Exam Results Day 2020: A Teacher's Perspective

As I write this, the arrangement for awarding exam students their grades this year has taken another dramatic turn. This has done nothing but fuel a fire of high tension and layers of doubt over the integrity of the 2020 qualification allocation process. Like many of you, I’m sure, I have been inundated with emails from worried students and unsettled parents, desperate for any more information that we just don’t have. And if we do happen to be able to share something remotely useful and of comfort, it’s out of date by the time the email has hit their inbox.

In Kent, and throughout England, we have had the benefit of seeing Scotland ‘go first’ in assigning their grades. Before Thursday, I must admit to naively thinking we would be able to gain some insight and an advantage: they test the water, and we sail through calmly. However, all we currently seem to have gained is a complex extra layer of confusion. A quick Google search of ‘exam results 2020’ immediately brings up a sea of emotive content. Vocabulary like ‘blame,’ ‘pressure’, ‘anger’,‘distress’ and ‘uproar’ are scattered over the screen. Words on a screen and juicy headlines to some, a living reality to us and our students.

Those of us that have taken A Levels and GCSEs know that nobody forgets this crucial process: it is one of the pivotal moments in the formative years of the late teens and early twenties that shapes us. Regardless of whether it is remembered for the right or wrong reasons, it’s remembered. Most of us will have at least had the benefit of education working as a transaction - on the whole what we put in is what we got out. If the decision to allocate results based on Centre Assessment Grades still stands on Thursday, at least we are as close we can be to achieving this transaction. However, does the u-turn put us back in the firing line.

I expect only Thursday will tell. Between now and then though, as the emails continue to arrive; I know practicing a little self-compassion is going to be key. It will be almost impossible to provide meaningful support for our students, parents, and even other staff if we haven’t looked after ourselves first. I don’t mean self-pity, or self-indulgence: just a simple acknowledgement that this has been one of the hardest in our career. And the next few months are likely to be a challenge too. We may not be able to answer that parent’s question there and then. We may not know exactly the right thing to say to that student. Our colleagues may be overwhelmed. This process might take it out of us. It may be upsetting, frustrating or painful. And that doesn’t make us weak, soft or unprofessional. Just human.

Exam results day can be a hugely stressful time for students and this year is likely to be especially taxing. No doubt you’ve provided countless hours of support and reassurance to your class, so as the big day approaches nerves and emotions may be running high. Here are 5 tips to help you support your students navigate the emotional roller coaster that is exam results day.

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