Jewish secondary schools shared in the UK’s record-breaking 2020 GCSE grades as results came in on Thursday.
Several Jewish schools reported their “best ever” years as nationally the grades surged, the government having earlier cancelled students’ summer exams as part of a suite of measures designed to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Exams regular Ofqual had tried to moderate the marks using an algorithm, but when this was widely discredited it prompted an embarrassing U-turn on grading method, reverting to teachers’ verdicts of pupils’ abilities. The confusion prompted a vicious blame game involving ministers, unions, and bureaucrats – and stress for students.
Nationally, the number awarded Grade 7 or above rose from a fifth to a quarter, while those getting the best marks shot up by almost 40 percent on last year, as policy chiefs said the crisis had sparked runaway grade inflation that would only hurt future years’ students.
This is the third year of the new 1-9 grading system, with 7 the equivalent of the old A-grade, 8 the equivalent to an A* and 9 amounting to an A** rating.
Cross-denominational New Barnet school JCoSS said more students than ever had scored Grade 9 (19 percent, compared to 18 percent last year), while at fee-paying Immanuel Year 11 students had “the best grades in the College’s history”.
Hasmonean Boys’ School – the best-performing Jewish secondary last year – reported 60 percent of students’ grades were 9-7, with 93 percent 9-4. Hasmonean Girls’ School saw 68 percent grades 9-7 and 97 percent grades 9-4.
“This has been an extremely challenging time for our students. We are delighted that the uncertainty has been removed and our students can finally focus on their future studies,” said Katherine Brice and Debbie Lebrett, Headteachers of the Girls’ and Boys’ Schools respectively.
At Yavneh in Borehamwood, results spring-boarded back to the College’s best, with 54 percent graded 7-9, compared to 44 percent in 2018, and 50 percent in 2018, while at Kantor King Solomon (KKS) in Barkingside, 31 percent of grades were awarded 7-9, with three quarters at Grade 4 or more.
Pipping Yavneh to the post however was JFS, where 57 percent of grades were 7-9, with 37 percent graded 9-8. More than a fifth of its Maths and Religious Studies students got a Grade 9, while a third of its science students could do no better. Like JCoSS, the school said that “a small number of grades were moderated up by the exam board”.
At Immanuel, 88 percent of grades were 6 or higher, an improvement of four percent on last year, with 34 students averaging Grade 8 or higher, but while there was happiness at the results, most headteachers made reference in their comments to the chaos surrounding students’ grading this year.
KKS headteacher, Hannele Reece, said it had been “a very difficult year for students” with no exams this summer, while Yavneh head Spencer Lewis spoke of “an incredibly difficult six months”.
He added: “The constant changes in government and exam board policies and approach over recent days have been very unfair on the pupils”.
Likewise, Immanuel’s headmaster Gary Griffin slammed “government incompetence” which JCoSS head Patrick Moriarty said had led to “huge uncertainty and difficulty, especially during the past week’s confusion over the awarding of results”.
He added: “We advocated strongly for the use of teacher grades… We are pleased that the change of policy came in time to reward these students with clarity and greater fairness.”
Jewish families also were left fuming at the way this year’s results were handled, with West Finchley resident Les Talisman, whose daughter Leah got the grades she needed, describing it as “a fiasco” causing unnecessary stress.
He said: “This Government handled it so badly. Why they never went for teacher-assessed grades, or even mock results in the first place beggars belief. Pupils feel let down and rightly so. It has brought unnecessary stress to many families.”
Talisman, whose mother-in-law once taught at Immanuel, adding: “I imagine this fiasco has come at great financial cost to the country, and think it will have a long-lasting effect in people’s minds. This incompetent shower of arrogant politicians won’t be in government past the next general election.”