Derbyshire Dales schools celebrate students' A level success after challenging year

After the emotional fiasco of A level results day in 2020, this year brought more traditional scenes of celebration across the Derbyshire Dales as the second ‘class of Covid’ began to look to the future.

Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 4:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 4:35 pm

It will still take some time for schools to settle the final statistics and students’ next destinations, with this year’s early results day allowing longer to appeal grades based on mock exams, coursework, essays and in-class tests.

But all three state Sixth Forms in the Matlock area expressed satisfaction with initial data and commended students for their success amid challenging conditions.

There were lots of smiles among both students and staff at Anthony Gell School in Wirksworth, as results closely matched those achieved by previous year groups.

Students at Highfields School.

None of the teacher-assessed grades submitted in July had been altered following external moderation – a show of confidence from the exam boards in the school’s grading processes.

Headteacher Malcolm Kelly said: “These results are a very good indication of the achievements of this group of students and accurately reflect many of their strengths.

“The robust assessments which students sat combined with their hard work, whilst in school and during the national lockdowns, has enabled teaching staff to provide a very accurate set of grades for each young person – grades which have been verified by each of the examination boards.”

He added: “Our students have shown how resilient they are and have adapted wonderfully well, often leading by example, to all that has been asked of them. Their progress in a diverse range of qualifications and careers has been made possible, thanks to their approach and the determination and resolve of staff.

“Staff, students and their families have worked in partnership throughout their time at AGS and never more so than during the last 18 months. This group of young people have wonderful futures ahead, and they will make very positive contributions to whichever areas they choose to work and study in.”

At Highfields School in Matlock, Sixth Form director Martin Flett was equally complimentary about the way students had handled the uncertainty of the pandemic on top of the usual pressures of their A level years.

He said: “Our students were a pleasure to work with under stressful conditions: they deserve all the success they achieved. They coped so well with the twists and turns of the past two years. In a year when ‘reality’ sometimes seemed difficult to grasp, their A level achievements are real. They were set challenging assessments which were assessed rigorously under exam conditions which were as close as possible to those in the years preceding Covid.

“After the January announcement that ‘exams were cancelled’ students might have been forgiven for taking a rest, but they did not. They continued to attend lessons online with participation that exceeded our expectations. When they returned in March there was only a matter of weeks before exam conditions started and those assessments carried on over the following two months. This was an extremely short take-off time, but students accepted the challenge and, although this inevitably created pressure and concern, there was very little complaint.”

Students at Lady Manners School.

He added: “More than that, they made it a memorable two years in Sixth Form. This was a group that engaged fully in our voluntary activities in the community, as well as in school. Memorable connections were made with Golding Grange day care centre, Denefields Court sheltered housing and various lunch clubs in the town.

“When the pandemic stopped in-person visits, students found ways of making contributions online whether by Zoom, or by making deliveries. They are students who have found the flexibility to work around problems and we know that such young people will be in high demand as this generation undertakes the challenges presented to it.”

Staff at Lady Manners School in Bakewell were also bidding a fond farewell to this group of Sixth Form, students saying they will be remembered not only for their positivity and determination in the face of challenging circumstances, but for their significant contributions to life at the school.

Their resilience and work ethic that have produced excellent results this summer across a wide range of AS, A level and Level 3 vocational courses. The next exciting step awaits them as they move on to a wide range of post-18 destinations.

Students at Anthony Gell School.

Headteacher Gary Peat said: “Congratulations to all of our year 13 students who have worked extremely hard and achieved results to be proud of.

“On behalf of all staff and governors at Lady Manners School, I wish them the very best of luck as they move forward into their undeniably bright futures. We all look forward to hearing about the inevitable successes that await them.”

Across the country, A level results reached a record high this year – with 44.8 per cent getting A* or A grades. While there has been much speculation about the impact of teacher-assessed grades, exam boards only intervened to change one per cent of all grades awarded.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “School and college staff must be congratulated for their remarkable efforts. It has been an intense and highly pressured summer term for them.

“These grades are based on students’ actual work, assessed by their teachers, moderated and quality assured. There are no algorithms, just human effort and human expert judgement.”

He added: “Every year there are differences in results between groups and regions. This year is no different. The reasons are complex and in these extra-ordinary circumstances students will also have had wildly diverse experiences of lockdown and remote learning.

Students at Anthony Gell School.

“Our advice is to ignore the chat about grade inflation. These evidence-based decisions are very different to the way grades are awarded through exams but they are a holistic judgement based on work students have produced. Students should be confident that they are getting the grades they deserve and that reflect the standard of their achievements.”

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Students at Lady Manners School.
Students at Highfields School.