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BCHS students' delight at exam results U-turn


By Alan Beresford

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THERE have been celebrations aplenty at Buckie Community High School as students received their upgraded exam results.

On the up! BCHS rector Neil Johnson congratulates some of the senior students who had their exam results upgraded. (Front, from left) Emily Strowger, Richard Glennon, Neil Johnson and Leah Hay. (Back, from left) Amber Smith, Jake Newlands, Liam Shepherd and Erica Wood.
On the up! BCHS rector Neil Johnson congratulates some of the senior students who had their exam results upgraded. (Front, from left) Emily Strowger, Richard Glennon, Neil Johnson and Leah Hay. (Back, from left) Amber Smith, Jake Newlands, Liam Shepherd and Erica Wood.

Due to schools being closed since March and exams being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, students who would have sat their National, Higher and Advanced Higher exams earlier this year were given an estimated grade based on their performance which was then sent to the Scottish Qualifications Agency (SQA)

However, controversy exploded when a weighting system employed by the SQA saw thousands of students up and down Scotland – including many at BCHS – left shocked and dismayed when they were awarded grades inexplicably lower than those estimated. A u-turn by the Scottish Government saw this the weighting system scrapped and grades based on teacher estimates.

Among the senior students at BCHS left with plenty to smile up once their upgraded exam results came through were Richard Glennon, Jake Newlands, Liam Shepherd and Erica Wood.

For S5 dux Erica, it means that she now has a clean sweep of six A grades at Higher after one was upgraded from a B.

Jake now has three As at Advanced Higher, a C rocketing to an A, to sit alongside his Nat 5 A grade, while Richard can now boast four As at Nat 5 when a B became an A. He also has an A at Higher and a National Progression Award to his name.

The biggest change in fortune was reserved for Liam, who was over the moon to discover that no fewer than three of the B grades he had been awarded by the SQA at Higher were upgraded to As, leaving him with the grand total of five in all.

Joining them to celebrate the revised results at BCHS were S6 Dux Amber – currently taking a year out before heading to university to study biomedical sciences – Emily Strowger and Leah Hay. The girls' grades original grades remained unchanged, with Amber scooping three As at Advanced Higher and a YASS qualification, Emily scoring five straight As at higher and Leah taking the top mark in five Nat 5s.

For BCHS rector Neil Johnson, there was a definite sense of exam justice being done.

He said: "I do feel that justice has finally been done for a lot of pupils at Buckie High.

"Around 40 per cent of all grades have gone up, many by one grade others by more, and it has made a significant difference to quite a few pupils.

"It is recognition of the hard work they have put in during the most of unusual of times. It is also recognition of the immense amount of work done by the staff here at Buckie High to ensure that all of our pupils had the correct grades estimates sent to the SQA.

"This was a very complex process which involved not only determining a pupil's grade but which band they were within that grade and then ranking them. This was all done during lockdown, with staff video conferencing each other and departments working together, sometimes across schools in the case of smaller departments all in a bid to ensure fairness for pupils.

"It was a huge collective effort and I think Moray schools as a whole did very well."

Mr Johnson added that as a result of the ongoing Covid restrictions many senior students who left school in the summer were choosing to take a gap year rather than go to university at present in order to be able to enjoy a more normal experience there.

"It was be a good experience for them," he commented.

While the trauma of the exam results may be over, the challenge to adapting to school life in the shadow of Covid is one which Mr Johnson said not just the school but the wider school community were meeting head on.

"Everyone connected to Buckie High has been amazing since we returned in August," he continued.

"I'm particularly proud of the way the pupils have coped with being in the very different school environment which has been thrust upon them.

"There has been a large uptake in wearing masks and we're offering free masks at reception for any pupils who have come along without one.

"We're making the best of a less ideal situation in an environment which is changing all the time. As a school we've had to change the way we operate, something which will likely be with us for some time to come.

"However, the whole school community has been pulling together to help see us through."

One of the immediate impacts of the covid regulations on students is reduced teaching time,with the beginning and end of periods dedicated to disinfecting desks and so on. Extra time has been allocated to ensure students can get to their next class due to the movement restrictions in place at the school.

The revised results were also welcomed by the chairwoman of Moray Council's children's and young people's services committee, Buckie SNP councillor Sonya Warren.

She said: "I'm delighted to see that these young people have now received the exam grades they deserve for all their hard work.

"The staff at BCHS and across Moray deserve huge credit for the massive amount of work they have put in while facing unprecedented challenges and anxious times to ensure students were provided with accurate assessments.

"Living with the ongoing and sometimes rapidly changing measures to deal with the Covid-19 threat in our schools has had a huge impact on everyone and my sincere thanks goes to all those involved in making it all work."

Distancing rules have had a huge impact on those subjects requiring group work, such as science and PE, with Mr Johnson saying that in many cases teachers had been forced to return to the old-style "chalk and talk" methods of education.

With changing rooms out of bounds for the moment some students are being allowed to come to school in their sports kit, although the activities they can undertake are restricted.

The myriad after school activities for which BCHS was widely noted in normal times has been wiped out until further notice, although at the time of writing tentative steps were being taken with a view to restoring some lunchtime activities.

More local news here.



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