OXFORDSHIRE headteachers have praised pupils who took their GCSEs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Grades reached a record high across the country, with no exams sat for the second consecutive year.

However, school leaders said pupils faced challenges that their predecessors didn’t have to.

St Birinus School in Didcot reported that of its 170 Year 11 students, 74 per cent gained five GCSE passes including English and Maths (9-4) and 47 per cent gained five GCSE passes including English and Maths (9-5).

Headteacher William Manning said: “Year 11 has undergone a school experience like no other over the past two years and they have demonstrated the most remarkable character and resilience.

“The stop start of school closures and remote learning has only forged their commitment and determination to succeed and we couldn’t be more proud of their achievements.”

Didcot Girls’ School revealed that of its 253 Year 11 pupils, 87 per cent achieved a grade 4 (equivalent to a C grade) and above in English and Maths, while 73 per cent achieved grade 5 or above in English and Maths.

Forty per cent of all grades were at 9-7 and 25 per cent at grades 8 or 9.

Headteacher Georgina Littler said: “We are extraordinarily proud of all of our students this year.

“They have achieved a superb set of results against a backdrop of uniquely challenging circumstances.

“They have faced lockdowns, self-isolation and changes to examination requirements with characteristic resilience, determination and good humour.”

Rob Whannel, headteacher at The Cooper School in Bicester, said: “I am so proud of our Year 10 and Year 11 students. Despite the increasing challenges placed upon them during their GCSE courses, they have risen to them admirably and secured success, not only in their academic attainment, but also in themselves as individuals.

“No other GCSE cohorts have needed to deal with such significant changes in such short spaces of time – these students have developed their courage, determination, independence and hard work and this will serve them well in their futures.”

Rick Holroyd, headteacher at King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage, said: “After such a lengthy period of disruption in all schools, we are confident that our students will be delighted with the grades they receive, which we feel are a fair reflection of their work, and that of their teachers and support staff.

“The class of 2021 has been an exceptional cohort and the grades they have achieved are based on a rigorous assessment process to ensure that they reflect the hard work and resilience our students have displayed during such a disrupted period of their school experience.

“Consequently, our students fully deserve the grades they have received.”

Executive headteacher of The Bicester School, Tony Rushworth, said: “In these unprecedented and challenging times for our young people in Bicester, I would like to congratulate all of our students who have achieved an excellent set of results.”

Chris Hart, headteacher at Carterton Community College, said: “Our students have shown deep commitment, resilience and fortitude over the last two years, and especially during the ten-week assessment period upon which the results are founded.”