GCSE results day: the nature documentary

School hall on GCSE results day is a fascinating ecosystem, teeming with life. Grainne Hallahan pulls out her binoculars

What would Sir David Attenborough make of the animal behaviour on GCSE results day?

Welcome to the most tense habitat on Earth: the school hall on results day.

It’s here that the fledgling humans will have to contend with the biggest moment of their academic lives so far: receiving their grades.

gcse results day

For the past 11 years, the older members of the tribe have been preparing the younger humans. In the early summer months, these younger ones gathered together in huge swarms to silently complete the ancient rituals of GCSE and BTEC exams.

Today, the school-hall environment may seem hostile, but, for many, this is the place of surprising happiness and reward.

GCSE results day: prowling teachers

Dotted around the perimeter of the hall are the gatekeepers of the results: the teachers and exams officers.

They take shelter behind tables, where boxes of envelopes, alphabetised and sealed, sit ready for the younger humans to collect.

gcse results day teachers

To an untrained eye, the older humans may seem unaffected by the tensions in the room, but a closer look reveals their anxiety.

They pace about, folding and unfolding arms, every now and then pulling out a calculator and frowning at the figures on a sheet in front of them.

Students at bay

In the playground outside, the younger humans cluster in their packs, awaiting the call to signal the start of the ritual of the opening of results.

gcse results day

In this state, they do not stand at their full height and chatter does not reach the usual deafening levels seen at eating time, or when they are at play.

Protective parents

In the distance, the parent-humans (identifiable by the pallor of their cheeks and frantic pacing) await the return of their young.

gcse results day parents

Some of the younger humans have instructed their parents to stay away, but many can be spotted hiding nearby.

The big moment

The first rush of younger humans is usually populated by the more academically confident of the pack; their responses vary from quiet relief to the more exuberant laughing and squealing.

gcse results day students

Humans from the local newspaper will often pull the females to one side to engage them in the bizarre tradition of jumping in the air holding their pieces of paper aloft. 

As the sun rises higher in the sky, more humans arrive, many accompanied by their parents, and looking more distressed by the contents of the envelope. 

Tears flow – sometimes through sadness, but also relief – as the younger pack members are surrounded by their fellow fledglings, and their parents, and their teachers, before departing.

gcse results day

Finally, the teacher-humans pack away, and the doors are locked. The hall is deserted.

All the humans are at home, celebrating, commiserating, and looking forward to the next phase of their lives.

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