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I'm feeling the heat

Indulge me if you will: take yourself back to the distant past that was June; a time when the holiday stretched before you and the August exam results were tiny specks on summer's shimmery horizon.

Leading up to the end of term, you endured tortuous exam catch-up sessions. Come the actual exams, you baulked in disbelief at their total lack of resemblance to the practice papers. Finally, you endured the toe-curling efforts of more exuberant colleagues during their "hilarious" turns in the final assembly.

Whether on the beach with your copy of Fifty Shades of Grey tucked into Ulysses, or slumped on the sofa during the Olympics watching any sport televised, you pretended to yourself that percentages of A*-C grades and the Fischer Family Trust could all go whistle.

But we all know this pretence never lasts. Those two Thursdays in August circled on the kitchen calendar loom like the T-rex in the rear-view mirror in Jurassic Park. As the results days approach, students nibble nails, teachers pace the kitchen floor worrying about class targets and faculty heads agonise over last year's subject performance data. It is a delicious soup of anxiety peppered with crap-yourself croutons.

Come results day, it's hard to resist the temptation to hide under the duvet and stick your fingers in your ears. But like the conscientious fools that we teachers are, many of us go in and face the music.

And so, trying to slip through the school gates, you chance upon an equally furtive-looking colleague. "Results? Can take 'em or leave 'em," she says. "I was in town anyway. Just thought I'd pop in to pass the time."

You join in the bravado: "Yeah - no point worrying - whatever you get you won't get a smile out of the SMT. 100% A and A* grades and they'd still be chuntering on about value added."

Later, you find yourself nodding your head and wringing your hands before the deputy head, who looks like he's not left the school grounds all summer: "As we speak, Desmond," you say, "I'm already formulating a departmental strategic plan to turn the 3 per cent tail of A grades into A*s."

Staggering out of the office in a state of gentle panic, you find yourself in the centre of a scrum of students who, having spent the past two years doing a remarkable impression of not giving a shit, forcefully demand that you wave a magic wand and make it all better. Phrases such as: "It's a bit late to start worrying about that" and "You'll have to go and ask the exams officer if ..." proliferate.

From this moment on, many of us relax during the final weeks of the holiday by flagellating ourselves with uniform mark scale scores, unit breakdowns and comparative data.

Long nights tangled in sweat-drenched sheets beckon as those essential questions are explored: Can the cost of an entire cohort appeal be justified to the headteacher? Is it too early to plot that sideways career move?

That evening, the ultimate results day experience beckons: News at Ten. Where would we all be without those cliched images of shrieking students hugging each other?

For those masochists among us, there's additional good news: term starts in just a few short days.

Craig Ennew teaches English at a secondary in the South of England.

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