Results day: 'When everyone forgets that it was the student who sat the exam – not the teacher'

Students who get disappointing results still walk away looking to the future – but their teachers have to suffer the consequences for months to come, writes one teacher

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Results day is a time when literally everyone working in education forgets that it was the students themselves who sat the exams.

Following GCSE and A-level results day, hundreds of thousands of teachers can expect to be subjected to "friendly" meetings where "their" results will be scrutinised and they will be asked why particular students have underperformed. Cue said teacher giving reasons, only to be told that those reasons are, in fact, excuses: 

"But student x was off for 6 weeks." "What about the other 20, what were YOU doing during those?"

"Johnny didn't do any homework all year." "What did YOU do to make Johnny want to do his homework? Why was he not suitably inspired?"

 "Johnny didn't behave well during the year and spent lots of time out of my lesson." "Was Johnny bored in YOUR lessons? Are YOUR expectations of johnny too low?"

It's become almost criminal to point out the obvious these days – that it was the students who sat the exam, not their teacher.

'Teachers give their lives for their students'

When the primal response to students failing exams is to search for perceived shortcomings in teachers, it undermines the professionalism of teachers who have metaphorically given their lives for their students.

That sounds grandiose, but it's true in so many cases: think of the truly committed and hard-working teacher found crying because it's been signalled, either implicitly or explicitly, that they aren't good enough, sometimes by the same people who have worked with them day-in-day out for years.

It would be funny if it weren't so sad how the aftermath of an exam results day can perform as a litmus test for relationships with colleagues. Do they really know you or do they just say they do? Do they really think you are good at your job or have they just told you this to make you work harder? Horrible questions that sometimes produce answers that hurt.

Of course, it doesn't stop there. Exam results can trigger another Ofsted inspection and a reduction in pay.

Meanwhile, most students walk out of the school gates and, whether they have passed or failed, look to the future and move on. Teachers, meanwhile, prepare to live with the legacy of how they approached their exams earlier in the summer for months, perhaps years, to come. In fact, for some, it never goes away.

Thomas Rogers is a teacher who runs rogershistory.com and tweets @RogersHistory

For more columns by Tom, view his back catalogue

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