Thursday 12 August 2021

Inflated Exam Results? I think not!

It’s been a big week for our teenagers this week: first A level results on Tuesday, then GCSE results today. No doubt there’s been cheers and tears in lots of households! Thankfully there were cheers here at PhotoFairytales HQ when my daughter received her results on Tuesday - she’s all set now to start her degree in the autumn and everything is good. 

BUT… to let you into a little bit of behind-the-scenes life here, I’m afraid amongst all the cheers there’s been a lot of ranting (and if I’m being perfectly honest, swearing too) - all aimed at the news reports.

As soon as I turned on the breakfast news on Tuesday morning I was instantly hit with news about ‘inflated’ grades, and it was exactly the same again this morning - before our kids had even received their results! Just so that we’re clear here, these are NOT inflated grades. Just because results have been better over the last couple of years doesn’t mean that these students have had it easy or been handed nice, fluffy grades decided on a whim by their teacher to make everyone feel better. I think anyone who thinks for a minute that these teenagers have had it easy, or been handed something on a plate they don’t deserve, is probably not living through this level of the education system first hand.

Let’s look at the challenges they’ve faced: lockdowns (probably tougher on teenagers than just about any age group), some of them have been ill themselves, struggling with anxiety, depression or stress, concerns about schools closing and/or opening, having to wear masks all day long, many have had to deal with family members becoming ill or dying, in many cases poor internet connections, arguments with parents working from home and other siblings over who gets to use the laptop (assuming they have one), trying to find somewhere comfortable and quiet to work (I bet not many had access to a nice ergonomic office chair and desk), patchy support from schools and colleges (because, sorry to say this, but not all teachers and establishments have been ‘absolutely fantastic’ - some were distinctly flaky!). 

Yes, there’s been some schools that have really managed to step up, being there at the end of the phone or internet to give feedback, support and proper teaching in a regulated and timely fashion. Others haven’t. Some teachers went out of their way to make sure their pupils were OK. Others didn’t. So no, not all teachers and schools have been fantastic. Not that I don’t understand (at least in the first lockdown, not so much after that when they’ve had time to adjust), not many of us can adapt to this kind of event without having a wobble! It was expected, however, that the kids knuckled down and worked just as hard as ever: keeping their work to the same standard (if not improving), handing their work in on time and properly completed, etc. That’s a lot to ask from anybody, but for many teens that’s been incredibly tough. And yet they still put in some incredible work for their teachers, the school heads, and the examining board (because it’s not their teachers that have been handing out straight A’s to their favourite pupils - this has been checked and rechecked before the grades were awarded!) - work that got them some brilliant grades. 

We should be celebrating the fact that grades have been great this year, not denigrating it as if its all been a bit too easy and grades have been handed out like sweets.

The newspaper headlines our students really deserve!

The media have also been saying ‘students have been assessed by teachers on the work that they completed’ - which is true, but many would think that means students have had their daily work ticked by Sir or Ms, that’s become their end of year result, and that they’ve only had to learn half the curriculum anyway (so this years cohort is only half educated, so even less deserving of their grades)! This is not the case. 

I can only speak for our own situation and those I’ve witnessed from friends and family, but it hasn’t just been daily work that’s been assessed - this years’ students may not have sat exams in the traditional sense (ie, in a big hall with desks spread apart), but they HAVE been given near constant assessments over the last months, completing exam papers on a weekly basis under exam conditions (so not sitting at home, with their text books open in front of them and given all the time in the world). That’s like sitting exams not just for a couple of weeks, but for months. That’s tough! While these assessments were happening, teachers were still often trying to cram in the entire curriculum - my daughter studied all her modules, just as she would have done in a normal year. Unfortunately, a lot of that was incredibly rushed. That added a huge amount of pressure: not only was she learning new things but she was constantly having to revise and be assessed for the slightly less-new things. It was relentless.

If your child has received good grades, don’t let them for one single minute think that those grades have been ‘inflated’. 

The work they’ve done has been tougher than any other year (in a normal exam year, students are given timeframes, revision lessons, study timetables, mock runs - and more, all to get them prepared… this year hasn’t had that). The grade they’ve received should reflect that gargantuan effort that they’ve put in. They should be proud - inflated, in fact! (Although don’t get me wrong, I think the grade gap between private and state schools is shocking, and that should definitely be addressed!!)

Have you been going through results days in your home this week? Tell me what you've made of it all, I'd love to hear from you!

Sarah :)

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