The stress of A-level results is felt by teachers as well as students

Richard Vaughan

News article image

A-levels results day is undoubtedly a nerve-jangling time for the hundreds of thousands of students awaiting their fate, but we should also spare a thought for their teachers. 

Years of coaching, cajoling, prepping and, quite often, pleading with their students in a bid to prepare them for their exams all comes down to this one day, meaning staff will also be feeling the pressure.

And this year, results day has an added pressure as the exams were moved from a modular system to the all-or-nothing end of year tests following a raft of reforms brought in under former education secretary Michael Gove.

But while many onlookers may believe that heads and their staff are concerned about what the results will mean for their schools, teachers are far more concerned about what it means for their students.

Dan Edmunds, head of history in a school in Kent, told TES: “Non-teachers always think that results day is stressful for teachers because we’re worried about the school or our careers. That’s nothing to do with it – we’re worried about the kids that we’ve had in front of us in our class.

“No matter how good your results, there’s always one that doesn’t get what they need, and that’s horrible.”

Despite this, however, the sheer scale of change brought in by the government when it comes to exams has led to fears about the “burnout” of school staff as they try to cope with the demands of the reforms.

Just last week, TES reported that heads were “hugely worried” about what the reforms might mean for results. It followed a statement from the exams watchdog Ofqual which warned schools, students and parents to expect to see more "variability" in exam results this year compared to previous years.

Robert Campbell, principal of Impington Village College in Cambridgeshire and a member of the Headteachers’ Roundtable group of school leaders, said there was a mood of “anxiety” in many schools: “When you have Ofqual saying there will be some turbulence in the system, you have to batten down the hatches and prepare for some uncertainty.

“We don’t know what to expect. Our predictions could be in the right ballpark, they might be 10 per cent one way or 10 per cent the other way. This turbulence is going to affect how schools fare in the accountability system. These are the sort of changes that can cost headteachers their jobs.”

The NASUWT said much of the build-up to tomorrow’s results had been dominated by claims that A-level results will be predicted to fall, but it said more should be focused on praising teachers who help students achieve their grades.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said despite claims of a fall in grades, the likelihood was that results were expected to be “broadly in line with recent years”.

“Teachers should be commended for their hard work to ensure that standards have been maintained despite the assault on teachers’ working conditions and the cuts to budgets in the post-16 sector, which have had a significant impact on the staffing levels and resources available in schools and colleges,” she added.

“The fact is that tomorrow’s results will have been achieved despite the government’s reforms, not because of them.”

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

Latest stories