GCSE success for Portsmouth pupils as grading system changes 

WITH a complete restructure of the way GCSEs are now graded, change to the secondary school education system is afoot. 

But existing confusion on the matter did not come close to dampening the spirits of the thousands of youngsters who united to receive their results in Portsmouth yesterday. 

The Portsmouth Academy Portsmouth pupils step up to GCSE challenge

The Portsmouth Academy Portsmouth pupils step up to GCSE challenge

<<See a picture gallery from Portsmouth schools by clicking the link above>>

In the city centre, vice principal of Ark Charter Academy, Dean Jenkins, said results received by his pupils were an improvement on last year – and showed the school is on an ‘upward trajectory’. 

Playing a part in that trend was 16-year-old Sani Nkomanzana, who lives in Portsmouth, and secured one grade 9, seven 8s, two 7s and two 6s. 

‘I am so pleased and I think these grades are even better than I expected. To get that nine in English literature is a great feeling.’ 

Katherine Wildsmith with her daughter Chloe Wildsmith at Portsmouth High School

Katherine Wildsmith with her daughter Chloe Wildsmith at Portsmouth High School

Sani will now go to Havant and South Downs College. 

Reflecting on results at the school, Mr Jenkins said outcomes proved Ark Charter’s commitment to pupils of all abilities. 

He said: ‘Overall we are very pleased – with our high-end students and how they’ve performed – and very proud with students who have found education more difficult. We have really supported and helped those as well.’

Over the city railway line, in Arundel Street, excitement to uncover long-awaited results at St Edmund’s Catholic School led to a brilliant atmosphere. 

Students celebrating at Portsmouth High School

Students celebrating at Portsmouth High School

Efforts there meant 84 per cent of pupils sealed grades between 4 and 9, inclusive of English and maths, while 58 per cent scored levels 5 to 9. 

Stephanie Hardie, 16 from Portsmouth, shed tears of joy when she learned she had achieved one A, two 8s, three 7s and two 6s. 

Composing herself she said: ‘I am extremely pleased. There was one subject I was sure I had failed, but I got an 8.

‘What's even crazier is that the lowest I got overall was a 6 – I was expecting to do much worse than this.' 

Equally pleased was Oscar Lake, also 16 from Portsmouth. He earned four 9s, eight 8s, three 7s, an A, and two A*s – paving the way to now choose between Havant and South Downs College and Peter Symonds College, in Winchester, for A-levels. 

He said: ‘I’m thrilled with these grades. This system is a lot different to last year... but the school has supported us the whole way.’

North, at Admiral Lord Nelson School in Copnor, teachers were pleased to share a picture of success – with 64 per cent of pupils scoring between levels 4 to 9 in English and maths, and 45 per cent in the 5 to 9 bracket. 

Kirsty Powell, 16, was the school’s second-highest achiever with an A, six 9s and two 8s. She is now going on to study chemistry, maths, physics and biology at UTC in Hilsea. 

She said: ‘I feel amazing. I came in this morning more confident than I thought I would be because I knew that I had worked really hard.

‘I wasn’t particularly fussed about getting 8s or 9s, but after today I’m really pleased.’

Meanwhile, young women at Portsmouth High School achieved six times the national average of grade 9s being awarded across all subjects.

An impressive 84 per cent of pupils received the top grades 6 to 9, while overall grades were 98 per cent 5 to 9.

The school also reported particular success in the STEM subjects – with 90 per cent receiving A*-B in biology, physics and chemistry and 100 per cent A* in further mathematics.

Rachel Barham, of Gosport, registered an impressive nine A*s and a single A grade, despite being hospitalised during her studies after suffering an allergic reaction to dairy products.

She said: ‘It was very hard trying to do work after being ill, so I’m glad I’ve got these grades now. I want to go to university and be a vet.’

Chloe Wildsmith, of Southsea, racked up seven A*s, two 9s and an A – all while playing netball for Surrey Storm in Guildford, who she was scouted by earlier this year. 'It’s been hard to manage both my studies and the netball but I’m glad I’ve done it especially with the exams being tougher with the new grading system,’ she said.

Headteacher Jane Prescott credited such results to the ‘hard work of our specialist teachers’. 

Pupils at Castle View Academy, formerly King Richard School, celebrated their best ever GCSE results after 50 per cent of students achieved A* – C grades (4 or above) in both English and maths – a significant increase on results from previous years.

Georgie Freeland, who was awarded two 8s, four 7s and three 6s, said: ‘I’m very excited after getting my results. I now have the marks needed to study psychology, biology and maths at Portsmouth College.’

Principal Christian Down said: ‘We are immensely proud of all of the students who have shown great commitment to achieve such strong results.

'In a year where the school has transitioned to becoming part of United Learning, moved mid-year to a new location and experienced a change of leadership, the results achieved are very promising.’

Portsmouth Academy recorded another strong year after becoming one of the most improved schools in the country, having previously been in the bottom 10 per cent.

Student Naima Ali, surpassed hopes, achieving three 8s and two 7s. She said: ‘I’m so happy to come in the top five per cent in the country – I didn’t expect this.’

Principal Natalie Sheppard said teachers and pupils did ‘amazingly well' to adapt to the new system. 

She added: ‘The changes to the exams made it harder, especially as our teachers had no previous examples to work from but I have to say they’ve been brilliant to help our students get these results.’

MORE RESULTS FROM ACROSS THE AREA

It was not just those six Portsmouth schools which celebrated GCSE success. 

Figures emerged from other sites across the area, indicating positive outcomes in spite of changing grade guidelines. 

At Mayville High School in Southsea, 81 per cent of pupils achieved five or more qualifications between grades 4 and 9 – including English and maths. 

Headteacher Rebecca Parkyn said: ‘We are again delighted that our pupils have gained such super results, particularly given the additional challenge of the new GCSE with the changes in both content and approach.’ 

Also in Southsea, St John’s College achieved a blanket 82 per cent pass rate in its GCSE results. 

Merete Pickard, 16, was thrilled to receive four grade 9s, five A*s and an 8.

She said: ‘I really wasn’t expecting to get the grades I did – I am so relieved and happy. 

‘I couldn’t have done it without the fantastic support of the staff.’ 

Finally, for teachers at Priory School, Southsea, the day was a special one – as the site marked its best GCSE results to date. 

Sixty per cent of pupils got  4 or better in English and maths and 40 per cent achieved a 5 or better in both subjects. 

There were also a number of exceptional individual performances, with a trio of pupils earning 11 grades between the boundaries of 7 and 9. 

Stewart Vaughan, headteacher of Priory School, said: ‘We are all immensely proud of these record results which reflect the hard work, effort and talent of our students, and which also reflect the high-quality support the students receive from our talented

staff, parents and governors.

‘Priory School has served the local community for more than 100 years. For us to be able to say that we have produced the two best sets of GCSE results in the history of the school in the past three years, since joining Bohunt Education Trust, is testament to the dedication and hard work of students and staff at Priory and the support we receive from Bohunt.

‘That this has been achieved in the context of ever more demanding GCSE exams is even more commendable.’ 

Overall in the city, 58 per cent of pupils achieve grade 4 or above in both GCSE maths and English – equalling last year’s result.