It’s an A-level exam results day with a difference and how sad is that. Nearly 40 years later I still remember the summer of ’78 anxiously waiting for my results. I had offers from three universities to study English Literature, a path I’d chosen for no other reason that I didn’t much fancy getting a job.
Having performed badly in my mock exams failing all three disastrously I had resigned myself to poor grades. Those mock results had though given me the much-needed kick up the backside to revise hard in the weeks leading up to the exams.
I was able to remember enough quotes from the Shakespeare plays The Tempest and Othello, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Milton’s Samson Agonisties and Austen’s Emma to feel that I’d done ok in my English Literature exam.
I felt less confident about History where I’d desperately managed to construct an entire essay out of the one thing I could recall about Peter the Great which was that he’d turned a trickle into a torrent.
Much of the summer after I left school was spent working at Sainsbury’s and watching various punk gigs in the Coventry nightclubs Tiffany’s and Mr George.
In between I played pool with friends, drank beer and eat cheese and ham toasties at the local pub – great training for being a student.
The weather wasn’t as good as the summer of ’76 but the music was amazing. The charts the week I got my results was the definition of eclectic.
Grease’s You’re the One that I Want was no. 1, Substitute by Clout was no. 2, Boogie Oogie Oogie 3, The Smurf Song, 4 and Three Times a Lady 5.
The top 20 also featured Boney M, Sham 69, The Boomtown Rats, Showaddywaddy and Gladys Knight and the Pips. Those were the days!
Sooner than I really wanted the big day arrived. The results arrived by post, none of that highly stressful and very public going to the school business then.
I have vague recollections of heading off on my own to my bedroom, slowly tearing open the envelope and squinting at the contents through one eye.
I saw that I’d got B in English Literature, C in Economics and an E, which was a pass, in History – just enough I soon learned to secure my place at Liverpool University. I let out a yelp of joy which confirmed to my anxious parents that all was well.
I was really proud of the B in English – I loved the books I studied and you could tell my teachers did too. It was the highest grade for English in the small sixth-form of my bog-standard comprehensive that year.
I’m sure that my teachers’ predicted grades would have been lower than what I got and if they were then moderated to take into account the general results of the school as they are doing this year I’d have failed everything.
With all the hardships our youngsters have had to face surely, on this occasion, the teachers’ predicted grades should be accepted with the opportunity to appeal and take the exams in the Autumn.
A-level students have had to miss out on the stresses of sitting exams and the character building that comes with success and failure.
They’ve missed out on the rites of passage that go with leaving school and the fun of a summer like no other before you life changes forever when you get a job or go to university.
Saddest thing is that those jobs will be hard to come by and the experience of starting university socially distant will lead to even more missing out. Time to give our 18 year-olds a break I say.