A teenager who got to ‘stand in’ for the Prime Minister as a youth MP has now achieved top grades in his GCSEs.
Zagham Farhan tried out the House of Commons’ despatch box during a UK Youth Parliament debate.
Now he has put his communication skills to good use at Newcastle-under-Lyme School, where he snapped up 10 GCSEs today, all at grade 9.
The 15-year-old, from Lyme Valley, Newcastle, said: “I’m very happy with my results.”
Zagham, who represented Newcastle and the Moorlands at the Youth Parliament several years ago, has become a dab hand at debating.
“I’ve been part of the school debating team and we recently got through to the national finals of a competition. But it got cancelled because of the pandemic.
“In the first round, we’d looked at whether we should ban planes because of climate change.”
During lockdown, Zagham has been busy writing a book called The Ten Commandments of Public Speaking. “It includes things like using body language effectively,” he added.
“For a career, my ultimate aim is to go into politics. But that would be in 20 years’ time.”
Other students getting their GCSE results today have also been celebrating a bumper crop of high grades.
After the exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, schools were asked to submit centre-assessed grades for each pupil. These were due to be ‘standardised’ using an algorithm.
But the same approach proved so controversial for A-level results that the Government announced a U-turn earlier this week. Now all GCSE pupils have received either their teacher-assessed grades or the standardised grades if they were higher.
But those who took BTECs or Cambridge Nationals will have to wait until next week to find out their official results. It came after the awarding bodies announced they were switching to teacher-assessed grades as well.
GCSE results across Stoke-on-Trent’s schools have shot up by five per cent this year.
Provisional figures show 64 per cent of pupils gained grade 4 or above in maths and English. And 42 per cent got grade 5 or above – a strong pass – in both these subjects.
The countywide figures for Staffordshire schools, along with those for Cheshire East schools, have not been revealed. But many schools across the region are reporting significant improvements.
Nathan Kelsall, who studied at Ormiston Meridian Academy, in Meir, found missing out on exams a strange experience.
The 16-year-old, from Longton, said: “At first, I was quite upset. I felt five years of my education had gone to waste and I didn’t have the chance to prove myself in the exams.
“As the weeks went on, it was quite stressful thinking how the grades were going to be decided.”
But Nathan need not have worried as he has now achieved six grade 9s, two 8s and a grade 7 in his GCSEs.
Hamdh Wahab is another one of Ormiston Meridian Academy’s star students. He picked up eight grade 9s and one grade 8.
The 15-year-old, from Normacot, said: “I enjoyed studying physics the most. I was thinking about going into astrophysics for a career. It just fascinates me.”
The GCSE class of 2020 has been nicknamed the ‘Covid generation’ as their last few months have been overshadowed by lockdown.
But many young people have turned the weeks of unexpected spare time into something positive.
Kieran Jones, from Chell’s Ormiston Horizon Academy, worked with the Salvation Army, helping to provide meals for vulnerable families. He has now won a local award as an ‘unsung hero’.
Kieran’s GCSEs include a grade 9 in PE and a grade 7 in maths.
The school’s other high flyers include Georgia Timbey, who gained eight grade 9s and two 8s, and Morgan Nash, who secured four 9s and two 8s.
Across the area, many schools have been reporting improvements. Critics claim using centre-assessed grades has fuelled grade inflation.
But headteachers stress all the teacher assessments were put through a rigorous process, with internal moderation.
In the Moorlands, 73 per cent of GCSE pupils at Biddulph High have achieved grade 4 or above in both English and maths. Results are up 7.4 per cent on last year.
At the grade 5 strong pass rate, 43.8 per cent of Biddulph’s students have made the grade in these two core subjects.
At Leek High, 64 per cent of students have clinched grade 4 or above in maths and English, and 38 per cent gained strong passes.
Meanwhile, the best performing subjects at The Cheadle Academy include triple science, art and photography. Emma Jackson, Morgan Hughes, Laura Burston and Edie Langridge are among the high achievers.
At Painsley Catholic College, in Cheadle, Caio Pasta and Heather Dalgleish both got a perfect run of 12 grade 9s today.
Sixteen-year-old Caio, who lives in Cheadle, said: “I really enjoyed science, especially physics. I like just learning how the world works. How the stars get made and what happens when they die.”
But despite doing so well, he admitted the last few days have been nerve-racking.
He added: “With the grading changes, it was worrying. I go to a good school, so I wouldn’t have been that affected by the algorithm. But it was still a weight on my shoulder.
“When they did the U-turn and used centre-assessed grades, it worked out much better.”
Heather is also a keen young scientist. The 16-year-old, from Upper Tean, said: “I’m hoping to go into medicine in the future.
“With coronavirus, it was quite interesting to look at it from a medical point of view. But then it started to affect my life.”
Wadood Ghani will also be continuing with science at A-level after getting five grade 9s, four 8s and one 7 in his GCSEs. He studied at St Margaret Ward Catholic Academy, in Tunstall.
The 16-year-old, from Festival Heights, said: “One of my GCSEs is in electronics. I’m looking at going into engineering for a career.
“I just like the environment. It’s quite a hands-on job, where you’ve got stuff to do.”
At Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy, in Blurton, top performers include Chloe Riley, who achieved 10 grade 9s, Nadia Shumsi, who secured seven 9s, Harvey Edwards, with six grade 9s, and Oliver Cashmore, who achieved five grade 9s and three 8s.
St Dominic’s Priory School, in Stone, saw 63 per cent of its GCSE pupils awarded at least one grade 8 or above today. While a cool 47 per cent of students’ entries at the independent school have been achieved at the 9 to 7 range.
At St John Fisher Catholic College, in Newcastle, Maria Conlon has achieved 11 grade 9s at GCSE.
The 16-year-old, from May Bank, is a talented young writer and twice came runner-up in The Sentinel’s Too Write competition.
She has also been a runner-up for Staffordshire’s young poet laureate.
Maria said: “I do a variety creative writing and poetry. During lockdown, I’ve also been writing a book. It’s a fantasy.
“One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about lockdown is I’ve been able to do other things. I’ve also been drawing and playing musical instruments.”