The GCSE marathon continues…

The half term break has sucked up all enthusiasm and interest in the GCSEs and there are still weeks to go…

Students taking GCSE Exams


It’s week three or maybe four of the GCSEs, but it feels like week 100. Half term has killed off all sense of motivation.

Daughter two has become more obsessed than before with BTS [she went to a concert at the weekend and I have never heard such blood curdling screams. The woman sitting next to her swapped seats]. Not only is she emotionally drained and in deep mourning [one of the BTS squad is going to do military service next year and it will “never be the same again”, sob], but free pictures of BTS now cover the GCSE timetable.

If daughter two had to do a GCSE in BTS she would ace it, but a devotion to BTSology is not helping with her mastery of simultaneous equations. I don’t blame her for flagging. The GCSEs have dominated daughter two’s life since the beginning of secondary school, but the last year has been non-stop pressure.

Mocks, oral exams, test papers, revision sessions over the holidays, walking and talking revision sessions during the actual exams, emails to parents with tips and portentous statements about “life chances” being virtually zero if they don’t do well at GCSEs, etc, etc. As a parent, I have spent the last year undermining such statements at every opportunity. Yes, do your best. No, it is not the end of the world if you don’t. Life is more interesting and education is better than this constant pressure to get your exam strategy right.

I asked daughter two if the teachers spout this stuff about life chances all the time. “A few of them do,” she says, the ones she hates. “The others tell us to just do our best.” I like the others. Unfortunately, the others – who I will call the good teachers, the ones who actually like children – tend to get worn down by the whole thing and leave. I wish sometimes that parents could award prizes to teachers for caring for their children as individual human beings. Mine would go to the religious studies teacher who jokes about daughter two’s taste in music and her penchant for wearing a red anorak everywhere. You can see her coming a mile off.

This week’s GCSEs have been mainly history, Spanish, sciences and maths plus English language. Daughter two only cares about the English language one and she is worried she mistimed it. She knows she has to pass maths so we spent Wednesday night going through trigonometry. “It’s something to do with Krakatoa,” she said. “Isn’t that a volcano?” I replied. It turns out it was sohcahtoa, which is the formula you need to memorise to work out the length of the hypotenuse and other useful measurements. It was slightly worrying that daughter two seemed to be learning the stuff the night before the exam…

She started the GCSEs with all her books in order, head down and incense sticks burning. She now just looks into space in a soporific stupor and emerges from her room every so often to watch a BTS video and eat peanut butter. “Just a week and a bit to go,” I say. “It’s a marathon not a sprint” or words to that effect. It’s not just a marathon though, it’s 50 marathons in the blazing sun with no water in sight. “You can always resit.” NOOOO.

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