Some people go through A level Results Day only once: their own day when their results come out. Parents may go through their own and that of their children and possibly the results day for their grandchildren. For us teachers it is an annual occurrence and we never get used to it. It is often an exhausting day filled with many emotions and pleasant surprises.

A level Results Day is the day when students find out if they have got into the UK universities of their choice. If they have not applied to UK universities, it is the day when they can tell their chosen university that they have met the criteria needed to start their chosen course. It is the day when the next stage of their lives suddenly becomes a lot clearer. In many ways it is the day when adulthood starts. School is over, all that growing and nurturing has produced its fruits, the ‘harvest’ is in.

How did we get here this year?

The Class of 2021 have been through a unique set of circumstances that have affected everyone on the planet. Yet despite all the drama, they have had to focus on their studies under very difficult circumstances. Some enjoyed the lockdown and found it easier to work from home, others found the whole experience traumatic. It is our job as teachers to accommodate and encourage all students. Below, I will give some examples of how our incredible students arrived at Results Day.

One student is a budding entrepreneur and unexpectedly found his business taking off right when he should have been concentrating on his studies. He had to learn quickly how to manage his time. His success was down to his ability to communicate and plan and keep his teachers in the loop. This is a remarkable achievement.

Several students were incredibly well motivated, knew what they wanted and where they wanted to study and what they had to do to achieve their goals. Some of them had an occasional wobble which is only to be expected. Well-motivated students are like rock climbers, they are totally focussed on what they want to achieve… unfortunately sometimes they look down and feel dizzy and can’t quite believe what they have achieved so far and how much more they still have to do. But they got there in the end and the joy was there for all to see.

Some students have personalities that are more relaxed and need to be given a bit more of a sense of urgency. Some students needed a lot of pastoral support, others none at all. Some students had dreams and ambitions that had been with them since childhood, others only really found out what they would like to study a few months before applying to university.

The application process for the universities in each country is completely different and some are far more complex than others. It is important that the students take ownership of the process so that they feel the responsibility of what they are doing and become goal-oriented to achieve. All our students showed remarkable maturity and creativity in choosing courses and completing the sometimes tedious entry requirements. For many it is the first time in their lives when they have had to put their achievements, strengths and weaknesses onto a form to show complete strangers. Taking such an objective look at oneself is always daunting.

The application forms are completed, the examinations taken, the summer holiday starts. Then in mid-August, Results Day arrives.

Quite a few tanned, relaxed and enthusiastic students came into school. It was lovely to see them and to see their excitement about their futures. It is one of the most rewarding parts of being a teacher. Some years, and this was no exception, there can be issues with the universities and it is good to have teachers on hand to phone and send emails to clarify the confusion.

The great thing is that now, all students have places at institutions where they want to study. It is so very satisfying and a credit to their maturity and hard work.

As for us teachers and support staff…. we are already preparing ourselves to go through it all again next year.

Gillian Carroll

Physics Teacher and Careers Counsellor