A level results 2021 - a most challenging of years.
Published 9th August 2021
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity” - Emelia Earhart
I am writing this approximately seventeen hours before the A level results for this, the most challenging of years, are released. Already the press has been making noises about this year’s results being inflated, with rumours circulating that some universities are considering running their own entrance exams as they anticipate being flooded by applications from students with top A level grades.
I want us all to take a moment to look back on what we collectively achieved this year.
I spent the last twenty years of a thirty-three-year teaching career leading and promoting the use of technology to assist and enhance teaching and learning. Educational technology is a tool, no more, no less. It is not a silver bullet, and there are circumstances where its use enhances learning and others where it hinders progress.
Each school where I led had teachers who readily adopted the technology and made it work for their students. Equally, some teachers would do anything to avoid the introduction of technology into their lessons. In less than three weeks last March, we pivoted from face-to-face delivery to incorporating virtual lessons as at least part of a learning solution. We did this as it was clear that students would not learn without this change in delivery methodology.
For some, this pivot was more manageable than for others. The disparity of opportunity between those with access to a high-quality Internet connection and machines up to the job of accessing remote learning, and those without, was never more evident. Some schools hired in extra photocopiers as paper-based resources posted out were the only sure way to guarantee that learning took place with any degree of certainty.
While this revolution in educational technology was taking place in schools across the country, D&T teachers nationally were practising what they preach by responding to the national shortage of PPE, designing solutions that could be batch produced in schools, with some schools collaborating with industry to scale up to something close to mass production. If ever our subject proved just why it is so relevant to the times that we live in, it was as designs iteratively evolved with feedback from doctors and nurses on the front line of the NHS.
As schools started to reopen, if somewhat haphazardly as bubbles were made and then burst, you found ways to make workshop use safe, you recorded videos showing machine use and demonstrating processes, and you supported students remotely through the NEA and examination preparation.
Many students took the changes forced upon them in their stride; others found that the distance from friends, teachers, and routine negatively affected their mental health and confidence. As educators, you found ways to reach out and support all students as you worked to ensure that no students’ progress would be blocked as a direct result of the pandemic.
As Ofqual announced that grading would this year be left with teachers and not in the hands of some random algorithm, you gathered yourself, put processes in place to ensure consistency of approach and outcome and rolled your sleeves up to get the job done.
So, whatever the outcomes when results are published this week, you can stand proud. Proud of these immense professional achievements; proud of the tenacity and sheer bloody-mindedness you have shown to get the job done, and proud of a profession that is too often taken for granted but performs anyway. What we have collectively achieved this year is simply immense and beyond comparison.
And one last thing. To any student picking up A level or GCSE grades this week. Don’t let anyone tell you that the status of your grade is to be questioned. You worked in the most difficult of years, and every grade awarded this week is as, if not more valuable, than any previously awarded. Hold your heads high and stand proud. In the most difficult of times where it would have been easy to cower, you decided to act.
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