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The Corporation

Posted: 20/08/15

Students and staff celebrate GCSE success

West Nottinghamshire College is celebrating another great year of GCSE results.

  • Donna Ratcliffe gained GCSEs in English and science despite being bedridden for large parts of the courses
  • Gary Cowley celebrates his B grade in GCSE English that takes him a step closer to his dreams of a career in the RAF

Today (Thursday 20 August 2015) saw the college record an overall GCSE pass rate of 99.6% – up 0.6% on the previous year.

Results of its 677 exam entries included 100% pass rates in two out of the three GCSE subjects offered by the college – namely in English and science, with the latter recording a perfect pass rate for the ninth consecutive year.

Meanwhile, its 99% pass rate in maths represented a 1% increase on last year.

A total of 598 people studied GCSEs at the college this year – an increase of 247 the previous year – with most studying one or more subjects alongside their main vocational qualification.

It also has a number of adult learners who choose to go back to education to gain certain GCSEs that they missed out on at school – either to progress to further study or re-train for a new career.

Principal and chief executive, Dame Asha Khemka, said: “Whether re-taking a GCSE alongside a higher-level qualification or having made the momentous decision to return to the classroom as a mature learner, our students can feel very proud of their achievements.

“GCSEs are the springboard to further study, training and skilled employment, so I’m delighted that so many students are able to celebrate this fantastic milestone in their lives today. I congratulate them on their hard work and success.”

Courageous Donna Ratcliffe left her sick bed for the first time in three months to sit her GCSE exams – and has been rewarded with the grades she worked so hard to achieve.

The 33-year-old has suffered from a condition called arachnoiditis for the last nine years, leaving her paralysed from the waist down.

Despite struggling with the disability, the single mother-of-two was determined to continue her education and decided to re-take her GCSEs in English and science at West Nottinghamshire College last September, having left school in 1997.

It came after she successfully gained a counselling qualification at the college in 2011.

Although fully-dependent upon her wheelchair, Donna, from Mansfield, threw herself into her studies with enthusiasm and a determination to succeed. Her outgoing personality, positive attitude and thirst for knowledge quickly saw her become a firm favourite with her tutors and fellow students.

But her resolve was tested to the limit last October when she suffered a serious injury to her left leg while getting into her wheelchair, causing a major abscess.

Donna defied doctors’ orders of long-term bed rest by bravely continuing to attend classes at the college’s Derby Road campus on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

She said: “College was a life-line for me. Although I was really struggling health-wise and told to stay in bed, it was great to get out and be a person as opposed to being a patient or a client,” said Donna, who is supported by a live-in carer.

“Above all, I enjoyed meeting new people and doing something for me.”

However, Donna’s health further deteriorated in March, when she developed pressure sores and infections in her already-wounded leg, in addition to heart problems – meaning she was unable to attend college at all.

But rather than give up, she vowed to maintain her studies and complete her courses from home instead.

“I kept in really close contact with my tutors and followed lesson plans on my laptop while in bed, as well as completing all my work books,” she said.

“I also communicated with my classmates via Facebook and text messages, which helped me keep up-to-date with what was going on.”

Although entirely house-bound by this point, Donna was determined not to miss her final exams.

It saw her bravely leave her bed for the first time in three months, when she joined fellow students in sitting their papers at college in June.

“I thought ‘If I don’t sit these exams, I’ve wasted another year’, so there was no way I was going to miss them,” she insisted.

Opening her results envelope today, Donna was thrilled to discover she had gained a B in English and a C in science.

She needed the GCSEs in order to progress to an Access to Higher Education course at the college, which she hopes to study in the near future.

Donna said: “I’m really proud of myself because things have been a real struggle,” she said. “But it’s all been worth it. I’m overjoyed at what I’ve achieved.”

Currently awaiting an operation on her wounded leg, Donna harbours ambitions of working in psychology one day.

And she had special praise for the college, saying it has helped take her a stage closer to achieving her dream.

“My tutors, Claire and Cheryl, were absolutely fantastic and really supportive,” said Donna.  “I couldn’t have asked for better.”

Fellow adult learner Gary Cowley was delighted to achieve the qualification that takes him a step closer to his dreams of an exciting new career in the RAF.

Now aged 23, Gary’s hope throughout his studies was that he achieved above a grade D in English – the result he got at school, where he felt he wasn’t given much chance to succeed.

But as an adult, with a clearer focus, he aimed for at least a C grade which will help him pursue his ambition of applying to be a reservist in the RAF, specialising in IT.

And today, Gary, from Mansfield Woodhouse, opened his results envelope to proudly reveal he had achieved a grade B.

He said: “I’m very, very pleased about this after all the hard work I’ve put in to it. It feels like the past year really has paid off.

“All the students in my class were mature learners who had decided they wanted to go back and study English again for a particular reason. For me, this new grade – which is far better than I expected – means I can apply for the RAF.”

It comes after Gary re-sat his maths GCSE last year, achieving a C grade, which followed him gaining a Foundation Degree in Communication and Networking Technologies at the college in 2013.

Gary has spent the last year working as an exams invigilator at a local school following a stint as a porter at a supermarket chain. He is now planning to undertake another course at West Notts next year – this time, a construction-related qualification – before applying for the RAF.

He added: “Joinery is a bit of a hobby of mine, so I’m going to enrol on the carpentry and joinery level 1 programme at the college and enjoy that before I embark on the career of my dreams.”

The college’s impressive GCSE results come just a week after it announced a 98.8% pass rate for A-Levels. Anybody interested in taking GCSEs or A-Levels at West Nottinghamshire College should call 0808 100 3626.