Published: 13:27, 13 August 2020
| Updated: 14:01, 14 August 2020
Students across Ashford have today been finding out what grades they'll be getting after a unique school year.
The Class of 2020 has been heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with remote learning and no exams taking place.
Despite this, today marked the end of their hard work as they received their grades.
Some may be contesting their results due to the nature of this year's marking system, which uses previous years' grades to estimate the results handed out today.
Parents have been reporting their child's grades have been downgraded from those achieved in mock exams, and head teachers have been left feeling like their students' marks don't reflect what they could have achieved in normal circumstances and with testing.
However for many, today was a day of celebration, including at Wye School which had its very first batch of A Level results, having opened seven years ago.
The secondary was celebrating today as 93% of the students who applied will be starting courses at their first-choice universities, with 50% destined for Russell Group institutions.
Principal Luke Magee said: “It is a very proud moment as a head teacher to see your first ever cohort taking their next steps towards successful adult lives, with the vast majority securing their first-choice university and at some of the country’s best institutions.
"Wye School is a small and friendly community, with fewer than 100 students in the Sixth Form, so we know our students well and support them as individuals.
"This shows in the university courses that our Sixth Formers will now be taking up and in the skills and preparation they have received to thrive in this ever-changing world.
“Whilst it is of course sad to say goodbye to our establishing cohort, we hope our 2020 leavers will look back with pride at how they have coped during these unusual and challenging circumstances and be happy with how they have supported one another through it.
"As our Sixth Form continues to grow, we very much look forward to welcoming our younger year groups safely back next month and continuing our focus on high academic standards and delivering an education with character.”
At Highworth Grammar School, there were scenes of jubilation as friends caught up with each other face-to-face for the first time in months.
Parents were asked to wait in their cars while students collected their envelopes. Using a staggered system based on houses, the hall was accessed using a one-way system.
Head teacher Paul Danielsen said: "This year's results reflect the school's very successful historical averages and the hard work of our students and staff. The vast majority of our students will gain places at their chosen universities and we wish all of our A Level students continued success in their various future pathways.
"This has been a challenging year but we are very proud of the dedication and resilience of our school community."
Student Phoebe Lane said: "I was very nervous before coming but I'm happy.
"This last term has been really weird, and it's basically been five months of waiting to see whether you've got in."
The 18-year-old received an AAB, securing her a spot at the University of York to study history.
Regarding the method of grading, she said: "I do kind of wish we'd had exams, as in one subject I think I could've got better."
Fellow Highworth student Deneka Francis got enough to get into King's College, where she'll be reading digital culture.
She said: "I've really enjoyed my time here and in Year 13 I really felt like I got into it and got a feel for future education but I wish we had exams because it would feel more like the end and like I'd earned the grades more.
"With it all being online it was a bit weird, in subjects like English where you're expected to hand write it was a bit odd but in some subjects there were already online assignments."
When asked whether she was happy to be able to come in to collect results, she said: "Yeah, I feel like if it had just been sent out by email it wouldn't be the same.
"I know we aren't getting the full experience - like with an ice cream truck and everything - but it's still really good to be here."
One school that decided against a results day event was the North School, which posted on its website: "The results will be sent electronically to students by e-mail. Do not come to the school to collect results."
Despite this, the school had reason to celebrate with a number of high achievers.
Head teacher Anna Lawrence said: "Congratulations to all hard-working students from The North School Sixth Form.Whilst sharing both students’ and parents’ frustrations and anxieties related to the process of awarding final grades, today we are firmly focused on celebrating our students’ successes as well as supporting those pupils whose grades have been affected by the ever-changing moderation process.
"Since the very beginning of the standardisation, we have been determined to ensure that every young person receives a fair grade, reflecting their abilities. It remains our top priority that all our students are able to move to the next stage of education or training.
"The vast majority of our grades remained unchanged and when adjustments were applied these included both movement to higher as well as lower grades.
"We are particularly proud of the results achieved by Stephanie Redfearn (A* for Psychology, A – Media, B- Law & A – Extended Project Qualification), Ben Tipping (Double Distinction* in ICT & B grades in Maths and EPQ), Yasmin Russell (Double Distinction* in Applied Science & Bs for Psychology and Sociology) and Josh Glover (Double Distinction* in ICT & Bs in Media Studies and EPQ).
