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GCSE results round up: Grades up in Norfolk and Suffolk; record success for some schools; other schools fall below minimum standard

PUBLISHED: 09:26 21 August 2015 | UPDATED: 09:26 21 August 2015

Sir John LemanHigh School students celebrate great GCSE results.

Sir John LemanHigh School students celebrate great GCSE results.

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Thousands of teenagers in our region are today planning the next stages of their lives after receiving GCSE results which contributed to rising standards in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Heart operation does not deter Tasburgh teenager

A determined teenager who refused to let a serious heart condition - and a major operation just days before her GCSEs - ruin her chances of going to university is today looking to the future.

Dorrie Hartley, a student at Long Stratton High School, was over the moon yesterday as she discovered she had achieved an A, three Bs and six Cs despite suffering from SVT, a condition which sped her heart rate to more than 100bpm.

Since she was diagnosed last year, the Tasburgh 16-year-old has undergone two serious operations and a course of medication designed to stop her heart for seven seconds to regulate its pattern - a drug so strong it left her with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s a horrendous drug,” she said. “You can’t breathe and there’s a moment where you feel like you’re going to die.”

Her second operation, in April this year, was scheduled on the same day as her art exam but bravely, while recovering from the surgery, she took the GCSE just two days later - and passed.

Against all odds, she will now study her A-Levels at Wymondham College and work towards her dream of becoming a human rights lawyer.

And, after the second surgery, doctors are now hopeful the condition is gone for good.

Dorrie said: “I’m so pleased, really happy - and really relieved. It’s been quite difficult at time because I’ve had a lot of time off, but I just didn’t want to let it delay my exams.

“My school have been so helpful, they’ve really supported me and it really is thanks to them.”

However, the increase in pupils gaining the gold standard of five GCSEs at A*-C, including English and maths, masked wide variations, with some schools recording record results, and others below the government’s minimum floor standard.

Results day saw many pupils across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire post exceptional individual results, recording multiple A* grades, or overcoming personal challenges to achieve their goals.

Charlotte Ward picked up her results at IES Breckland in Brandon, less than 18 months after the death of her mother. She passed all her GCSEs, and said: “I think my mum would have been proud and pleased with how I have done.”

Sewell Park College pupil Sadie Drane gained the results she needed to study hairdressing at City College Norwich, despite being in the exam hall just two days after having her appendix removed.

Long Stratton High student Dorrie Hartley who carried on with her exams despite serious heart problems.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Long Stratton High student Dorrie Hartley who carried on with her exams despite serious heart problems. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Overall, Norfolk County Council said 54.8pc of students achieved the government’s gold standard - a 2.1 percentage points increase on last year, but well short of the 60pc forecast.

Suffolk County Council said the provisional results showed 56pc of pupils had achieved the gold standard, a 4 percentage points increase.

However, that figure could change because it was based on results submitted by “over 80pc of Suffolk schools”, compared to the 100pc of Norfolk schools who shared their data.

In Cambridgeshire, Neale-Wade Academy recorded a slight rise in its headline result, the new principal of Ely College expressed disappointment as it fell below the floor, and King’s Ely and Wisbech Grammar reported impressive grades.

Norfolk’s results showed particular gains in schools in the west of the county - the most improved district - and among schools that received “intensive challenge and intervention” from the council.

One of the stand-out results came at Ormiston Venture Academy in Gorleston, which reported an 18 percentage points increase on last year, with a record 61pc of pupils achieving the gold standard.

Wymondham College was the top performing state school in Norfolk, with 86pc gaining the key target, with Hethersett Academy second with 74pc.

In Norwich, Sprowston High School and Sewell Park College recorded impressive improvements, with Sewell Park climbing above the government’s target of 40pc of pupils gaining the gold standard.

However, five schools said they were below the 40pc benchmark, including Wayland Academy in Watton, whose headline figure fell by 10 percentage points.

There was particular disappointment for three flagship Norwich schools.

City Academy Norwich failed to pass the 30pc mark for the third year in a row, although it was appealing a significant number of grades; the Hewett School saw already disappointing results drop further following a year when it was in the eye of bitter controversy about its future; and Ormiston Victory Academy, in Costessey, failed to improve following last year’s catastrophic GCSE crash.

Brian Conway, chairman of Norfolk Secondary Education Leaders (NSEL), said: “It is likely that further increased grades will result from the large numbers of re-marks and appeals which many Norfolk schools are now undertaking, a response to the turbulence in exam board marking evident from some schools’ unexpected results.”

In Suffolk, a free school sponsor launched a review after two of its schools fell below the government’s floor standard in their first sets of GCSE results.

The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust said it was disappointed with the results for Saxmundham Free School, at 28pc, and Beccles Free School, at 39pc, and will launch an external review.

Lowestoft, where education has been under the spotlight after three of its four high schools were at one time all in special measures, saw East Point Academy and Ormiston Denes remain below the floor, but Pakefield High recorded 51pc of pupils getting the gold standard in its first set of results.

Several schools with disappointing headline figures said their students had nevertheless made significant progress since starting school. That will be put centre stage this time next year when the league table system is overhauled, and the new Progress 8 measure replaces the current gold standard.

Do you have an education story? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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