Family & Education

‘Generation Covid’ outperform pre-pandemic A-level grades at Jewish schools

Jewish schools across the UK have today marked an impressive set of A-level results, despite an overall dip in grades since last year


The first A-level exams sat for three years in the wake of the pandemic produced an impressive return for Jewish schools with three achieving 30 per cent or more passes at the top A* grade.

A*s accounted for 32 per cent of grades at the private Immanuel College in Bushey, more than a third at JFS in Kenton and 30 per cent at Yavneh College in Borehamwood.

Immanuel head Mike Buchanan praised the “incredible resilience and commitment” of students “who have seen their education so disrupted” .

This year’s cohort had not benefited from the experience of previously taking a public exam as their GCSEs were cancelled in 2020, while the first year of their A-level studies were interrupted by a second school lockdown.

Owing to the disruption, the government made allowances this year, including the release of information on the content of certain exams back in February in order to allow students to narrow down their revision topics.

While, nationally, top grades fell from the previous two years when they were awarded by teachers rather than externally assessed, they were higher than the last time exams were sat in 2019.

A* and A grades fell by 8.4 points from 44.8 per cent last year to 36.4 per cent, but remain 11 percentage points higher than the 25.4 per cent achieved in 2019; A* grades, at 14.6 per cent, were nearly double the 7.7 per cent of 2019.

Jo Saxton, chief regulator of Ofqual, which oversees exam boards, felt strongly that “ it would not have been right to go straight back to pre-pandemic grading in one go but accept that we do need to continue to take steps back to normality”.

This year’s results, she explained, “coming as they do broadly midway between 2021 and 2019, represent a staging post on that journey”.

Immanuel’s results were its second best for traditionally sat exams, with more than two-thirds at A* to A and 88 per cent A* to B.

One of its top performers was Gili Nachshen, who is off to study medicine at St George’s in London with three A*s.

JFS sixthformers also did their school proud with more than a third of exams passed at A* and 65 per cent at A* to A (compared to the 50 per cent A* to A in 2019). Not only did they outperform 2019 but also the teacher-allocated grades last year.

The average grade at JFS is now an A.

While over 30 students received straight A*s at A-level, vocational results were also the best ever with over two-thirds of students securing at least a distinction.

JFS headteacher David Moody said the results were “exceptional from a group of students who have never sat a national examination before,” and “an absolute credit to everyone, pupils, staff, and parents alike.”

Spencer Lewis, executive head of Yavneh, applauded students who “have worked so hard under very difficult circumstances and should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved.”

At the comprehensive school, 62 per cent of all grades were A* or A (compared with 53 per cent in 2019), while 27 per cent of all A-level students gained all A or A* grades. Meanwhile, 93 per cent of vocational students achieved at least three distinctions.

Joshua Morris led Yavneh’s roll of honour with five A*s, while Jude Lewis, Zach Muslin, and Matthew Zucker achieved four A*s apiece; Jonah Home, Lila Chernick, Mattan Davies, Keira Levene, Joshua Myers, Amelia San, Robin Schuster and Lillie Silverstein secured at least three A*s. Travis Levison and Harry Cohen gained three starred distinctions each in vocational courses.

At the Hasmonean High schools, the A* tally was 29 per cent for boys and 26 per cent for girls: but on the A* to A measure, the girls turned the tables — with 63 per cent as against 58 per cent for boys (compared with 45 per cent and 48 per cent respectively in 2019).

Yael Miller, who achieved A*s in economics, maths, further maths and physics, and will take up a place at Imperial College to read electrical and electronic engineering with management after a year at seminary, said: “I am extremely pleased with my results, and am grateful to those who have helped me achieve them.”

Katie Brice, head of Hasmonean High School for Girls, said, “Our students have excelled, despite the fact that they have experienced a number of challenging and unprecedented years due to the pandemic.”

Uriel Sasieni, who attained A*s in chemistry, maths, further maths, and physics, said he was “privileged to have studied at Hasmonean, and am grateful for the ongoing help and support I was given there. I have built incredible friendships and learned invaluable lessons for life. I look forward to learning in yeshivah next year and going on to study computing at Cambridge.”

Hannele Reece, headteacher of King Solomon High School in Ilford, was “very proud of all our students — to sit their first ever public examinations against the backdrop of the Covid pandemic and receive such amazing results is testament to their resilience and hard work.”

Overall, 72 per cent of grades at King Solomon were A* to C and 49 per cent A* to B. Nine students achieved all A*s, As or starred distinctions.

Michael Sutton, headteacher at Liverpool’s King David High School, hailed a “stunning set of results delivered by a group of young people heavily affected by the pandemic”.

48 per cent of its grades were A* to A and two-thirds were A* to B. Adam Beaver’s three A*s in biology, chemistry and history have earned him a place to study pharmacy at Nottingham University, while Laura Levy is heading for the Sorbonne in Paris to study geography and history.

King David’s deputy head October Wright added, “Staff and students have worked incredibly hard to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our students’ learning and these record results are evidence of this.”

At Manchester’s King David High School, 49 per cent of grades were A* or A and 73 per cent A* to B.

Joshua Rowe, chair of the governors, said: “In a comprehensive school, some pupils may have been awarded lower grades but, very often, their achievement deserves just as much — if not more — praise and congratulations.”

King David’s high fliers included Joseph Seitler and Layla Maslin both with four A*s: Sophie Seitler with three A*s plus an A* for her extended project qualification: and Abigail Hurst, Aryeh Shapiro, Ben Joseph, Daniel Pine, Ethan Harris, Jack Moss, Ollie Goodman and Rosy Akalawu-Ellman, with three A*s.

A “significant number” of students exceeded their target grades, the school said.

While four are Oxbridge bound and two have got into medical school, some students are taking advantage of newer options: Isabella Goldman, who achieved two As and a B, has secured an apprenticeship with international law firm, Freshfields.

More than half the A-level passes at the cross-communal JCoSS in East Barnet were at A* or A (52 per cent) with 22 per cent at A*.

In the Cambridge Technical qualifications, 82 per cent of passes were starred distinctions.

Leading the JCoSS pack were Joel Klein with 4 A*s; Dinah Lewis and Eitan Richards with three A*s and an A; and Ava Gubbay, Ruben Persey, Sam Redland, Adam Tyler and Erin Walfisz with three A*s. Sammy Bentwood secured an A* along with two starred distinctions in vocational subjects.

JCoSS headteacher Patrick Moriarty saluted students’ “unstinting labours, and those of their teachers and parents who have shouldered additional burdens”.

On results day, threequarters of JCoSS students had gained entry into their first choice university and “there are more confirmations coming all the time,” he added, “so we are not overall seeing the ‘scrabble for places’ that is being reported in the media”.

Rabbi David Meyer, executive director of Jewish schools network PaJeS, commented: “This year’s results are yet again most impressive, and a reflection of the dedication and commitment of the students and their teachers. It is important to recognise that these students are among those whose education has been most severely impacted by Covid.

It was, he added, “even more remarkable to see how favourably Jewish schools have performed in comparison with 2019, when exams were last sat by students. It is also noteworthy that many schools are recording increased numbers of students taking vocational courses. This is a very positive development for the community.”

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