‘Stop telling us to see the positive’: a Year 11 writes

The exams U-turn has had a huge impact on everyone in schools, not least exhausted students, writes Year 11 Mei Kawagoe

Mei Kawagoe

GCSEs 2021: 'Stop telling us to see the positives,' writes one Year 11 after the cancellation of exams

The day my GCSEs were cancelled, I dropped a spoon in the bin and cursed the universe.

It’s all a mess. I’m not doing exams, but I’m still taking exams so I can get my GCSEs. Which I’m not taking.

Here’s how it works (I think): I do so many exams that I begin to cry ink, and then my teachers mesh a grade out of that. The one bright side is that at least we’re not facing the dreaded algorithm.

I just feel tired. 

I’ve worked incessantly, through the autumn of Year 10, through quarantine, through the summer holidays, through the new school term, through the Christmas holidays to prepare for my mocks, which didn’t happen. And now the promises of “it’ll all be worth it” have been ripped from under my feet. Because will it?

GCSEs 2021: Worry and uncertainty

I sit on online lessons, with classmates asking what happens now. Teachers’ responses are just elongated versions of “We don’t know – we’re sorry”. Our teachers are still working endlessly, but everything keeps on changing. 

All we need is some certainty. That’s it. Sometimes I feel like my education, the thing I’m told is my gateway to opportunity, is dictated by chaos theory.

I go to a state school, my mum’s a single parent and a key worker. I go over to my grandparents’ house every morning; we juggle, we make it work. 

In the first lockdown, I had no online lessons, no screen-to-screen, face-to-face time with teachers at all. I was told education was meant to work for you, if you work for it. I was misinformed.

Tired of false promises

I’m tired of having to turn in every piece of work like it’s my final grade, just in case it is.

I’m tired of false promises. 

I was told that although Year 10 was chaos, at least we weren’t in Year 11. They’d have it sorted by next year. We were the lucky ones. Like with everything else, I was misinformed.

I’m tired of my education being blue light, on mute, camera off. "Yes, I can hear you." "Can you hear me?"

How teachers can support Year 11s

There are some ways teachers can support Year 11s in this situation:

1. Please, no more online things. I have Outlook, Teams and Satchel One, I have to download Word docs, PowerPoints, open yet another tab, comment, upload, bookmark, convert your PDF, set up another account, unmute, type in the chat…

Please stop! I am floating around somewhere in the technological stratosphere, with 300 accounts and no oxygen (or memory of which password it is for which account).

2. If students email you, please email back. There is nothing more tragic than being ignored by your teacher.

3. Limit how much work you’re setting that requires a screen. We’re on screens for what, six hours a day? Migraines aren’t fun. And yes, extra research means a screen – we don’t have encyclopaedias.

4. Don’t make us feel bad, or ask us to see the positives. I am superglued to a screen for my education. I am living a sedentary life. I don’t really have a life, in fact. I do have myopia and I am talking to myself. It’s not positive.  

5.  Please stop asking whether we can hear you. Life is Groundhog Day-like enough without having to raise a virtual hand because you can hear voices. Again.

Mei Kawagoe is a Year 11 student in the East Midlands

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