On this day, 24th August, next year our eldest daughter will collect her GCSE results. It might seem odd to be looking so far into the future but the reality is that it will be upon us before we know it. She has a huge year ahead of her so I thought it would be good to share my thoughts on this crucial time in her life.
My own GCSE results day experience
I can remember my GCSE results as though they are tattooed onto the back of my hand:
- Maths: C
- English Literature: B
- English Language: B
- Science (double award): BB
- Geography: C
- CDT (graphics): C
- Art (graphics): D
- French: D
- Business studies: D
These are by no means an amazing set of results but I remember feeling very proud of myself at the time. These results enabled me to start work at a local chemical company on their training scheme that saw them send me to college for higher education.
What I don’t remember is worrying about my results or feeling under any particular pressure. There was not a huge expectation from my parents and I never felt like I was competing against my friends and peers. I do recall my parents seemed proud of my achievement, though they were never pushy.
I know I studied for my exams but not like kids today are expected to study. I think I started properly revising in the March of my exam year which by today’s standards is absurb (apparently).
You get out what you put in
I’ve had children in school now for 10 years. Helen and I have always agreed that it’s the effort that counts and not the attainment.
All children are different and develop at different speeds. Attainments for me is vanity that can mask the work ethic of lower achievers.
I would rather see my daughters achieve across the board Cs safe in the knowledge that they worked hard to achieve them. This isn’t being defeatist, it’s being pragmatic. Life is always teaching us lessons and we learn so much after school that we take forward in our lives.
But my mottos of “you get out what you put in” stands true. Nobody can argue that in my opinion. If you could do a scientific study on two individuals with the same measurable level of intelligence, where one worked as hard as they possibly can and the other at 50% of that level, the results would be clear.
Obviously, that test can never be done. But if you think about it I’m sure you’ll agree with what I am getting at.
The effort is what counts for me.
Schools are broken
I’ve once felt that the way schools are structured in the UK is broken.
There are so many ways of educating across so many genres, yet we are locked into a system that pins so much on written exams. Why is that?
Maths, English and Science are pushed so hard these days that it comes at the detriment of the artistic subjects such as music, dance, drama and art. That is a real shame. Once again – all children are different and have different strengths – why don’t we encourage a system that plays to those strengths?
Too much pressure
Frankly, schools are putting too much pressure on our young people. But is it their fault?
Our government insist on school league tables and targets and itself puts pressure on our school leaders. This pressure is clearly being passed down the line and it ends with our children.
Kids are cracking under this pressure and their mental health is suffering greatly as a result. So why are we not doing anything about it?
Well, we did do something about it. We moved our children to a different secondary school for a start. From an Ofsted outstanding school to an Ofsted good school. It’s the best thing we ever did for them.
No plan B
GCSEs are no longer graded A to E. Instead we have a 1 to 9 system with 9 being the highest achievement.
Gaining a 4 is a classed as a pass and talking with our second daughter, who will take her exams in two years, she was aiming for a 4. She will admit she’s no academic – that isn’t her strength. She has numerous strengths and qualities, though so she needs to ply to them.
We said that she should be aiming higher than a 4. This isn’t us being pushy parents though. it’s practical and sound advice.
If she aims for a 4 then what if she has a nightmare in her maths exam? A bad day – we all have them. She could end up failing it rather than getting that 4.
Aim higher, aim for a 6 or a 7. Push yourself and put the effort in. As the saying goes, “Aim for the stars and you might just catch the moon”.
Of course, she might surprise herself and get that 6. What a feeling that would then be.
That’s why there’s no plan B. If you have a plan B, where’s the incentive to put your all into plan A.
Work hard, play hard and achieve
So my advice to my eldest daughter heading into her final year of her GCSEs is to work hard but also play hard. Grinding it out obsessively is no way to live and some downtime is always required for a healthy balance.
If she does this, and I truly believe she will, then she will achieve what she wants to achieve.
Thanks for reading.