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I got teacher assessed grades; now my tutees wait nervously for their GCSE exam results

Young people up and down the UK are ticking the days off their calendar until the end of the month when they will receive their GCSE results.  Having sat the first exams for three years, 2022’s Year 11 cohort are understandably more anxious than normal about what the 25th of August will yield for them.

I was nervous this time last year as I was awaiting my A Level results, but my grades were decided by my teachers in a bid to mitigate the disturbance the pandemic caused to my education.  I am nervous again this summer, but this time for the students I have tutored over the last year for online tutoring provider MyTutor. 

I started tutoring in September 2021 and much of my focus since then has been helping final year GCSE students prepare for their exams.  I have tutored individual students in sessions arranged by their parents and also small groups of students facilitated by their school. 

After having had a significant chunk of their secondary education disrupted by Covid, I believe that a lot of students will not experience a normal year in their eyes for a very long time because of the aftershock of the pandemic.  

I am glad that exceptions were made for these Year 11s in terms of providing them with advance notice of the content of some of their exams.   It was clear to me that, due to no fault of their own, they were missing building blocks of knowledge in some subjects and that these gaps were preventing them from understanding some topics properly.   Lockdown learning loss has evidently had long lasting ramifications for these young people.

I predominantly tutor sciences and History and it did seem that the level of content students were being asked to focus on varied from subject to subject.  The Chemistry syllabus struck me as largely unchanged, while Biology had been slimmed down considerably.  History appeared to remain a vast subject and I had a lot of requests for support on it with some students feeling defeated by it before they had even begun.  Trying to boost the confidence of my tutees was a key aim for me and was often mentioned as a core goal when I took on a new tutee. 

As someone who was grateful to have received teacher-assessed grades, I would say that some of this year’s students would definitely have preferred this too.  A lot of their anxiety around this year’s exams came from a sense of being somewhat overlooked and many of them remained unconvinced that there wouldn’t be last minute changes to how they were going to be assessed.  The uncertainty of recent years had made them untrusting that anything was set in stone.

Though I did take my GCSE exams, I didn’t sit them for my A Levels, so I couldn’t give tutees my direct experience of that process.  However, they knew that the pandemic had also interfered with my education and I think sharing my experience of that was comforting to some students.  I could really empathise with my tutees as I had been through the same thing, which allowed us to have a greater connection.  We would also talk a lot about how I managed to learn from home and retain my focus during lockdowns and my tips for this helped them while they knuckled down to revision in their bedrooms.

I really hope that my sessions helped my tutees feel more confident going into the exam hall and that they are not fretting too much as they wait for their results.  Several of them told me that I’ll be the first person they tell their results to, which meant a lot to me, I can’t wait to hear from them.

By Emily Bestwick, an undergraduate student at the University of Warwick and tutor at MyTutor

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