How Wigan's sixth forms performed in this the weirdest ever year for A-levels

Hundreds of Wigan students were today celebrating, commiserating or challenging grades after the most extraordinary of academic years ended with the publication of the nation’s A-level results.

Thursday, 13th August 2020, 1:16 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th August 2020, 1:41 pm
Winstanley College students Hannah Dootson and Oliver Bullen

No local sixth form colleges has been claiming record results because the grades of this year’s cohort are based on assessments made by their own teachers and lecturers after courses came to an abrupt end with the Covid-19 pandemic and the summer exams were scrapped.

It is also expected that large numbers of local teens, like those around England, will contest the marks, after it was revealed that moderators have brought down many grades to counteract perceived performance over-estimates by some staff, despite the number of As and A*s increasing by two per cent nationally this year.

It was also announced by the Government on Tuesday night - following a backlash over a similar policy in Scotland - that students unhappy with yesterday’s grades would be allowed to substitute what they got in their mock papers at the beginning of the year if those results were better.

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Katie Hadgraft achieved A, A, A, grades in Biology, Chemistry and Maths as part of the Applied Medical Pathway at Wigan and Leigh College. She is now off to read MSCI in Pharmacology at the University of Manchester.

For the first time ever, most students received their results by email as colleges stuck to strict social distancing rules.

But despite the confusion and disruption, there have been many individual causes for celebration with many students now heading to the universities of their choice or embarking upon careers of their dreams.

At Orrell St John Rigby College 60 per cent of grades awarded were A*, A, B or equivalent. The pass rate for Advanced Level courses was again above 98 per cent and as it has been for six consecutive years.

Principal Peter McGhee said: “The morning of A-level results day feels different this year but it will still be one of celebration for a great many students.

St John Rigby College student Elizabeth Salmon who is off to the University of Birmingham to study physics and maths after gaining three A* grades

“Students can be proud of having achieved grades that they needed to move onto their chosen universities or careers. Throughout this crisis we have worked hard to support and care for each and every one of our students.

“St John Rigby College is more than bricks and mortar, we are a community of staff and students who work together to achieve shared goals. Our students work extremely hard to become the best that they can possibly be and are supported in doing this by staff who remain tireless in their efforts.

“2020 has proved to be a challenging year for all of us, both staff and students. Anyone who works in education will tell you that the best days are the ones which you share with students. No matter how good the college results are on paper, today doesn’t quite feel the same because we cannot celebrate together.

“It is also worth remembering that not all students will achieve the grades they hoped for to help them to progress to their chosen destination. This is always the case with examinations and the results allocated this year indicate that it will also be the case in 2020. Over the coming days the college will be open to Y13 students so that they can make appointments to speak to teachers, careers advisors and senior members of staff either virtually or face to face. It is important that students who need our help and support can access it when they need it, irrespective of the ongoing national situation.

Cathryn Gale and Owen Charnock with their A-level results at the Deanery Sixth form

“It has been a joy and a privilege to work with these young people and I wish them well in their future careers and the opportunities that they have now created for themselves. Needless to say we are already planning a reunion party so that when all of this is over we can come together and give these amazing young people the send-off that they so thoroughly deserve.”

At Winstanley College 139 students gained three or more As or A*s and the majority of students secured their first choice place, many of them at Russell Group universities.

Mohammed Ali, who only moved to England from Sudan two years ago is following the university route after achieving top grades in Computer Science, Maths, Further Maths and Physics. He will take up his place to study Aeronautical Engineering at Imperial College London in September.

An impressive 15 students will be going on to Oxford and Cambridge Universities and 20 students are going on to medicine, dentistry and veterinary degrees.

Music, theatre and art students who have been studying practical vocational courses have done equally impressively bringing in 105 A*/A equivalent between them.

To achieve these grades, students need to have both academic excellence and creative talent to secure places at prestigious specialist colleges such as the Royal College of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music and Central St Martins in London.

Oliver Bullen and Hannah Dootson, previously pupils of Hindley High School and Fred Longworth High School, are two of these students awarded places at drama schools. Oliver will study Musical Theatre at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Hannah is going to LIPA to study acting.

There are also number of students taking the apprenticeship route, including former Haydock High School pupil, Tom Aspinall who secured employment with The Bank of England on a degree apprenticeship in Data Analytics and Modelling. He achieved A grades in maths, further maths, economics and computer science.

Principal Louise Tipping said: “We are so proud of all our resilient students who, with the amazing support of their caring teachers have battled all the odds this year to get to where they want to go.

“Congratulations to the class of 2020. Winstanley students continue to be at the top of their game even in the wake of a global pandemic and we wish you the very best for the future.”

Students and staff at Wigan and Leigh College achieved an outstanding 100 per cent pass rate in A-levels with 62 per cent of students achieving A*-B and an impressive 92 per cent achieving A*-C.

