Embla Hocking got three A* grades and will study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Oxford.

Students from first mathematics “free” school celebrate exam success

One of England’s first mathematics free schools is sending record rates of students to the world’s best universities, just two years after opening.

The Exeter Mathematics School is already among the top performing state schools in the country. It is one of only two sixth forms to specialise in Mathematics and Physics, and is sponsored by the University of Exeter and Exeter College.

The sixth form offers young people in the South West who show potential to do well in those subjects the chance to study an exciting and challenging curriculum, and work with leading academics at the University of Exeter. It was set up to raise aspiration among teenagers in the region and boost the supply of capable undergraduates in Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.

A total of 80 per cent of all A-level grades given to students were A*, A and B and 45 per cent achieved an A* result in Mathematics. Almost half of students (48.5 per cent) achieved results of AAB or higher in “facilitating subjects” – those favoured by top universities.

More than 15 per cent so far, five students, have a place to study at the University of Oxford, one of the highest percentages of all state schools.

The 94 current students, based in the centre of Exeter, come from Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset. Some board at the school during the week.

Students study Mathematics and Further Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science and other scientific disciplines and have the opportunity to take a different fourth subject at Exeter College.

Students are awarded the Exeter Mathematics Certificate as well as A-levels when they graduate from the school, in recognition of the work they do with University of Exeter academics. These are projects pitched at a similar level to assignments given to undergraduates. Topics so far have included the creation of a “statistically perfect” pop song.

Headteacher Kerry Burnham said: “I’m so very proud of our students, who have achieved outstanding results and are now due to go on to become the mathematicians, engineers and physicists of the future.

“We have been open a short time, but these young people and the teachers have done remarkable things. This is due to the supportive, informal atmosphere at the school and the stimulating curriculum delivered by our outstanding teachers.”

To gain a place at the school students need at least 6 GCSEs graded A* to C to include Mathematics at A* and Physics, Computer Science or Double/Triple Science at A. Normally students will have a B in English.

As well as working with talented young people, teachers at the school also provide workshops and masterclasses for their colleagues in other schools to support excellent Mathematics and Physics teaching. They also run an outreach programme for students with a talent in these subjects who attend other schools in the South West.

Deputy Headteacher Joe Rowing said: “It is a privilege to teach students who really enjoy the subject. These students are creative, well rounded, literate and articulate. We are so proud of them.”

To get a place at the school potential students complete two interviews, one of which is pastoral, and an entrance test pitched at a level similar to a B in GCSE. There are two applications for each place. As of September there will be 95 students.

Student Dennis Akkavim, 18, from Exeter, who has a place at Warwick to study Mathematics and Statistics, said: “This school is a new set up, so perhaps it was a risk choosing to come here, but I think it has massively paid off. There is nowhere else like it and the interaction between staff and students are fantastic. This place pushes you.”

Alex Pace, 18, who will study Mathematics at the University of Exeter, said: “The work here has been a real step up from GCSEs, and there are always extra challenges to sign up for.

“It’s really satisfying to work together to work out a mathematical concept. I’ve also really enjoying being able to work independently. All the students here look out for each other.”

Mike Thornton, 18, from Uffculme, will study Physics at the University of Oxford: “Studying at the Exeter Mathematics School was both challenging and rewarding. The teaching is great.

“As well as studying Mathematics and Physics at the Exeter Mathematics School, I was also able to study Chemistry at Exeter College and was part of a jazz ensemble there.”

Embla Hocking, 18, from Penzance, got three A* grades and will study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Oxford.

“I didn’t expect this at all, I’m so pleased,” she said.

Embla’s mother Lynda James said: “I’m very proud, Embla has worked very hard.”

Professor Trevor Bailey, from the University of Exeter, a governor at the school, said: “I would like to congratulate all Exeter Mathematics Students on their results. It has been a privilege to be part of the beginning of this school’s journey, and I look forward to seeing further success in the future.”

Date: 18 August 2016

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