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Principal calls for greater consistency

Warwick Academy principal Maggie McCorkell

Parents could benefit from greater consistency in the way private schools report their exam results according to Warwick Academy principal Maggie McCorkell.

Each summer Warwick Academy, Bermuda High School for Girls (BHS) and Saltus Grammar School provide a raft of data detailing how their students have done.

The Royal Gazette therefore asked each school how they had reported their GCSE results over the years and why they felt that format was the best way.

Ms McCorkell suggested it might be more beneficial if all schools provided similar information that was easily comparable.

“It must be confusing for the public and parents as apples are not being compared with apples,” she said.

“There are GCSEs and IGCSEs and at least three different examination boards used by schools in Bermuda.

“Then you have some students doing ten subjects and some doing eight. There are a lot of differences.”

Jon Beard, deputy head of Saltus, said he was satisfied with how results are currently published adding that it should be up to each school how they reported them.

While Linda Parker, head of school at BHS told The Royal Gazette that the school had always used the “standard and accepted way” of reporting GCSE grades.

This year Saltus announced a 100 per cent pass rate in IGCSE results with 28 per cent of students receiving five or more A/A* grades, including three students from grades 6, 7 and 9.

Mr Beard added: “As per the other two schools we publish our overall pass rate.

“We then show those who achieved five or more A* and A grades — 28 per cent. The other common figures seem to be the percentage of A* to C — we were 82 per cent.

“Obviously one needs to know the size of the cohort and the number of examinations taken to get a clearer picture of the situation. We had 63 students from year 11 taking a total of 540 examinations, and our figures do not reflect the 56 students from grade 10 and the three from grade 9, all of whom achieved passing grades.

“I’m not sure when it became the done thing to publish GCSE success to the media, but our format has been fairly similar over recent years. We do not have the situation of students taking the same subjects with different boards and would be very surprised if any school did so.

“Unfortunately these results never show how many students achieved above their predicted grades from grade nine, as this is the measure of those who have also worked very hard, and although not achieving the heady heights of A* have done superbly well.

“But too much detail misses the point of simply celebrating the academic success of a very large number of Bermuda’s students — and the issue of looking at overall percentages is that all the schools have relatively small cohorts so the difference between one school and another might be just a couple of students.”

Earlier this summer BHS revealed 93 per cent of all GCSE/IGCSE grades received by students were A* to C, with 15 per cent achieving all A* or A grades. Furthermore the school announced that 48 per cent of the total grades received by the students were A* or A.

Ms Parker said: “We report the percentages of A* to C grades — a widely-used metric to report GCSE results internationally. In addition, we report the percentage of A* and A grades achieved by our students to recognise academic excellence across our student body.

“As a school committed to educating our students to the highest international standards, we believe that this format provides meaningful benchmarks of students’ performance.”

Asked if pupils took the same subject but with different boards that counted as two separate results Ms Parker said: “Yes, different boards have different exams. At BHS, this only arises in rare and individualised cases.

“Two exams may be taken when a student needs to cover more material for her subsequent educational programme than can be obtained from a single syllabus. Different boards have different exams, each with a different syllabus.”

Warwick Academy announced last week that the number of students that achieved five or more A* to C grades increased to 85 per cent, while 30 per cent of all examinations sat resulted in an A* or A grade.

Ms McCorkell said: “We believe the easiest criteria is the percentage of students who achieve five or more IGCSEs in different subjects with grades between A* and C as well as the percentage of students achieving A* and A grades in different subjects.

“At Warwick students generally do nine different subject IGCSEs, which will go up to 10 next year with the addition of Global Citizenship. We have reported our results in the same way for seven years.

“Consistency in the way private schools report results is important so parents have something to compare from one year to the next. It’s also important that they should know what the results are in the school their children attend.

“I am not a great advocate of league tables; they can cause a lot of unnecessary hype and sometimes do not have validity or accuracy.

“To be honest I would prefer to not report them at all other than to parents, teachers and the board of governors. But I realise that the public has a right to know.”