Excitement as Newton A-level students make the grade

As students around the world return to school and college, programme manager for the Newton A-level programme at INTO University of East Anglia, Bethan Gulliver reflects on a results day when almost 70 per cent of students achieved A or A* grades in their exams.  These students are now off to begin their university careers at some of the finest universities and a new cohort of Newton students will begin this coming week.

6am, Tuesday 13th August 2013: Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) A-level results have just been released. As I get back home from my morning run, my mobile buzzes and the adrenalin starts to rush through my veins.

I am the Programme Manager for the Newton A-level Programme at INTO UEA at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. This is our third set of students to sit the exams and today we will find out if they have achieved the grades they need to meet their hard-won university offers. So much hinges on whether they make the grade.

The Newton Programme is a close-knit group. We have 10 A2 students this year. Most have been with us for nearly two years. The students are only now just 18, having arrived with us after their GCSE equivalent year. Our youngest-ever student arrived the day after his 16th birthday and is now studying Medicine at UEA.

Our students come from all over the world. The cohort starting this coming September will be from 16 different countries. The students make very close bonds with each other and with us – the staff. All the Newton teachers act as personal, as well as academic, tutors, helping the students navigate their way through A-level study, living in the UK and, of course, supporting them in the university application process.

Each student will have spent hours discussing university choices, preparing their application and getting ready for interview. There are so many hoops to jump through – A-level Grades, IELTS tests and STEP or UKCAT tests, as well as the intense competition for international places. By the time we get to results day in August it is impossible for the INTO staff not to feel involved in the students’ lives and to share their excitement and anxiety.

We are a very experienced staff. We have all been doing this for a long time, most of us in many educational sectors – state schools, independent schools, sixth form colleges and universities. Most teaching staff have also spent weeks this summer marking A-level exam scripts from across the world for CIE. This means that we have a good understanding of the marking of A-levels and can be confident that our students should be able to do well. They have been well-taught and very well-prepared. Hours have been spent ensuring that they not only understand the topics, but can communicate this understanding effectively. Past papers have been pored over and model answers prepared. But for us, their teachers, the anxiety always remains.

The buzz at 6am was an e-mail from an anxious student who couldn’t access the results web site. By 6:05 she had followed my advice to try again and had received the news of her 4A*s which would allow her to go on to study Dentistry at a leading UK University.

By the time I get to my desk and see the results for myself, facebook has been busy and I know we are in for another successful year. Staff and students are delighted. Emails fly back and forth and everyone seems to be congratulating and thanking everyone else. Seventy per cent of the grades were A and A* – a great success and a cause for great pride among the students and staff.

Bethan Gulliver

Author: Bethan Gulliver

Bethan Gulliver is the Programme Manager for the Newton A-level Programme at INTO UEA at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. She originally trained as a biochemist and worked as an enzymologist at Durham University. She then trained as a teacher and worked in schools and colleges where she prepared students for A-levels and university entrance.

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