UK school closure – an A level student’s perspective

‘BREAKING     UK schools to close’

That’s what the banner says at the bottom of the screen. I’m alone in my room in my boarding house on Wednesday, my guitar in my lap as I was having a jam session while I waited for the daily update, live from BBC news. And there it was. All schools were to close on Friday. Well, shit. This is real. This is actually happening right now.

I go on our year group chat on WhatsApp, as Boris Johnson’s (also known as BoJo) voice continues speaking from my laptop, though I’m no longer paying full attention to him. That’s until someone says on the group chat – ‘HE JUST SAID EXAMS WILL NOT TAKE PLACE AS NORMAL’. I look back at the screen, and soon enough I see it on the banner. Exams to not take place in May and June. People are reacting on the group chat – several ‘OMG’s and ‘What the fuck’s, questions about how we will get our A level grades and what it all means. My reaction is a tongue sticking out emoji, and I explain myself with ‘Sorry this is all quite exciting’ followed by a laughing crying emoji.

At this point I’m kind of gassed. I found school exhausting and dull. With our impending A level exams, I was struggling to get my shit together, and I didn’t know where I was going in life. So I’m happy to hear this news. It feels like something interesting was finally happening, and I always love surprises, especially big ones like this. My school has been preparing for this, and had already gotten students to download Skype for Business a while ago so we could have online lessons if schools did shut down. Good call, school.

I message my mum that evening, and she wants me to go back home on Thursday so we could avoid having to walk past loads of people on Friday after school when everyone would be leaving. I agree, as the house staff said they wouldn’t stop anyone from leaving early if we wanted to. I begin packing up my room that evening.

The next day, there is a sixth form assembly held by the head mistress and other main staff. They talk about their plans – which is mainly just about following government advice, and providing remote learning. There is another assembly later in the day, where they talk more about remote learning and online classes. Then the head of sixth forms goes through the possibilities about what will happen with our exams, where he says the most likely option is that we will get predicted grades based on our work throughout the last two years and the work we will do in the coming months. I hope he’s right, because if I work really hard in the next months I might be able to achieve better grades than I would if we had exams.

My mum picks me up in the afternoon, with about 3 suitcases, 4 boxes, 12 bags and my violin and guitar stuffed in the car. It all feels very surreal, like I could be imagining it. It’s just so weird, going home when it should be school time, knowing exams are cancelled. Our music teacher has already emailed us with a load of work to do to be used as evidence if that was going to be how our grades were decided. So I start working on that in the evening, and continue on it the next day.

Now, I didn’t exactly tell anyone I was leaving on Thursday, just a couple people knew. So on Friday, I get a video call. It’s four of my friends, who scold me for not saying goodbye. I apologise. There’s genuinely no real reason I didn’t say bye, I just didn’t think about it. But it hits me that I may not see them for a very long time. I ask if I’ve missed out on anything, and they say there were a lot of tears. I reckon if I was in school, I might have cried too. People are also sharing photos and videos on the year group chat. There’s singing and dancing, and even alcohol. It’s pretty much a leaver’s day, come a couple months early. It still feels very strange to me.

Later in the day the government release information about GCSEs and A levels. Our prediction is right – ‘teachers will take into account a range of evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment’ to produce our grades. I’m happy. Happy and lucky. This really might give me a chance to well, and it takes away the stress of our grades being determined by what we write in a few hours in exam rooms. It feels like a sort of victory, almost like I want to thank the virus for letting this happen.

So now, on this Saturday evening as I write this, I feel motivated. Admittedly quite a bit more motivated than I was just a week ago. Lessons begin again, remotely, on Monday. This is a unique experience. These are weird times.

24 thoughts on “UK school closure – an A level student’s perspective

  1. Love your voice. Refreshing. I’m an old man here in Brooklyn, with my High School Freshman son who’s been remote learning for about a month now. Now, while you write in English, the difference is school systems leaves me scratching my head at times. Fun.
    Yeah, surreal.
    I worked a few blocks from the towers on 9-11, felt the first one come down and walked four hours home through the dust (might see me on footage ;), lived though the blackout (Large part of North America was out of power for a few days). Then, Hurricane Sandy, which had friends living in our apartment. So yeah, surreal.
    NYC always has people around, but it’s like in a comma for now.
    Keep up your observations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks man 🙂 Yeah me too – there are parts of the US school system that I don’t get either haha!
      Sounds like you’ve been through a lot of mad experiences – I read your ‘about’ page on your site too which proved it.
      Take care and stay safe!

      Like

  2. It was such an incredible representation. I enjoyed it! Well, it reminded me the last few days at my college hostel. However, I pray for everyone to get rid of this obscuring thread to the living world!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Irrelevant Girl:

    I’m an old guy way out on Vancouver Island BC. I think you stumbled across my blog “fmboyce.com” – a first for me. WordPress urged me to visit “An Irrelevant Girl” We too are locked down by Covid-19.

    I liked your essay and I read some of your poems – lots of good energy and emotions. Short lines and strong rhymes are a powerful emphatic device to drive a point home but a gentler structure, both rhythm and rhyme might be better for the lead-up.

    Do you, at school, study any of the 19th century greats – Wordsworth, Shelley etc? I’m thinking of sonnets written with supple iambic pentameter lines (and some rhymes). I had to memorize some of these at school. A chore at the time but I’m glad I did. I started writing poetry at school too and poetry has been a nourishing interest of mine for a long time.

    Keep on writing but read lots, too with and eye and ear for both content and structure

    Cheers,

    Farrell Boyce
    North Saanich BC, Canada

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot for the feedback! I don’t study English at school anymore, but previously yes we’ve looked at many 19th century poets. I’ll keep your advice in mind – again, thank you! I appreciate it 🙂
      Take care,
      an irrelevant girl

      Like

  4. I applaud your very positive attitude to the current situation with public exams. I too would have been delighted if my O levels ( yes, I am that old) and A levels had been cancelled, although I really feel for teenagers being socially isolated from each other for any length of time. I am currently writing something about this, so look out for it over the next few days. Enjoy your music and your writing. This too will pass and all will be well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha – thank you! Yes, nobody wants to be socially isolated for this long but on the bright side, new opportunities arise (for example I have more time to write!) I’ll definitely look out for your post 🙂

      Like

  5. I teach a college class in the US. They have to do a presentation, which will now be online. I actually suggested as a possible topic something to do with how grades or participation is handled in our virus-interrupted semester. I’ll have to mention your post in our next conference call class.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “Surreal” is the best word I’ve heard yet to describe this crisis.

    Good story. As a teacher of many years, I reflect that we caused far too much worry about evaluation. The evaluation mandate is something that has been foisted on is to make sure teachers are doing their jobs and to make sure that students are sorted for (or more accurately, sorted FROM) different life opportunities.

    Imagine if you will, a scenario in which you were able to explore ideas without the fear of a criminal (academic) record. Maybe you would still get exams, but only you would see their results. Would you lose your motivation to learn, to strive to do well? I hardly think so.

    Liked by 2 people

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