This has not been a day to remember and there are many questions still left unanswered about the fairness and ethical probity of the process by which final grades have been awarded. Nevertheless, our students have done themselves proud, both in their positive approach to results which may not accurately reflect their capability, and in using the results they have been given to plan the exciting next steps they will take in their education.
We are so proud of our Year 13 students and of all that they have achieved in these most exceptional times. We are absolutely delighted that so many have secured first choice university places in a wide range of courses. There are many girls whose individual achievements could be highlighted, but we would like to mention the following in particular:
Venusha’s passion for and commitment to her A Level subjects have enabled her to achieve four A* grades and she will be going to study Engineering at Warwick University.
Tasha’s dedication to learning throughout her A Level studies has enabled her to achieve four A* grades and she will be taking up a place at University College London to read Maths.
Having worked with persistence and resolve in all her A Level subjects and showing a fascination for digital technology, Sarah was awarded three A* grades and an A and will be taking up a place at Imperial College to study Computing.
Our wonderful Head Girl and badminton star Maya, who combined her studies with her leadership role and sporting commitments with such skill, will be going off to Warwick to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics having achieved A*, A*, A, A.
Many congratulations to Ellie whose focus and commitment to her studies have enabled her to take up her place at Jesus College Oxford, to read Experimental Psychology, having achieved A*, A*, A, A.
Having shown a scholarly maturity throughout her A Level studies, Anika will be going off to read Modern and Medieval Languages at Downing College Cambridge, having been awarded A*, A*, A*.
Passionate about how the past informs and shapes the present, Sofia will be taking up a place to read History at Warwick University, having been awarded three A* grades.
Showing intellectual maturity and a profound love of learning, Ruth achieved four A* grades and will be taking up a place at Murray Edwards College to read Modern and Medieval Languages.
We are also delighted for Arya who will be taking up her place to read History of Art at Lincoln College Oxford, having been awarded one A*, two As and a B. Her focus and commitment to learning have been evident throughout her time at St Helen’s.
Maddy’s love of literature, ability to evaluate and passion for her A Level courses have enabled her to achieve an A* and two A grades and she will be taking up a place at Leeds to study English Literature.
Chloe worked with determination and commitment throughout her A Levels and was awarded two A*s and two A grades. She will be taking up a place to read Chemistry at Durham University.
Always fascinated by animal physiology and committed to animal welfare, Juliette worked with resolve and dedication throughout her time in the 6th Form and achieved two A* grades and two As. She will be going to Nottingham University to study Veterinary Medicine.
So, by any measure, although this has not been a normal A Level results day and these are not a normal set of A Level results, our students have risen to the challenge. Nevertheless, there is broad agreement that this is an imperfect process because it does not allow for substantial differences between A Level cohorts or individual progress or performance that exceeds expectations and historical data. Nationally, 39% of A Level grades have been downgraded and the final grades awarded to students at St Helen’s reflect this national picture. The significant disappointments now being experienced by students, teachers and parents are a result of a failure to treat young people as individuals, and to keep their welfare at the heart of decision making. It is also a result of an inability to trust the judgements of teachers who know their students best and understand the trajectory and pace of their progress. I am united with fellow Headteachers across the country who have condemned the process as unfair and unfathomable in its failure to pay tribute to the hard work and determination of students and staff.
From the moment that A Level examinations were cancelled, our entire focus has been to make the best of a difficult situation and support and guide students as they navigate these turbulent waters through which they must pass on the way to university.
At the start of lockdown St Helen’s created a bespoke Life and Learning Programme for Year 13 which provided students with ways to extend their learning in every subject and lay the foundations for university study. This comprehensive programme also provided a range of enrichment courses developed by subject specialists and guidance and opportunities for the development of cultural capital and practical life skills, from cookery and financial literacy to health and fitness. Our students have engaged fully with all that has been provided and have faced the uncertainties and challenges of these circumstances with resilience, determination and spirit. As a result, they are perhaps more prepared for university life than any other A Level cohort and we have no doubt at all that they will thrive in a higher education environment.
Ours is a special school community and it is the particular qualities of energy, imagination and positivity, displayed in abundance by our pupils and teachers that have enabled the achievement of so much. Subject specialist teaching, an emphasis on individual progress and tailored support for every pupil ensure that our students are provided with everything they need to fulfil their potential and realise their dreams. The quality of resilience or ‘grit’ is absolutely key to success and it is crucial that challenges or disappointments are understood and even welcomed as essential drivers of development and growth. Now more than ever this characteristic is to be valued, and we encourage universities and employers to identify and appreciate the opportunities of this transformative and energizing quality that shines so brightly in this cohort of Year 13 pupils, both here at St Helen’s and in all schools.