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Exams officer has a new peak to climb

As all those brown envelopes hit doormats across Wales yesterday, no one breathed a bigger sigh of relief than David Grant.

For the exams officer - like his pupils at Christ Church school, Brecon - it was the end of months of planning and hard work.

But keeping a cool head is Mr Grant's speciality - he is also a member of Brecon mountain rescue team. It is not unusual for the chemistry teacher to get a call, mid-lesson, and drop everything to rescue someone in trouble on the nearby Brecon Beacons.

But this week he switched off his pager and scaled instead the mountain of paperwork that was the school's A-level results. "It's a huge amount of work which starts with the exams," he says.

"Each session needs invigilators, subject teachers in labs and seating plans. The running of exams is not like the old days where it was a case of 'start writing' and then three hours later 'pens down'. Nowadays there are various lengths of paper running at the same time."

That's when it all goes to plan. This year, crucial geography papers were not included in the exam board's package - twice.

"In one case we had to collect the papers in because there weren't enough, photocopy them and hand them back out. In another, students were told not to answer one of the questions."

After that, most would want to put their feet up in the holidays, but this is the busiest time for the mountain rescuer, who attends 40 to 50 call-outs a year.

"We have had three in one day, which is quite hectic," he says. "The biggest was a party of Duke of Edinburgh award students who were lost, totally soaked and hypothermic."

However, there were no such distractions at one minute past midnight on Wednesday when he downloaded the A-level results. He then spent all night transferring them to a huge spreadsheet 100 columns wide and 70 rows deep.

Checking took all night and he was at the local sorting office at 6am to pick up the brown envelopes. These, too, were checked against the spreadsheet.

And next week he'll be doing it all again for the GCSEs.

"It's nice giving the pupils the results, especially when they are good,"

he says.

"But occasionally there will be a few who just miss the grades they need and it's really hard handing over that envelope, knowing what's in it is going to be a disaster for them."

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