The results were significantly above the national average, 8.5 per cent above the national average for A*-B grades and 14.4 per cent above the national average for A*-C grades, ensuring that students secured their first choice University or Degree Apprenticeship places.

Principal Anna Dawe said: “We are immensely proud of our A Level Professional Honours Programme students and their staff.

“Their grades are outstanding and are based on two years of hard work. The outcome is a positive reflection of the resilience and dedication they have each shown and they can now expect to progress to some of the country’s top universities.”

Cassia Pedro, a former Dean Trust Rose Bridge pupil, achieved amazing A*, A, A grades in psychology, sociology and English Combined as part of the A-level professional honours programme. The aspiring clinical psychologist was delighted with her results and will now progress to read psychology at the University of St Andrews.

Cassia said: “Wigan and Leigh College has made me more independent. I really enjoyed the small class sizes so no one got left behind.

“I enjoyed our trips to the Iraq consulate and Krakow. I was at one college for a year before Wigan and Leigh and everything was better here. Staff were so supportive, everything was picked up on, if you were struggling for whatever reason it would be spotted and the ways I can improve were discussed. Student support (ALS) was really outstanding compared to what I have experienced in the past too”.

Polly Ball, a former Bedford High School pupil gained A, A, A grades as part of the A Level Professional Honours Programme Teaching Pathway and will be reading English at the University of York.

The aspiring English teacher said: “I’m really happy with my results. During lockdown I was able to stay focused because I had normal timetabled lessons for A-level so even though I was at home I felt like I was having a normal college day, I wanted to make sure that I completed everything so that I was prepared for my university course”.

Katie Hadgraft performed equally well in achieving outstanding A, A, A, grades in biology, chemistry and maths as part of the Applied Medical Pathway. She is now off to read MSCI in pharmacology at the University of Manchester.

AS students were also celebrating their results with many achieving high grades and are pleased that they now have grades secured which will support their university applications next year.

Advanced Vocational students were also celebrating with pass rates once again over 99 per cent and the amount of high grades rising. The vast majority of the vocational students have secured progression to university but the positive results mean that students will be able to compete for prestigious degree apprenticeship places for which competition will be fiercer than ever due to the impact of COVID.

Among the esults was BTEC Level 3 Applied Science student, Samuel Ngoma who achieved Distinction*, Distinction, Distinction (equivalent to A*, A, A at A Level) and is off to the University of Plymouth to read Ocean Science and Marine Conservation.

And The Deanery Sixth Form in Wigan said it was delighted with the results.

The percentage of A*-B grades or equivalent was an impressive 69 per cent, an improvement on last year and a continuation of the upward trend in top grades for Deanery students over the past five years. Its overall pass rate of 98.1 per cent was also slightly up on last year.

And 81 per cent of university applicants automatically gained a place at their first choice of university!

Headteacher Martin Wood said: “This is an outstanding set of results for our hardworking students, and we are immensely proud of them all. These improvements in high grades have been achieved despite the very different approach to the grading process in 2020, and reflect the improvements that have been made in A-level results over the last five years.

“I would like to thank all of the students for their hard work and dedication to their studies throughout their time in the sixth form; the last few months have 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 and the Sixth Form Team for their commitment to excellent standards and for their professionalism and integrity when determining the Centre Assessment Grades this year. Each and every result will help to ensure successful futures for our students. The majority will be continuing with their studies at University but some of our students have also secured sought-after degree level apprenticeships; we wish all of them the very best for the future”

Among top achievers were Head Boy Owen Charnock who was awarded A* in maths, A in further maths and an A in physics. Owen will now go on to study chemical engineering at the University of Leeds

Lucy Ackers achieved an A grade in biology and chemistry and a B in geography and will now go onto to study biology at the University of Lancaster

Lisson Boateng has achieved a Distinction* in Engineering and Distinction in Applied Science. She now goes onto study Aerospace Engineering at The University of Central Lancashire.

Alisha Marsden achieved As in design and technology and chemistry and a B in mathematics.

Gabrielle Adamson was awarded three Distinction* grades in children’s play, learning and development. She will now go onto to study early years QTS at Edge Hill University

Ellie Balmer achieved a Distinction in performing arts and sound engineering and an A in art and design. Ellie has accepted a place at LMA in London to study musical theatre.

And Cathryn Galeachieved three A grades in biology, chemistry and psychology. Cathryn will now go onto to study psychology at The University of Lancaster.

Wigan Council cabinet member for children Coun Jenny Bullen said: "I'd like to acknowledge the hard work of all young people receiving exam results today, in these challenging times.

"Young people saw an unprecedented abrupt end to their education earlier this year and I know that the way in which these exam results have been rewarded has not been ideal for many, who had hoped to sit the exams and reach the grades they felt they deserved.

"If you received the grades you hoped for today , many congratulations. If you have not, there will still be ways for you to achieve your future aspirations. Stay calm, seek advice and do not lose hope or self-belief.

"I'd like to thank all young people for your dedication and resilience this year and I wish you all the greatest success in your futures."