The agony of waiting for GCSE results – and Mark Billingham’s new book

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Tuesday 23rd August 2011

Thirty years on, I can still remember the horrible moment when my O level results dropped through the letter box. I am old enough to have sat O levels rather than GCSEs and to have received my grades by post rather than email, but my memories of that day are crystal clear. I grabbed the envelope, tore it open and immediately spotted the distinctive handwriting of Dr Mac, my intimidating headteacher. “Congratulations – a pity you missed physics,” she’d scrawled. Her words have stayed with me ever since and even though I’ve never needed to know about reflection and refraction or forces and motion, the shame of failing physics remains.

Getting your exam results is a heart-stopping moment so I feel for the thousands of teenagers due to get their GCSE grades on Thursday (fingers crossed all round). My son got his AS results last week and I was so nervous that I spent the morning pacing up and down waiting for him to ring. He, on the other hand, got up at nine, ate a hearty breakfast and wandered off to school looking as laid-back as usual.

But what most irritates me at this time of year are the so-called experts who pop up to grumble about “dumbed-down” and “easy-to-pass” GCSEs. Of course they’re entitled to their opinions but why do they insist on droning on about it just as a generation of teenagers are anxiously awaiting their results? Students, after all, can only sit the exam papers in front of them.

As Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said this week: “We should be preparing to celebrate the achievements of our students and offering them compelling reasons to continue their education… Everyone knows that there is more to do but that is no reason to denigrate and undermine what has been achieved so far.”

Wise words. And yes, I know there’s a lot of talking to be done about how we equip our teenagers with the right skills for the future – but not this week.

PS: I’ve blogged before about my new-found passion for crime novels. If you’re looking for inspiration and haven’t tried Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne novels you’re in for a treat. The latest, Good as Dead (Little, Brown, £16.99), is just out (see above) and confirms Billingham’s status as one of the finest crime writers around. Set over three days, the drama begins when police officer and working mum Helen Weeks pops into her local newsagent’s to buy chewing gum and chocolate. In the space of a few terrifying minutes she’s taken hostage by a gunman who’ll stop at nothing to solve the mystery of his teenage son’s death in prison. It’s absolutely gripping.

2 comments so far

  • I too remember the envelope – I locked myself in the bathroom! I too failed one; a D in German. The shame! Our results were printed in the local paper with number of As in brackets after the total number. A very public naming and shaming experience 🙁
    Glad you have renewed passion for crime – we must do an author swap in JL soon !

  • Glad to hear I’m not the only one, Linsey. My children can’t believe I failed physics! I think my results were printed in the local paper too – the Bournemouth Evening Echo – but just the number, not the grades.

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