Gallery: A-level results fall in Ipswich amid changes to exam system

Alevel results day at Copleston sixth form, Ipswich

Alevel results day at Copleston sixth form, Ipswich

A-level results fell in Ipswich today as sixth-formers who failed to make the grade consider their future following a clampdown on exam re-sits and a shift towards tougher subjects.

Eight out of 11 schools in the Ipswich area reported a fall in the proportion of grades awarded at A* to C amid major changes to the exam system. This compares to five out of 10 schools recording a drop last year (Ipswich Academy did not record a score last year).

A decision to scrap the January exam session coupled with a move by students to opt for traditional subjects favoured by universities is widely thought to have lowered results.

The January exams had enabled candidates to re-sit parts of their course to push up their overall marks. All exams are now taken in the summer.

This was accompanied by a rise in popularity of academic subjects, such as Maths, chemistry, physics and geography, which are regarded as more difficult. There were substantial falls in entries for PE, drama and music.

It was revealed today that the proportion of grades awarded at A* to C at Suffolk New College fell from 74% last year to 58%.

It also dropped from 93.2% to 88.9% at Ipswich School; from 80% to 75% at Kesgrave High School; from 75% to 73% at St Alban’s Catholic High School; from 66% to 58% at Ipswich Academy; from 76% to 66% at St Joseph’s College in Ipswich; from 78% to 76% at One (formerly Suffolk One) and from 81% to 77.1% at the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook.

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It remained static at the Ipswich High School for Girls, staying at 85.7%. At Felixstowe Academy, it fell from 70% to 56%.

Meanwhile, the overall pass rate, attaining A*-E grades, fell at six schools in the Ipswich area. Nationally, it dropped for the first time in 32 years.

But one school managed to buck the trend. Northgate High School was the only school in Ipswich to report an increase in the proportion of grades awarded at A* to C. It went up from 79% to 81%.

Head teacher David Hutton said he was “delighted” at the “genuine success”, adding: “Pass rates are up; points per student are up; the number of our students achieving three or four strong A-level grades is up. Congratulations to all our students.”

And despite the dip in the results, head teachers have praised their students. Professor Dave Muller, principal at Suffolk New College, said: “It is great to see our students achieving once again the good grades that they have worked so hard for.

“The results this year are a great reflection of the efforts and commitment made by our students and staff working together. I would like to thank everyone for their determination and congratulate our students, wishing them all the best for the future.”

Ipswich School headmaster Nicholas Weaver said: “I would like to congratulate our students on their A-level results – they recognise the effort put in by these young people over the last two years, and the parents and staff who have supported them. “I am pleased that our results have held up, in a year which has seen the start of major on-going reforms to the A Level exam process.”

Andy Green, vice principal at Copleston High School, said it was estimated that the proportion of A* to C grades was 65%.

That is the same score as last year, and Mr Green said: “The results that have been achieved are testament to the hard work and dedication of both the students and the staff here at Copleston High School.

“The average points score per entry has improved significantly from 189 in 2013 to 198 in 2014, indicating that more of our students have achieved higher grades.

“The average points score per candidate of 793 is also the equivalent of students achieving AAB grades in three A-level courses.

“We are thrilled that so many of our students have realised their ambitions this year.

“Those students that applied for higher education courses have gained places and we wish them every success in the future.”

Nigel Burgoyne, head teacher at Kesgrave High School, said: “Kesgrave High students achieved very strong A-level results, with 48% of grades at A*, A and B. “Twenty students recorded at least three A*/A grades, with boys outflanking the girls, with a quarter of grades at A*/A. Staff are very proud of all the students for their hard work and commitment.”

Colin Walker, principal at St Alban’s Catholic High School, said: “Once again the pupils of St Alban’s have generated fantastic A-level results.

“The dedication of the staff over the past two years has placed pupils well to gain places on courses for which they have applied. The partnership between pupils, staff and parents is what makes St Alban’s inclusive sixth form so successful.”

Nancy Robinson, Ipswich Academy principal, said: “These are our first sixth form results in our purpose built sixth form college environment and our second set of students to apply to university.

“We are thrilled that they have all achieved the required grades to be accepted on their first choice of university.”

She added: “58% of students achieved grades A*-C overall. This is a slight reduction on last year but is a reflection of a smaller cohort.

“All of our students completing the Dance Diplomas and Performing Arts Diplomas achieved at least two distinctions. Some of them also added good A-level qualifications to their portfolios alongside their more practical courses.”

One principal Alan Whittaker said: “Last year was an outstanding year for us and this year we have repeated or exceeded this progress so we are naturally delighted.

“Student success has improved across the college against national benchmarks and against the national trend. Therefore these results are magnificent and a real testament to all the hard work that has been achieved by our students and staff.”

Danielle Clarke, principal of St Joseph’s College, said: “The overall results are a reflection of the hard work and commitment shown by both staff and students over the year.

“We are proud of all of our students and wish them every success for their future careers and university destinations, as they leave St Joseph’s as well rounded and well equipped young people to succeed in all areas of their lives.

“We also welcome the plans that head teachers in England have recently announced, to publish their own league tables which include more information about schools than just exams, such as sport and music.”

James Lockwood, headmaster at the Royal Hospital School, said: “Regardless of much adverse speculation about A level results, I am delighted that our overall pass rate of 99.6% is up versus last year (up from 99.4%).

“Even more impressive is the fact that 30% of our pupils gained 360 UCAS points or more – which is the equivalent of three A grades – a 5% rise on the number last year. “Focus and determination on the part of the pupils and the extraordinary support of their teachers and tutors has paid off as they secure places at top UK universities.

“Most notably our English results have broken the national trend with almost 80% of pupils gaining A*-B grades – a rise of 32% since last year. Similar pass rates have been achieved in many other departments from the sciences to arts.”

Oona Carlin, head of Ipswich High School for Girls, said: “I am really proud to be celebrating with the girls today; this is a tremendous day after a brilliant first year as Head of this school.

“The results are testament to the students’ dedication and hard work and the invaluable contribution by our teaching staff. Thank you to all the parents and staff who support the girls to achieve such outstanding results.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer admitted A-level results across the town slipped beneath the standards expected, claiming there were still “significant problems” in the region’s education system.

He said: “I would like to congratulate those who have done well and secured a place at their chosen university or apprenticeship scheme, and those who need to find a place I now wish them the best of luck.

“As for an explanation for why it went down, it is a direct result of tightening up the league tables so that it is not possible anymore to fiddle them, and a concentration of making A-levels more rigorous.

“We have returned them to the gold-standard which students, parents, employers and others want them to be.

“But we still have very significant problems and we should be achieving better results all round. We know that the education system needs to be improved in Ipswich and Suffolk, and I am working hard and am committed to making sure that happens.”

Meanwhile, as the A-level results are published, youngsters who have applied for university will be finding out whether they have met the grade requirements to take up their chosen course.

Demand for university is high again this year. In England, applications are up 3% on last year, but University Campus Suffolk reported last month that there was a 14% increase in the number of applications that had been submitted by the end of June compared to last year.

It comes amid plans for the university campus to become an independent institution. If successful, UCS will become the first independent university in Suffolk awarding its own degrees, which are currently jointly validated by its two partner institutions

Meanwhile, would-be students without a university place are likely to enter clearing – the annual process which allows them to search and apply for courses that still have vacancies.

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