There must be some mistake…

I see that the re-mark and appeal culture is spreading to universities:

Difficult, isn’t it.  On the one hand, you can sympathise with students who are disappointed to have missed the grade or the place they were aiming for, particularly if it’s by a narrow margin. And of course, the comparatively large number of grades at A-level and GCSE that go up on re-mark doesn’t given anyone faith that the system really is fair, accurate and reliable.

But – there really is  a growing tendency for both students and their parents to feel that if the result isn’t exactly what they want, or if they haven’t got a university place or a job that they want – or even the place in the hockey team that they were after –  that they should always be able to do something about it.

Now, it’s obvious that not everyone who wants an A* grade, a 1st class degree or even a starring role in the school production can have one – some people will always be disappointed. Learning that you don’t always get what you want   is part of life. Supporting your children or your pupils in realising that however upset they are, the world hasn’t fallen apart and they will get over it and in due course find something else to want like mad is pretty important.

But, you might say, isn’t it worth doing absolutely everything you can to see if you can get that disappointing outcome reversed?   Well, not always.  Sending off an appeal every single time can actually make it harder to accept when it doesn’t work in the end – it just drags out the agony. And endlessly reapplying for a particular university, or course, or school, can be a horrendous waste of time and effort, and be all the more heartbreaking at the end. I knew a student once who applied for medicine 4 years running! She was never a strong candidate, but she didn’t seem to be able to accept the finality of rejection – if she had, she could have graduated from some other course by that time!    I’m certainly not denying people the idea of a second chance – I worked in a retake college for quite a while, I’d be a real hypocrite to do that – but some realism is essential.

In some cases, people seem to divorce the idea of meriting an outcome from getting it – they seem to think that “wanting it” is enough.  I’d quite like to have got the top first in my year at university, but I was neither clever enough nor worked hard enough for it – so I knew it wasn’t reasonable to object that I didn’t. That  sort of reality check often isn’t there now, it appears.

A friend of mine summed it up. A pupil said to her: “But I want an A”. My friend’s response: “Well, I want to be a size 12, but it’s not going to happen!”

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