GCSE Results Day: What's it like for teachers?

As students in England and Wales prepare for a GCSE results day with grades estimated by their teachers, we asked some of the teachers who helped out on BBC Bitesize Daily about their hopes and anxieties for the day.

They also offer some advice for students who have done well and for those students for whom things may not have gone so well.

Andrew Brown, maths teacher

One of my most memorable examination moments was taking my driving test. My driving instructor, Mr Hansan, said this magic phrase that has stuck with me forever: “If you treat the test like a lesson, you’ll pass. If you treat the test like a test, you’ll fail!”.

The reason why this is so important to me, and why I will always say this to the children I teach, is that we continually fill the children with knowledge, skills and confidence during our lessons and they always show excellent levels of understanding where they are comfortable. Creating that same sense of 'security' is vital in ensuring that they show 'the world', and not just me, that they can succeed! People always perform better when they are relaxed - compare Usain Bolt at the starting blocks in 2011 and 2012.

We put so much emphasis on results days. We tell people it’s life-changing, but the reality is, it’s not. Every day brings new opportunities and challenges, some good, and some not so good, and some that you wish you could change. The reality is that there are very few things in life that cannot be changed for the better - examination results are not one of those things.

Children leave school with two things: examination results and a reference. The reference is always more important than any of the excellent grades they have, and your grades will always end up reflecting your reference.

Results days are always challenging, and never have they been more challenging than in 2020. The only thing that has not changed is the belief teachers have in you. We respect, trust and believe that despite the additional challenges you face this year, you have the ability and tenacity to not only overcome them, but to excel. The leavers of 2020 will stand out in time as a defining group: one that overcame a worldwide pandemic and struggled with so much to become leaders of the world. You are, and will continue to be, exceptional individuals.

Andrew Brown is a maths teacher in Manchester
Kirsty Fong is a science teacher based in South Yorkshire

Kirsty Fong, science teacher

You can’t sleep the night before. Just like parents and pupils, the butterflies are doing laps of your insides as you anticipate the melange of emotions for results day.

By this point before results day, I’ve normally seen the examination papers and I know each and every one of my pupils inside and out, so the pragmatic part of me already knows what to expect - but the anxiety still bubbles. You can’t help but share your class's emotions! It’s been a long two years working up to this point and the emotional investment is huge. It’s not just the responsibility of educating young people, it’s the cultivation of strong working relationships and developing their skills. You’ve witnessed their highs and lows, and it has become your journey too.

There's also the data analysis. Scanning and combing the details, identifying the markers on your overall class grades. What does this mean for the department and school? What does this mean for your performance as a teacher? There’s a lot to reflect on.

It’s going to be a strange results day this year. I know some will be thrilled and some will be disappointed. Our resilience will be tested, but I have faith in the courage and strength of our students.

Wishing everyone the best of luck on results day!

Liana Lonsdale, English teacher

In the days and hours before results day, I find myself picturing the faces of individual students and thinking about what their envelope might hold for them.

As teachers, we are completely invested in our students. We know the details of each young person’s journey and have experienced their struggles, challenges, successes and triumphs along with them. Amongst my own excitement and anticipation, I find myself rehearsing things I might say to students who may be showing a whole spectrum of emotional reactions, ranging from distraught and disappointed to delighted and delirious! Regardless of the outcome, I always aim to praise the efforts of students, encourage them to reflect on how thoroughly they prepared and consider what they might do differently.

A mark on a grades sheet will never define my students, nor fully tell their story, but my deepest hope is that they may enter the next stage of their lives with the academic currency they need to pursue their dreams.

Liana Lonsdale is an English teacher in Bolton, Lancashire
Michael Steer is a maths teacher who featured in the Channel 4 series Educating Yorkshire.

Michael Steer, maths teacher

As you get older, most events of significance tend to lose layers of emotional impact. Yet whilst the excitement of Christmas, birthdays and holidays may dwindle, the one day that bucks the trend for me is GCSE results day.

I can clearly remember that I wasn't particularly bothered about my own results. It wasn't that I didn't care about doing well, it was more that the importance of the grades I was about to receive wasn't fully comprehended by my teenage brain. However, since becoming a teacher and fully grasping how transformative a good set results can be for a student, the tension of the day seems to increase exponentially year on year. I genuinely can't remember the last time I slept on the third Wednesday of August, knowing that in the morning, hundreds of people that I've worked with for five years will find out if their hard work and commitment has paid off or not.

But the lead up to this year's GCSE results day, with so many threads, twists, U-turns and ripples has been like no other. You deserved better. I'm not talking about the results that you have received - for many they may be better than what would have been allocated by the fabled algorithm had the outpouring over the A-Level results not had such an effect - I'm talking about the whole process and the fact it had to come to protests in the first place.

If you get the results you want, it is an amazing day and one you should rightly celebrate and enjoy. However, for some, it will not be the day they hoped for and it will feel devastating. If this is you, please try to remember that you always have options and that your teachers will be there to help and advise you.

Results do not define you. Whatever happens, make sure you don't get too disappointed or too complacent, and whatever your next step in life is, give it 100 percent and remember that it will all be alright in the end. If it isn't alright, then it isn't the end!

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