"Well over 60% of our students are moving to university; 92% of this group secured either 1st or 2nd choice.
"We are confident that our young people are well prepared for the next stage in their adult life. We wish all our students the best for their future."
Norton Knatchbull was similarly brimming with teens waiting to get their A Level results using a system similar to that of Highworth.
The school's head, Ben Greene, said: "Along with Y13 students across the country Norton Knatchbull students have today received their A Level Results and we very much look forward to celebrating the range of destinations and opportunities that now await them.
"Whilst it is customary at this time of year for schools to highlight these outcomes in terms of percentages achieved at different grade thresholds, given the circumstances through which these results have been arrived at and the fact that these continue to evolve, this is not the appropriate focus.
"As Norton Knatchbull students receive their results we have two priorities. First and foremost is to work with each student to support them in securing their intended progression route – whether this be university, training or employment – and that whatever they go on to do next, that this reflects their effort and hard work, and that of colleagues, over the course of their studies.
"Secondly, we are conscious of concerns that this year’s grades have been more heavily weighted than would usually be the case by the historical performance of students in the school.
"We will be closely monitoring the emerging information about how the final grades have been calculated, reviewing this against our own Centre Assessed Estimates and taking appropriate action to seek to ensure that each student’s grades are as fair and accurate reflection as possible of their ability, and not unduly skewed by the performance of previous students.
"Important as they are, grades on their own have never represented the totality of a student’s (or indeed a school’s) achievements and qualities.
"We are tremendously proud of and celebrate their achievements and qualities..."
"The Norton Knatchbull Class of 2020 are a very special cohort who were fully committed to the school community – not just in their efforts in their academic studies – but as role models to younger students – in the way they carried themselves in and around school, supporting and organizing extra-curricular activities, and also in their contribution to the wider community – be this in the collection and distribution of hampers to local care homes at Christmas, volunteering in local primary schools, or immediately upon lockdown volunteering at a Nightingale Hospital.
"We are tremendously proud of and celebrate their achievements and qualities – confident that these will enable them to move forward to the next stage of their lives, and with our best wishes and support as they do so."
Benenden School has had a fantastic set of results,with 64% of grades at Benenden were at A* or A – higher than last year’s 56 per cent.
An impressive 31 per cent of all grades were awarded the top A* grade and a third of the year group achieved nothing less than an A.
The all girls' school's headmistress, Samantha Price, said: “This has been an unprecedented year for all of us, but it has been particularly stressful for those young people whose exams were cancelled.
"The girls at Benenden have been fantastic: they have dealt with the uncertainty tremendously well and have made full use of the extra time that they suddenly had to expand their knowledge and skills and to help others.
“I have got the utmost respect for the staff and pupils for managing what has been a very uncertain process. Our priority all along has been to do all we can to ensure that the girls gain the outcomes that are fair for them.
"The girls have worked incredibly hard over two years towards their A Level results and should be very proud of their achievements. These are very strong results which the girls have thoroughly deserved.
“Nobody would have wanted the results to be decided in this way and we are confident that the girls would have surpassed the grades announced today had they been able to sit their exams; nevertheless in the circumstances we are satisfied that these results are broadly in line with our expectations for this year group, albeit with some downward surprises owing to the methodology of the statistical model adopted to award final grades.
“Most importantly, the majority of girls have secured their first choice of university so we are understandably relieved that the disruption of the past few months has not jeopardised the girls’ onward journeys. The Class of 2020 have very bright futures ahead of them indeed.
“We look forward to welcoming them back to Benenden for their rescheduled leavers’ events later this year and we will keep in very close touch with them as they progress in their careers.”
Among Benenden's top performers were Anna Chan with five straight A* grades and Minna Moody-Stuart, who leaves Benenden with six A Levels: four at A* and two at A grade. Seven other girls achieved at least four A* grades each.
Homewood School students also went in to collect their results, with a number of students celebrating good results.
Whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines, the staff were able to provide a warm welcome to the students, providing everyone with a Homewood School Lockdown Leavers of 2020 T-shirt and free ice creams and ices.
Among those celebrating both results and university places was Amy - who will be amongst the first students to study medicine at the new Kent & Medway Medical School this Autumn - and Scott who is going to Southampton University to study ship science whilst also preparing to join the GB Olympic sailing team.
Principal Jeremy Single was both very proud of everyone's achievements and "very dissapointed" at grading system.
He said: "It was wonderful to welcome back our Year 13 and 14 students after being unable to give them a proper send off last term. I am extremely proud of everyone’s determination and overall resilience in what has been an incredible testing time. I am so proud that so many of them will be going on to study at some of the country’s best universities and on the courses of their choice – from medicine to film production.
“However, I am also very disappointed for those students who have been cheated by the system; they deserve better. There is a genuine lack of understanding in terms of how OFQUAL and the examination boards have reached their final decisions as it would appear that many students have been given calculated grades that do not match either their past performance or their general academic profile.
“Whilst the Government’s approach in attempting to achieve a spread of results nationally in line with past statistics might seem a reasonable one, it has resulted in many students being treated as mere figures on a spreadsheet and not therefore being awarded the grades they actually deserve as individuals.
"Many students will have every right to feel very aggrieved today. All I can say is that we will continue to support each and every one of them here at Homewood.
“At this point we are unable to share any statistics or overall grade percentages whilst we await further information on the appeals process and which grades will actually eventually count.This is frustrating for everyone but particularly so for our students.”
Meanwhile at the John Wallis C of E Academy, students have enjoyed a bumper array of A Levels and Level 3 Vocational qualifications.
Deputy head girl Mangla Gurung achieved an A* grade in A Level History and A grades in English Literature and Media, enough to secure her place on a law course at the University of Manchester.
Twins Blake and Toby Woods also enjoyed success, both going to university with Blake reading maths and Toby to read geography.
Meanwhile George Griffiths achieved A grades in Biology and Psychology and a Distinction* in BTEC Level 3 Sport.
Principal John McParland: “There is great joy for many of our students, for those who hope to take up apprenticeships and move into the world of work and for those who have gained places at university and are looking forward to the next phase of their education. Congratulations to all of our Year 13 students.
"It has been an extraordinary and unprecedented end to the secondary education of all Year 13 students in 2020.
"In the unique circumstances of this summer, I am very proud of all our students and how they have adapted to the challenges of Covid 19 and in particular to how they have dealt with the extraordinary way their results have been determined.
"Our students deserve the highest praise for their commitment and hard work as do our teachers for their expertise, support and generosity of time outside of school hours, to always ensure our students achieve their potential.
"We will do all in our power to make sure that every student has a pathway to follow, whatever their results, and I wish our students every happiness and success in the next phase of their education and career choice.”
It was also a very proud and successful day for Towers School's Sixth Form students.
Head teacher Richard Billings said: "The resilience and strength shown from our students during recent times has been amazing, and today was a real testament to the lifelong learning they have achieved and the hard work they have put in across their Sixth Form studies.
"Students today secured places at some of the top Universities across the country, and the trend of achieving very successful grades has once again increased this year.
"As always, we are proud of our students and wish them continued success in their future pathways."
At Ashford School, three quarters of students got into their first choice university.
Among that number is Mary, who achieved 3 A*s and an A and will be going to Cambridge to read Economic and another pupil, Lucas, who attained 3 A*s and will be going to Royal Holloway to read computer science.
In addition to A Level results, all students who undertook an Extended Project Qualification were awarded either an A or A*.
Director of Sixth Form, Claire Miller, would like to remind Ashford School leavers of her end of year speech, saying: "You are like caterpillars and you are now free to fly into the world you have so longed to join.
"For you that world has changed, but you are prepared and you now must move on.
"Your Sixth Form experience has been as dynamic and unique as ever. While cut short by 3 months, you still have so much to take away with you; friendships, memories of school trips, house tournaments, teachers, subjects and of course, confidence that we will always support you.
"This year group has been exceptional and you have enriched each others lives. Don't ever forget that."