24 August 2023

Principal's Response to GCSE Results 2023

GCSE Success Ealing Principals Story

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” 

Martin Luther King, Jr.

GCSE results day began with somewhat of a shock today. 

Not because of the results for our students - we received and processed those yesterday - and we’re very pleased with the efforts of all of them. 

The surprise was that our first student to collect their results was Ilyas. As the time ticked to 8.30am precisely, he was ready and waiting. This was a student for whom punctuality has been elusive since the day he joined us.


Why the surprise?

Perpetually late to his first lesson of the day because of traffic or oversleeping or whatever excuse he could muster, this slipshod approach spilled into the formal exam period, often far too close to the exam cut-off time for comfort.

So to see the precocious young man striding in expectantly as promptly as he did this morning was a pleasant surprise.

To observe the bashful sense of glee on his face was another pleasant revelation from someone usually so cagey.

I can only imagine the position he was in last year.

Having attended a large secondary academy, he emerged with middling to poor grades:

English Language English Literature Mathematics Biology Chemistry Physics  Geography Religious Studies Design & Technology
3 2 5 4 5 5 1 3 5


For a student who possesses a great deal of potential, such results would have been extremely difficult to deal with for his parents, the staff who had supported him and, of course, for himself. I know it would have been accompanied by a profound sense of hopelessness. The trauma which punctuated the following days and weeks would have been palpable

I know this because when the student came to us at the start of September, head bowed and demeanour abashed, he required a great deal of picking up. All students who have encountered such setbacks do.


But this is a particular speciality of the College

Grasping firmly to an attitude that no situation is irredeemable, we seek to turn pessimism to optimism, and do so quickly.

With a view to enrolling on a GCSE Intensive Course, where he would retake five subjects, Ilyas sat our admissions tests, and scored well. These standardised tests made it clear to him that the power to achieve certainly existed - it just needed to be utilised properly.

The tests stated that, on average, Ilyas should have been scoring grade 7s, or thereabouts, across his subjects. That with the right application, and by responding to feedback appropriately, he could be scoring even better than that.

Whether he was fully committed to sign up to this new improved vision of himself was debatable, and early signs did not look especially good.

The aforementioned issues with punctuality were prevalent from the start, and he needed the deterrent of ‘extra school’ sessions in order to complete his work to a satisfactory standard. His reaction to being put in these sessions could be rather prickly, but he’d take his medicine.

Months Marks grades - a fundamental part of our assessment tracking - were not translating well either. Attainment was significantly below the targets of 7s which we set for him, and his effort grades, on a sliding scale from 1-4, were sitting at 3.2 or thereabouts - unsatisfactory and in need of swift attention.


Mock exams, in the first instance, didn’t produce a great deal of urgency either. They read:

Maths - Absent - 0% - U

English - 25% - Grade 2

Biology -  56% - Grade 6

Chemistry - Absent - 0% - U

Physics - 51% - Grade 6

I held crisis talks with his father, and the message seemed to be understood - at least a little more. It can be very difficult to instigate change, particularly lasting change, but persistence is the key within this approach, and staff at the College, collectively, will never give up in trying to bring out the very best in each and every one of our students.

The instances of lateness continued; the late detentions followed; deadlines were missed, though less frequently, the ‘extra school’ sessions mounted.

At some point, some time in February 2023, it finally dawned on Ilyas after a bad week. An ill-chosen prank which backfired on a younger student was followed by an incident where he was caught messing around in the Reading Room. Wasting his time, kicking a football around, he inadvertently set off the fire alarm late on a Friday.

Without having to conduct an investigation to find out who the culprit was, Ilyas approached me and confessed. He followed this with a detailed, contrite and sincere letter about his intentions to change his ways. 


“I do not expect to be forgiven” he proclaimed, “I simply would like to apologise.”

“What I did on Friday was unplanned. I shouldn’t have done it. I should have done my work instead, like a responsible young man.”

“I’m ashamed of myself. I’m disappointed in myself and I promise to be better. I will be better.”

The conversation which followed between us, and with his father present, consisted of very few words. The letter had said everything Ilyas wanted to say.

I made it clear that “a man is only as good as his word,” and left it at that.


The penny finally seemed to drop.

A new sense of desire to do well had been embraced.He started to hang around with the best and brightest GCSE students, and purposely sought out time with his teachers to overcome the difficulties he was now working hard to identify and tackle.

The punctuality issues remained, but the levels of effort had risen substantially. He would often be one of the last students to leave at the end of the day.


The turnaround

Easter mock results showed a marked difference:

Mathematics - 57% - Grade 7

English Language - 74% - Grade 8

Biology - 58% - Grade 6

Chemistry - 54% - Grade 7

Physics - 61% - Grade 7


Not only had he grown in belief, but he had found and developed an effective attitude to work. As he proudly collected his ‘Most Improved Student’ award in Year 11 for the Spring Term, he knew that he could now approach his formal exams with a sense of confidence.

Still his punctuality remained an issue. But you don’t get GCSE grades in punctuality.


GCSE Result Day 2023

So, we return to today - and the collection of results - the big reveal, as it were:

Mathematics - Grade 6 (+1 from 2022)

English Language - Grade 8 (+5 from 2022)

Biology - Grade 8 (+4 from 2022)

Chemistry - Grade 7 (+2 from 2022)

Physics - Grade 8 (+3 from 2022)


Such an improvement (14 grades across 5 subjects) is rare, but not atypical in terms of grade enhancement at the College. Students moving up two or perhaps even three grades can happen - they just need to commit to the goal which they are trying to accomplish.

What is perhaps most pleasing about Ilyas’s journey is his significant transition to maturity, and his ability to find the previously elusive approach required to produce results which met his potential. There have been ups and down - there always are - but Ilyas is now truly back in business and wants to continue with us into A Level. He’s moving forward - crawling at the start of the year, and flying at the end of it.

Whether he succeeds is up to him - but he now knows he can do it.

We have numerous discussions with parents around this time who want to know what it’s like to retake GCSEs. This is the story of one of those students. Not, perhaps, the best behaved or most compliant student, but certainly one who has done himself proud, in the end.

In a wider sense, GCSE results across the College were good, and were able to buck the trend of the downturn in results, overall, which took place nationwide. Top grades were down slightly, but, like in the case of Ilyas, we were able to add value for the students we supported. This, to me, will always be the best marker for success.

Ilyas’s performance against expected grades of 7 in each subject meant that his value added was 0.4 of a grade - this might have been enough to nudge him into the boundary above in some cases.


This year we had some even more impressive value adds, with one student even attaining an average of one grade more per subject. Expectations of 4s across his subjects actually transpired to grades of 865554 - these are the results which are most pleasing for me, and the best indicator of the positive impact which the College can make for our students.


Learn more about what we can do for you by getting in touch with us today.

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