Saddleworth School students ‘thoroughly deserve’ GCSE results says executive headmaster

PUPILS at Saddleworth School have done ‘really well’ in their GCSEs and ‘thoroughly deserve’ their grades, says executive headteacher Matthew Milburn.

Mr Milburn, who leaves the Uppermill-based school this summer along with retiring headteacher Dave Watson, praised pupils as they collected their results on August 20.

He said: “Students have done really well this year and thoroughly deserve the grades that they have been awarded.

“I wish each and every one of them well as they progress on through life; they will flourish because they are great people and it has been an honour to walk beside them for the past five years.

“I apologise to each and every one for my terrible jokes along the way.”

Harry Reeves received two 5s, two 6s, four 7s and two 8s as well as an A in Design, Engineer, Construct, and he celebrated with his family at a Spanish tapas restaurant.

He said: “I am very pleased with my results. I would have liked to sit the exams to see how I could do but knowing I had got these grades anyway!”

Harry is now heading to Oldham Sixth Form College to study psychology, maths, law and politics, with the hope of then attending university in London.

Mr Milburn with Harry Reeves and Tom Mitchell

Daisy Richards achieved Distinction in Health and Social Care, six 6s, two 7s and two 8s.

She said: “I am really pleased as it’s better than I was expecting.

“When we thought the algorithm was being used to work out our grades, I was panicking. It was anybody’s guess what we might have been given.

“I was so relieved when they changed their minds and our teachers assessed it.”

Daisy is moving on to Greenhead College to study French, Spanish and sociology.

Myla Baker received three 4s, one 5 and six 6s and is going to The Blue Coat School to study applied science, PE and RE.

She said: “I am really happy that I have passed everything! I didn’t do very well in my mocks so I am really pleased.”

Faith Bardsley, Aimee Torr, Myla Baker and Daisy Richards

The results come after confusion over the handling of A Level and GCSE results after exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Milburn said he hopes the ‘debacle’ leads to changes to the process and he welcomed a system that includes assessment beyond exams.

He said: “I do hope the debacle around results this year leads people to campaign for schooling that empowers and inspires the whole child and doesn’t just focus on English, maths and other arbitrary subjects that some consider ‘important’.”

“The uncertainty, disarray and stress surrounding results could have been avoided if only the needs of young people and their families were placed at the centre of the assessment process.

“Our reliance on exam grades that are set to fit a curve agreed in advance for a cohort of young people has been exposed as being deeply flawed.

“What is interesting about the results that we have shared with students is that they are not ‘generous’ or ‘over-inflated’. They are far more aligned to the results those young people achieved in their SATs in 2015.

“In that year, 80 percent of children got the levels expected at the end of primary education. We should expect that at least the same number achieve the ‘expected’ pass at GCSE, but the system does not allow this to happen.

“At least it didn’t until now and it wouldn’t have even done that without the extraordinary outcry in response to the A Level results.

“In schooling league tables and bell curves have well and truly run their course and a more bespoke and human method of assessment should be developed.

“The current system ignores the fact that children, like all humans, are multi-facetted and have numerous strengths, some of which simply cannot be captured on an exam paper or measured using the written word.

“Nor does it acknowledge that a child might know more and be capable of doing more than they managed to show on one day when a whole host of other factors might have impacted on their performance – sickness, bereavement, anxiety or basic human error like missing a question on a paper.

“The over emphasis on exams is absurd. Our addiction to them is such that even when young people hadn’t sat them, schools had to pretend they had.

“The 2020 pandemic has marked a turning point in the history of humanity. For example, it was hard to conceive that in our world, health and wellbeing would be valued more highly than economic growth and yet (for a short period at least) it was.

“The chaos surrounding this year’s exams is our opportunity to think again about the way in which we assess young people. We need to move away from scoring students, schools and MATs and towards a humanising form of assessment that empowers the student and gives them the tools to take control of their life.

“For years Saddleworth and schools in the Dovestone Learning Partnership have worked with an assessment process we call Pupil Driven Review.

“It invites the pupil and importantly their family or carers to undertake a self-evaluation regarding how well they are progressing. It encourages the child to take ownership of their learning and responsibility for their progress.

“Of course, they must take into account their success in English, maths and science but they also need to reflect upon their successes beyond school and how they are developing as a human being.

“It explores not just academic progress but also mental health and wellbeing, attendance, happiness and ambitions for the future. It is far closer to the kind interview that you might be expected to undertake for a job.

“We are increasingly seeing large companies and organisations appointing candidates without asking to see their qualifications as a matter of course. What does that say about the faith that these employers have in exams?”

Saddleworth School is holding its Open Days on Tuesday, September 29 from 9.30am–11am and on Wednesday, September 30 from 9.30am–11am and evening from 6pm–8pm.

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