Our high-stakes accountability system means that sleepless nights ahead of results day are a distinct possibility. But there are some things not worth worrying about, says Mark Roberts.
GCSE results day is stressful.
At the start of the summer break, it seems safe and distant, a vague blur on the horizon.
But as the August days get shorter, that blur starts to take shape: a distinct and immovable object that begins to trouble your sleep.
Caring about your students’ results is natural and healthy. But if that concern starts to tip over into anxiety, you should take notice.
That worry is perhaps not surprising, given the high-stakes accountability in our schools.
But a lot of the results-day anxieties that keep teachers up at night are about issues that rarely materialise.
Here are five common worries that you can put aside:
The grade boundaries will shoot up
Yes, grade boundaries could climb sharply on any given year. But movements tend to be small, because principal examiners work to write papers of the same difficulty each year.
Ultimately, the grade boundary is out of your control, so isn’t worth the energy worrying about it.
You’ll get sacked for bad results
Even if your classes’ results are really poor, it’s unlikely that you’ll be shown the door. Disappointing exam results may well place your teaching under greater scrutiny but only in extremely rare cases will it lead to being fired.
If they don’t do well, you’ve let them down
GCSE results reflect the years of schooling a child has received in a given subject. And the context of what went before you can be as important as what happened in your class.
Teachers rarely let pupils down. Did you teach the full specification? Did you have high expectations? Did you try to deal with behaviour issues and motivate your students to learn?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then even if the final grade is disappointing, you’re probably not the one to blame.
You have to check results first thing
The urge to know the results as soon as possible can be overwhelming.
On results day, red-eyed insomniacs across the land will be treading fearfully down the stairs, desperate to log on to the exam board website before the first cock crow.
Try to avoid the 6am rush (the website is likely to crash due to “unexpected demand” anyway). Instead, stroll into results day later when you’ve had a proper sleep. You’ll feel all the better for it.
You have to go in to school
I like to go into school on results day, even though I have to drag along my own three children – armed with colouring pens and an arsenal of snacks – to be there.
But, unless you have a position of responsibility that demands your presence, there’s no reason why you should see your attendance as compulsory.
Some of the best teachers I’ve worked with don’t turn up. They value the results of their students but they value their rest and recuperation even more.
In a world of smartphones and social media, it’s not that hard to find out how things have gone while lying on a beach in the Algarve. And if you can’t? Well, that’s one less thing to worry about.