As students across England prepare for A level results in this extraordinary academic year, Westonbirt Head, Natasha Dangerfield, considers whether results define us.
Next week, schools will be able to see the final results unveiled, for A levels not taken this year. Disappointingly, many students will have only fulfilled 5 terms of preparation, losing out on revision, consolidation and re-learning which normally takes place through a last holiday break and at least half a summer term. For some, this would have felt disastrous; the last minute preparation having been lost and assessment based upon evidenced testing and learning ongoing through the school year not likely to demonstrate full potential. Others, who have been steadily progressing, but who hate the pressure of the examination phase may well have benefitted from a system designed currently, to test an ability to retain, recall and present to a series of questions, yet this year entirely reliant upon staff to be able to accurately predict their students' fortunes. Thursday 13th may be lucky for some, but as we round off another year, we continue to ask the question – do our results define us?
Assessments in this format, at this age, are an entry point to university, of that there is no doubt. Without A levels or equivalent, access to the myriad of courses across the UK, or beyond, would be prohibited and so, if this is your preferred next step, your results certainly define the university or college you will attend. Approach to this is key and understanding yourself, or being understood by teaching staff is vital, so that support and delivery can be tailored to suit and direction and requirements clearly established. This has long been a commitment at Westonbirt and while as a Head, I would argue that results do not define you, there is no doubt that they do put clear markers down in providing the right outcome for yourself at key points in your life.
I believe that definition is not necessarily in the success or failure behind results, but can be considered as a student's response to them. Next week, as results are collected, schools will witness elation through to despondency, and many emotions in between. Responses will vary according to individual next steps, however, what will define each student is how they take those results – acceptance of their situation, and aspiration to continue or motivation to improve will be key and eventually, what will define individuals will not be those A levels, it will be the character that stands before them.