When you can’t make it better

I’m sure I wasn’t the only colleague mopping up tears on Thursday.

But, sat in my office, at 7:30am, with a crying teenager and a bemused father, I certainly felt pretty alone.

There’s not an awful lot to be said to a student who’s missed their university offer – especially when that miss was both dramatic and unexpected.

But I went through the obvious. Remarks. Clearing. “These things happen.”

And when it didn’t help, I said it over again.

And as I spoke, I found myself horrified by the unfairness of it all.

This was a student who’d worked her socks off: came into school every day of study leave for one-to-one lessons with her subject staff; completed every past paper going; sought out all the possible predicted questions the staffroom could throw at her; read widely and beyond her syllabus.

Genuinely grafted.

This approach had paid dividends at AS level – where she’d achieved straight As – and we were all confident she’d coast to the ABB she needed for her dream course.

But something had gone wrong – and I couldn’t help.

Of all the conversations I had with students and parents on Thursday – most delighted and full of thanks, some seeking someone (anyone) to blame – it is going to be this one that is going to stick with me.

She’d done everything right, and it hadn’t been even close to enough.

There’s something pretty horribly wrong with an examination system that ends 13 years of a child’s education in this way.


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