Like many other households with teenagers, ours has become Mission Control for GCSE revision. Big daughter has been counting down the days until the exams start – and finish. She has her exam timetable stuck to the wall and every time we see her she has her nose stuck in a book. It’s hard work and I’m very glad that I’m past all of that – even though some people would return to their schooldays in a flash (and I’m not one of them!), I’m not sure even they would want to face these exams.
The pressure on our young people these days is incredible. It’s not just about doing well for their own sakes any more, the teachers are also under pressure to get the best results they can for a school that is under its own pressures from the Government’s ever-changing education goalposts. It sometimes seems to us that the line is blurred over who needs the best results most.
Our tactic in all of this has been to try to keep big daughter as calm as we can. Yes, of course these exams are important, but there are many of us who have made our way successfully in the world without twelve A* results. Total burnout at sixteen and a loathing for education is a high price to pay, whatever the goals. The world is a different place these days, I can hear you say, but what’s important for us and for big daughter is that she is able to do well enough to keep her options open, to be able to follow the educational route that she chooses and to keep a balance between work and play.
Balance is vital to keep ourselves and our minds healthy. All work and no play might have its own rewards, but my Dad always says that the graveyards are full of indispensible people. All play is tempting – but surely a life without purpose would not in the end be much of a life at all.
Our wish for our big daughter is that she is happy. It doesn’t mean that we don’t care about her results, or aren’t 100% behind her studies. We want her to be able to blossom and grow into a life of her own choosing, to be able to make her own informed decisions and to live a life of purpose. Taking her GCSE exams is the first major step along the way. I am sure that for big daughter herself, they are simply a hurdle to be overcome before the longest summer holiday and freedom from school that she’s ever had, but that doesn’t really matter. We are encouraging her to revise as well as she can so that afterwards, she will have no regrets, no “I wish I’d done more of this subject or that subject” conversations with herself.
I wish good luck to everyone taking exams over the next few months.