Over 1,000 young people at Westminster Kingsway College – one of central London’s largest colleges – have today received their A Level and vocational course grades, in what has been a unique and very challenging year for them and their teachers.
Since the college had to close in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the students – who have been taking a wide range of A Level subjects, as well as many who have been studying on practical, vocational courses with exam boards such as BTEC, UAL and City and Guilds – have completed their studies online.
For the first time ever, students were unable to sit A Level exams in May. Instead, their grades were assessed by their teachers and submitted to exam boards, which then standardised the grades for each subject.
Victoria Howarth, Curriculum Director for A Levels, Engineering and Science at WestKing, said: “We are always proud of our students’ achievements, but I am particularly proud of them this year, as it has been an exceptionally difficult one for them. When the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to shut our doors in March and teach all lessons online, the students responded magnificently and have really buckled-down to complete their studies.
Our Students’ Stories
Nikola Banton is 18 and is celebrating achieving As in Business Studies, Sociology and Media Studies – better grades than she needed for her place at the University of Essex where she will study Social Work.
She had been confused about how the grading process would work, but after she’d spoken to her teachers about it, they helped her to understand it. Nikola is full of praise for her teachers, telling us: “The teaching was good, especially sociology. As soon as we went to remote lessons, the teachers were quick to provide the resources for us to revise just in case we couldn’t access online lessons. And on my Media course we were ahead of schedule when we went into lockdown, which helped too.
Like thousands of young people today, Nikola was nervous before she got her results email from us. “I was OK until this morning, but woke up feeling anxious and nervous. Now I’ve had my grades, it’s a relief. My mum was happy and has been calling everyone!!”
Mykhaylo Koshutskyy is one of our older A Level students. Aged 22, he’s taken two 1-year A Level Intensives and achieved an A* in Mathematics and an A in Physics. He’s hoping to go to Cambridge University to study Engineering.
Like many students, Mykhaylo had been concerned about the grading process, but was expecting the grades that he got. He told us: “I knew I did well in Maths and that Physics would be moderated, and I had been reading about the grade changes in Scotland, as well as the information released by Ofqual.
“I had a brilliant teacher in Maths who has a very personal approach with every student, treating everyone as an individuals which was fantastic. Teaching was well planned too.”
“I’ve worked hard. I did 12 hours studying a day and it was worth it despite my grades because of the knowledge I gained – for me, the grades don’t matter as much as what I have learned.”
Pawa Shakir achieved A* grades in Politics and Sociology, and an A in Law. She’s off to study Politics at City University in London. She told us: “My grades were as I expected. My mock exam grades were As and Bs.
Pawa is really happy with the support she received from the college through the lockdown. “I found studying online quite difficult, but we had great support from the college. It was a difficult time; we were in the middle of a pandemic and I missed my friends. I prefer face to face classes and the classroom environment.
“Two weeks before we went into lockdown the college started preparing us. They provided everything that we needed, from papers to applications. They made sure that we had all downloaded Microsoft Teams and knew how to use it. By the time we went into lockdown we were fully prepared. They were very supportive.
The unique way that students’ grades have been assessed this year has created uncertainty for many students. Victoria Howarth said: “We are an improving college and this year’s A Level results reflect the significant progress that we’ve made. We are delighted that more of our students received A*-C grades this year and we feel that WestKing is a really good choice for students who are looking to take A Levels or vocational courses in a large and vibrant sixth form in the heart of London.
“While we are pleased with this year’s results, it would be fair to say that the grading and standardisation process has been a controversial one. But regardless of this, our primary task is now to ensure that all our students can move on positively this year – whether that’s into another course with us, to university, or into a job or an apprenticeship.
“That’s why we have had staff available online today and tomorrow to speak or live chat to any of our students who have questions or concerns about what their next steps might be.”
The college also has a strong reputation for its vocational (work-related) qualifications, with thousands of students studying for qualifications across a wide range of subjects, from Applied Science and Engineering, to Hospitality, Performing Arts, Digital and Creative Media to Health and Social Care. Some students have already received their results, while others will be getting theirs over the next couple of weeks.
But for our A Level students at least, the worrying and waiting about what their grades might be is over and many are in the mood for celebrating. As Pawa Shakir said: “I’m going to celebrate with cake!”
If you are a WestKing student and have concerns or questions about your grades, or if you want to contact us about your results, please visit our special results webpage.
Note: this article was updated in late August, to reflect changes to students’ grades following the Government’s decision to accept Centre Assessed Grades.
Capital City College Group and its three colleges – City and Islington College, Westminster Kingsway College, and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London – are offering hundreds of free online courses in response to the social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Students will be able to study for free up to Level 3, the equivalent of studying an A Level, regardless of their background, income or experience.
The move comes in light of the Covid-19 crisis and follows the success of our sister college, CONEL, becoming London’s First Free College by offering free full-time and short courses up to Level 2. WestKing will also offer all of its full-time courses from Entry Level to Level 2 for free from this September.
Thousands of people have signed up for free short courses at CONEL and 48 per cent of students progressed to full-time study in the first year of the campaign.
Tim Mansfield, 38, decided to train for a new career as a plumber after working in the printing business for more than two decades. He studied a free short course at CONEL and progressed to a free full-time Level 2 diploma.
He said: “I’ve spent 22 years in printing and the demand for paper-based products has been decreasing. I was concerned about my job situation, and thought it was time to make the jump,
“CONEL’s free short courses were exactly what I needed. They gave me the opportunity to try different trades without having to overcommit until I knew what I wanted to pursue more seriously. If they hadn’t been free, I’m not sure I would have taken the chance.
“The teachers are well-qualified and approachable, and always on hand with advice and support. I’ve made some great friends at CONEL and learnt some great skills that I fully intend to build upon in my future career. I’m excited about starting a new chapter.”
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic
Research by the Learning and Work Institute shows that young people, women and those with low level qualifications are at greater risk from the impact of Covid-19.
It further revealed regions with low levels of employment before the crisis are facing the highest risk of job losses, leading to wider regional inequalities and reducing social mobility. Read the full report here.
According to The Edge Foundation unemployment is set to rise further and faster than during any recession on record despite government measures to protect jobs. Read the full report here.
Our response to the social and economic impact
CCCG is the largest provider of further education in London and the South East, with three colleges and an apprenticeship and training provider, Capital City College Training.
Roy O’Shaughnessy, CEO of CCCG, said: “The impact of Covid-19 has produced many challenges for London communities, but it has also offered a unique time for radical change within the education sector.
“The need for an education and training system that is better aligned with the local economic and social needs of our communities is more apparent than ever before. This is why we have developed a broad portfolio of flexible, part time, relevant courses to meet the changing demands of the local and regional economy.
“CCCG has now become the first college group to offer free courses up to Level 3, fulfilling the needs of communities all too often impacted by social inequalities.
“Our mission to transform lives means removing potential barriers to that transformation. Financial barriers often stand in the way of communities progressing to better paid employment with better prospects. CCCG has swiftly and without unnecessary bureaucracy, removed that barrier.”
The courses will be taught through online and blended learning and enable CCCG to reach a much wider cohort. Staff have been teaching using online technology since lockdown was announced in March.
Roy added: “Staff teams from all three colleges have worked tirelessly to ensure the success of online teaching, and their commitment to their students, especially those most vulnerable, has been unquestionable.
“As the country begins its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, some industries may never be the same again. These courses are designed with career transition in mind, enabling students to start training for new careers either because they were furloughed or have concerns about their future employment. CCCG is integral to the local and regional economic recovery.”
Find out more and see all free short courses on offer here – more will be added throughout the year.