A is for Achievement: Wigan students celebrate remarkable A-level success

After an extraordinary year for the British education system, hundreds of Wigan students have been planning their futures after receiving A-level results judged in an unprecedented way.

Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 5:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 5:31 pm
St Mary's High sixth formers Kim Butterworth, Leah Hulmes, Chole Williams and Morgan Griffiths with their families

Last year’s cohort saw mock exams and continuous assessment to decide their final grades after the pandemic struck mid-way through the academic year and forced the axing of final external exams.

This year’s students, whose studies have been even more badly disrupted by coronavirus than their predecessors, have been awarded grades based on assessment, tests and mini-exams adjudicated - against national moderated standards - by their own staff.

Nationally there has been a record number of higher grades recorded - although the Government is not publishing performance data for any schools or colleges this year due to the varying impact of the pandemic - and there have been many successes to celebrate in the borough too.

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Winstanley College student Holly Bowden, a former St Edmund Arrowsmith student, gained A* A C in art and design, English literature and biology. She will now be studying graphic design and illustration at Liverpool John Moores University

In each of the last two years, including the year when students last sat external examinations, the percentage of high grades awarded to St John Rigby College students exceeded 60 per cent.

This level of success continued this year with high grades increasing by around four per cent.

Principal Peter McGhee said: “None of us could have predicted or would have chosen the challenges faced by our students these last couple of years. However, the way that they have approached their learning and the way that they have been supported by our staff is truly remarkable. The evidence of their collective commitment can be seen from attendance at lessons, which this year has been the highest ever at St John Rigby College. This was a continuation of online and face-to-face lessons and I want to give particular mention to those of our students who did not previously have home access to online learning. They had the steepest learning curve and as an inclusive College, this involved a significant minority of our students. Whilst these students are often understated about their achievements, they should be incredibly proud of what they achieved in the face of such adversity.

“In addition to those with no previous online access, we want to recognise the extraordinary efforts of those who have struggled with their mental wellbeing over the last two years. Those of us fortunate enough to not have had such challenges, cannot begin to comprehend the significance of their personal and academic success during this pandemic. This will include some of those students who achieved very high GCSE grades at school in 2019. High academic ability and expectations come with their own unique challenges, especially when the circumstances under which they have achieved outstanding success changes so dramatically and they were forced to find a new way of excelling in their learning.

Deanery Sixth Form students celebrate their A-level results

“This is a very special group of young people who have had a unique college experience and have required resilience and strength of character beyond that of any former cohorts in SJR’s history. We wish them all well and I want to remind them that SJR will always be their College and that we are here to help should any help be needed now or in the future.

“We are already planning a celebration in January 2022 so that this wonderful group of young people have their efforts recognised in the way in which they so richly deserve. However, our immediate focus is to continue to support those students who are disappointed with their grades, since just like any ‘normal’ year of external examinations, disappointment will be experienced by some of our students.”

Despite the upheavals top grades remained the constant at Winstanley College, achieving a 100 per cent pass rate at both A-level and BTEC with 43.8 per cent of those being A/A* grades.

Some 190 students have achieved three A or A* grades, with an amazing 13 students achieving five A/A*s grades!

Winstanley College student Tom Winstanley

This has led to many students securing their place at a Russell Group or other prestigious university.

Billy Morris a former Hawkley Hall High School student has achieved three A*’s in maths, further maths and computer science and is now going to the University of St Andrews to study computer science.

Billy said: “After achieving my fantastic results I cannot wait to start my new adventure at St Andrews in Scotland! I really enjoyed my time at Winstanley College and cannot wait to achieve a successful career in the world of computer science.”

A total of 31 students have secured places at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

Wigan and Leigh College student Ella Tinsley who gained three As in psychology, media and English combined. She is now going to the University of Salford to study law and criminology

One such successful student is Louis Hadfield former Scarisbrick Hall student who has successfully gained a place to study English at Cambridge.

Every year we now see more and more students opting to go onto Higher Level Apprenticeships at some of the country’s most prestigious companies. One such student is James Birkenhead who has been successful in securing a Software Engineering Apprenticeship with BAE systems.

James said; ‘I’m delighted to be joining BAE Systems as a Software Engineer on a Degree Apprenticeship. On this apprenticeship, I’ll be applying my passion and skills in Computer Science to an aerospace setting. While improving my skills in software engineering. My two years at Winstanley College were a pleasure despite the Covid-19 pandemic which kept us at home for a long period. Without the support I got from the college throughout the application, the aptitude tests and the interviews, I feel my apprenticeship application wouldn’t have been successful.”

It was a case of “if at first you don’t succeed, try again” for Tom Winstanley.

The 19-year-old Winstanley College student from Standish needed the highest grades in order to get on a dentistry degree course last year, but didn’t get them because the “real” exams didn’t take place last summer, with mock results being used to evaluate students instead.

