The day has come for students across the borough to find out if they’ve achieved the A-level results they were hoping for – with schools interrupting the summer break to hand out the envelopes.
Reforms introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove, intended to make exams more rigorous, are almost complete.
Grades for nearly all subjects are now based solely on a student’s performance in their final twelve months, rather than the old combination of coursework, AS and A-levels.
Nationwide figures seem to suggest the exams are indeed getting tougher, with the proportion of students achieving top grades – 25.5 per cent – at its lowest level since 2007.
The overall pass rate for students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has held firm at 97.6 per cent.
But how have pupils in Hackney fared?
Students at Cardinal Pole Catholic School, in the top one per cent of schools for progress last year, have again performed well.
The percentage of A*, A and Bs has increased, with 21 per cent of grades at A*-A and a remarkable 61 per cent at A*-B.
Faith Osifo who achieved A*A*AA in Maths, English Literature, History and Religious Studies to win a place studying Law at Homerton College Cambridge.
Lexie Nyerere achieved A*A*A in Maths, History and English Literature and has accepted an offer to study History at University College London (UCL).
Executive headteacher, Jane Heffernan, praised the efforts of all her students and staff: “We are phenomenally proud of these outcomes for students, which are genuinely life-changing.
“The incredible work staff and students have put in all year have been rewarded, and we know they will be successful at further study and employment in the future.”
Urswick School Sixth Form Academy students are also celebrating a bumper year – earning a visit from Mayor Philip Glanville and Deputy Mayor Anntoinette Bramble.
Seventy per cent of students earned grades between A* and C.
Students have secured university places across the country, with one heading off to Edinburgh to study Linguistics, and others going as far afield as Plymouth and Newcastle.
Amawry De Freitas, 18, who achieved Bs across the board to win a place at Kent University to read Law, said: “I am so thankful for the opportunities I have been given and those who believed in my success.”
Naheemat Lawal, 18, who was overjoyed with the A and three Bs that secured her a place at Birmingham University, added: “Work as hard as you can. Keep on trying and never give up. Life is a journey that consists of failures and achievements, however, it doesn’t stop here!”
Executive headteacher Richard Brown said: “This is always a thrilling day as young people collect their A-level results and then start planning life at university.
“Our sixth form is relatively small so each success means so much to me and the teachers at Urswick.
“This group of young people are a credit to themselves, their families and the school. They represent Hackney at its best.”
Deputy Mayor Anntoinette Bramble added: “Today was a very important day, and it was a privilege to share it with some of our students. I’d like to congratulate them and say a big thank you to our brilliant teachers and school staff, as well as the friends and family who have supported our pupils through such an anxious time.
“Whatever they do next, whether it’s university, an apprenticeship, or going into the world of work, I’d like to wish every one of them the very best of luck for the future.”
Mossbourne Community Academy Sixth Form is jubilant after 31 per cent of students achieved A*-A despite the falling number of top grades nationally.
Five students achieved a clean sweep of A*s, and a new ‘Oxbridge’ record has been set with twelve alumni heading off to either Oxford or Cambridge in October.
A further five pupils will go on to learn medicine or veterinary studies, thanks to the academy’s Medical Bursary Programme, which offers pupils opportunities similar to those found in private education.
Sandra Karakas, 18, achieved three A*s and an A and has been accepted to study medicine at Edinburgh.
She said: “Mossbourne teachers have been so supportive and have helped a lot during the entire application process.
“The Medical Bursary Programme was a great opportunity and contributed significantly to my results. The experiences I gained were unique and helped me to successfully apply.”
Excel Uzoma-Ebere, 18, joined Mossbourne shortly after arriving in the UK from Nigeria in 2012 and has achieved three A*s, securing a place at the University of Cambridge.
Unlike her peers however, Excel will not be heading to university this October because her family is fighting to gain indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Without citizenship status, Excel would be required to pay international student fees of around £17,000 a year, and that’s just for tuition.
But she remains optimistic, saying: “I’m confident that I will get my right to remain this year, once I have this I can go to university next year as a local student.
