From disaster to triumph: students shine this summer

It’s been a chaotic summer exam season. But now as clarity emerges, how have international schools and colleges fared? And what next for 2021’s A Level, IB, IGCSE, GCSE and BTec cohort?

Three female students look happy about exam results
Think Global People Autumn 2020 issue
This article is taken from the first issue of Think Global People, the new home of Relocate Magazine.
Click on the cover to access the digital edition or read all of the articles on our website.
The Covid-19 pandemic has taken away many of the small rituals we previously took for granted. Among them the footage, photos and reality of joyous young adults receiving their IB, A Level, GCSE, IGCSE and BTec results, and the accompanying congratulations.In their place was outcry at an algorithm deemed unfair, appeals then disappointment at missed university places and late results publication, before confusion as government, Ofqual and IB policies changed. The fallout led to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, apologising for “significant inconsistencies” as initial grading adversely impacted pupils at schools in more deprived areas, then the resignation of Ofqual chief, Sally Collier. At the end of three weeks of uncertainty, A Level, GCSE and IGCSE candidates were all promised the higher of their examination board or centre-assessed grade (CAG).

A bumper year for student attainment

Irrespective of the fast-changing situation, congratulations are certainly in order around the world for the Class of 2020 as the results of schools following the IB, IGCSE, GCSE, A Level and BTec curricula show. While there are still some students who feel their potential has been unfairly judged and appealing or sitting October exams, figures from the UK’s examinations watchdogs do show higher attainment across the board. Ofqual’s data for England shows the proportion of A grades awarded at GCSE in 2020 in all subjects was 6.6%, up from 4.7% in 2019. Cumulatively, this trend continues across grades. The number of 9–4s awarded – regarded as a pass and equivalent to a low C in the previous awards scheme – this year is 78.8%, compared to 69.9% in 2019. GCSE data for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales mirror this pattern. CCEA, the examinations body for Northern Ireland, released provisional results showing the number of grades A*–C is up to 89.4% from 81.7% in 2019. Qualifications Wales, notes its results are “significantly higher this year,” estimating on 20 August that revised 2020 GCSE at cumulative A*–C is “74.5%, compared to 62.8% in 2019.”In Scotland, 2020’s Higher pass rate is 89.2%, up 14.4 percentage points on 2019. The Advanced Higher pass rate is also up 13.7 points on last year at 93.1%. Similarly, for A Levels the number of A* and A grades awarded by English examination boards rose to 38.1% in 2020 compared to 25.2% last year. For Wales, 41.3% of grades are A*–A in 2020, compared to 29.9% in 2019, and in Northern Ireland, almost a third of students achieved A grades, rising by 2.3%.

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International schools celebrate strong GCSE results

Padworth College in Berkshire saw 38% of GCSE results at A*–A (9–7). Lorraine Atkins, Principal, said the results are a “superb reflection of the students’ efforts.  During the last academic year, the new management team at Padworth College has supported students with a range of new learning strategies, which have paid dividends in the form of focused target setting by the academic staff.”Also among those celebrating strong GCSE and IGCSE success are the 64 schools in the Inspired Education Group network. Some of its highlights for 2020 were in Spain, where all King’s College schools (Alicante, Madrid and Murcia) set new records on already historically high grades. In King’s College School La Moraleja (Madrid), its first cohort of IGCSE students achieved 50% entries at A* (9-8); 72% at A*–A (9-7); and 99% at A*–C (9-4).Nadim Nsouli, Inspired Education Group Founder, Chairman and CEO, adds "we are delighted with such a strong set of IGCSE. We switched seamlessly to live and continuous virtual learning when restrictions required this, ensuring that student progress was uninterrupted and their aspirations undiminished. Congratulations on such well-deserved success." In the UK, at Fulham School, London, Year 11 students achieved 40% entries at A* (9-8); 58% at A*–A (9-7); and 100% at A*–C (9-4). Reddam House, Berkshire, celebrated its best set of GCSE results in the school’s history, with 39% of grades at A* (9-8); 63% at A*– A (9-7); and 82% A*– B (9-6).In Oman, Inspired’s largest-ever IGCSE cohort also achieved impressive standards, with 24% grades at A* (9-8) and 56% at A*–A (9-7). Inspired’s success was replicated at A Levels, with its global group average of 21% A* grades, 46% A*–A grades and 84% A*–C grades.Au20-in-text-banner

