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Students’ minds are on results

In a year of turmoil over cuts, Camden youngsters put protests over education fees firmly to one side to record borough’s best A-level results yet

Published: August 25, 2011

THE “class of 2011” will look back on a year of unrest across London, with angry protests over rising tuition fees and cuts to education grants.

But on Thursday, triumphant students from across Camden gave themselves something else to remember by celebrating another record haul of A-level results.

It was double delight for South Camden Community School (SCCS) twins Jamie and Oliver Denholm who scooped a pair of A* grades between them. The brothers are off to University College London and University of Essex to study English Literature.

South Camden headteacher Rosemary Leeke said: “Despite media coverage of the shortage in university places, for the fourth year running over 90 per cent of university applicants from SCCS have been successful in securing places at universities.”

The school in Somers Town reported a massive 42 per cent of students achieving A* or As in their exams. The statistic was far higher than the borough’s average of 27 per cent.

The overall average grades in Camden’s nine state schools was up again and, importantly, in the crunch year before fee rises come into effect. And with most universities trebling tuition fees to around £9,000 from 2012, grades were worth their weight in gold as few, if any, students were considering taking a gap year.

Hampstead student Kamran Alimoradian – who achieved two A* grades and two A grades in maths, physics, chemistry and further maths – said: “I’m so happy I didn’t have to retake any exams. The fees are really putting everyone off taking gap years or putting off university for any reason.”

Hampstead School reported significantly better results than last year with the number of students achieving A and A* grades leaping to 22 per cent from 13 per cent the year before. One student has secured a place at Oxford University, the school said.

Benjamin Klasmer, who is off to study physics at UCL, said: “I probably would have taken a gap year but that really isn’t an option now so I’m just looking forward to starting.”

Hampstead director of sixth form Louisa Williams said: “I couldn’t sleep if I was encouraging them to go off and take gap years with the fee increases they would be facing on their return.”

LaSwap sixth form reported rising numbers of students achieving A* grades with school leaders awarding special praise to photography students – all of who achieved A* to B grades this year.

Deputy headteacher Malcolm Rose, who is leaving after 38 years at William Ellis School, one of four schools making up the LaSwap sixth form, said: “It looks like we’ve done all right.”

At Haverstock in Chalk Farm, where former Labour Party foreign secretary David Mili­band has been teaching politics, students achieved a 92 per cent pass rate – around the same as last year.

At Westminster Kings­way College in King’s Cross, student Moh­ammed Mahbub Rahman, 20, who lives in Royal College Street, got A*, A and a B. He is off to Westminster University to study accounting and management.

“The last five days have been no eating, no sleeping,” he said. “I know what it’s like to want to find a job and not be able to get one.”

Camden Council’s school chief Councillor Larraine Revah said: “This year’s students face many challenges and uncertainties. A-level students face greater competition than ever for university places with huge increases in fees coming in next year.

“With the current headlines it’s easy to forget that the overwhelming majority of our teenagers are positive, productive citizens with high hopes and aspirations. Let’s take pride in the achievements of our young people – in these difficult times they deserve far more from us than our good wishes.”

At Camden School for Girls, there was a 99 per cent pass rate with 35 per cent of the 639 exams sat returning A grades.

Must do better! Problem with loans

THE iconic images of the past year will no doubt include the siege of Millbank tower and the wave of protests which followed. All over the country, students took to the streets in opposition to the tripling of university tuition fees.

Going to university this autumn, you might say my school year got off lightly. We did. The change doesn’t, after all, kick in until 2012.

But that won’t stop fees causing stress and anxiety to thousands of students in the coming months – as the bureaucracy of loans catches up with a demographic with no experience of financial matters.

At the start of July I got a letter from Student Finance England – the government quango which manages the student loanbook – supposedly confirming my application for finance. All fine, until I saw the course details were wrong.

So I immediately called up the company to notify them of their error. No problem, I was told, this could be corrected.

A month later, concerned that I’d heard nothing back, I called up again. Nothing had changed on my records, so they said once more they’d change it.

When I asked why my enquiry had been ignored before, I was fobbed off by the adviser, who said she couldn’t find out as she worked in a different building to the staff member I’d spoken to before.

By the end of the conversation – after repeated threats to do so, they hung up on me – I was left with a clear impression that  this bureaucracy had no regard whatsoever for its clientele.

With young people as your customers, you can, after all, take advantage of the fact that few will know about the service and practices to be expected from such a professional organisation.

Never mind the fact that this could cause considerable stress and anxiety to young people dependent on their loan payments for food and somewhere to live.

It’s terrible to think of the possible scores  of young people whose education has suffered as a result of bureaucratic incompetence at the loan company.

Anyone whose loan doesn’t get paid – and, as I’ve seen, the company is certainly capable of making such errors – will no doubt be plunged into the bureaucracy I’ve had to deal with in the past month.

This, right at the beginning of university, when you want to be thinking about the exciting potential of exploring your subject and settling into a new stage of your life – and you don’t want to spend hours on the phone dealing with someone else’s mistake.

It was all right for me in the end. The company apologised for their conduct – albeit pretty feebly – but the non-payment of loans has caused others to drop out of university entirely.

• Conrad Landin is a former sixth form student at Camden School for Girls

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