But after re-sitting the year and putting in a huge amount of hard work, he secured an A* in biology, an A* in maths and an A in chemistry which means he can now fulfil his dream and is off to Bristol University next month.

Louise Tipping, Winstanley College’s principal, said: “Congratulations to the class of 2021! What a crazy year it has been but we are amazed and inspired with the way our students have adapted and achieved – reflected in today’s fantastic results. Once again, dedicated and talented staff have worked tirelessly to support these hard-working students and it’s great that all that combined effort has paid off. I’m so proud that Winstanley continues to be at the top of its game even in the wake of a global pandemic!”

Martin Wood, headteacher at The Deanery Church of England High School and Sixth Form College said: “This is a fabulous set of results for our hardworking students, and we are immensely proud of them all.

“I would like to thank all of the students for their resilience and dedication to their studies throughout their time in the sixth form; since March 2020 it has been a challenging and uncertain time for them and we are pleased that they have been rewarded with these top results today.

“I would also like to thank the teaching staff for their commitment to excellent standards and for their professionalism and integrity when determining the Teacher Assessed Grades this year. Each and every result will help to ensure successful futures for our students; we wish all of them the very best for the future”

Some of the Deanery’s top achievers are:

Connor Partington who gained three A* grades in physics, chemistry and maths. Connor is taking a gap year to prepare for a medical career.

Jensen Taylor picked up two A* grades in maths and physics, and an A in computer science and will go on to study computer science at the University of Warwick.

Amy Young will go on to study psychology at the University of Bath after achieving A* in A Level English Language, A in Psychology, and A in Biology..

Zach Wharton claimed A grades in physics, maths and further maths which take him to a computer science course at Loughborough University.

Lucy Jenny-Banks gained three A grades in English language, media studies and history. Lucy will continue to study history at the University of Liverpool.

And Jordan Iyere achieved a distinction* in BTEC applied law, distinction* in business studies and B in A-level sociology and will now study information technology for business at Coventry University. Students and staff at Wigan and Leigh College were again celebrating an outstanding 100 per cent pass rate in A-levels with 51 per cent achieving A*-A. Combined with an excellent 99 per cent pass rate for BTEC students the students are now well positioned to secure the very best places at university or the most competitive apprenticeship vacancies.

The Alevel results performed strongly against English averages with six per cent more students achieving the highest grades possible and 95.7 per cent achieving grades A*-C compared with 88 per cent nationally.

A-level student Rebecca Duffy achieved an A* in psychology, A in sociology and A in biology. The former Ladybridge High School pupil is off to The University of Manchester to study cognitive neuroscience and psychology.

The future neuroscientist said: “I’m really excited, I wasn’t expecting to do so well and I can’t wait to start university. The course has been really good, all of the teachers are super willing to talk to you about university opportunities and give advice.”

There was more success for BTEC Level 3 health and social care student Bethany Neafcy who achieved the highest possible grades of three distinction stars.

The former Standish Community High School pupil is planning for a career as a radiographer and has accepted a place at University of Liverpool to study Therapeutic Radiography and Oncology.

She said: “I worked very hard during college and our tutors were amazing. I couldn’t be happier with my results – I’m over the moon!”

Principal Anna Dawe said: “The class of 2021 have studied their A-levels and BTECs in the most difficult and testing of circumstances. They have been without doubt exceptional, showing great resilience, working hard and remaining focused on their career aspirations and next steps.

“With their outstanding grades they can now progress to their chosen university or apprenticeship. We are immensely proud of them and their teachers.”

Staff at Astley St Mary’s RC High School and Sixth Form College were full of praise for their “extraordinary Class of 2021.”

The college said this group of young people have faced “more prolonged disruption to their vital exam years than any previous cohort and shown admirable resilience in the face of the uncertainty of exam cancellation, lockdowns and contact tracing. They have shown a huge amount of resilience with good humour and fortitude which has never dimmed their hope and ambition.

“Far from any question about the validity of their grades these results stand out as a testament to their character in the face of adversity.”

And headteacher Andrew Dawson said: “I want to congratulate the class of 2021 for their achievement in the face of so many challenges; they have been a fantastic year group and I want to wish them every success and happiness in the next phases of their lives.”

Chair of governors Jack Farrimond echoed these congratulations and also thanked staff for their “professionalism throughout the assessment process and the endless support offered to the students of St Mary’s both in person today and throughout their time with us.”

Amongst those celebrating their excellent grades are Tom Pearson who achieved three A*s and is progressing to Sheffield University to study computer science; India Sharrocks who was awarded three3 As and goes on to Manchester University to study optometry; and Eloise Russelland Lois Wright who both achieved an A* and two As. Eloise is going to Leeds University to study sustainability and environmental management and Lois goes on to read maths and physics at Loughborough.

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