GCSE results climb across the region but North East is still below the national average

There has been a rise in GCSE grades across the North East, but figures show the region is still behind the rest of the country

Students at Tanfield School, open up there GCSE results, left to right, Kathryn Alexander, Chelsey Hart and Rebecca Harrison
Students at Tanfield School, open up there GCSE results, left to right, Kathryn Alexander, Chelsey Hart and Rebecca Harrison

There has been a rise in GCSE grades across the North East, but figures show the region is still behind the rest of the country.

Despite major changes to the exam system, the percentage of A*-C grades across North East schools rose from 64.7% in 2013 to 65.7% this year.

Data released by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) showed that the number of A* and A grades has also gone up from 17.3% to 17.4% in the same year.

Across England the percentage of A*-C grades stands at 68.6%, up from 68.1% last year.

This summer, major curbs have been placed on exam resits after the Government announced only pupils’ first attempt at a GCSE would feature in official league tables.

January and March exams have also been scrapped, forcing all pupils to sit tests at the same time in the summer and preventing them taking an exam twice in the same year.

Gill Alexander, chair of the North East Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said: “Whilst it is absolutely right that standards are maintained in our schools, the recent changes to how GCSEs are conducted, in both the way they are assessed and the way results are presented has led to a lot of variability in the results received by individual students and by schools this year.

“Ofqual had previously warned of national volatility in the results, and that prediction appears to have come true.

“As such we are unable to draw any immediate messages from the headline results but local authorities in the region will conduct further analysis to see how the results compare with trends nationally.

“They will also work with individual schools to establish what the results mean and how local authorities and schools can continue to work together to ensure that improvements are made in the future.”

Many of the region’s schools performed better than ever before.

Heaton Manor School in Newcastle recorded improved results on last year. Some 61% of students secured five or more A* to C grades including English and maths.

Head teacher Lynne Ackland said she was pleased with the latest set of scores, despite tougher reforms introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove.

She said: “We are really pleased with our results. We recorded another set of improved results which is five years on the trot so that’s absolutely brilliant, especially as the rules have changed.

“It’s great to see all the students excited about their results and moving on to the sixth form, colleges and things they want to do.

“We’re also trying to be helpful for those people who perhaps missed out on a few grades so we have got different training providers for those. We’re hoping we can fix up everybody with something for the future.”

Alexa Ray, from Heaton, secured an A* in health and social care and three A grades and is also staying on at Heaton Manor School.

“I’m just so relieved,” said Alexa. “I was so nervous this morning and I barely got any sleep.”

A Gateshead school’s top performing students have been awarded twenty A and A* grades between them.

Eleanor Morden, 16, from Low Fell in Gateshead achieved 7 A* and 3 A grades, while Ben Evans, also from Low Fell, got 8 A* and 2 A grades.

They will now stay on for sixth form at the Joseph Swan Academy where they took their exams. Eleanor hopes to study at university to become a vet and Ben would like to train to be a doctor.

Eleanor said the exams had seemed a lot harder than previous years from past papers she had studied as revision.

She said: “The exams are definitely not getting easier. They made them so much harder this year.”

Ben said: “I did do a lot of revision. I expected to do well in some subjects but I didn’t expect to get an A* in French so that was really nice.”

He will now study maths, further maths, physics, chemistry and biology at AS-level.

Students at Marden High School, in Cullercoats, recorded some of the best results in North Tyneside.

It was the second highest performing local authority school in North Tyneside, behind John Spence Community High School in North Shields.

Cole Cockburn, 16, got eight A*s and three As and will study politics, economics, history and maths at the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle.

Cole, from Cullercoats, said: “I’m extremely happy with my grades. I’d like to thank everybody at the school who has helped me. They have all been great.”

Parents at Kenton School, in Newcastle, studied for their GCSEs alongside their children in an attempt to get to grips with modern school standards.

More than 20 parents studied English and maths at special night classes run for free by school staff.

Mum Karin Hastie, who works for the NHS, said she decided to try and take her maths GCSE at the age of 54 while her son Glen, 16, was also studying for his exam. Karin, from Kenton, said: “I got an E but I’m going to re-sit in November. I didn’t even sit maths the first time around as I was told by a teacher that I would fail it.

“When I first went into the classes at Kenton it was really hard. Fractions, algebra, Pythagoras’ theorum; but I’ve enjoyed it and it’s made me use my brain.”

Teenager Emily Yau, 16, from Newton Aycliffe was named best in her school – Durham High School for Girls – after notching up 12 A* grades and one A.

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