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A level success for UK academies and UTCs

Schools report record results and top university places while industry reflects on subject choices

Posted by Stephanie Broad | August 13, 2015 | School life

Schools across the country have been celebrating as those all-important results envelopes are opened, signaling the next stage in students’ lives. If your students haven’t got the grades they wanted, take a look at the Which? guide to clearing. We’re also more likely to see appeals and queries on results, as we reported in our recent blog. 

Students in Sheffield are celebrating being the first to graduate from Yorkshire’s first university technical college (UTC). 

There are 107 students in the first cohort leaving UTC Sheffield this year, where all students complete a technical qualification that is backed by employers. The majority of students also take either AS or A2 levels or a combination of both. 

This year, 74% of all qualifications taken by students were technical qualifications with 26% being traditional AS and A2 levels.

The pass rate for the 66 students who took technical qualifications at Level 3 –equivalent to one-and-a-half or two A2 levels – is 100% for digital media and 98% for engineering. Of that group, the majority – 52 students – also took A levels. 

Other students leaving this year have completed technical qualifications at Level 2 and gone on to apprenticeships, jobs or other training.

Nick Crew, Principal of UTC Sheffield, said: “I am delighted to see our first students reach this major milestone. I’d like to congratulate all of them on their academic and technical success and thank our staff and employer partners for their dedication and support. 

“The focus and success of a UTC is not solely based on academic achievement. Equally important are technical and employability skills. Our students have great prospects moving on to apprenticeships, careers or places at university all of which are testament to the success of the combined academic and technical approach.” 

The Cabot Learning Federation has seen continued improvement in its post-16 outcomes this year. The Federation’s post-16 provision, which serves students from John Cabot, Bristol Brunel, Bristol Metropolitan, King’s Oak and Hanham Woods academies, is celebrating another year of strong and improved results. 

At Bristol Brunel Academy, 99% of year 13 students achieved passes at A2 with 38% of students achieving A* to B grades. Average points per entry was 216, placing Bristol Brunel above the national average.

Principal Jon Jones said: 'I am extremely proud of the students who achieved these remarkable grades, this is testament to their hard work and the incredible commitment from our teaching and support staff. These grades underline why we are consistently oversubscribed in year seven and our post-16 provision continues to grow. The Cabot Learning Federation post-16 provision has been key to this four-year improvement journey; we can offer a wide choice of subjects to students in order for them to gain the qualifications they need for their future lives.” 

Kate Willis, interim principal of John Cabot, said: “The results at John Cabot Academy remain consistently strong with the average points awarded per qualification coming out higher than averages elsewhere both locally and further afield. The tremendous efforts of our students have once again been rewarded with fantastic grades enabling them to go off to the universities and work places of their choice.” 

King’s Oak students have performed well again in terms of their average points per qualification scores. A significant number of students are moving onto university, as summed up by the interim principal Mandy Milsom: “We are delighted that our average points per qualification has improved this year for A levels again and really pleased that almost all our students leaving Post 16 have successfully secured the university place of their choice.” 

Phil Bevan, principal at Hanham Woods said: “Overall pass rates for students in both years 12 and 13 have increased again this year and we are pleased to be celebrating the deserved success of our students, who have again impressed us with their determination and hard work. We are delighted that everyone who has applied to university has been offered a place. Rhiannon Doherty who achieved AAA will be going to Glasgow University to do Celtic Studies. We are also very proud of the increased number of students successfully being recruited to apprenticeships.” 

At Bristol Metropolitan Academy students have continued to add value in both vocational and academic courses, with the average grade being higher than a Merit for vocational courses. With 96% students gaining passes, 42% of students achieved grades at B or higher in academic courses and, as in previous years, a number of students have secured their first place choices at university. 

Principal Sally Apps said: “I’m delighted for our students who have worked so hard to achieve so highly. As our school continues to develop and improve our curriculum offer, our students are matching our efforts in their own studies. They should be extremely proud of their achievements.” 