“I won’t get any funding from the government or access to student loans but I’m determined to find a job this year and save up.”
She added: “When I first came to Mossbourne I thought I was a mediocre student. I never dreamed that I would be able to achieve the grades that I have.
“I’m thankful to the teachers and support staff for pushing me to fulfil my dreams, even if they’re not going to happen immediately.”
Head of Sixth Form Dr Suzanne Lienart added: “I’m very proud of the students and the results they have achieved, I think it goes to show what a culture of belief and care can do to really support the children.”
Principal Rebecca Warren added: “It is important that our children realise how deserving they are of places at the best universities in the country, have the confidence to pitch themselves against the best brains in the land and are able to follow career paths of their choosing – thus becoming aspirational role models for the next generation.”
Pupils at Our Lady’s High School are celebrating success, with 75 per cent of Chemistry grades and 60 per cent of both Fine Art and Psychology grades at A*-B.
Standout performers include Prusha Ahmed, who took BTEC Health & Social Care and achieved two distinctions and a merit.
She is going to on to study Child Nursing at City University, with Head of Sixth Form Mr Bailey calling her “one of the most hardworking students I have ever met”.
He added: “Prusha has all of the qualities and skills needed to be an excellent caring professional.
“She has delivered First Aid training to the visiting Year 5 students from local primary feeder schools, she has supported after school programmes, she regularly translates for people in our community and has a vocational activity log which is commendable.”
Evita Remy-Benn achieved A in Fine Art, B in English Literature and another B in Textiles.
She is studying an Art and Design diploma at Central St Martins and will specialise in Fashion.
Evita said: “I am so happy to study Fashion at Central St Martins, I have always wanted to do this.”
She picked up a passion for fashion after visiting the headquarters of Vogue magazine for a day, but says she will still be “sad to leave school behind”.
Clara Ojiako studied BTEC Business and IT and earned three distinctions, and will go on to Business Management at Surrey University.
Clara has also won twelve Paralympic medals in swimming and wheelchair basketball, and will get back to her sports career now her exams are over.
Head of Sixth Form Mr Bailey said: “It is patently obvious from Clara’s results that she has a massive amount of drive to challenger herself.
“Clara is intelligent, considerate, is an effective communicator and has a huge amount of ambition to succeed in life.”
Headteacher Ms McDonald added: “I am so proud of the young people and their achievements today and every day.
“Not only have they succeeded academically but they are confident young people with a drive to improve our world. I couldn’t be happier.”
Clapton Girls’ Academy is another Hackney school bucking the downward trend in top grades across the country.
Twenty-eight per cent of students achieved grade As – up three per cent on last year.
The percentage of A*-B grades has also increased, to 57 per cent, with the academy keeping its position in the top 10 per cent of sixth forms nationally.
Three students are celebrating a place at Bristol University. Sukie Jenkins, Fatema Delair and Kamara Venner all excelled with A*s and As across Physics and Maths.
Sukie, the academy’s highest achiever at GCSE level in 2017, maintained her spectacular track record with four A*s and goes on to study Politics and International Relations.
She said: “I’m feeling great. Clapton Girls’ Academy is the most amazing and supportive place!”
Baileigh St Hilaire was surprised to discover she is off to Oxford to study History, saying: “I am shocked but so happy. The help I got from Clapton Girls’ Academy with my personal statement and their recommendation for me to be on the Oxford programme got me my dream!”
A number of students are also embarking on apprenticeships. Zainab Mulla, who achieved A*A*A in Economics, Psychology and Maths, will take up accounting, while Rukhsar Shaikh is pursuing an opportunity with telecoms giant BT.
Headteacher Anna Feltham said: “Our students and staff displayed outstanding commitment and determination when facing the challenges of the reformed A-Level and BTEC exams.
“It is great to see such strong progress from our students and so many achieving A*- B grades and Distinction Stars.”
It is a record-breaking year for Stoke Newington School and Sixth Form, with its highest ever percentage of students achieving A*-A.
Thirty per cent of pupils at Stoke Newington School and Sixth Form received at least one of the top two grades, and 83 per cent of this year’s cohort received grades from A* to C.
