced teachers and consistently high performance have been ignored as part of the approach taken by Ofqual. We are aware of many other schools who are also in a similar position and despite exam boards saying schools can’t appeal against the standardisation model we are still working with bodies such as Schools North East and ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders) to make the Department for Education and Ofqual aware of the issues of a statistically led system without taking into account teachers professional judgements.
We will continue to support our students and celebrate their huge successes, they have been a real credit to the school. We wish you the best of luck in the future and will continue to keep you informed of any developments.