GCSE results: UAE schools celebrate another record year

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Fears over new 1-9 grading system and tougher scoring wash away as many pupils delight at top marks.

Concerns over the potential impact of the British curriculum’s new GCSE grading system quickly dissipated on Thursday as pupils celebrated a bumper year of results.

More than 20 subjects have been marked this year using a numerical system with ‘9’ becoming the top result achievable. Exams were also made tougher.

Despite the fact fewer pupils had been expected to achieve a clean sweep of top marks in all subjects, many celebrated an exceptional set of results on Thursday.

Haya Hamwi, 17, was one of the few to receive outstanding results, achieving a full set of A* and A grades, or 9 and 8 in the revised grading system.




“I worked really hard in the run-up to the exams and did as many past papers as I could, so I’m extremely thrilled with my results,” she said.

According to research by examiners Cambridge Assessment fewer than 200 pupils could score a clean sweep of 9s in all of their GCSEs this year in the UK and British Schools Overseas.

The tougher system has been criticised by the Association of School and College Leaders, which represents the UK’s headteachers, over concerns about pupils ending up with lower scores.

“There has been some turbulence with the new system of 1-9 grading, so A and A* is now split from 7-9 so performance can be more acutely monitored,” said Brian Horwell, head of secondary at Dubai British School.

“It is difficult to make direct comparisons with previous years of results, as It is now significantly harder to achieve the very highest marks but the overall spread is up on last year.

“There are many different success stories. There are no students where we are concerned about their performance going forward, whether that is A-level, B-tech qualification or a vocational further education.”

To ensure pupils are not disadvantaged under the new scoring system, statistical processes are employed by regulator Ofqual to ensure results are comparable year on year.

In 2017, just English and maths were graded 1-9, but this year the number of subjects was expanded to 20, with 4 representing a C and 7 becoming equivalent to an A.



“I just wanted to pass all my exams, and I’ve thankfully done that,” said Ella Jenkins, 16, from Dubai British School, who is moving home to the Isle of Wight in the UK to continue her education.

“Teachers suggested we revise from February so I’ve tried to be quite organised. It is a long process, but worth it.”

Facilities manager Arthur Leith, father of 17-year-old Kate from Aberdeen, said it was a nervous wait to discover his daughter’s results.

“I was probably more apprehensive than Kate after watching her go through all the emotions and hard work that she has put in,” said Mr Leigh.

“We’ve been trying to convince her that this is just one stage in the rest of her life, but it means so much to her it has been difficult to give her that perspective.

It was a nervous wait for thousands of pupils across the emirates, as many were relying on positive results to make it on to A-level courses in September.

Gems Wellington International pupil Gian Chana, 16, from England, was expecting to see his friends get the results they needed to kick on to A-Levels.

“There was only one day when I had two exams in the same day, so I was lucky,” he said.

“I want to go to Oxford University or Imperial College London to study maths and physics so these results will hopefully help me on the path to there, as I would like to have a career in finance one day.”

Last week, Al Ain English Speaking School celebrated a 99 per cent pass rate in A-Level with 21 per cent of pupils achieving a grade A* or A.

For GCSEs, 38 per cent of its students achieved an A* or A grade in their subjects.

“We are delighted to report yet again another great set of results and I will not be surprised if like last year some of our students achieve the top scores in particular subjects,” said Principal Andrew Thomas.

One of the top performers was the British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi.

Out of the 126 pupils, 34 per cent achieved A*, or 9-8 under the new system, and 56 per cent scored 9-7, the equivalent of A*-A.

Although only 18 per cent scored the new grade 9, that figure is six times the UK average of 3 per cent.

Headmaster Mark Leppard, was delighted with the 95 per cent of pupils who achieved at least five 9-4 grades, or the equivalent of A*-C, including English and maths.



“The move to the new GCSE courses, exams and grading system has been challenging for all schools,” he said.

“The fact that results at BSAK have improved during this time, despite this more rigorous grading system, is a great testament to the exceptional hard work of our fantastic students, dedicated staff and supportive parents.”

Source: The National