Students achieved 10 A*s in Maths, despite widespread reports of a notoriously difficult exam paper.
The school’s alumni have successfully achieved places to read a range of subjects including Art, Drama, Engineering, Film Making, History, Medicine, Physics and Photography, with several more students taking up apprenticeships.
Top performers include Meg Naylor and Skye Fitzgerald McShane, who both achieved A*A*A*A. Meg will go on to study medicine at Hull and York Medical School, while Skye heads off to Oxford to read History and Politics.
Sebastian Caradini earned A*A*A to book a place at Cambridge to study Architecture.
Headteacher Zehra Jaffer said: “Well done to all the staff, students and their families on the brilliant achievements at both A-level and vocational courses.
“The results reflect the hard work, determination and commitment of both students and staff.
“I am very proud that all our students accomplished such great results, preparing them well for their next destination be that university, art school, apprenticeship or employment.”
North Bridge House School has posted an impressive set of results, with 32 per cent of grades at A*-A, and a fifth of all students scoring straight As or higher.
Students Aleksandr Markov and Georgia achieved A*A*A and AAA respectively – both are founding members of the school, which opened in 2014.
Georgia will read Philosophy at Bristol and Aleksandr will study Neuroscience at Edinburgh.
The pair contributed to this year’s huge success in Maths, in which 46 per cent of grades are at A*-A.
Students also found success in English Literature, with 40 per cent at A*-A, and Biology, with 44.4 per cent at A*-A – both well above the national average.
Outgoing headteacher Jonathan Taylor said: “These results, across a wide range of academic and creative subjects, are testimony to the hard work of both students and staff.
“I have always been immensely proud of our attainment as a non-selective school, with students typically exceeding predicted grades and achieving more than they thought possible at the outset.
“I could not have hoped for better results for our founding cohort who are now celebrating one in three A*-A grades in just five years.”
BSix College is celebrating its highest ever results, with 97 per cent of students achieving pass grades, up four per cent on 2018.
The school was also visited by Mayor Glanville and Deputy Mayor Bramble.
Marsioleda Kemberi, 19, and Jessica Zahidul, 18, both excelled, securing places at Queen Mary University to study medicine together.
Marsioleda, who picked up A*A*A*A grades in Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths, said: “I’m really shocked at my results because I’ve only been in the UK for two years – I come from Albania, which is a non-English speaking country.
“I have been working part-time as a Care Assistant during my studies, and the college has been really supportive – they’ve given me everything. I’m now excited about my next steps, because I was a bit afraid before, but I got better grades than I expected.”
Jessica, who achieved AAA in Biology, Chemistry and Maths, added: “I feel shocked and I am rather nervous, as I’ve heard that medicine is a difficult subject, so I’m a little bit scared. I just feel blank at the moment!”
One in five students at Haggerston School will head to top universities- among them a budding meteorologist, a marine biologist and a few linguists.
Students achieved success in core subjects, including a 100 per cent pass rate in English and Maths.
Evelyn Lancaster, 18, will study at the leading marine biology centre at the University of Southampton.
She said: “Whales are giving birth to dead calves because of the toxins in plastic particles they ingest. It’s so important to understand the effects of climate change on the oceans and our world.
“I could not have done it without the teachers here, especially my biology teacher, Ms McGarry.”
Paul Shuker, 18, will go to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, after achieving three A*s and an A across Maths and science subjects.
He said: “I have been really focused because once I got the Cambridge interview it really set my mind on working hard, it was a very important year for me.”
He added: “I am really pleased. This is the best school with the best staff and there are lots of kind people in the community.”
Rose Stewart, 18, scored three Bs in English, Sociology and Media, and is heading to Queen Mary University to study Comparative Literature.
She says working with the Access Project, which sees pupils matched with mentors, transformed her exam skills and boosted her confidence.
The innovative scheme is aimed at helping students from low income backgrounds access top universities.
Rose said: “I told my teacher I did not want to be involved with the Access Project but it turned out to be the best thing I have ever done.
“Nobody judges you and it really helped me to knuckle down with my English. I was struggling with Hamlet and I went through the play with my mentor and practiced papers.
