‘On GCSE results day, teachers now need the top marks as much as the pupils do’

This assistant headteacher says that GCSE results day is as much a judgement day for teachers as it is pupils

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I'm really excited for results day.  Think about all the effort it took to get here. 

All the hard graft, all those late nights revising. The Sundays practising exam questions, the tweaking of coursework. Checking Twitter and Facebook groups for inside information.

Then the heart palpitations of queueing up for the exam hall, absorbing the last-minute pep talk, glaring at the under-prepared, rolling eyes at the know-it-alls, before starting the shift in the greenhouse – sorry, sports hall. 

Followed by coming out and immediately comparing and contrasting questions and answers.  Mentally cursing at everyone else’s multiple choice answers (“of course it was bloody B”).  Knowing that there really was nothing else that could be done. 



I’m not talking about pupils here, you understand, I am talking about the effort put in by the teachers.

Testing times

In today’s education system, we live every moment of the exams with our classes. We plan the revision, practice the questions to get model answers, stress over the questions, feel the pain of wrong answers and experience the helplessness of knowing what’s done is done.

So much hinges on it for us now: the classes you are allocated to teach the next year, bragging rights, the avoidance of the head calling you into his office in September to ask “What exactly have you been doing for the last two years?”, the nature of a performance management meeting, parental praise or a very public Facebook hanging…

I always tell my classes that they need to put the effort in, because “I already have my degree in ICT, so you need to be the ones that are putting the effort in, as these results are with you for life”.

Let’s be honest: this couldn't be further away from the truth.

GCSE results day fears

When I took my GCSEs 15 years ago. my teachers were clear that if I failed I would have reaped what I had sown. Mock exams, I feel, were designed for the sole purpose of kicking one's butt into gear. 

Now, pupil failure is simply not an option for teachers. No matter how closely you have tracked them, how well you have taught them, how many holiday and after-school interventions you arranged, how many letters home you send or the number of times you begged the pupil to engage...if you have a pupil who has horse-to-water syndrome and fails then that’s on you, the teacher.

On Thursday, I will be just as nervous as my pupils. I always am. That used to be because I wanted the best for them and their future, whereas now I need those results just as much as they do.

Nikki Cunningham-Smith is an assistant headteacher in Gloucestershire

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