SCHOOL leaders across Swindon have praised GCSE students for their achievements during a volatile period in which the examination structure was turned on its head.

Teenagers raced to their schools, academies and colleges in town yesterday to tear open their envelopes and reveal the results of three years work in some cases.

Many of those headteachers and principals reacting to the results spoke of relief in the success achieved after a period of upheaval for the qualification.

Among the raft of changes to GCSEs is the abolition of the exam windows in January and March, preventing students from sitting the same test in the winter and then again in the summer.

Pupils can no longer enter exams early, barring them getting some results in the bag, and in English, marks for teacher-assessed speaking and listening exercises have been axed, placing a greater emphasis on the end-of-course exam.

The reforms have been linked to a dramatic increase in the number of pupils requesting special help in the exams hall, including extra time and rest breaks to deal with mounting pressure.

At The Ridgeway School, the best-ever results were recorded, with 75 per cent of pupils achieving five A* to C grades, including English and Maths.

Helen Lanigan, head of Key Stage Four at The Ridgeway School, said: “We are so proud of them, especially with the changes they have faced throughout the two years, and these record results are testament to their hard work.”

More than 1,000 learners picked up their GCSE results at New College yesterday, where entries have grown by 40 per cent in the past two years.

Of those who sat qualifications in Maths and English, 289 and 184 achieved an A* to C grade respectively.

New College principal Graham Taylor said: “Today’s results are a great achievement for the learners and for the college.

“The learners’ success reflects their hard work and enthusiasm and is a tribute to the fantastic teaching and support provided by all staff here.”

Nova Hreod Academy began its road for improvement under its new leadership duo of Darren Barton and Ben Parnell with 31 per cent of students hitting five or more A* to C grades with Maths and English.

Top performers included Kathryn Hague, with four A*s, four As, one B and two CS, and Joel Lines, with three A*s, one B and one C.

Mr Barton said: “Since arriving at the academy with Mr Parnell in May, we have been putting in place a number of very clear plans to deliver improvements at Nova and drive student attainment upwards.”

At Churchfields Academy, 37 per cent of pupils achieved at least one A* or A grade.

Highworth Warneford School also posted exceptional results, with almost three-quarters of pupils achieving five or more A* to C grades, including English and Maths.

One particular student at Warneford, Sophie Titcombe, bagged 13 subjects with 11 at A* level.

Sixty-seven per cent of pupils at St Joseph’s Catholic College achieved five or more A* to C grades, including Maths and English, which made this year the college’s best-ever set of results.

Swindon Academy posted improved results in 2014, with 41 per cent of pupils achieving five or more A* to C grades, including English and Maths.

Ruth Robinson, principal of Swindon Academy, said: “These are strong and encouraging GCSE results that are testament to the hard work of both students and staff.

“They show that the important initiatives we have put in place to improve performance are now having an impact.”