She added: “I am very pleased with my results. I have been a student at Haggerston since Year 7 and I feel sad to leave.”
Head Ciara Emmerson said: “A big congratulations go to all of our students who have worked hard and achieved outstanding results. We are proud to continue to be a high-achieving sixth form.”
Forest School has reported impressive individual results across all of the 26 subjects it offers, particularly in arts and humanities – which it says are becoming increasingly overlooked in favour of the sciences.
A number of students beat the national average to achieve A*-A, with strong showings in English Literature, Drama, and Geography.
Henry Pratt is crossing the pond to study at the University of Colorado, and Aysha Hafayed is also going abroad to the University of London’s Institute in Paris.
Coco Wheeler has gained a place to read Architecture at Cambridge, while Oliver Banks and Daisy Day-Fawcett will be heading to Oxford to study Politics, Philosophy and Ethics and History respectively.
Lucas Boardman is off to the Royal College of Music, making it the eighth year in a row that a pupil has won a scholarship to a musical conservatoire.
The Warden of Forest School, Marcus Cliff Hodges, said: “At Forest we want to ensure that young people leave the school with plenty of ambition and character, with a developed work ethic, and having tasted success on different fronts.
“These excellent results, and the many individual success stories contained within them, reflect the hard academic work done by this cohort whilst being hugely busy outside the classroom as well.
“They move on to the next stage of their young adult lives with our best wishes.”
The City Academy has also performed well, with 27 per cent of sixth formers gaining at least one A*-A grade.
Sixty-nine per cent achieved a minimum of one A*-B.
A school spokesperson said: “We are particularly proud that many of students will be attending Russell Group universities and one student has been accepted at Oxford.
“Four students have accepted prestigious degree-level apprenticeships with top companies.
“All the hard work of teachers, parents and of course the pupils themselves has paid off. Congratulations to all our students and good luck in the next stage of your careers.”
Petchey Academy has enjoyed another strong year, with 100 per cent of students gaining at least three A-levels or equivalent qualification.
Twenty-one per cent achieved a clean sweep of A*-A grades, with 10 BTEC students earning a Disctinction – similar to three A*-A grades.
The school has seen significant improvement in the sciences, along with success in Maths, Economics and History.
Chantel Singh, who achieved AAA in Biology, Chemistry and Maths, is “thrilled to bits” to be heading off to her first choice of Manchester University to study Biomedical Science.
Tanvir Ahmed got an A* in Maths and As in Further Maths and Physics. He plans to study Maths at Warwick University.
Nearly half of this year’s cohort have booked places at a top university, with others taking up apprenticeships in areas such as finance or the Royal Air Force.
Director of Sixth Form Sonia Green said: “To have over 20 per cent of students getting all As or equivalent grades, and 69 per cent *A-Cs is a fantastic achievement.
“Some of our students have faced significant challenges to overcome this year which makes it even more gratifying to see the hard work and commitment from the students themselves and support from the teaching and pastoral staff pay off.
“There was a real buzz at the Academy this morning when students came in to collect their results. The Sixth Form Team were here to congratulate students and advise on next steps.
“We were also extremely fortunate to have a team of volunteers from My Big Career with us successfully supporting those students who needed the Clearing process.”
Not all students will have received the news they were hoping for today, but there is still an option for those who haven’t yet managed to bag a spot at university.
Clearing opened on 5 July and 7,960 people have so far used it to secure a place.
The process is for anyone who didn’t get an offer, or received any they would rather not accept, who didn’t meet the conditions of their offers, or who have declined a place.
Last year, 66,770 people were placed through Clearing, with 17,520 of those applying for a course for the first time.
Clare Marchant, chief executive of admissions service UCAS, said: “For everyone looking for a place today, Clearing offers a new direction.
“It’s important to take some time today to speak with teachers, parents, and universities for help and advice to make a fully informed decision that’s right for you.
“Students with a confirmed place can reflect, and if they want to change their mind, they can release themselves online to enter Clearing.”
For more information about the Clearing process, head to ucas.com