What keeps me awake at night

I've done all I can, now it's out of my hands

I am a head of English with a team of amazing teachers. We all work hard, jump through the inspectors' hoops and are well liked by the students.

But, like many good English departments across England, we got caught up in the mess brought on by the GCSE grade boundaries shift last year. Suddenly, a department whose results had always been above the national average was left floundering and we were the reason our school's A*-C percentage sank.

It was, without doubt, the worst time in my career. I saw outstanding teachers take a knock to their confidence that I never knew was possible. My second in command went off with stress and my team lost their faith in the system.

But like all strong teachers we rallied. We overhauled our way of teaching; we implemented a stringent tracking system; we attacked underachievement as if it were a plague on humanity. When the students skipped off to the exam we were fully confident that we had done all we could and I thought the worrying and stress would be over.

And then the nightmares began. That night, I realised that it was all out of my hands. The future of these students now rested with someone else and the fear I felt was overwhelming. I thought the pressure would ease, but if anything it has got worse. I find myself awake at all hours thinking about the results and the impact they will have on my team, my headteacher and, most importantly, my students. And I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

The reality of my situation is that if my department's results do not improve I will have no choice but to resign. And I find this heartbreaking. It will mean leaving a school I have worked in for 10 years, a school that I have given my heart and soul to improving. All the hard work that my team and I have put in will be dismissed. Most importantly, the students will not achieve the grades they deserve and they will lose their faith in me.

If I did everything I could and still let them down, what would that say about the education system?

The writer is a teacher in the North of England

Tell us what keeps you awake at night

Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk

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