A-level round-up: Students raise the bar once again

IT was high fives all round at Saffron Walden County High School today as pupils bucked the national trend by raising the bar once again.

The number of A-level students awarded A grades or higher has fallen nationally for the first time in more than 20 years – but at the County High the percentage was up from 36 per cent to 39 per cent.

A record number of 50 students gained at least three A* or A grades compared to 34 in 2011.

The A*-C pass rate of 92 per cent was also 1 per cent higher than last year.

Headteacher John Hartley expressed his “tremendous delight” that the students had achieved such great success.

“Overall this is another superb set of results from our students,” he said. “Their achievements are all the more striking given that the Government has instructed exam boards to be very wary of awarding too many top grades.

“I heartily congratulate all our students on their excellent achievements and would like to thank all the teaching staff for their hard work and immense commitment to our students’ success.”

Most Read

There are 10 County High students going on to study at Oxbridge, with four more reading medicine.

One of those who is off to Cambridge is Ellie Griffiths. The 18-year-old from Henham will begin an engineering course at Selwyn College in September after getting A*’s in Physics, Maths, Further Maths and Computing.

“The exams were fairly hard but I naturally seem to be good at that sort of thing,” she told the Reporter. “I thought I had probably got an A* somewhere but didn’t expect this. All the hours of revision and cramming beforehand have definitely paid off.”

Rani Ranavaya, of Church Field, Saffron Walden, also excelled. She got two A’s and an A* – surpassing her expectations.

“I was expecting three A’s and I got an A* so I’m very pleased with that. I got into the university I wanted and will be studying economics at Southampton,” the 18-year-old said.

“But I was very nervous opening my results. It feels like you’re looking at the three letters that will decide your future. But they were three good letters.

She added: “It’s a relief to get the results I wanted after the past two years of hard work building up to them and then all the revising, but I’m really pleased. I’m now going to see my friends and family and spend some time in Walden before we all leave the nest.”

There was also a touching story about a student whose mother died of cancer last November. Ann Dodgson, 52, a languages teacher at the County High for 20 years, was described as “an outstanding professional and a wonderful person and friends” by headteacher John Hartley.

Her 18-year-old daughter Ellie Barrs was pleased to get two C’s in English Language and Sociology and a B in Economics – which she said took her completely by surprise.

“Economics was definitely the one I struggled with and I never expected to get a B – I thought I’d get a D! I couldn’t believe it when I saw it and I still can’t. I’ve just spoken to my dad and he is very proud of me – he couldn’t stop laughing when I told him.

“It is quite emotional and I’m sure my mum would have been proud too. I thought about trying really hard for her but at the same time I didn’t really want to think about it.

“I needed to do it for myself and worked hard to make up ground on what I hadn’t done in the past.”

Ellie did not secure a place at university with her results but she is hoping to take a year out to work and save up enough money to go travelling. “I just want to have a year off and enjoy it. I’ll still go to university but just not this year.”

Students at Newport Free Grammar School also celebrated an impressive set of results.

Headteacher Sean O’Hagan, who is to step down from his position at the end of the month following a disappointing Ofsted report, said he was “very pleased with the results”, which he added were “an improvement on last year and reflective of all the hard work of the students and staff during the last two years”.

The overall pass rate at Newport was 98.5 per cent – up on last year – while the A*-B pass rate of 37.4 per cent and the A*-C pass rate of 71.4 per cent were also higher than in 2011.

High achievers at the school included Ben Stiles, who was rewarded for his hard work by gaining two A*’s and an A. He will now be taking up his place at Bristol University where he will be studying Maths.

Frith Dunkley, who achieved two A’s and a B, will now be applying to university, while Georgianna Coote, who got an A and two B’s, will be going to UWE Bristol to study Psychology.

There was also a heart-warming story about two students who have got even more to look forward to in the near future, beyond just going to university.

Ben White and Jess Burlinson are engaged to be married in 2014 after Ben got down on one knee and proposed to his childhood sweetheart during their last year at the school.

“I’m very pleased with my results,” he said, “and I’m very grateful to my teachers for all their help and support – I couldn’t have done it without them.”

But before they can begin a life of marital bliss, the couple are heading off to Birmingham University where Ben is reading Maths and Jess is hoping to study midwifery.

And 18-year-old Rosa Allen will be pursuing her dream career in journalism from September after she got an A* in English Literature.

She said: “I loved doing English at Newport and am really looking forward to studying journalism at Staffordshire. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Another high achiever was Ben Rogers. He will be taking up his place at Bristol University after getting an A and two B’s.

There was also good news for students at Friends’ School in Saffron Walden.

The overall pass rate was 97 per cent, down 1 per cent on last year, with 24.3 per cent at A* and A, 47 per cent at A*-B and 71 per cent A*-C.

Headteacher Graham Wigley said that the headline figures, though a little down on recent years, nonetheless reflected the hard work that last year’s sixth formers put into their studies.

“Behind the headline figures there are many individuals who have done wonderfully well to achieve their grades, particularly those who might not have had the opportunity to have attempted A-level courses elsewhere,” he added.

“While about a quarter of this year’s cohort have decided to defer applications to university or to go straight into employment, the significant majority of this year’s leavers have secured places at university on their chosen courses for September.”

• DO you have any pictures of the A-level celebrations? If so, please send them to editor@saffronwalden-reporter.co.uk and check out our bumper A-level results round-up in next week’s edition of the Reporter.