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A-Level Results Day…..

I feel for the students picking up their A-Level exam results today.

Predictably, it’s been a complete farce.

36 hours before tens of thousands of 18-year-old’s pick up that all important envelope the Department for Education announced a last-minute change which means pupils can have whichever result is highest from their estimated grades, mock exams or exams in the Autumn. No one seems to be that clear on how this works exactly, to be fair, the government only had six months to sort this out.

Today almost 40% of students have had their marks downgraded by an algorithm….

… Of course, a computer system knows what grades students should achieve better than their teachers. 

It was always going to be a mess when coronavirus led to exams being cancelled. I feel for this year’s students because it is all completely out of their hands, I do hope that there is some better news for some of the people I’ve seen on social media who’ve missed out on university places and inexplicably ended up with much lower grades than they’d been predicted.

The rest of this post is not about today’s farce and it has been a cock up of epic proportions, put it aside for the next few moments and take an normal exam year….

In all honesty, I felt for students doing A-Levels before the pandemic, I felt for them last year, the year before that, the year before that and, well, you get the picture.

Having completed my A-Levels a few years ago, I’ve spent the past 12 years at various colleges, 6thforms and schools on results day as a journalist.

I have to say A-Level results day and GCSE results day are without doubt the most boring news days of the entire year and I include Christmas Day in that statement where no-one is listening to the news and nothing happens.

There’s only so many ways you can write a story about exam results this is how it always pans out. Elated students tear open envelope, pass rate up again, number of highest grades awarded up again, claims exams are getting easier, crowing head teachers on excellent school results, counsellor on what to do if you haven’t got the results you need, blah, blah, blah. Though there will be extra angles to go at this time round.

As dull as it is, that’s not my biggest problem with the coverage, my issue is the fact we don’t celebrate ALL abilities. 

We NEVER hear from someone who’s messed it up, we don’t hear from the average students. 

Every results day I’ve covered, they’ve all been the same, carefully choreographed so only the very brightest pupils are put forward to do interviews and talk about their results. A steady stream of straight A kids. I have nothing against straight A kids, they’ve worked hard, fair play but I want to hear from the others too.

One year as news editor, I took a call from panicked press officer at a local college asking if we could remove one pupil from a video my reporter had filmed. You might ask why? 

Did this person not want to be on film anymore? 

Was there a safeguarding issue?  

No, none of the above.

The college wanted them removed because (and this was their words) they’d only got one B and Cs.

It took me a minute or two to comprehend what I was being told. I refused to remove them; the video didn’t go out at all, so the college got no news coverage.

I was indignant on behalf of this kid. One B and two Cs is not an easy achievement. I was also indignant on behalf of myself here are my results:

English Combined B

History C

Media Studies C

They might not be a string of As but I’m proud of them, I worked hard to get my results and to get into my first-choice university. 

I’m not thick, I just don’t excel in an exam environment, I could sit the same A Levels in the same conditions a hundred times and I’d never be a straight A student. There is nothing wrong with that. 

Surely colleges should be celebrating EVERYONE who worked hard regardless of the final outcome.

Graduation Day one (it’s that long ago they are actual physical photos).

We put all this pressure on our teenagers and insist on showing them only the high-flyers. It’s not healthy and sets up a lot of young people to feel like failures, adulthood is going to do that on PLENTY of occasions, do we really need to start crushing them at 18?

I understand colleges want to show that they can get students to Oxbridge, that’s fine, but they also have a duty to show that they work for the majority of teenagers who won’t be applying to Oxbridge; that they will have the support available to get a decent set of results and they’ll still be able to go to university, if they want to.

As a teenager watching results day news, I’d probably have felt comforted seeing students who were like me. Middle of the road and feeling proud, not the subtle implication that middle of the road results aren’t good enough (they are good enough).

I feel we give our teenagers such mixed messages at this time of year. We’ll hear from countless advice services saying: “If you don’t the grades you were expecting, it’s not the end of the world, it may seem it now but there are always options available” and then refuse to celebrate what are seen as ‘average’ results. 

I always wanted to be a journalist, from being about 8.

I have NEVER been able to get my head around maths.

I was told I’d struggle to get a C in GCSE history.

I got an A in GCSE history – my stubborn streak and “I’ll show you” attitude kicked into gear.

At GCSE, I got 5 Bs, 4 Cs, a D in maths and an E in German – I should apologise to my parents considering they they agreed to having German exchange students living with them on three occasions and shelled out for multiple trips; in fact I visited Germany on five separate occasions and repaid them by getting an E, sorry.

Everyone tells you that you need at least a C in English, Science and Maths. I had no problem with English and Science, Maths was a completely different ball game. First time around I could only get a D in Maths (foundation paper), I knew I’d have to re-sit.

Second time around I got a D and cried, it was my own fault I rarely attended the lesson – choosing to mess about in the canteen instead. The third time I sat the damn exam I finally got C.

At AS Level (first year of college) I cocked it up I got a B and two Ds in History and Media. I was gutted. I’d underestimated A Levels and it showed. 

I re-sat my History and Media exams and got two Bs – and an A in that module’s English exam.

At A Level I got one B and two Cs – an A (film studies) and a C (textiles) at AS Level.

I got a 2:1 in my degree in English and Media.

I got a Post Graduate Diploma.

I got a job as a broadcast journalist and somehow managed to stay employed in the radio industry – an industry that isn’t exactly known for stability.

It was hard graft, it didn’t all go exactly to plan, I mean, no one wants to sit GCSE maths THREE times.

Despite setbacks I still got to become a journalist. Did I think I’d get better results at A Level? Yes. Was I disappointed? A little. Did it matter in the long run? No.

Post Grad graduation with Pricey and Rachel

I know getting into university depends on getting the right grades, but your grades won’t follow you for the rest of your life.

In God knows how many interviews, I have never been asked what my exam results are, I’ve never been asked what degree classification I got.

I’ve got jobs because I can do the job and am passionate about it, that will always be more important to any employer than a piece of paper or where you went to university.

Whatever your results and whatever you choose to do, it will be fine. 

There’s nothing wrong with sitting an exam late, there’s nothing wrong with trying again. There’s nothing wrong with deciding you don’t want to go university, you might want to go and live in a hut in outer Mongolia, that too, is fine.

The path might change direction and things might not go to plan, but everything has a way of working itself out in the end.

You aren’t defined by exam results; you aren’t defined by this day.

And there is nothing wrong with a B and two Cs – no matter what a marketing department says.

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

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