Grenfell Tower pupils enjoy 'good day' as they collect exam results

By Judith Burns
Education reporter

  • Published
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"With everything that's happened, I just think it shows how strong we are."

Students from Kensington Aldridge Academy, at the foot of Grenfell Tower, were among those receiving their AS-level results on Thursday.

Four pupils died in the fire in the London tower block in June, 50 were made homeless and the whole school has had to relocate.

"It's been tough for people," says Kai Chappell, the school's 17-year-old head boy.

He was among about 100 Kensington Aldridge students picking up their results from a classroom in a nearby primary school.

But after the trauma of the past few months, results day was a good day, according to head David Benson.

Overall, 62% received A-C grades and 42% were given As or Bs and the school was in the top 10% for its value added score.

'Very challenging'

The academy opened just under three years ago and its state of the art buildings are inside the emergency cordon around the tower.

A temporary school is being built to house them from mid-September on Wormwood Scrubs, an open space a couple of miles away.

But for the last few weeks of the summer term, pupils were allocated classrooms in other local secondary schools - Burlington Danes Academy and Latymer Upper School.

As a new school, Kensington Aldridge was not yet full - there were only pupils in Years 7, 8 and 9, plus those in Year 12, who were doing AS-levels.

Image source, PA
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Some students took their exams while the fire was still burning

This was their first set of exam results.

On the morning of 14 June, Mr Benson was among a small group of Kensington Aldridge staff standing outside, watching the tower burn.

Alongside trying to find out what had happened to students and their families who lived there, an immediate concern had been to find exam rooms for pupils to take AS-levels scheduled for that morning.

He says the school was closed for only two days while staff rewrote the timetable and organised the relocation.

"We tried to bring as much order and as much discipline to the situation as we could," Mr Benson remembers.

"I am not going to lie to you and say it was smooth. It was very, very difficult and very, very challenging

"There was the emotion of the situation and the deep concern that we had for members of our school community, but there were also a whole load of practical challenges.

"Children have one chance in life at an education. These were important exams. We had to keep going."

'Bring the children together'

The school was given a lot of advice and support from educational psychologists and trauma management specialists.

"We also had our instincts," said Mr Benson.

"My team and I said we've got to reopen. We've got to bring the children together into one place."

"It was so difficult that half-term after Grenfell and so sad in so many ways, but there were moments when we were inspired."

One student, who escaped with injuries, continued to email her homework from hospital.

"The overwhelming majority of students in the aftermath of the fire were eager to come to school, they were eager to see their friends, they were eager to carry on with their learning."

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David Benson was with the Kensington Aldridge students on results day

Kai got A grades in all four of his subjects.

"It's definitely good news. I was quite anxious," he said. "Our teachers have done so much for us."

Amin, 16, got two As and a C - but he said he was thinking of one of his closest friends who died in the fire, along with her family, as he opened the envelope.

"I will never forget them," he said. "They were people who I saw every day after school. That could have been me. That could have been my own family."

Jade, 17, said her results of three As and a B were a "huge surprise - it shows how strong we are as a school".

'Part of remembering'

Daniel was one of those who had an exam on the very morning of the fire.

"The building was still burning. You're worrying about people in the tower, but you are also worrying about your future because the exam can decide your future.

"Really ambitious people, really talented people lost everything.

"It should give us strength to achieve the best in our life to make sure we don't waste our lives.

"The fact that we can walk in here and get our results and have smiles on our faces, it's part of remembering and it's part of celebrating the people who lived in Grenfell."

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Daniel was among the students who took exams on the morning after the fire

Mr Benson says he expects the school to be in its temporary buildings for about a year.

"We need to continue to tread carefully and to continue to have support in place for pupils, staff and parents who have been affected."

He says his pupils have been "incredible".

"They had the bravery and the courage to come back in, feeling very confused and uneasy about what had to happen.

"They had the maturity to listen to us about what was important and then they supported each other through it."