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Local students shrug off GCSE changes to deliver top performance

Unite Union Press Call at the JMH(Photo John Bugeja) 23.03.17 Gibraltar Tony Woodhouse, a member of the Unite executive council in the UK, campaign relating to Ian McClusky. In pix Michael Netto

Despite GCSE exam shake-ups, local schools and students achieved top marks with a total of 28 ‘super A*s’ at level 9 under the new grading system.

A total of 18 top level 9 grades were achieved by boys at Bayside, with Westside girls logging another 10.

This year only English, English Literature and Maths were marked using the new scheme.

Under the new specification, 79% passed of local Bayside and Westside students with grades 9 to 4, with a level 4 being the equivalent of a C grade.

Students also performed well in the traditional exams graded A* to C, with a 70% pass rate in both schools. The Gibraltar College also did well with a total of five A*s.

Results day was particularly special for one girl, Arianne Garro, who sat her GCSE exams in a hospital room. Still in crutches, Arianne collected her exam results bright and early at Westside School.

The 16-year old had been involved in a jet-ski accident mid-way through her GCSE exams on June 11.

She broke the tibia and fibula, the bones that support the leg, needing a four hour surgery to rectify the fractures and had a scaffold inserted into her leg. Arianne managed to complete five exams in a hospital bed.

GCSE Results Arianne Garro

“I am really proud, I achieved what I was hoping to achieve and I passed all my exams,” Arianne said.

“I had the drip and I was on morphine. The letters were flying off the page but I managed to complete the exams.”

She attained two 5s for English language and maths, both of which she undertook in hospital, an A* for Spanish, two As for PE and double award PE and passing grades for the rest of her subjects.

She will be moving on to study A-Levels and will chose the subjects PE, Spanish and religion. The fractures in her bones will likely not heal completely for another year, so she will be unable to do any sports for this period.

“These are excellent results indeed and students, teachers support staff, and of course parents and families are to be congratulated, especially this year,” the Minister for Education Dr John Cortes said.

“Once again I like to concentrate more on the individuals than the statistics. Some students have excelled, others have done less well. The Department of Education is there to assist all of them in planning their future.”

“I think also of those young people of similar age who haven’t taken GCSEs, and those who would have preferred more vocational routes than we currently offer, where perhaps they could have done better. Widening opportunities for those young people is one of the major challenges ahead and one that we are determined to tackle. It’s a really exciting time for education.”

“Achieving coeducation and providing vocational pathways against the backdrop of the new schools and realignment of key stages will test our resolve to deliver on the best provision possible for our young people, the citizens of tomorrow. Gibraltar has an amazing asset in its teachers and its other education professionals and we are confident in our ability to deliver on these ground-breaking changes.”

gcse westside

The overall local pass rate including Gibraltar College, and Westside and Bayside Schools for traditional GCSEs graded A* to C, is 66.7%.

This is the first year the Gibraltar College GCSE results have been published on results day alongside the other schools. The College secured a 35% pass rate between A* to C.

Director of Education Darren Grech added that he is extremely pleased and encouraged by the GCSE results this year.

“After weeks of worrying and very stressful times our students have done extremely well despite the difficulties and the sleepless nights,” Mr Grech said.


Matthew Porter achieved glittering results and looks forward to studying religion, maths, history and English at A-Level. He hopes to study politics, philosophy and economics at degree level.

“There are no words to describe how I am feeling right now,” Matthew said.

He achieved a 9 in English Literature, two 8s in English language and maths, and A* grades for the rest of his subjects.

“To get a 9 is quite tough,” he said.

“To be honest I didn’t think I was going to do as well as I did, especially for maths because they were really hard exams.”

“I saw that the BBC had said students should expect disappointment because of the new grading system. It was really nerve-wracking coming to get the results.”

“It was three months of studying which was not fun, but I know I tried my best and the hard work paid off.”

Aaron Mosquera achieved top grades in the new system with two 9s in English language and maths, and an 8 for English literature. Overall he was a high achiever with seven A*s and one A.

“When I finished the exams I knew they went well, but this is above and beyond what I expected,” Aaron said.

Unite Union Press Call

“I wasn’t expecting to get a 9 because I had heard they were really hard to get, but this is a really good achievement.”

“It feels good to get a 9. All the hard work before the exams has paid off so much. It definitely takes a lot of work to do well in exams.”

Nicholas Rocca nervously picked up his results yesterday, but the nerves turned into smiles once he caught sight of his grades.

He achieved a 9 in English literature, an 8 for maths and a 7 for English language. He also attained five A*s and three A grades.

“Leading up to the exams there was that pressure that a 9 was practically impossible to achieve with a small percentage getting those grades,” Nicholas said.

“Getting a 9 makes you feel a bit special. I am quite excited. The only way you’re going to get this is not really by luck, it is the hard work that you put into it.”

Also receiving her GCSE results was Chloe Fa who tearfully hugged her family after opening her results. Chloe was overjoyed with the results.

“I am really ecstatic, I did not expect this at all,” she said.

She achieved all passing grade with an A* in Spanish, As for English London Board and religion, Bs for English language and literature, and Cs for maths, dance, science. She will be studying religion, sociology and dance for her A-Levels.

Melina Chandler and Connie Prino were relieved and very happy with their results.

“All the hard work has actually paid off,” said Melina.

The girls both received passing marks with A*s in Spanish and high passes in their other subjects. Melina plans to study geography, sociology and Spanish at A-Level and Connie will study Italian, Spanish and French.

College students Monty Lima and Kyreille Parody were ecstatic with their results.

Unite Union Press Call

“To be honest I’m feeling really happy with my exams,” said Monty.

She passed her English exams after resitting and both will continue on to study maths and science.


Westside School Head Teacher Michelle Barabich praised the students and teachers for all their hard work.

“I am feeling elated,” Mrs Barabich said.

“In the reformed exams such as the English and maths we have done brilliantly well. These courses have given a lot of anxiety and stress for both teachers and students. We have gone in not knowing what to expect. If we look at the new grading pass rate it has been excellent. These exams are much more difficult and the pressure has increased. These girls have started their GCSEs in year nine and for it to be the first year and to get these results we are ecstatic.”

She highlighted the high pass rate for Spanish with 129 students securing an A* grade compared to 63 A*’s last year.

However, for her the success stories are those girls who achieved their personal best.

Bayside School Head Teacher Michael Tavares was overjoyed with 18 students securing a grade 9 at GCSE.

“It has been an amazing morning,” Mr Tavares said.

“There has been a sense of achievement and happiness in the air, from not just teachers and students but from parents too. On the whole we have had very good results this year. We have maintained the 70% pass rate and in most subjects the performance has really improved. There is always more than one party responsible for this success. Primarily it is the students, but the teachers and parents put in so much work as well.”

This year the Gibraltar College kept to the A* to E grading system, but next year will move on to the numerical grading system.

“It has gone very well and results-wise we are generally happy,” Mr Abecasis said.

Unite Union Press Call

“We have had a slight drop since last year but the overall trend in the UK has been the GCSEs are getting tougher. We are pleased, for example, in subjects such as English we have had students who have joined the college with low grades such as Es and Ds, and they have achieved Bs.”

“We have generally noticed an increase in grades from what the students started off with. This year the College’s GCSEs are being reported on like with all other schools which I think is right to do.”

Next year all GCSE courses will be graded from numbers 1-9 instead of A*-G, the ‘U’ grade meaning unsatisfactory remains unscathed.

The new system, said to be tougher, will be rolled across all subjects with English language, literature and maths trialling the system this year.

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