Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 June 2019

GCSE results: UAE schools celebrate another record year

Fears over new 1-9 grading system and tougher scoring wash away as many pupils delight at top marks

Concerns over the potential effect of a new GCSE grading system dissipated on Thursday as pupils celebrated another bumper year of results.

More than 20 subjects were graded this year using a numerical system, with nine the top result achievable, and subject exams also became tougher.

Despite fewer pupils expected to achieve a clean sweep of top marks in all subjects, some celebrated an exceptional set of results on Thursday.

Haya Hamwi, 17, was one of the few to receive outstanding results, achieving a full set of A* and A grades at Kings' School in Al Barsha. Her marks are equivalent to 9 or 8 in the revised grading system.

“I worked really hard in the run-up to the exams and did as many past papers as I could, so I’m extremely thrilled with my results,” she said.

According to research by the examiners, Cambridge Assessment, fewer than 200 pupils could score a clean sweep of 9s in their GCSEs in the UK and in British schools overseas.

The tougher system has been criticised by the Association of School and College Leaders over concerns about pupils ending up with lower scores.

“There has been some turbulence with the new system of 1-9 grading, so A and A* is now split from 7-9 so performance can be more acutely monitored,” said Brian Horwell, head of secondary at Dubai British School.

“It is difficult to make direct comparisons with previous years of results, because it is now significantly harder to achieve the very highest marks, but the overall spread is up on last year.

“There are many different success stories. There are no students where we are concerned about their performance going forward, whether that is A-level, a B-tech qualification or a vocational further education.”


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To ensure pupils are not disadvantaged under the new scoring system, statistical processes are employed by regulator Ofqual to ensure results are comparable year on year.

Last year, just English and maths were graded 1-9, but this year the number of subjects was expanded to 20, with 4 representing a C and 7 becoming equivalent to an A.

“I just wanted to pass all my exams, and I’ve thankfully done that,” said Ella Jenkins, 16, at Dubai British School.

“Teachers suggested we revise from February so I’ve tried to be quite organised. It is a long process, but worth it.”

Facilities manager Arthur Leith, father of 17-year-old Kate, from Aberdeen, said

: “I was probably more apprehensive than Kate after watching her go through all the emotions and hard work that she put in.

“We’ve been trying to convince her that this is just one stage in the rest of her life, but it means so much to her it has been difficult to give her that perspective.”

It was a nervous wait for thousands of pupils across the UAE, because many were relying on positive results to make it on to A-level courses in September.

Gems Wellington International pupil Gian Chana, 16, from England, said:

“I want to go to Oxford University or Imperial College London to study maths and physics so these results will hopefully help me on the path to get there – I would like to have a career in finance one day.”

Last week, Al Ain English Speaking School celebrated a 99 per cent pass rate in A-level with 21 per cent of pupils achieving a grade A* or A. “We are delighted to report yet again another great set of results and I will not be surprised if, like last year, some of our students achieve the top scores in particular subjects,” said principal Andrew Thomas.

One of the top performers was the British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi.

Out of 126 pupils, 34 per cent achieved A*, or 9-8 under the new system, and 56 per cent scored 9-7, an A*-A equivalent.

Eighteen per cent scored the new grade 9 – six times that of the UK average of 3 per cent.

Headmaster Mark Leppard was delighted with the 95 per cent of pupils who achieved at least five 9-4 grades, or the equivalent of A* to C, including English and maths.

“The move to the new GCSE courses, exams and grading system has been challenging for all schools,” he said.

“The fact that results at BSAK have improved during this time, despite the more rigorous grading system, is a great testament to the exceptional hard work of our fantastic students, dedicated staff and supportive parents.”

Updated: August 27, 2018 04:13 PM