A level results day.

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Results day evokes anxious feelings deep within, not because I am a middle leader, not because I have results to collect and analyse, not because friend’s children have results to collect but because of my own past, my A Level results day.  Image via http://www.theguardian.com

What seems like forever ago on a day like today I was given the worst results I had ever received. I was devastated, the dreams of being a French teacher were gone in the time it took to open the envelope and unfold the piece of paper. I hadn’t had the best nor easiest two A level years but I thought I’d done better than the letters in front of my eyes. Clearly not. The paper didn’t lie. Totally numb I slowly walked away from my friends, the teachers, the head of sixth form who had handed me the envelope. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t believe it.  Image via http://www.thestudentreview.co.uk 

In the end I was fine, all of my friends went off to university I continued the year in France working for a charity and ‘resat’ my A Levels at a Higher Ed. college in the centre of Leeds. I went on to university, completed the B.Ed (hons) that I had earmarked at 15 as “the one”. 

I’ll never forget that feeling of utter helplessness and devastation that consumed me, I felt lost and all at sea being tossed around in all directions. My friends were celebrating their successes and making plans to move on with the next exciting stages of their lives. I wasn’t. Image by Jo Empson via Getty Images 

Every results day I read the headlines feel truly happy for the students who have worked their guts out to achieve record results, pushing the bar higher than previous years, I feel elated for them. My mind turns to remember the ones that didn’t get the record results, the ones who didn’t make the grade and who feel lost. Just like I did.   Image via http://www.daily mail.co.uk

They aren’t useless, they need support, some time, kindness, some direction and conversation. They need hugs and some love too. In time they will find their path, the numbness will fade and they will make steps forward. Support, honesty and options will be required because I questioned absolutely everything, almost throwing in the towel after so much time, work and effort achieving seemingly nothing. 

Thankfully I wasn’t prepared to let my dreams be dashed by exams that decided how good I was in those two and a half hours rather than across the whole two year course. It took me quite a while to build my confidence up, and initial steps were tentative to say the least, but the steps forwards towards my goal were made and in time I arrived at my destination albeit via the scenic route.  

Image via http://www.shutterstock.com


I always tell students that exams results don’t make the person, they don’t make you who you truly are, they are impersonal, administered to thousands of people after sleepless nights and differing circumstances. They don’t give you a smile nor a pat on the back they are words on a page, in a booklet, hoops you have to jump through, dive over and scurry under rather like an assault course trying to persuade, argue and enlist all that the exam boards demand of you for the range of marks. Despite having to complete them and because the impersonal exams ‘system’ demands it they don’t complete you, they do not make you who you are. I share my results experiences with students and despite completing a degree, A levels were the hardest exams I have ever had to complete to date. I share my story because the system doesn’t work for everyone, if it did there would be a 100% pass rate. There wouldn’t be ‘disappointment’ and some newspapers wouldn’t have anything to report on on significant days in August! 

Pastoral and careers support are so much better and more personal now than in the early nineties. Students would have been tracked, supported and monitored by their teachers and today students will have been hugged allowing tears to be shed, support and direction given. Those students will find their way after a bump in the road, a kind word and support. It may take time and a different route but they will get there. 

A system that is far from personalised that assesses at the end of a two year course with its ever changing boundaries and moving goalposts and media that batters and questions the blood, sweat, tears and hard work of students rising to meet the systems demands having given their all is shameful. Students should be applauded for their efforts not berated. And those that have missed out, help provide to make them believe in themselves so they can rise again.   Image via http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk 

I don’t teach KS5 at my current school but today former students have been sharing their triumphs and blips with me. I’m truly proud of all of them and I hope the paths they pursue from here gives them joy and makes them better people but I did share this with them from Ian Gilbert’s excellent book ‘Independent Thinking’. Image via Ian Gilbert and http://www.independentthinkingpress.com 

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