If you have an 18-year-old in your life, as I do, or even if you vaguely know of one, please take a moment to think kindly of them and wish them well today.
Today is A level results day and for my son and his peers, taking their A Levels in May and June was their first ever attempt at sitting a formal exam. Can you imagine just how unprepared most of them must have felt?
In March 2020 they had the GCSE rug suddenly and unexpectedly whipped out from under their young feet, just as they were preparing to ramp up for the final push towards exams which never happened. I remember only too vividly the feeling of total freefall and bewilderment that descended following the government announcement that there would be no exams whatsoever for the foreseeable future.
My son then spent over five whole months – April to September – without any kind of schooling, instruction, focus or even certainty about whether he’d be able to return to sixth form in the autumn. Typically (or so I’m told) like a lot of boys approaching GCSEs, my son had only really just begun to properly apply himself to his studies just before Covid hit, assuming that he could put his foot to the floor and ‘pull it out of the bag’ at the last minute in the exam hall. So the idea that his grades would now be assessed on his previous, rather hit and miss academic efforts, was not at all comforting.
He did get a place at his school’s sixth form for his chosen subjects, but then schools closed again just before Christmas 2020, depriving his year of a further four months of structured learning before reopening in mid-March 2021.
The Children’s Commissioner wrote at around this time that: ‘the impact of missed education during Covid will affect some children sitting exams for years to come [and will] leave a chasm between those who barely missed a class and those who have been severely punished by Covid.