Exam joy for young GCSE star pupils

High scores mean students have earned plenty of opportunities in choosing their options for the all-important A-level courses

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ABU DHABI // The news that she managed to score an A* in all 11 GCSE examinations she answered for this summer has still not sunk in for Noor Khouri. A student at the British School-Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi, British-born Noor, 15, who comes from an Iraqi and Palestinian background, admits that her excellent marks came as a pleasant surprise.

"I didn't imagine this could happen; it was my ambition and aim but I was worried and didn't dare to expect it," she said. But her mother, Reem Mahmoud, always expected her to do so well. "Noor's teachers predicted that she would get an A* in all her subjects, and I'm just so proud and exceptionally happy that they were right," she said. Noor is one of thousands of students worldwide who got their GCSE, or General Certificate of Secondary Education, results yesterday. They have to pass the exams in chosen subjects to go on to study A-levels, a common requirement for entry to university.

Although Noor has no idea yet what A-level subjects she will be studying, she says her high marks will give her the opportunity to choose from a wide array of courses. "I am aiming to do five A-levels, but I have no clue what to choose - I have to figure it out and take it one step at a time." The high GCSE results in many of the UAE's private schools mean hundreds of students will enjoy the same choice that Noor has carved out for herself.

Of the 117 students who sat for their GCSE exams at the British School, 85 per cent gained A*s, As, Bs and Cs, and of those, 34 per cent received all A*s and As. Paul Coackley, head teacher, said he was encouraged by the results. "The GCSE results are important, obviously, because they do have a bearing on university applications, but they are not the 'be all and end all'," he said. "Students develop and excel at different stages, as long as they have the opportunities to do so."

At Dubai College, where 112 students took just over 1,000 examination papers between them, 99.5 per cent were awarded marks in the A* to C range. Graham Penson, a spokesman for the college, said this year's pass rate of 86.1 per cent was a record. Last year's rate of 80.9 per cent placed the college in the premier division of the UK league tables. Of the 19 Dubai College students who sat GCSE French this year, 18 received an A*, one of whom is Georgina O'Mahoney. The 16-year-old from the UK said she was "very excited" to hear she had received nine A*s and one A in her GCSE results. Her sister Katie, who also studied at the college, got her A-level results just last week, scoring five A grades in mathematics, English literature, economics, biology and chemistry.

Katie is preparing to start university at Oxford in a few weeks, and Georgina plans to follow in her footsteps. "I am encouraged by Katie quite a lot," said Georgina. "She really does work so hard." The English College in Dubai also recorded the best GCSE results in the school's history as 96 students sat their GCSE exams. The head teacher Allan Forbes said: "We had a 91 per cent pass rate of A* to C last year. It's 95 per cent this year, an outstanding achievement for the school. The students, their teachers and their parents can feel very happy indeed."

Peter Daly, head teacher at the Dubai English Speaking College, said results this year were better than expected, and "there is so much to celebrate". hkhalaf@thenational.ae