Study leave

Books and stationary on a school desk


This is my last week of solo working from home for a while. Apart from the cat, I have just had the dripping tap for company up to now. Next week daughter one begins study leave. The GCSEs are already under way and we are bidding a sad farewell to the GCSE art syllabus as of today. The final, final deadline has passed. Daughter one is now claiming to miss art, having procrastinated over it for much of the syllabus.

Daughter two brought home her artwork the other day. “Do you think you will take it for GCSE?” I inquired. “I thought you said that no-one was allowed to ever take GCSE art again,” she stated. I explained that that was said in a moment of slight frustration when I couldn’t find something called Gesso oil in Hobbycraft after daughter one had texted me two minutes before the shop closed.

It probably won’t make too much difference when daughter one is on study leave, given that she sleeps most of the morning and spends the rest of her day writing mind maps and looking wistfully at Chris Evans [not the DJ]. However, she is slightly tense if I go anywhere near her room. “Just checking you’re ok with the GCSEs and all,” say I. “Get out of my room. I’m revising the history of the Weimar Republic and don’t you know that the first rule on the advice about GCSEs for parents is NEVER mention the GCSEs,” comes the reply. “You have failed, mum.” She then proceeds to list all the causes of the Second World War as I back away. The only person allowed near is only son who generally enters doing a Just Dance 2014 special mix.

When I said that we would be colleagues from next week, she just looked at me and said: “So you’ll be disturbing my revision by hurling abuse at the computer.” What can I say? I had a bad day and the computer was taking what appeared to be a five-minute pause between each letter.

Daughter three is also exam-ready. She has SATs all week, culminating in her birthday on Friday. She emerged from day one of the SATs looking a bit deflated. “How was it? I asked. “It was really, really hard and nothing like the practice paper. We’re thinking of writing to the government to complain.” Daughter three loves a political campaign.

Although we have told her ad infinitum that the tests don’t matter and her teachers and school are fantastically supportive, feeding her pain au chocolat for breakfast and positive messages, she said she had had a bad dream in which she failed her SATs and we told her we were very disappointed so she had to leave home and eventually ended up living with my brother in Argentina because even her grandparents didn’t want her due to their huge disappointment about her SATs score. My brother apparently didn’t care about the SATs results. He’s a teacher.

We debated the pointlessness of SATs and daughter two helpfully added that SATs were just the beginning and she should wait for CATs. Daughter two tends to adopt very much a devil may care attitude to tests so has never had bad dreams about them. However, she believes that any disaster on the news is 99% likely to head her way.

Daughter three asked why the government was so stupid, changing everything all the time and creating a system where no-one seems to know what the pass rate is. It’s very hard to do well when you have no idea what well is. Daughter three has made huge advances in maths and English in the last year after going through a bit of a bad phase at her last school due to bullying. She doesn’t need a SAT to tell her what well is. However, she is rather enjoying some of the drama of SATs. “This week can it be all about me?” she asked. “Daughter one may have GCSEs, but it’s only two and I’ve got SATs every day and it’s my birthday.” Such is the lot of the third child.

She agreed that she was not going to spend any more time worrying about SATs and that it was probably best to focus on her birthday instead. True to form, she has already drawn up several lists.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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