A Levels and IB opening doors globally

Students and teachers at the British School in the Netherlands (BSN) also have reason to celebrate. Six in ten A Level results were A*–B. Paul Topping, Headteacher of the school’s Senior campus and Executive Leader at the (BSN) said he was pleased with the school's Sixth Form results, especially given the circumstances. “As students received their results today, I have observed a resilience, a determination to succeed, and a renewed sense of optimism. It is no coincidence that we place an emphasis on all three of these characteristics during the school year and I am sure their development is reinforced during times of adversity.”For the International Baccalaureate, the overall pass rate increased to 78.75% of candidates passing in May 2020 compared with 77.16% in May 2019. This figure could increase as the international education body in mid-August revised final grades based on internal assessments (IA) and predicted grades (PG) so that “no student will receive a lower grade than what was received previously”.The Munich International School (MIS) posted the highest IB Diploma average in the region. Its MIS Class of 2020 scored an average of 36 points in their IB Diplomas (world average: 29.9) and a 99% IB Diploma pass rate (world average: 79%). Nine in ten subject results were above IB world averages, with students Safa Ahmed and Iva Acimic achieving a perfect International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma score of 45 points. TASIS, The American School in England, was also celebrating an inspiring set of outcomes. This year’s TASIS IB Diploma cohort achieved a 98% pass rate and an average point score of 35. In addition, 22% of the students received a bilingual IB diploma, which reflects the School’s Mission to “nurture intellectual curiosity and embolden each learner to flourish as a principled, open-minded, and compassionate member of a global community.”TASIS’ Advanced Placement course, which enables qualifying students to study college-level courses in a high school environment and developed by the American College Board, also achieved an 89% pass rate and an impressive average mean score of 3.9; significantly higher than the world average. 

Read more about this year's results:

Pathways to university and further education

These results are all undoubtedly great news, reflecting the dedication of teaching staff, parents and students. Yet this summer’s grading chaos has meant a change of plan for a significant number of young people.According to UCAS, the UK university admissions service, some 60,000 young people missed out on their first-choice university place before being awarded the higher of their CAG and moderated grade. Around 15,000 of those originally rejected have since secured their firm-choice place. UCAS’ analysis found 7% of this group are from disadvantaged backgrounds, which it says “follows a record-breaking year for disadvantaged students gaining places at high-tariff providers, which at this point in the admissions cycle stands at 6,090, compared with 5,290 at the same point last year for UK 18 year olds.”Still, 45,000 students have had to change their plans and either go through clearing or defer, adding strain to university admissions departments already under pressure from the impact of coronavirus on resourcing. BTec students looking to go on to higher education were also caught up in the confusion, with their results delayed by a week.

T Levels – another Gold Standard?

Looking ahead to next year, students taking A Levels and GCSEs in 2021 will face a revised curriculum to reflect the loss of classroom time during lockdown. Yet questions remain around how moderation errors this year, coupled with addressing concerns around grade inflation, will impact overall attainment in 2021. The issues are significant in the context of the global skills and reskilling challenges. However, a broader range of post-16 qualifications like apprenticeships and from this September T levels – a vocational programme of study in a range of subjects equivalent to three A levels – mean there is more than one way for employers and young people to target, prepare and thrive in their chosen career path.Verity Davidge, Director of Central Policy and Skills at Make UK, the manufacturers’ body, was among those who sought to reassure those who missed out on their university place or post-16 study. “Clearly these results are in extraordinary circumstances but, despite this, from apprenticeships, to new T levels, and further education, there still remains a wealth of opportunities for young people to explore,” she said.Underlining the importance of gaining wider life experience – an aspect accented in many international schools and emphasised in the International Baccalaureate programme with its holistic approach to personal as well as academic development – Verity Davidge said: “While results are important, employers are looking for well-rounded individuals and have always looked beyond just exams grades when recruiting the next generation of talent. As such, in these difficult times we would urge employers to continue to make these opportunities open and accessible to all.”
Think Global People Autumn 2020 issue
This article is taken from the first issue of Think Global People, the new home of Relocate Magazine.
Click on the cover to access the digital edition or read all of the articles on our website.

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