The summer break is always a mix of work and rest in education as teachers finish off, tidy up, recuperate, get new ideas and start to plan again.  Added to this for secondary and higher education colleagues are the exam results.

Results in GCSE and post-16 represent milestones which determine the next stage of the journey for our students.  For schools, they have become headlines which define organisational success or failure.  These are very high stakes points in the lives of students and teachers.  Consequently, the build up to them is always a period of anticipation, anxiety and stress as young people, parents and teachers alike wait to see what grades have been achieved and what they will mean for September.

“Covid exposes & amplifies existing vulnerabilities & privileges”

Early on in the pandemic, we knew that exams and results would require careful handling – even with Covid-19 these results both acknowledge the journey so far and determine the future for our young people.  It was with feelings of immense frustration and anger therefore that we faced the situation in Scotland regarding A Levels and then saw it repeated in England.  For young people looking to move on to university and other next steps, this time is critical and short.  Places, accommodation, jobs and funding all move fast to be ready for a September start.  With anxiety levels high already due to Covid-19, the pressures of the last week have done little to offer hope and encouragement to our young people.  Indeed, in this time of pandemic, Bishop Philip reflects that “Covid-19 simply, in so many ways, exposes and amplifies existing vulnerabilities and privileges” and the impact of the algorithm laid that bare for us all to see.

Thankfully, now students of both A Level and GCSE exams will have access to their centre assessed grades which should be a benefit to most – we are grateful for that and pray for their new adventures with all it will bring.  A Level students can see their paths again and can move on from the distress and disappointment they had felt, now getting packed up and excited for their future.  These parents can breathe a sigh of relief and see their children off on their journey to university and beyond.  Our prayers will be with them.

Schools can now plan on the basis of what they know and enable that to inform their work for the coming year; they can get back to focusing on opening schools safely for as many students as possible in September and teachers can get back to planning to teach.  This brings its own worries of course, but is certainly better than having the challenges of exam appeals to deal with as well.  We pray for our schools, our teachers and school leaders, as they prepare for the new school year and thank them for all they continue to do in support of the children in their care.

However, as it stands we have cohorts of young people who either still have questions around moderated grades or are still awaiting grades, notably for BTec, International Baccalaureate or T-Level courses.  We still await news of how students can confirm their new official grades to universities and a process for any appeals.  Also, sadly for some students the news of the change to CAGs comes too late for their university place, accommodation or funding.  We continue to hold those young people and their families in our hearts, praying for new opportunities to come. Lastly, there are important lessons to be acknowledged here which will raise challenging questions for those at the highest levels with responsibility for education and qualifications, we pray that they welcome the chance to listen and, crucially, to learn.

“Our worth is in what we do and how we live.”

In a period of immense anxiety, this has been an unwelcome additional strain for young people, parents and teachers.  As we start to see things move forward to a fairer outcome for most, we pray for all those caught up in it that they will feel valued as individuals with incredible, beautiful, God given potential.  We see the worth of all young people beyond the allocation of grades, in the variety of their talents and the range of their skills.  Let us celebrate the ongoing support given by families, schools and colleges to enable our young people to realise their potential and pursue their ambition.  Most of all we all should remember that our worth is in what we do and how we live.  Live well and love.