Steve Taylor, CEO of the Cabot Learning Federation, said: “The Cabot Learning Federation launched a joint post-16 provision in 2010 and I am delighted that results remain so strong across our academies after four years of results. I am not surprised that we are anticipating our highest ever student numbers for next year, with over 700 students due to enrol with us next week for places in years 12 and 13 from September. Well done to the students, their teachers and the post-16 team.” 

At Workington Sixth Form, students gaining the top grade of A* have doubled in proportion whilst, for vocational courses, the top A grade was achieved by nearly half (46%) of students. 

As well as improvements throughout the full range of raw grades, overall ‘value-added’ further increased across the board, meaning that students did even better this year when taking into account their GCSE starting points from two years earlier. 

One student gained four A* grades in his subjects of Physics, ICT, Maths, Further Maths, another gained A grades in Physics and chemistry and an A* in Maths, with several others achieving A grades in more than one of their subjects. Over half of the students achieved at least one grade A in the exams taken this summer. Of particular note, on the Child Care skills course Seven out of the nine students entered achieved three distinctions equivalent to three A grades at A level. 

Commenting about this year’s successes, Lorrayne Hughes, executive headteacher, said: “We are delighted that so many students have achieved the results that will enable them to go onto university, colleges, employment or apprenticeships with our local industries. Students, parents and staff have worked together tremendously, and have been rewarded with these excellent grades. I congratulate all of our students.” 

The Duke of York’s Royal Military School students have also been celebrating their successes at A level. 

Some 39 students in Year 13 were entered for more than 25 different A level and BTEC courses, with 97.4% passing two or more A levels. 

Chris Russell, the school’s executive principal stated: “These excellent A level results demonstrate how students can study at a very high level and also participate fully in sport, combined cadet force, ceremonial and other social activities. This special combination develops superb qualities of character and resilience. I am very proud of all the students, and of the teachers who have helped them achieve these results.” 

Head of sixth form, Patrick Barber, said: “While the results reflect solid hard work and commitment, I am pleased with all of the achievements of our students regardless of their ability because they have met their individual challenges and targets set throughout their courses. We are now working hard to ensure that the students are well supported as they finalise their university, employment or military career plans.” 

While schools celebrate, The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) reports that there have been decreases in the number of candidates taking several important subjects, such as music, German and design and technology, at both A level and AS level. 

Malcolm Trobe, Deputy General Secretary of the ASCL, said: “Congratulations to all the students and teachers who have worked so hard to produce this year’s set of results and the very best of luck to all those young people now heading to the next stage in their lives.”

“It is disappointing to see a decline in the number of entrants for some subjects. All of these subjects are important in their own right for a range of students, but they generate smaller classes. In the current financial climate, in which 16-19 education funding has been severely cut, this makes it more difficult for schools and colleges to offer these subjects because they simply cannot afford the teachers for smaller groups of students. 

“Schools and colleges are making every effort to offer a full range of options to meet the needs of every student, but it is increasingly difficult for them to do so given the inadequate level of funding for 16-19 education. 

“We welcome the increase in the number of people taking ‘facilitating subjects’ – such as English and maths – and particularly the continuing rise in the number of maths entrants. Maths is very important in many professions and increases the options for people going to university to do a range of subjects. This is good for students and good for the economy.” 

Commenting on the A level results, Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT said: “We congratulate everyone receiving A-Level results today, and commend students, teachers, school leaders and parents for their hard work and support throughout the year.

“One area of concern is the continuing gradual decline in entries to modern foreign languages. NAHT has repeatedly challenged the government for a national strategy to address this.  

“The circumstances against which these results have been achieved become more challenging as each year passes. The survey by the Sixth Form Colleges' Association (SFCA) indicates the mounting financial pressures faced by institutions providing post-16 education. NAHT urges the government, in its forthcoming review of post-16 providers, to acknowledge that school sixth forms also face severe and increasing financial pressures.” 

How did your school do on results day? Let us know at    

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