THOUSANDS of local students today collected the first set of GCSE results since the Government implemented a major overhaul of the grading system.

For the vast majority of pupils, the letter grades that have been ubiquitous with the Key Stage 4 exams for two decades were mixed in with new numbered grades, 9-1, with 9 being the top grade and 1 being the bottom.

The changes, which apply to Maths, English and English Language this year and will eventually be expanded to all subjects, have proved controversial, with some teaching unions and schools’ groups saying they made the results process needlessly confusing.

Nationally, the exams have been described as being the hardest since O-levels became GCSEs, and there has been a recorded drop in the number of passes – down 0.6 per cent.

However, despite the controversy about the system, many schools across the district recorded their best-ever results and there were some incredible individual performances by students.

Bradford Council described the improved results at many schools as “encouraging”.

Titus Salt School in Baildon was among those recording its best GCSE results. Head Ian Morrel said: “We’ve got a 57.5 per cent rate for pupils getting the equivalent of five A*-Cs including English and Maths. We’re delighted.

“The most significant improvement is in English, something we have been focusing on in the last few years. It has been a big focus in the last few years, and we’re really seeing the benefit of it now.”

He said of the new grades: “Since there has been a bit more clarity about what number is classed as a pass, it has helped. But the main thing for us as a school is to help students achieve the best results they can, rather than get hung up on what the headlines of this year’s exams are.”

Student Owen Wray achieved a staggering A^ (A hat) in his Further Maths exam. The grade is a step up from ‘top’ grade A*, and the 16-year-old, from Shipley, also got a 9 in Maths, as well as A*s in Chemistry and Physics.

He said: “I wasn’t expecting this grade. Some of the questions on the exam were difficult.”

Despite the changes, pupils at Bradford Grammar School did not have to deal with the confusion of the new numbered grading system. Because the school is independent, and able to choose what exams its pupils study, it opted for the IGCSEs (International GCSEs), so the results handed to students were letter grades only.

Head Simon Hinchcliffe said: “For this year we’ve decided to stick with the letter grades. We’re in a fortunate position to be able to do that. We had to balance the best way of doing it, and this causes the least disruption for students.

“We’ve done really well this year, both the A-Levels and the GCSEs have been better than before.”

Sam Watson, who collected 11 A*s, said: “Some papers I thought had gone really badly. I thought I’d drop a grade or two, but I seem to have got by.”

Alicia Hawksworth achieved 10A* grades.

Bradford College, where more than 2,000 students sat GCSEs, celebrated an increase in overall pass rates and a rise in the proportion of high grades.

The overall pass rate for Maths and English was up by two per cent on last year, while the rise in the proportion of high grades was particularly sharp in science.

The pass rate was 100 per cent in four subject areas – Additional Science, Human Health and Physiology, Physics, and English under the old specification.

At University Academy Keighley, Slovakia-born Erik Balog, who settled in the UK just four years ago, collected his results. He had improved from projected G and F grades to achieve a clutch of Bs and Cs. The school had also recorded its best-ever results.

Councillor Imran Khan, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Education, said: “Congratulations to Bradford pupils receiving their GCSE results today. These achievements are the result of years of hard work by our young people and their teachers.

“There are some encouraging early signs from the provisional results from across the district with many schools achieving improving grades.

“This summer’s Year 11 pupils are the first to see some of their exams being graded by numbers from 9 to 1 in English Literature, English Language and Maths so they cannot be directly compared with previous year’s results.

“While progress is being made at all levels in Bradford schools, we are determined to ensure that a child’s chance of success is as good in our district as anywhere else in the country.

“We know there is more to do and together as a district we will continue to push to provide the best possible education for our young people.”