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The Corporation

Posted: 24/08/17

Students share their GCSE success stories

West Nottinghamshire College has today (Thursday 24 August, 2017) announced a GCSE overall pass rate of 92.4%.

  • Natalie James receives a congratulatory kiss from son Harry for getting a B in science
  • Mother-of-four Racheal Bailey gained a grade 6 in English, 4 in maths and B in science
  • Jeanette Holloway got a grade 5 in maths
  • Yulia Sharp with her grade 8 in maths and 6 in English
  • Overjoyed Clifford White with his grade 4s in maths and English
  • Kate Upton was overjoyed at receiving at grade 5 in maths and a 4 in English

There were 1,167 students that sat GCSEs at the college this year – an increase of 453 from the previous year, due to the government’s requirement for students aged 16-18 without grades C or above in English and maths (grade 4 under the new system) to continue to study these subjects post-16.

A total of 1,523 GCSE exams were sat this summer – an increase of 733 from the year before – across the college’s three subjects, producing a 94.7% pass rate in science, 92.5% in maths, and 92.3% in English.

The college also has many adult learners who return to education to gain GCSEs they missed out on at school – often so they can progress to further study or re-train for a new career that requires core qualifications.

Of students aged 19 and above, A*-C (9-4) passes were achieved by 68.8% of students in science, 63.2% in English and 59.7% in maths. A*-B passes in science were recorded by 50% of students aged 19 and above.

English and maths were examined under the government’s new GCSE grading system being phased-in by 2019. These subjects are now graded numerically, from 9-1, instead of the A*-G letter system. Grade 9 is the highest that can be achieved under the new system, set above the current A*. Grade 4 is a ‘standard pass’ and broadly equivalent to a grade C, while grade 5 is considered a ‘strong pass’.

Principal and chief executive Dame Asha Khemka said: “We’ve seen another big increase in the number of 16 to 18-year-olds re-taking GCSE English or maths alongside their main programme of study, while we continue to see many adult learners attending evening classes to improve on their grades from school. In both cases, it requires considerable dedication and commitment.

“Regardless of each student’s circumstances, gaining GCSE passes in core subjects remains a hugely-important milestone in their lives. GCSEs are a vital platform to higher-level academic or vocational study, and opens the door to new and exciting career opportunities.

“My congratulations to all students on their achievements, and sincere thanks to the teaching staff that have supported them along the way.”

Mother-of-four Racheal Bailey managed to combine studying three GCSE subjects while raising her children, whose ages range between eight and three.

The 25-year-old, from Mansfield Woodhouse, was “totally thrilled” to achieve a grade 6 in English, 4 in maths and a grade B in science.

She said: “Life is busy with four young ones aged eight, six, five and three, but I’ve succeeded in studying my GCSEs and coming out with good grades. I first did my GCSEs in 2008 and achieved four Cs grades but knew I needed better, as my ambition is to become a doctor.”

Three of Racheal’s children have disabilities, which has inspired her passion to become a paediatrician, either working in the community with disabled children, or specialising in oncology.

“My next path is to study the access to science programme and then a full degree at the University of Nottingham,” she said.

“I’ve loved mixing with my new classmates. It was tricky at times as I can feel anxious in crowds, but I’ve done it and I’ve succeeded in the exams.”

Another busy mum, Natalie James, 28, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, was positively beaming upon discovering she had gained a B in science.

The qualification takes the mother-of-three a step closer to achieving her dream of becoming a teacher.

She said: “This is fabulous news – it’s much better than expected as I thought I would get a C grade. I studied hospitality and tourism at West Notts some years back and then went on to have a family.

“I’ve had a break from studying, but as my three children are growing up I thought about going into secondary school teaching as a career.

“I’ve now done my maths, English and science and the first year of my degree programme with the Open University. I’ve got two more years left on the degree and then I’ll be moving on to the PGCE before hopefully going into teaching.

“It’s great to think that my dream is starting to come true. I started off really shy in class but have made some wonderful friends. We’re all different ages and there was a lady in her 50s studying with us.”

Another student who did better than she anticipated was Jeanette Holloway, who achieved a grade 5 in maths – the equivalent of a strong C grade pass.

The 44-year-old from Ollerton, said: “I’m absolutely delighted with a grade 5 as I didn’t even expect to get a 4. I decided to return to studying because all the job adverts you see these days expect you to have GCSEs in maths and English so I thought it was worth doing.

“I work as a secretary within the NHS at Mansfield Community Hospital and although I’m not currently looking to move on, you never know what’s around the corner, so I thought I’d bite the bullet and try to improve my qualification.

“Many people in my class have decided to study again for lots of different reasons and we’ve got on really well.

"I’m looking forward to contacting my daughter in Australia to let her know how well I’ve done.”

Thirty-year-old Yulia Sharp is originally from Russia, which is where she gained her business degree. Because the degree isn’t recognised in the UK, she studied GCSE in maths and English at the college in order to progress to higher education.

Yulia, who now lives in Mansfield, was overjoyed at gaining a grade 8 in maths – equivalent to a strong grade A – and a grade 6 in English, equal to a strong B.

She said: “I came to study here because my degree from Russia isn’t recognised in the UK and I needed to get my maths and English GCSEs before doing any further studies.

“Right now I’m working as a personal trainer so I’ve been busy working and studying, but I’ve managed to succeed.

“Coming back to college has been really interesting. I like studying and at first it was hard to get used to being with much younger people, but I settled in very well.

“After this, I want to study for a degree in fitness or sports science but for the time being I’m concentrating on work.”

Clifford White, 44, from Hucknall, opened his exam results with a broad smile, as getting grade 4s in maths and English means he can progress to further studies at the college.

He said: “This is excellent; it’s just what I need to enrol onto the foundation degree in sports and exercise science. Hopefully after the two-year programme, I’ll do a further year of study and top it up to a full honours degree.

“Previous to these exams I didn’t have any certificates. I did my school exams in 1989 and without any certificates as proof, I realised I couldn’t move on, so I decided to re-study maths and English.

“I used to work for a homelessness charity, but after being made redundant I decided it was the time to concentrate on studying. I am passionate about sport and I’m currently working as a personal trainer, helping people to achieve new fitness levels, either in local gyms or in their own homes.

“I’m really looking forward to getting stuck-in to my next level of learning.”

Kate Upton, 19, from Kirkby-in-Ashfield, studied GCSE maths and English alongside the BTEC diploma in health and social care at the college.

Opening her results envelope, Kate was thrilled to discover she had achieved a grade 5 in maths and a grade 4 in English.

She said: “I thought I’d get a 2 in English and maybe a 4 in maths so I’m delighted.

“Previously I did the schools academy programme here at West Notts when I was in Year 11. I did levels 1 and 2 and then GCSEs. I wasn’t happy with my previous GCSE maths grade D and an E in English – I always knew I could do better.

“It’s been hard work studying these subjects again while also doing my health and social care programme, but very much worth the effort.

“Next term I’ll be moving on to the extended programme in health and social care; then I want to go to university or take a higher apprenticeship to enable me to go into social work, which is my dream job.

“Maths and English are very important for me to have, in order to achieve that goal.”

West Nottinghamshire College offers a range of academic and vocational courses, from GCSEs and A-levels to NVQs, BTECS, HNDs, HNCs, foundation degrees and full honours degrees.

Anybody interested in studying at the college should call 0808 100 3626.