Sunderland College principal says A Level results 'richly deserved'

Sunderland College principal Toni Rhodes said the results achieved by students are ‘richly deserved’ and a ‘true reflection’ of their performance across their A Level and BTEC courses.

Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 4:30 pm

Mrs Rhodes made the statement after concerns were raised nationally about the potential inflation of grades for the second year running as coursework and teacher based assessments replaced traditional examinations.

This year has seen the highest ever number of students awarded top grades with 44.8 per cent of students attaining A* or A grades - a 6.3 per cent increase on last year’s results and almost 75 per cent increase in the proportion of students attaining top grades since the last set of conventional exams in 2019.

Mrs Rhodes said: “Our students' grades are richly deserved. This has been an extremely challenging 18 months in which students and staff have had to adapt to the pandemic.

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Ellie Murray, 18, (right) celebrates receiving her A Level grades alongside friends Tia Anderson, 18 (centre), and Caitlin Copeland, 18.

“There has been a significant effort at the college to ensure there's evidence the grade awarded to every student is accurate with a robust quality assurance process in place for every learner.

“These results are testament to the resilience of students and dedication of staff who have both had to adapt throughout the pandemic.”

Vice-principal Vikkie Morton added: “At the start of the year we had to prepare for exams which were then cancelled and the students have had to adapt to remote learning where there’s greater emphasis on self-motivation.

“This is a fantastic set of results which represents the work which has taken place at the college.”

Sunderland College Bede Campus A level result students from left Brooke Atkinson, Abbiegail Bennett and Megan Nelson.

Among those receiving their restults at Sunderland College was brave teenager Ellie Murray, who has overcome the devastation of losing her father in February to achieve straight A grades in law, criminology and psychology.

Ellie, 18, said: “It has been a really difficult year with the disruption of covid and then losing my dad just before the start of the exam season.

“My dad would have been really proud of the results I've achieved.”

Ellie, who missed two months of the year as she struggled to come to terms with her loss, added: “When I opened up my results all that built up emotion just came out.

Sunderland College Bede Campus student Tia Anderson receives A*, A and a distinction* on her A level results.

“My grades were higher than predicted and I had obviously missed quite a lot of the courses.

“I was surprised to get an A in psychology as I had struggled with it for most of the year.”

After returning to college to complete her studies, Ellie has been praised for her bravery and the influence she has had on other students.

Criminology teacher Dan Gibson said: “Ellie’s A is a testament to her character in overcoming a very difficult time.

Sam Percival, 18, believes the grades awarded to students are justified.

“Her return to college and the way she conducted herself also had such a positive impact on her peers.’

Psychology teacher Glynis Stephenson-Taylor added: “Ellie’s achievements are a real testament to her character in channeling her grief into doing well in her studies.

“Ellie’s grade A is a result of her dedication and hard work.”

She now hopes to go to Newcastle University to study law.

Ellie’s achievements were part of an 'excellent' set of results for the college with 86 per cent of students achieving A* to C grades and 65.4 per cent attaining A* to B grades compared to 56 per cent last year.

One of the college’s top performing students was Sam Percival, 18, who attained straight A* grades in biology, chemistry and maths and has been accepted to study medicine at the University of Birmingham.

Sam said: “I was shocked when I opened the envelope to find I had got A* for all my subjects. It was a real surprise but just shows that all my effort and hard work paid off.

“It has been a really challenging year with not initially knowing whether exams were going to be cancelled and then the stress of how we were going to be assessed - it has been a real rollercoaster of emotions.

“No school cohort has had two years of disruption like ours. In the end the government had to cancel the exams.

“If grades are slightly higher I think it’s justified by what we’ve had to go through.”

Caitlin Copeland, 18, who attained an A*, A and B in criminology, law and sociology and who is now going on to study criminology at Northumbria University, said: “It has been a really hard year with the pandemic and a stressful time.

“Fortunately I didn’t have to isolate but during lockdowns we were unable to come into college for face to face teaching.

“Our teachers were not allowed to give us any indication of our grades and so I was really happy and surprised when I saw my results.”

Tia Anderson, 18, chose to sit a series of optional exams to ‘show I deserve the grades I got’.

Tia, who achieved an A and A* in law and criminology and distinction in BTEC sports science, added: “I was ecstatic when I saw my results as I thought I would get grade Bs. It has been a really difficult year with most of the teaching done on Microsoft Teams.

“The college did their best to adapt but it’s not the same as being in the classroom with your teacher.’

Abbiegail Bennett, 18, who attained a distinction* and two distinctions in health and social care, said: "The last two years have been so hard and none of us expected this disruption."

Classmate Brooke Atkinson, 18, who attained straight distinction* grades, added: “This has been such a difficult year for all of us and these grades are richly deserved.

“We've had to adapt to everything the pandemic has thrown at us and as classmates we’ve really had to work together to support each other.”

With young people across the city collecting their results, Together for Children Sunderland, who work on behalf of the City Council, have praised young people and teachers for their sterling efforts in the face of adversity.

Director Simon Marshall said: “I’d like to congratulate everyone receiving their A-Level results today and wish them every success in the future.

“The pandemic has impacted schools and education settings enormously over the past 18 months.

“However, students and school staff have remained extremely dedicated, adapting to their circumstances and overcoming any difficulties they faced to ensure young people in Sunderland can reach their potential.”