The last day of term. How welcome those words are depends on how you view school in general.
If it’s a haven from the hell of home, then those words will bring a shiver down the spine, but for the majority, they are the starting pistol for at least six weeks of freedom and a break from the stresses and strains of school life.
For staff, it’s a welcome chance to get away from the daily grind of marking, arbitrating between fighting parties (and that’s just the other staff…) inspection preparation and implementing the dingbat schemes of either the head or the government. The summer holidays are one of the few undeniable perks of the job, even when all else is changing.
Of course, for many, both staff and students, there’s often a shadow lurking in the middle of those weeks of carefree hedonism. For years 11, 12 and 13 there is the ever-present cloud of anxiety caused by the wait for exam results.
For staff, too, this is a niggle at the back of the mind. For the ordinary classroom teacher, it’s the concern that something may have gone wrong on the day for your pupils or, in sweaty, suffocating nightmares, that you might have taught the wrong text or not finished the syllabus. (I've never actually done either of those things, but the whole point of irrational fears is that they are irrational.)
For heads of departments, deputy heads and head teachers, it’s the knowledge that their holidays are going to be shorter by two or three weeks than their humbler colleagues', because they have to come in from a day or two before results day and stick it out until the bitter end of the holiday to sort out the inevitable crises.
How teachers help
An unexpected nosedive in GCSE results can mean the loss of a place in the sixth form, or having to give up the subjects planned at A-level. AS disappointment means a rethink of tactics for A2. A2 failure means a whole future to be re-planned.
All these scenarios mean hefty teacher support is needed in an atmosphere of febrile anxiety. From my experience on TSR, there seem to be quite a few students who believe that teachers are out to get them. I don’t wish ill on anybody, but I’d like some of those people to see the efforts which go on behind the scenes on results day at the school where I work. My colleagues work tirelessly to mop up, soothe, fix and reglue those who have come unstuck.
They sometimes even beg universities to reconsider, and while it’s a definite truth that once it says unsuccessful in Track, no student will be able to change a university’s mind, that is not so when it comes to teachers. My former head of sixth form was little short of a miracle worker when it came to making things right. There are many, many students who have cause to thank him for rescuing the future they nearly lost.
A welcome break
It’s certainly true that the holiday is a welcome break from the job, and sometimes it’s the only thing keeping us going without snapping the head off small children foolish enough to cross our paths, but it’s not really a complete break. If you are still in the early days of teaching, then a lot of your time is spent planning schemes of work and doing the little twiddly bits that add to lessons but which simply take up more time than you have during term time.
If, like me, the twilight years of retirement are twinkling with increasing brightness with every passing year, and you’ve frankly been phoning it in for quite some time now, then the holidays tend to be more empty, but the thought of work is never really far away. A couple of years ago I was awaiting a plane in an Italian airport on GCSE results day and heard an unmistakable British voice floating over the heads of the assembled multitude.
“They say it’s the biggest drop in results for 25 years!”
Nothing else quite signals the end of a holiday like the knowledge that your return home will be greeted by emails and calls from the distressed and the angry of two generations, both students and parents. As it happens, my class had bucked the trend that year, but the annual media furore that is August results season is a salutary reminder of the approach of autumn and the fading of summer suntans.
Tell your friends
If you are facing exam results this year, you may be worried about how you are going to do. Nothing is certain in this world but one thing. Whatever you achieve, the newspapers will tell you that its the biggest/smallest rise/fall in standards for [insert number of years here] and that it’s all the fault of teachers/pupils/exam boards/governments/easier exam papers/cheating/too much or too little coursework/schools not being open enough hours/schools not being in China.
I hope you are going to enjoy your summer holidays, even if you are in the position of awaiting results. Whatever the outcome, ignore what the papers say and listen to your teachers. They have probably spent a very long time thinking about how to help you if the need arises, and if they do have to help you, please spread a tiny bit of kindness and tell your friends that they did.
Try not to worry about your results too much. I’m a firm believer in ‘What’s meant to be won’t pass you by'. When one door closes, another door opens. Time heals all wounds. (Cliches are evidently my favourite linguistic device.) Enjoy your summer. I’m going to enjoy mine, even if it means I have to wear earplugs in the airport.
Mrs Kinetta is a secondary school English teacher who writes for The Student Room under a pseudonym.