Today, Thursday 24th August, is a significant red-letter day for the education community in Gibraltar. It sees the first co-educational cohort receive their GCSE / Level 2 results in both Bayside and Westside Schools. It is the first year in which young people qualifying at this level have had opportunities to study the same subjects across both HMGoG secondary schools. This marks the culmination of many years of focused hard work by all staff of the Department of Education to transition into co-educational provision at Key Stages 3 and 4.
The Director of Education, Keri Scott, remarked how important this milestone is: “Our education service’s shift to a co-educational provision was significant. For me, one of the most important achievements of this transition has been the offering of equal learning and qualification opportunities for pupils across both secondary schools, throughout Key Stages 3 and 4. Educational equity is one of the fundamental strands of our vision for education and today marks a milestone in this regard.”
This year’s Year 11 cohort at Bayside and Westside was the first co-educational year group to enter HMGoG’s secondary schools. These young people joined the schools in Year 8 and have been the trail blazers of co-education throughout their secondary journey. Also of notable significance is the fact that soon after they joined the newly built secondary schools in September 2019, the Covid pandemic struck.
Under the guidance of dedicated school staff and with the support of parents / carers and families, these pupils have continued their learning journey, which today sees them receiving the results of the GCSE / Level 1/2 qualifications they have been undertaking for the last 2 years. For the Department of Education, this cohort’s achievements are also of significance as this is the first year in which we see pupils in both schools qualify at GCSE / Level 1/2 in Child Development; Computer Science; Dance; Design and Technology; and Sociology.
“We are very proud of this first co-educational cohort,” exclaimed Headteacher of Westside School, Michelle Barabich. “We recognise the challenges they have faced and have focused on supporting and empowering them along their learning journey. It is now time to celebrate their resilience, success and achievements.”
This is the second year of formal exams since the pandemic, with these having been cancelled in the summers of 2020 and 2021 because of Covid. In September 2022, Ofqual announced its aim to ‘return to pre-pandemic standards’ in this summer’s GCSE, AS and A Levels and there has been marked nation-wide concern across the UK as to what impact this objective might actually have in real terms, and uncertainty as to what this would actually mean for students and schools. 2022’s results constituted a mid-step return to pre-pandemic standards after the CAG and TAG years, in which pupil results were awarded via very distinct mechanisms to those employed in a typical year with established examination procedures.
Ofqual explains that this summer’s formal exam results marks the completion of the second step of its ‘return to standards’ plan post the pandemic. This has involved examination boards adopting a series of protective measures in the lead-up to examinations and within the examinations themselves, as well as in the awarding of results, in order to safeguard pupil performance despite the disruption to schooling that these young people experienced at different points throughout the pandemic. Careful processing of the examinations at examination board level is hoped to help ensure that standards of achievement within each subject and within each grade are maintained.
“This is a cohort whose education has been affected by the Covid lockdowns,” expressed Headteacher of Bayside School, Gaynor Lester, continuing, “yet they have done very well and maximised their potential. To me the individual successes and the way they have overcome the difficulties they have encountered is much more valuable than the individual grades.”
Despite the challenges that our pupils and teachers have faced during the last three-plus academic years, and the return to public examinations after the centre and teacher assessed grades in 2020 and 2021, the results today evidence the resilience, determination and sheer hard work of our young people and our schools, as well as their ability to complete courses successfully. Pupils and staff have once again risen to the occasion with a remarkable total of 614 grades at levels 9, 8 and 7 (the top grades attainable at GCSE which replaced the previous letter grades A* and A) being obtained, 325 at Bayside and 289 at Westside.
Equally impressive are the 2906 grades 9-1 (and A*-G and Distinction*-Pass outcomes) obtained by pupils at Bayside and Westside Schools out of a maximum of 2944 grades awarded, representing a 9-1 (and A*-G and Distinction*-Pass outcomes) pass rate of 99% across these 2 institutions.
Additionally, recognition is due for the achievements of those pupils who have attended the Gibraltar College and the dedicated staff who work to support these young people. Year on year, the Gibraltar College offers students an opportunity to build on their educational experiences and to add value to their academic portfolio after leaving our secondary schools. This year, students at the Gibraltar College have received 138 pass grades out of a possible 165, representing an 84% 9-1 (and A*-G and Distinction*-Pass outcomes) pass rate.
We are extremely proud of the achievements of all students across our 3 secondary educational settings. These GCSE/Level 2 students’ learning and progress through their examination courses have been impacted by the Covid pandemic. As always, our teachers and indeed all Department of Education staff worked diligently to support these learners throughout their journey and to diligently prepare them for these formal examinations. Parents / carers and families have also played a critical role in these pupils’ journeys, perhaps more than ever before, with many hours of learning having been undertaken within the home environment, particularly during the Covid lockdowns which interrupted this Year 11’s learning journey. “This is a day of celebration for many individuals in our community,” affirmed a spokesperson for the Department of Education.
We take this opportunity to point out that the Department of Education feels it is vital to report on the 9-1 (and A* to G) pass rates as opposed to the traditional A*-C (or 9-4) benchmark. It is important for pupils, parents, prospective employers and members of the public to recognise that every grade is valuable in the context of each young person’s education. Every grade attained by our pupils during their examinations represents a milestone in their learning journey and it is critical that we celebrate the successes of all of our students and their grades. Moreover, a young person’s successes are measured by much more than just their exam results today. Principal of the Gibraltar College, Michelle Soiza, stated that “Beyond statistics, there are many success stories to celebrate. When we look back at each individual’s starting point and journey with us, we feel immense pride at their progress, perseverance and achievements.”
The Director of Education, Keri Scott, applauded the achievements of the young people receiving their results today and expressed gratitude and admiration for the school teams who had supported them throughout their journey: “I take this opportunity to thank our dedicated teams of professionals who have supported these learners throughout their co-educational journey and within the changing Covid landscape. Our dedicated and experienced staff will continue to support these young people as they move onto the next stage of their journey, whatever that may be.”
Minister for Education, the Hon Prof John Cortes, who was delighted with the results, said: “All of these young people have something to celebrate today and as they look to the bright futures ahead of them. These last few years have been an unprecedented time for young people in education, and especially for those studying towards sitting exams. Our students have demonstrated a resilience, determination and character that cannot be captured by their results alone. I must also take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the teachers and other school staff who have gone above and beyond, and who share in today’s success. I am particularly pleased to note the successful culmination of schools’ hard work on the transition to a co-educational provision, and to see these first co-educational cohorts achieve in such positive ways, both within their examinations and beyond.”