Exam success ‘icing on the cake’ for Brentwood’s well-rounded students

Posted on 17th Aug 2023 in School News, A levels, International Baccalaureate, BTECs

Despite some foreboding media headlines and a national reset to 2019 results that meant over 70,000 fewer A*/A grades awarded overall, Brentwood School's A Level and BTEC students had much to smile about today as they achieved an excellent set of results that built on the success of their peers who received their IB Diplomas back in July.

It was a nerve-wracking morning for a Sixth Form cohort who had their GCSEs cancelled in 2021. However, the Class of 2023 not only outperformed the 2019 benchmark in terms of academic results, they did so alongside a wide range of extraordinary co-curricular successes, illustrating the school's commitment to a holistic education. Many top performers included standout musicians and sports stars.

Among the many individual stories of success was Academic and Music Scholar, Benjamin O'Riordan, who has certainly embraced all Brentwood has to offer. Benjamin, a Performing Arts stalwart, secured A*A*A and his place at St John’s College, Cambridge to study History. A Bursary award holder, he had thrown himself into the co-curricular life of the school: “This school has done this for me and the bursary has transformed my life,” he said. Benjamin was off to celebrate with his grandparents who had ‘the champagne on ice’.

Proud mum Michelle O'Riordan echoed Benjamin’s words: “He has been very lucky to be here and it has been an incredible seven years. During lockdown I could hear his teachers on Zoom and I realised just how special the teaching at this school was.”

Benjamin is one of four students heading to Oxford or Cambridge Universities. Henry O'Hara, (A*A*A) is off to Wadham College, Oxford, to study Medicine and Surgery, and Jacob Stephen, (A*A*A*) will read Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, joining his brother who is already at Cambridge studying Law. Jacob thanked Chemistry teacher and Director of Studies, Mr Endlar, who ‘helped Chemistry finally click’ and was a ‘constant support’.

Joining Benjamin and Jacob at Cambridge is Abigail Rice, whose place at Queens’ College, Cambridge to study Economics was confirmed following July’s IB results.

Overall, 41.4% of A Level results were graded A* or A, whilst almost three-quarters were graded A*, A or B and over 80% of students secured a place at their first-choice university or degree apprenticeship course.

Other top performers included Sienna Singh with 4 A*s and a confirmed place at Warwick to read Economics. Sienna, who is looking to a career in finance or banking, fared much better than expected: “I don't know how that happened,” she joked. Emma Willy, who has been at Brentwood since the age of 3, was awarded 3A*s and her first-choice spot at Bath (also reading Economics). She thanked her teachers for their encouragement, additional support sessions and for ‘going the extra mile’. Brentwood School Equestrian team stalwart Sophie Philpot (A*A*A) is off to Exeter to study Business and Management, and Tabitha Williams (A*A*A) will be reading Veterinary Science at Bristol, a course which not only requires a high academic threshold but many many hours of practical dedication.

The School’s BTEC Extended Diploma grades were, once again, exceptional. Students who follow this pathway at Brentwood study either Business or Sport and the qualification is worth the equivalent of three A Level grades. Alex Bagley achieved the equivalent of A*A*A* at A Level and a place at Plymouth to study Physiotherapy. Also proving that BTEC qualifications are not just a gateway to Sport or Business pathways, Iqra Malik (who achieved the equivalent of A*AA at A Level) is using her Business BTEC as a stepping stone to study Architecture. All 19 BTEC Extended Diploma students secured A Level equivalent grades of AAA or better.

At the heart of Brentwood School's success is its unwavering commitment to providing a well-rounded educational experience that extends beyond the classroom. Hockey goalkeeper Molly Smith, who secured A Level grades of ABB and a place at Loughborough to study Sport & Exercise Science, personifies this holistic approach: Molly, who turned 18 yesterday, was unable to collect her results in person as she was en route to Germany with the England U21 side as part of their build up to November’s World Cup.

Classical guitarist extraordinaire Tom Hodgkinson (a name to remember for the future) was awarded AAA and is heading to one of the world’s leading conservatoires, the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz in Austria. Tom, like many of the Music alumni, was headed straight back into rehearsals for the department’s upcoming music tour to Swanage.

Fellow musician, Scholar and Bursary award holder Sammi Li, (A*A*A B) whose recent performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in Brentwood Cathedral left her audience mesmerised, is off to read Maths and Philosophy at Bristol. Sammi, who has also been awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship in Music at Bristol, said her bursary had changed her life. ”I would not have been able to do all these amazing things, being part of the community that is the Music Department, making music and spreading joy.”

Dance Scholar Penelope Wood (ABB), who was in the enviable position of fielding offers from three prestigious Arts/Dance colleges will be tip tapping her way to the Wilkes Academy of Performing Arts to continue in Musical Theatre.

Brentwood CCF Army cadets Lewis Harknett and Scott Adeyinka will enjoy financial and career support through university thanks to a prestigious Army Officer Scholarship securing them a sought-after place at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Lewis, (ABB) will now read Politics at the University of Liverpool, and is one step closer to his dream of joining either the Grenadier Guards or the Parachute Regiment. Scott - who is also a member of the British Kendo team - was delighted with his Sports BTEC Distinction which has paved the way to Kent to study Politics and International Relations with a year in Japan. He wanted to thank Head of Upper Sixth, Mrs Roberts, who helped him swap from A Levels to BTEC and ‘allowed me to do something I really enjoy’.

Eight students will be taking up much sought-after Apprenticeships at institutions ranging from Amazon to Barclays, including Olivia Argent (A*AA) who will be joining the Markel Insurance Group.

Top rugby player Benjamin Mills (AAB) will extend his sports knowledge at Exeter by studying Exercise and Sport Sciences, while cross country runner Daniel Peters (A*A*A) is looking forward to Economics with Politics at Bath University. At a time of much debate regarding the contribution of The Arts to a holistic education (and society in general) writers Katie Hackett (A*AB) and Taaliyah Foster (AAA) will hone their skills at Exeter studying English and Creative Writing.

Headmaster Michael Bond said: “Whilst the 2023 exam results mark a much-publicised return to pre-pandemic grade distributions at a national level, our outgoing Upper Sixth students have shown that it is possible to secure outstanding academic results whilst achieving remarkable success beyond the classroom across a wide range of different pursuits. It is very much our belief that co-curricular and academic endeavour breeds overall success, whilst our focus on the life skills of teamship, problem-solving and resilience has also served our students well and will continue to do so far beyond their school years. But perhaps most pleasing of all is how this year group have worked collaboratively and in support of each other - at a time when teenagers are often maligned in the media, our Upper Sixth students have personified the school’s values of virtue, learning and manners in the way they have conducted themselves during the past few years. They have been a credit to the school and we are delighted to celebrate with them today.’