Some 1,500 New College Swindon students today learned the outcome of their hard work.
Proud college Principal Carole Kitching, a day from her scheduled retirement, was full of praise for the young people who faced unique challenges during their studies thanks to the covid pandemic.
She said: "We're just so proud of them - that resilience and determination. A lot of them had ups and downs on the way, so the support from their teachers and the support staff has been absolutely fantastic.
"I hope that they will be able to draw a line under what happened to them during the pandemic and look forward to their future, whether they're going on to university or to an institute of technology or apprenticeships, or into work and starting their careers.
"I think the fantastic thing about education is that it really does have the power to transform people's lives, because if you can get qualifications and skills, then you've got choices about what you can do.
"These students haven't sat public examinations before, so this was very high stakes for them this year.
"The year that they would have sat their GCSEs was in the pandemic. They had teacher-assessed grades, so they didn't have to sit the examinations.
"And then, of course, the year before their GCSEs the whole country was in lockdown for some months and learning was really disrupted, so they've had two years of disruption.
"I think that for young people in particular we're seeing a long tail of covid and the impact that's had.
"These students have had a really tough time. A lot of them have experienced isolation during the pandemic; they lost a lot of contact with people; they didn't have a lot of opportunity to learn and study and interact in the same way as previous cohorts of students.
"And then on top of that there's the cost of living crisis. Many, many families are finding things very difficult at the moment."
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