Will this bumpy road ever lead back to normality?
This exam season is the first opportunity for many students to take formal exams. They’ve had to get to grips with the extended preparation period as well as exam hall rules and regulations, and the unique feeling when the time comes to ‘turn over the paper’.
Of course, these young people are no strangers to pressure. Social media is an ever-present reminder that everyone else is enjoying a near perfect existence, and the competition to succeed academically and professionally is greater than ever.
The ‘grown ups’ are still not getting it
The package of support that was intended to make the path back to pre-pandemic arrangements as smooth as possible was marred by errors, both in the advance information and the exam papers themselves. And AQA, one of the country’s most influential exam boards allowed an A level chemistry paper to make its way onto Snapchat, Tiktok and other social media sites more than a week before students took their places in the exam hall.
The truth is that this year is still very far from normal. This means that the usual pesky exam questions and tight timeframes will add to uncertainty about grade boundaries and final grade decisions. In spite of recognising that ‘there have been real bumps along the road’, the head of Ofqual has gone so far as to warn that, in comparison with last year, every school should expect to see GCSE and A level grades fall this summer.
Many students will have an idea of where they want to be in September. Whatever Ofqual decides, it’s still highly competitive out there. Whatever plans are in place, it’s highly recommended to approach results day with a reasonably open mind, and contingency plans in place.
Thinking about a range of possible outcomes will allow students to take a positive approach to an unforeseen fork in the road. Before logging on, it’s definitely worth checking out colleges and universities with vacancies and thinking about alternatives. For their part, teachers can play an invaluable role. Simply reminding students to take a deep breath is a start. They shouldn’t necessarily jump at the first idea – after all, three years and a substantial financial commitment are at stake.
Most important (but beware of eye-rolls here), these important life events are crucial. Phrases such as ‘character building’, ‘things happen for a reason’ and ‘…make us stronger’ might well make an appearance in the next week or so. And they may be clichés, but they’re true!