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Forest Hall School GCSEs: Top grades for the girl from Romania who started in a reception class at the age of 11

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When Alexandra Lapadatu arrived in England at the age of 11, she was put in a reception class with four-year-olds because of the language barrier to her learning.

Five years later, on Thursday (August 10), she collected two grade 9s, three 8s, three 7s and a Level 2 Distinction from Forest Hall School in Stansted – including a 9 and an 8 in her two English subjects, grades only a small proportion of students achieve each year.

When she joined the school in Year 10, she was achieving grade 3 in her least favourite subject of geography, but is now heading off to college to study it at A-level, along with economics, business and a BTEC in law.

Alexandra, originally from Romania and now living in Harlow, said: “Geography is the subject I hated the most. But when I moved to Forest Hall I fell in love with the way my teacher taught me. Because of her, I love the subject now.

“When I arrived in England, my English was not that good. It was difficult and I used to get bad results. When I was getting grade 3 and 4, I felt really demotivated and like I did not want to study any more. But I realised that was not what I wanted in life; to give up on things when they did not go my way.

“From then on, I took everything seriously and my goal was to achieve grade 7 and up. I started reading until things made sense. I had to make sacrifices, of course, like not going out every day.

“At Forest Hall, the teachers gave me motivational talks. My English teacher, in particular, told me not to get upset and that they knew I could do better. It was nice to know my teachers had faith in me.

“The environment at Forest Hall and the people in my class made all the difference. At a previous school I attended, I was being disturbed all the time; I was not able to do everything to my best ability. But the way teachers at Forest Hall managed the class really helped.

“I can’t even describe in words how I feel about my results today. I started crying when I opened them. It has all been worth it.

“I never would have imagined achieving these results when I came to England in Year 6 and was put into a reception class. In Year 7 and 8 I was in bottom sets. Finding a strategy for studying that works for you is the best way.”

For the second year running, external exams were cancelled for Year 11 pupils, who were instead graded on a combination of in-school assessments, work already completed and coursework.

Despite the challenges of lockdown and remote learning, all Forest Hall students who took food, engineering, art or photography achieved a grade 4 or higher, while more students than ever before achieved GCSEs in maths, English and science.

The secondary also enabled students to achieve qualifications in their mother tongues, including Arabic and Polish.

Head Matt Carter said: "This year has been another challenging year for students, with all of the unknowns and disruption with partial closures. Despite this, Year 11 students have really proved themselves to be resilient learners, striving to reach the exceptional."

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