The anxious wait is over for GCSE pupils at Hunstanton’s Smithdon High School. Picture: Ian Burt

After months of uncertainty surrounding lessons, exams and grading, thousands of West Norfolk pupils were able to collect their GCSE exam results yesterday (Thursday) – and there were plenty of smiles.

The pandemic created new challenges for this year’s cohort, forcing youngsters to miss a number of important milestones, including sitting their final exams and attending end-of-year proms.

Upset over A-level grading only heightened anxiety, but this week’s government U-turn allowing teacher predictions to be used for exam results means students can look ahead and plan their next steps with more certainty.

There was cause for celebration at West Norfolk high schools, with many pupils achieving top results.

At King Edward VII Academy, in King’s Lynn, the percentage of both 9 to 5 grades awarded and 9 to 4 grades increased, with many students receiving “positive progress scores due to their hard work and determination,” the academy said.

Students Ema Tomkova and Nell Ashworth both achieved six grade 9s, and Henry Newman, Jasmine Ayas, Olivia Sharp and Jacob Gyton passed the majority of the exams with a grade seven or higher.  

KES principal Sarah Hartshorn said: “I am relieved the government has made the U-turn enabling our students to receive their centre-assessed grades where the hard work and professionalism of our teachers has been acknowledged. 

“It has been a difficult year for our students who have missed out on their usual rites of passage expected at this stage in their education. 

“There is some reassurance that grades fairly reflect their dedication, determination and achievements over the last two years. 

“We are pleased that our students have what they need to move on to the next stage in their educational journey. We look forward to welcoming many students back to join us in year 12 and are excited to hear about their future successes.” 

West Norfolk Academies Trust’s four secondary schools were also celebrating.

St Clement’s pupil Kaitlyn Masters is set to study nursing

At St Clements High School, in Terrington St Clement, nearly three quarters of students achieved grade 4 and above in English and Maths – more than 10 per cent  of students also secured grade 7 and above. 

Highest performing students included Elizabeth Wood and Harry Preston.

Headteacher Nigel Willingham said: “The grades achieved reflect the hard work of our students during their whole high school career. We are very proud of them.”

There were more happy students at Hunstanton’s Smithdon High School, where three quarters of students secured grade 4 and above in English and maths and half picked up grade 5 and above. 

Notable achievers at Smithdon included Emillie Hipkin and Nathaniel Linsell, but headteacher John Hirst also mentioned Caytlin Davies, Hassan Miah, Rose Richardson and Declan Davies for the progress they made while at Smithdon

“We are all very proud of our students and staff who have worked so hard in difficult circumstances,” Mr Hirst added. 

Lydia Askew was delighted with her results of 9, 8, six 7s and three 6s – her top grade coming in PE. She’s now off to Springwood Sixth Form to study English, history and biology.

“I was really nervous about coming in to collect my results, she said.

“When I opened the envelope, the first result I looked for was history and I got a 7 so I was happy. Overall I did better than I expected.”

Twins Matthew and Hannah Back were delighted for each other as they picked up the grades they needed for their post-16 destination.

Matthew who secured good grades in design and technology and PE is set to study engineering at the College of West Anglia.

Hannah was pleased with her results in geography, English language and PE and is off to Springwood Sixth Form to study biology, chemistry and criminology.

Hannah said: “I was a bit nervous coming in today but I was very pleased when I opened my results because I knew I’d got into Springwood.”

Matthew added: “I did better than I thought I would and I’m pleased to have got what I needed to get into college.”

At Lynn’s Springwood High School, three quarters of students secured grades 4 to 9 in English and maths, with half securing grade 5 and above in both subjects. 

High-performing students included Zara Bek, Nazli Atalay, Nicola Mathew, Jake Parish, Simona Pilmane and Neethu Thomson

Executive headteacher Andy Johnson said: “As a school we are immensely proud of them all and the results of this year’s GCSE exams reflect the confidence the teaching staff have in our students.”

Chairman of governors Roger Livesey added: “The entire Springwood family has been dealing with these difficult times and families, staff and students should be proud with how they have been coping with a unique set of circumstances.” 

At Marshland High School, in West Walton, almost three quarters  of pupils achieved grade 4 and above in both English and maths, with 57 per cent picking up grade 5 and above in both subjects. 

Headteacher Craig Jansen said: “It is regrettable that the current COVID-19 crisis prevented our students from sitting their exams but we are confident that their results reflect the efforts and the outcomes they would have achieved under normal circumstances.”

Oliver Swann and Katie Smith were Marshland’s highest achievers and both are going to Springwood Sixth Form to study A-levels.

Katie, who achieved seven 9s and three 8s, said: “I’m a young carer and staff have provided me with a lot of support – it’s additional stress not a lot of children have, but my teachers never stopped encouraging me. 

“If I was worried about something, they would pull me aside and give me the one-to-one support I needed.”

Oliver added: “It was nice to be able to go back into school to say thank you and goodbye to the teachers.”

Chairman of governors Steve Cozens said: “I would like to express my thanks to all Marshland staff for their professionalism and support given to all students during these unusual times.”