Whilst basing your grades on the work you’d done up until 20th March might not seem fair as you didn't get Easter to hand in any great work based on past papers (naturally people improve the closer to the exams it gets), getting your teachers to take responsibility for your final grade does take away the potential pitfall of the exam itself…and we mustn't forget how many students' nerves get the better of them on the day.
A "winner takes all" approach doesn't work for every student. I’d say it doesn’t work for most and isn’t a healthy way to grade long-term effort and progress, and it certainly isn’t reflective of the working environment most people will find themselves in, where every single day, the realities of the job (and keeping it) is the grade
Grades at 16 and 18 are there to show you have a foundation level of knowledge or skills, from which you can grow and realise potential. Employers know that. Universities know that too. They are not the be-all and end-all, as much as I can relate to the temptation to feel like they are – particularly if you’ve conditional offers of employment (apprenticeships) or university places hinging on them. A large number of students sight the anxiety placed on this "one exam, one chance" approach as the reason they crumble on the day, with all of their good work over the last 18 months thrown away due to that “final exam” pressure. Let's also not forget they are jam-packed into a really tight window across June/July, which can't be good for your work-life balance – whether you’re 15 or 55.
In year 11 and year 12 I found it really tough approaching each day's exams (and exam subjects) with a relaxed, focused brain. Students: keep calm. The Covid-19 system could actually work to your advantage: see what comes in first, and if you’re disappointed, maybe have another crack at the whip. Exam boards have already hinted that re-sits will be possible in the autumn (but watch this space). For those of you out there who have a peaceful (or at least bearable) home life, (I’d never assume every students’ is, far from it), and for those in year 13 not applying to a medical or STEM course at university, why not resist the temptation of unconditional offers (unis are getting a slap on the wrist for offering too many of them right now) and accept that things are out of your control and keep the option open of a self-enforced gap year? With uncertainty lasting until a vaccine is found (that could be up to a year away at best), and with most non-key worker employment prospects (and therefore employment training programmes like apprenticeships) looking bleak due to Covid-19’s hit on the economy for the rest of 2020, another year to live at home might be the best option.
It is never wasted time unless you decide to waste it: volunteer (safely) as much as possible, do an online course (there are so many useful ones that are free or much less expensive than uni), pick up the odd bit of work or a lot of it (you may hit lucky), work on your physical and mental wellbeing, look at what you’re putting in your body, develop a healthier relationship with social media and sensationalist news…or even start your higher education journey but from a safe distance. Learn remotely with a foundation degree online (The Open University’s applications have increased during lockdown) – tech nowadays allows videos with your lecturers/tutors, recorded lectures/seminars, conference calls (Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams) to be able to work with your colleagues remotely on presentations or tasks, and work can be sent online too (including forms of art like music, illustrations, even filming theatrical performances). If you are applying for a STEM subject, you may want to look at those unconditional offers (but with a wise, measured consideration) as the government might consider you to be a key worker of the near future, and want to speed you into not only studying remotely, but getting you learning on the job as soon as if safe to do so (a la Nursing already getting second year university students to complete the rest of their course on the job in hospitals). Whatever is going to be thrown your way in terms of offers, remember that it is your decision and you mustn’t feel pressured into it, in an already pressured time of living. Life is a marathon, not a sprint…and it’s solo. Do what feels right for you, and consider the consequences of any potential decision.
MOJ TAYLOR is an Edinburgh Fringe First winning actor, and stand up comedian - being selected for the BBC's Stand Up If You Dare competition, for Comic Relief (and being mentored in comedy by Jasper Carrott). He was the first Taylor of his family to graduate a higher education course, reading Hispanic Studies & Drama from Queen Mary University of London before undertaking an MA in screen acting at Drama Centre London. He has appeared in various high-profile commercial campaigns (Asics, Nivea, Mazda, Lexus, Movember) and has delivered over 3,000 workshops to young people across the UK via PUSH and ComedyClub4Kids. He is also a PADI Divemaster, and has assisted on various conservation projects on seagrass and carbon emissions in the UK and The Baltic Sea. He is passionate about getting young people to scuba dive, as a way to develop their soft skills, self-confidence and resilience and over the last decade he has helped develop the Push framework on proactive choices, youth employability, effective learning and public speaking / comedy workshops to develop crucial soft skills/resilience in teenagers.
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