With stars in their A’s, students in Hackney, Lewisham and Croydon are flying high

They've done it: Prendergast Ladywell Fields College students jump for joy. Pic: Lewisham Council

An ecstatic Isobella Gillies can now dream big and aim for Cambridge instead of Bristol as she had planned earlier. But Bodhraj Jaman is on tenterhooks: it is not about Bristol or Cambridge. Will his B in physics still allow him a shot at civil engineering at Bristol?

As students of Hackney’s Mossbourne Community Academy started getting their A level results, marking the end of their school years and the first proper steps towards a career, happy shocks seemed the rule and tears the exception.

Although there has been a fall in the proportion of A-level grades awarded an A or A* for the first time in over two decades, the results are promising for this high-performing school in East London. In fact, schools in at least three boroughs in East London — Hackney, Lewisham and Croydon— have come up with good A-level results.

Student Isobella Gilles. Pic: Rahat Mustafa

Gillies was awe struck as she opened her brown envelope. “I really can’t believe this…,” she said as her eyes filled with tears of joy. Taking her  A-level a year before most, Gillies has got four A* – in English Literature, History, Religious Studies and Fine Arts.

“I think I will now defer my placement at Bristol University and reapply to Cambridge. I want to study English and probably be a writer,” Gillies said. But right now she wants to do a one-year Foundation course to prepare herself for university.

Peter Hughes, Head Teacher at Mossbourne Community Academy. Pic: Rahat Mustafa

It is the first year for Peter Hughes the head teacher of the school, who took up his responsibilities only this January. His predecessor, Sir Michael Wilshaw was the founding principal of Mossbourne and is currently Chief Inspector of schools in England and head of Ofsted since January 2012.

Head teacher Hughes is proud that the school is continuing to do well and says both the teachers and students are not surprised but definitely overjoyed by this year’s results. “In our school, this year’s results are very similar to last year’s. 81% grades are A* to C, 56% of grades are A* to B and 10% A*. Sixteen of our students got at least one A* and there is one student who got four A*. So it is another year of fantastic results for Mossbourne,” Hughes said.

Some students haven’t quite got what they were expecting, among them Bodhraj Jaman, 18.  With A* in Maths, A in Spanish and English and a B in Physics, he may not get his choice, civil engineering.

“I was aiming to do civil engineering at Bristol University. Now I will have to wait for their response with a B in Physics,” said a disheartened Bodhraj.

Santina Graham, 18, arrived later than most with her mother. Biting her nails as she walked into the hall, she collected her results – nervous as she opened the envelope. She was speechless for the first few seconds – “I can’t believe I got two A’s – in English and Design. Wow”.

Though she got a D in chemistry, it is not her strong area. She was in fact expecting a U, or a fail.

Santina will look for an apprenticeship and go for a year’s break before going to university. “This is because the fees have gone up. And I am not sure whether I can afford to. I want to go to Portsmouth University to do English and Pyschology,” Santina said.

Student Santina Graham with her mother. Pic: Rahat Mustafa

Success wasn’t just exclusive to Mossbourne. Most of the schools in Hackney performed very well.

The Head Teacher of Our Lady’s Convent High School, Jane Gray, said: “It has been a roller coaster of a morning, with some tears but thankfully mostly smiles. I have been very impressed with the high standards of the girls. They have worked really hard but as one mother said to me, her daughter’s results could not have been achieved without the incredible commitment of our teaching staff, so they are also to be commended.”

Stoke Newington School and Sixth Form Head Teacher Annie Gammon said: “We are very proud of all our sixth form students and their achievements in both A level and vocational courses. They have worked hard and deserve their success.”

A-level marks have dropped for the first time in 20 years in the UK after the government cracked down on ‘grade inflation’. But that is not representative of these boroughs in East London. Success stories and achievements are not limited to the borough of Hackney.  Students and their families in Lewisham and Croydon are celebrating too.

Teenagers in Lewisham on Thursday celebrated their A-level results, which have seen the borough exceed the national average for the tenth consecutive year. Lewisham gained a borough-average pass rate of 98.3 per cent, beating the national average of 98 per cent. Schools and colleges in the borough reported record results and a rise in numbers of students getting into one of the 24 leading universities in the country – known as the Russell Group. Some of the Russell Group’s universities include Cambridge, Exeter and the London School of Economics.

The borough’s Prendergast Hillyfields College achieved a 100 per cent pass rate. Between Prendergast and Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation, which consists of Hatcham College, Knights Academy and Crayford Academy, ten students will be heading to Oxbridge in October.

One star pupil, Lawrence Okoti-Odidu, 18, who attended Prendergast Hillyfields College, gained three A*s, which includes 100 per cent score in mathematics. His impressive grades have secured him a place at Oxford University, where he will be studying physics and philosophy. “I am incredibly proud. The teachers were very encouraging because they believe in you and want the best from you.”  He said.

Student Lawrence Okoti-Odidu. Pic: Lewisham Council

Adrian Percival, Chief Executive of the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation, said: “I am really delighted with the fantastic performance of our students.” He said the results represented the culmination of an incredible amount of hard work on behalf of the students and their teachers.

Nelofar Farhang, 18, who achieved three A*s, will be studying Italian and Spanish at Cambridge University, said that she couldn’t believe it. “Seven years of hard work has really paid off.”

Councillor Helen Klier with students. Pic: Lewisham Council

Lewisham councillor Helen Klier, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, who joined students at Sydenham and Prendergast Hillyfields College as they received their results, said: “Once again, Lewisham teenagers have demonstrated their commitment to their education.”

Cllr Klier added that the students ” should be proud of their achievements” and have worked incredibly hard with the support of their teachers and families.

Students are now making plans and confirming places at their chosen universities, to take up courses in subjects as diverse as Dentistry, Wildlife Conservation and Middle Eastern Studies.

Students in Croydon are not lagging behind.  Royal Russell School, in Coombe Lane, Croydon, achieved a 100 per cent overall pass rate. It was good news, with the school saying that 2012 marked its most successful year ever. Head teacher, Chris Hutchinson said: “I am delighted to see this successful and talented group of young people moving on to universities of their choice. Congratulations to them all.”

A record 64.2 per cent of all this year’s grades were A or A* with 91.2 per cent of all grades in the A* to B bracket.

Norbury Manor Business and Enterprise College, in Thornton Heath, had what head of sixth form Rob Bradley described as a “superb year”, with the overall pass rate was 99.2 per cent at A* to E.

The Harris Academies, in Upper Norwood, South Norwood and Purley, said, though their final pass rates were to be confirmed, pupils had achieved a record number of A* grades.

Students and teachers at Norbury Manor Business and Enterprise College for Girls are celebrating huge improvements in A Level results.

As 335,000 teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland learnt if they had passed or failed, it was also revealed that the number of those having guaranteed university places had dropped nearly seven per cent.

The government’s decision to increase tuition fees for university students has largely dampened the enthusiasm of students. The students who get into universities this year in England will be the first to face fees of up to £9000.   And there have been reports that the number of entrants are foreseen to go down.

Earlier in the year Ucas said, number of UK university applicants has dropped by 8.7% compared with last year. But that does not seem to be the case at least in a few of the colleges in London.  School leavers have not overwhelmingly been deterred by the tripling of tuition fees. According to Goldsmiths and Queen Mary both under University of London, they have not seen a drop in the level of applicants this year.

Written by Rahat Mustafa and Emma Marvin

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