UAE pupils celebrate A-Level results as anxiety over downgrades fades

Head teachers say pupils' fears were unfounded as many have scored in line with predicted grades

GEMS FirstPoint School, The Villa celebrate excellent A level results. Courtesy GEMS Education
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Thousands of anxious pupils across the Emirates received their A-Level results on Thursday, with some schools announcing record results.

The surprising outcome was a relief to pupils who worried they would not earn the results needed to be accepted into their universities of choice.

Leen Kharouf, 18, a Palestinian pupil at Brighton College Abu Dhabi, was ecstatic after receiving an A* in chemistry and mathematics and an A in physics.

"There was so much uncertainty before the results and I am so relieved," said Ms Kharouf, who is planning on taking a gap year.

"I believe this is the most appropriate time as many universities have online learning now. After that, I’m hoping to study medicine in Europe."

She said her results were similar to her predicted grades.

Ambiguities remain about the appeals process and, if common sense prevails in the end, these results will improve further still

A-Level and other external exams, like the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, were cancelled this year because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Instead, pupils were given their final scores based on predicted grades from teachers, their marks in different subjects and the school’s previous academic performance.

Pupils were concerned the new process would leave them with lower results than expected, jeopardising their university placements.

Razaan Ganatra, 18, a Canadian-Pakistani pupil at Brighton College Abu Dhabi, scored four A's in biology, chemistry, mathematics and economics.

"I am very relieved because, with the pandemic, I did not know what would happen with our grades," she said.

"The exams were cancelled and many pupils felt robbed of an opportunity. I felt that many people may have been at a disadvantage as they perform best in an exam setting."


Ms Ganatra will be starting her bachelor's degree in life sciences at the University of Toronto next month.

Just under half of all results achieved at Brighton College Abu Dhabi this year were A*s and A's. More than 70 per cent were between A* to B and 89.3 per cent were A* to C.

Simon Corns, headmaster of Brighton College Abu Dhabi, said: “Ambiguities remain about the appeals process and, if common sense prevails in the end, these results will improve further still, ensuring that all our pupils have grades which they have every right to be proud of.

"There is a team of expert and experienced teachers now available to all pupils and parents who need support as they seek to confirm university places and to challenge any results that seem unfair."

Michael Wilson
Michael Wilson, principal at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi. Courtesy: Cranleigh Abu Dhabi

Of the 26 pupils that received A-Level results at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi on Thursday, less than a quarter earned the top A* grade, 49 per cent earned between an A* or A and 73 per cent were graded between A*to B.

Michael Wilson, principal at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, said the school's results were in line with his expectations.

"This is our second cohort through and there has been a significant increase in grades. We are pleased with the results.

"We were pleasantly surprised with the accuracy to our predictions with the A-levels."

Katya de Vandebril, 19, from Belgium was happy she had scored three A*s and an A, which earned t her a place to study politics at Kings College London.

"I think the system worked very well for me as this was the result I was aiming towards," said the Cranleigh Abu Dhabi pupil.

"I wanted to sit for the exams and prove myself. It's about the gratification that you feel and can really celebrate after the exam."

More than 790 pupils received their A-Level results at Gems Education schools, from which 27 per cent of pupils achieved an A* grade, while 62 per cent attained A* to B grades and 37 per cent received A* to A.

Mariam Ahmed, 18, a British pupil at Gems First Point School, earned three A*s in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics, and is excited to study biological sciences at Imperial College London.

"Initially, I was a bit worried as I did not know how the grading process would work. But, I think it worked in my favour as I have a confirmed place now," she said.

Twins Christian (right) and Carl (left) Feghali, pupils at The British School Al Khubairat, received their A-level results today. With them is their father, Feghali. Courtesy The British School Al Khubairat
Twins Christian (right) and Carl (left) Feghali, pupils at The British School Al Khubairat, receive their A-level results. With them is their father, Fadi Feghali. Courtesy The British School Al Khubairat

At British School Al Khubairat, 125 pupils received results for their A-levels and a Business and Technology Education Council diploma, a vocational training programme. While 22 per cent achieved an A*, 45 per cent got A*to A, and 88 per cent earned between A to C.

Teresa Woulfe, head of secondary at British School Al Khubairat, said some pupils were disappointed with their results and felt they did not fairly reflect their ability.

"It was always going to be a challenge for the UK Government and exam boards to manage this process, however it is important that we work with our pupils to ensure that they have the support they need to move on to the next phase of their education and lives."

The school's graduates will be heading to the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London in the UK, and New York University in the US, among others.