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Posted on 12 Aug 2021

Achievement despite adversity: students celebrate GCSE success

Following the extraordinary events of the past 18 months, Westminster Academy is celebrating the success of students who received their GCSE results today.

The outstanding achievements of the year group include impressive individual performances from Eran Joseph Voce, who achieved eight grade 9s, one 5 and one D* and Fatma Ghassem, who complemented her five 9s and five 8s with an A in Additional Maths. Niveah Henningham-De Zoysa, perhaps inspired by her sister Tejah’s recent IB success and subsequent offer to Cambridge, achieved four 9s, three 8s, one 7 and two D*s. Fadi Mohamed achieved six 9s and four 8s, putting him on track to achieve his ambition to study medicine.

Sejal Shendge, who achieved two 9s, four 8s, two 7s and two D*s, said, “I’m so happy. I doubted myself but it turned out well.”  She described the experience of the past 18 months as “all a blur”, adding, “Considering lessons were online, we were taught well, and once we returned to the building, the arrangements for the practical subjects were impressive.”

Neri Lombe, who achieved six 9s, two 8s, one 7 and one D*, also reflected on the pandemic. “We have been presented with a unique and challenging circumstance, which has added to the pressure of a normal GCSE year, but our teachers were there every step of the way. I’m very grateful to them.”  He is now excited to be starting the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) at Westminster Academy in September. “People say that you take the IB because you love learning, and I certainly think that applies to me.”

Mother tongue language courses are valued at WA as an important way to celebrate the cultural heritage of students and to encourage a passion for languages. Once again, the wonderful diversity of the WA school community was reflected by passes in eight different language courses. As an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, the Academy is proud of its seven-year language programme and it is inspiring to see students gain qualifications in global languages such as Russian, Farsi and Arabic. One student, Matthew Amorim, achieved an impressive three language GCSEs, in Portuguese (grade 9), Spanish (grade 9) and French (grade 7), on top of nine further GCSEs. He explained, “Since I was really young, my parents told me that the more languages you speak, the more opportunities you come across.” He was “over the moon” to get onto the IBDP, for which he will continue to study French. 

This year the government and the exams regulator, Ofqual, replaced exams with a process based on Teacher Assessed Grades (TAG), which were quality assured by the exam boards. The process of awarding grades ensured that students were only assessed on content they have been taught; hence why performance across different schools cannot be compared this year. At Westminster Academy, during periods of school closure and isolation students took advantage of their Chromebooks to access a full-time virtual school, ‘WA Online’. The success of WA Online meant that students made excellent curriculum coverage despite the two national lockdowns and could be assessed across a broad range of content. Hence the GCSEs WA students have achieved are very similar in scope to those of any normal year. Students also sat a summer term assessment session at school, which was very similar to what would have taken place before the government cancelled the external examinations. The overall effect of WA Online and the school’s rigorous and authentic TAG process is that WA students have achieved GCSE results that closely reflect the value of GCSEs of previous years. The Academy is therefore confident that these students will be well prepared to start difficult key stage 5 courses in September.

Principal, Dr Paul Wood, congratulated students’ “tremendous achievements”, saying, “I sincerely hope that when our students look back upon the period of the pandemic in years to come, they will feel immense pride at what they have achieved despite such disruptive circumstances.”  He added, “I have been hugely impressed by the commitment and flexibility of students and teachers during this complex assessment process and their work to ensure student capabilities were reflected in their results. In particular I would like to thank the staff body for their remarkable effort to deliver a robust assessment session without having the normal support of the exam board, as well as all those who have supported us this year: parents, carers, sponsors, trustees and the community.”

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