A-LEVEL RESULTS 2022: Watch Sunderland's Southmoor Academy students who overcame their own personal challenges to score top marks

Students at Southmoor Academy have overcome the challenges of pregnancy, anxiety and the disruption of Covid to gain top grades in this year’s A-Level and BTEC results.

Sheena Lough, 18, discovered she was pregnant two months into the second year of her Health and Social Care BTEC course and despite the difficulties of chronic morning sickness and being eight months pregnant at the time of sitting her exams she achieved a distinction* and two distinctions – the A-Level equivalent two A*s and an A.

After giving birth to baby Oscar just three weeks ago, Sheena was “shocked and ecstatic” when she opened her results.

She said: “I was really nervous but I was so happy when I saw my results. I really didn’t expect these grades. I could have cried when I opened my envelope.

"It was really challenging being heavily pregnant while studying. I suffered badly with morning sickness and would often have to phone school to say I would be late in as I was feeling ill.

"I left in June and gave birth in July.”

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Sheena is now set to go to the University of Sunderland to study Paramedic Science.

Sheena Lough, 18, with baby Oscar.

She said: “I used to volunteer as a cadet for St John’s Ambulance and so I’ve always been interested in doing something medical. I’m really excited about the course.”

It has been a challenging two years for all the students with pandemic lockdowns and increased absence having a detrimental impact on students’ studies and for some, their mental health.

One pupil to suffer more than most was Keeley Lee, 18, who developed anxiety issues during lockdown which prevented her from returning to her previous college, and losing her course place.

She said: “Lockdown really affected me and triggered my anxiety. I’m also autistic and couldn’t cope with the change in routine. I also developed an eating disorder.”

Keely Lee, 18, has overcome mental health issues to attain straight A* grades in her A-levels. Picture by FRANK REID

However, after enrolling at Southmoor last spring and effectively condensing her studies into one year, Keeley scored straight A*s in Psychology, Geography and Sociology.

She added: “I didn’t sleep last night and was thrilled when I saw my results. I’m going to study Psychology at the Open University as it allows me to stay at home. Hopefully I can help other people with their mental health.”

Kyle Hutchinson, 18, was surprised after attaining an A in Drama, B in History and distinction* in Sports Science.

He said: “I was shocked. I didn’t think I had it in me but my results suggested otherwise. I’ve now got a place to do policing at Northumbria University.”

Chris Watson, 18, is off to the University of Oxford after achieving two A* and two A grades in his A-level exams. Picture by FRANK REID

The school saw a 100 per cent pass rate on all its courses with eight students attaining A and A* grades in their A Levels.

One of those was Christopher Watson, 18, who got A and A* grades to secure a place at the University of Oxford.

He said: “I was buzzing when I saw my results. With our GCSEs cancelled because of Covid this is the first external exams we’ve sat and so I’m really proud.”

It was a sentiment shared by Deputy Headteacher Sammy Wright who said: “You can’t underestimate the impact the pandemic had on some students which makes their achievements even more significant. In the context of the last two years we are really pleased with the results.”

Kyle Hutchinson, 18, was shocked after seeing his A-level exam results. Picture by FRANK REID