After months of hard work, weeks of stress and days of anticipation, school pupils across the country finally opened their GCSE results on Thursday to see what grades they had achieved.
The 2017 results were a little different, with schools dealing for the first time with a new grading system that saw the end of the A* grading in maths and English.
The changes meant more exams to be sat but less coursework throughout the year and no previous papers to practice on, making preparations a challenge.
Grading pupils numerically, with 9 being the best and 1 the worst, rather than A to U in maths and English should help differentiate between the brightest pupils, according to one teacher, but some pupils found the extra pressure to achieve top marks a challenge.
Kings’ School Al Barsha found it a particular challenge as the school is marking its first full set of GCSE results since opening in 2014.
Despite that, teachers and pupils were celebrating an excellent performance, although only maths was graded under the new system on this occasion.
A total of 44 per cent of grades achieved at the school were A* or A, with the overall A* to C pass rate at 92 per cent.
Rebecca Coulter, assistant headteacher at Kings’ Al Barsha, said the school had no idea how its pupils would fare under the new system.
“The idea to change the system was to make the top marks a little more exclusive,” she said.
“No one really knew what to expect, so leading into exams it was difficult for teachers to pitch the work that would get pupils up to those standards.”
Students’ performance was strong across all subjects at the school but particularly in English Literature, Arabic and History, with 100 per cent of pupils attaining A*, A or B grades. They also excelled in the fields of Drama and Science.
“It is about understanding the students, and wanting them to do well,” Ms Coulter added. “They are under a lot of pressure to achieve but it is not always about A* pupils. Students with lower grades can always access certain courses.
“I always get the most satisfaction when seeing the student has worked really hard, may not have the best grades but who has put in the time and achieved above their expectation and have done the best they can. They always stand out for me.”
One pupil with particular cause for celebration was Aleena Khan, 15, who took her maths GCSE a year early and achieved a grade of 7.
“I’m not a gifted mathematician, and I don’t enjoy it but I worked hard,” she said.
“It was intimidating being in the top set, with everyone else who found it so easy, but that helped push me to keep up with them.”
Aleena is now taking further maths next year and is considering a career in journalism or law.
Columbian pupil Juan Salazar, 16, scored an A* in English and drama and scored 7 in maths.
“My geography was a B, much better than I thought, as I didn’t answer the last question on time,” he said.
“I put the effort in and didn’t cope well with the stress. I’m very critical of myself, and try to be the best I can be but you always think you can do better.
“Everyone was under big pressure, particularly because we were the first to take these exams at this school.”
Juan now wants to take A-level drama, after being inspired by his teacher Mr Pugh.
Nicholas Bruce, assistant secondary headteacher at GEMS Wellington in Dubai, said there were plenty of pupils who had improved their performance through hard work.
“We had quite a few pupils who started the year in a tricky place but managed to turn it around,” he said.
“We had nine students score a 9 in both English language and literature. Globally, that’s about 2 per cent of the population.”
GEMS Wellington pupil Fatima Hasan, 16, passed all her exams.
“I got an A* in each of the subjects that I needed for the next stage of my education so I’m very happy,” she said.
“My English result was my best score, as everyone thought the exam was very difficult.”
Sahel Bahman, 16, found it difficult to deal with three exams in one day when she took her history test.
“I scored an A* in history, so I’m very happy,” she said. “I studied really hard and want to take history and English at a higher level at GEMS.”