Schools in West Norfolk are working more closely together than ever before to meet the challenges posed by the new-style GCSE exams, a senior education leader says.
Thousands of teenagers collected their results today, which were the first to feature a new 9 to 1 grading system that will eventually replace the A* to G scale.
A grade 7 is the equivalent of an A grade under the old system, with grade 4 being broadly equal to a lower end grade C.
Initially, the new system is only being applied to English and maths and will be rolled out to all subjects over the next three years.
But Springwood High School executive headteacher Andy Johnson yesterday said lessons they have learned this year will help them in the future, as the new system is extended.
The West Norfolk Academies Trust, of which Springwood is part along with Smithdon High, Hunstanton, St Clement’s High, Terrington St Clement and Marshland High in West Walton, has collaborated with the Eastern Multi-Academy Trust, which sponsors the King Edward VII Academy and the King’s Lynn Academy, to help prepare students for the new exams.
Among the initiatives were combined mock exams, with particular emphasis on maths.
And Mr Johnson said there had already been discussions between the two organisations about continuing the arrangement for next year.
He added: “All the schools in West Norfolk, for the first time, have worked very, very closely together and that is the future.
“By working together, the more that are involved, the greater certainty we have. We all want the same thing which is the best for the young people we look after.”
Almost two-thirds of Springwood students achieved grade 4 or better in English and maths, with 14 students achieving a grade 9 in one of them and 13 recording at least a grade 8 in both.
Mr Johnson said: “This is a fabulous set of results. It is great to see so many students enter the Springwood Sixth Form or gain their first choice future elsewhere.”
This year’s exams have been described by some commentators as the hardest to be set since the old O-levels were scrapped 30 years ago.
That view was echoed by Matthew Parr-Burman, the principal of Fakenham Academy, even though results there are estimated to be even better than last year.
A total of 64 per cent of students achieved grades 9 to 4 in English and maths, up four per cent on the proportion that recorded A* to C grades in 2016.
And record numbers of students are set to transfer to the school’s new sixth form, which is due to open at the start of the new academic year next month.
But Mr Parr-Burman said staff there were in no doubt that the papers this year are more challenging than in previous years.
He said: “The style of the questions is harder. In maths, to answer the tougher questions, you’ve not just got to be really good at maths but good at English too. The language they’re using is really hard for those students that are just good at maths to understand.”
Mr Johnson said the new papers also included material that had only previously been taught at A-level.
But he argued that allowed the brightest students to show their full potential.
“If you’ve got a 9 today you should be very, very proud.”