A-level and GCSE results days are always special events in the educational calendar.
The culmination of years of hard work, in and out of the classroom, from students, ably supported by staff and their families, and heralding the start of the next stage on their educational journey.
There is no getting away from the fact that this year, like 12 months before, was different.
No traditional exams were sat as school staff instead worked arguably even harder to support a new system of teacher assessed grades.
But A-level results day remained a special time for students and staff alike.
The nervousness around getting the right grades for a coveted university place remained, as did the tears of joy across all our sixth form centres.
It was also a chance for students to catch up with friends and also say one last goodbye to schools and staff that have served them so well over the years.
For others, who maybe didn’t quite get the results they were hoping for, it was a chance to talk to staff about their options going forward. They would have been told that this is only a bump in the road and that there are many opportunities ahead for them.
National headlines around the awarding of grades have taken some of the attention away from what the students have achieved in this most unprecedented of times.
Numerous lockdowns, learning from home, understanding the intricacies of virtual classrooms, socially distancing in schools – to name just a few of the challenges they had no way of knowing when they embarked on their A-levels.
I know of many students who found much of the last 18 months demoralising and demotivating – both fair emotions given the circumstances. It is why it was so important to get students, of all ages, back in the classroom as soon as possible. Their hard work, commitment and resilience truly deserves the success I hope they have had.
These qualities have also been shown by school staff in abundance. Over the last few months, they have not only done all they could to squeeze in completing the syllabus without the usual time in school, but also had to do the work of examination boards in assessing each student’s progress.
This has involved using more tests and assessments than in previous years and carrying out the marking usually done by exam board markers. We look forward to possible reforms that learn from the experiences of the last two summers.
I hope this amazing dedication, by both students and staff, will once again be shown when the GCSE results are published (this column is written a day before that date).
I would like to congratulate all students, thank all our staff, and wish everyone a relaxing and enjoyable rest of the summer holidays.
By Tim Coulson, Chief Executive, Unity Schools Partnership