So, another one (or rather two) of the school year’s key events over – A-level and GCSE results days.
Always a busy time for me – I’m in school first thing on the Wednesday before, downloading the results into our system (almost inevitably the computer doesn’t do exactly what it should at some point), checking all is as it should be (no missing results, for example), before printing it all out ready to give the kids on the Thursday. And then on the Thursday, of course, there’s advice to give (Clearing for Upper Sixth, revised university choices and sometimes resits for Lower Sixth, revised A-level choices for Year 11), and a few tears to dry, in between all the congratulations and jumping for joy.
There’s also all sorts of analysis to be done. None of us may like crude judgements simply based on the exam results, but we do need to know what the figures say, both for internal and external purposes. We always look out for any anomalies – for example, if one paper in a subject is unusually low, then we might want to suggest re-marks to the kids. We also scan through to see if anyone is just below a grade boundary -it’s probably worth getting a paper re-marked, and for A-levels, it may mean that if they’ve just missed their university offer, but are very close to the grade above, they still get their place.
Apart from all the number-crunching, inevitably we are super-eager to know how the kids actually did – are they off to their first-choice university, have they got the grades we knew they desperately wanted, has the hard work paid off, and in some cases, have they got away without not being as workish as they might!
Having the info the day before always feels odd – of course, we can’t share it with anyone outside the school, and we are pretty restricted who can see it in the school (on a “need to know” basis) – but sometimes, when a kid has done marvellously well, I still feel bursting to tell someone. This year, I also wanted to tell two colleagues how stunningly their classes had done, but had to hold my tongue for a day.
Both A-level and GCSE results tend to be a bit of an emotional roller-coaster. There are always some brilliant success stories (and yes, we will try to get them in the press if we can), but inevitably, there will be some kids who are disappointed. You can’t always judge who’ll be upset, either – sometimes you’ll find someone who’s got stunning results all round, but is sobbing her heart out because the subject she really cared about is an A not an A*. Then you’ll see someone who you know was aiming for higher, but is still pleased and relieved to get the grades they have, and is ready to go out and celebrate.
The university expansion for candidates with AAB grades or above actually really helped a number of our A-level students who had just missed offers, but were still given a place. It even meant in a couple of cases that places to read super-competitive subjects like Medicine were given out during Clearing! OK, I’m still very worried about the long-term repercussions, but I put that to the back of my mind on the day.
A-level results day has always been a mixed bag, but it’s very noticeable how much more tense GCSE results day has become in recent years. A lot of that, I think, is due to the tendency of the more competitive universities to use GCSEs as their first selection filter – so if you haven’t got a certain number of A* grades, you can effectively forget some courses and some universities. It’s tough, isn’t it – I sympathise with the universities for using a filter based on something that’s externally validated (i.e. using exam results not just whatever lovely things we say about applicants), but it’s not at all unusual for kids to do a lot of growing up in the sixth form, so allowing a bit more margin for error would seem fairer.
Results days also signal the approach of the new term – where has all the holiday gone? And why have I not even managed to finish tidying my house properly this year? I also have another few Personal Statements to read before the joys of two Teacher Days on Monday and Tuesday next week.