The delighted Principal of William Morris Sixth Form in Hammersmith has announced a 95 per cent pass rate, with a third of students getting grades A or B.
Matthew Coulbeck, who has been at William Morris since it opened in 1994 said he was ‘very, very pleased’ at these results, which are an increase on last year and were bolstered by a 100 per cent pass rate at BTEC level 3.
This was all against the backdrop of changes to the exam structure and the fallout from the horrific events at Grenfell Tower, which had led expectations for A-level results day to be somewhat subdued.
Among the overall successes across the St Dunstans Road college were examples of some individuals who had excelled, often against a backdrop of personal difficulty.
Fleeing the war
Three years ago, Ahmad Khalaf fled the war in Syria, unable to speak a word of English. Today, the 20-year-old beamed in delight after receiving grade As in maths and biology, an A* in Arabic and an A in GCSE English.
“I can’t describe my feelings, when I saw the grades I was upset, but because I was happy,” he said.
“When I told my parents, they cried.”
Ahmad has been made an offer to study medicine at Bristol University.
“I have an ambition for now, I would like to do neurology, but I don’t know if that will change in the future,” he added.
Ahmad had been studying medicine in Damascus, but had to drop his plans when his family was forced to flee the conflict there. But despite having to start his studies again, he was determined to succeed.
On arrival in the UK Ahmad was told it would take him five years to learn English well enough to do exams. He learned it in one. A year later he was at William Morris where he passed no fewer than 18 exams at GCSE and AS level.
Staff told him they were worried about him taking A-levels so quickly after learning English, but he insisted and so the college supported him.
“The teaching system here is much better than Syria, the teachers gave us a lot of support and I had extra lessons from a teacher called David to help with my English,” he said.
Bucking the traditional route of college to university, 18-year-old Georgie Champion will be using her excellent grades to scoop a sought-after apprenticeship in finance.
With A* grades in maths and economics and an A in history had accepted an offer at uni, but is eschewing it to fast-track a career in accounting.
“The results are pretty amazing,” she said. “Particularly for maths. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into that. It doesn’t come naturally to me, I just like maths, so I was pretty happy with that.
“I have medical issues and trying to balance these things I think is the biggest stress, but I came in today just thinking whatever I got I would be happy with.
Georgie is heading to financial giants Ernst & Young.
“I was going to go there anyway. This way I get there two years earlier, with a position above a graduate role.
“If you wanted help here at William Morris, everyone will help you. They want to push you as far as they can and are very invested in their students.”
Cambridge via UCL
Arman Asadi Maghaddam has high expectations of himself and admits he was ‘a little sad’ at getting an A* in maths, As in biology and chemistry and a B in physics.
“I wanted a couple of A*s, but I can still get where I want to go,” he said.
The nineteen-year-old will first go to UCL to study neuroscience, and then hopefully will go on to pursue a PHD after that in research at Cambridge.
“I wanted to do neurosurgery, but the length of course made it a non-viable option, so I opted for neuroscience because from there I can do what I like as there’s a whole lot of options.
“My studies had been a bit complicated due to some personal and family issues, but it was fairly manageable, particularly with the support of the teachers.”
Rising to the challenge
“We’re pleased for a number of reasons,” said Principal, Mr. Coulbeck,
“Firstly, because they have improved on last year, particularly with the top grades. There is also the context of the exams becoming linear. For many of our students that is more challenging and they have risen to the challenge and worked really hard.
“I’m really proud of the students and of our teachers who have put on extra classes to support them.
“What we do here is we continue to give a very broad offer of A-level subjects and we will give students the opportunity to take A-Levels when other schools and colleges may not take that risk .
“We take a few more risks than other places, but students like Ahmad prove that if we support his self-belief and determination, anything is possible.”
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