When I turned on BBC news on TV one Friday afternoon in March and saw that this summer’s A-level and GCSE exams were cancelled I realised that regardless of whether or not I became ill with coronavirus, it was definitely going to affect me.
Although I instantly accepted that all the year 13s (and year 11s) would be affected, I couldn’t yet understand what it would do to me. Sitting on the sofa, hearing my phone buzz every few seconds as my friends shared the news that we weren’t actually going to sit A-levels, I felt numb. In a way I am still processing it.
My A-level exams have been my preoccupation for the past two years: I have worked late into the night and had been mentally preparing for a four-week period of written papers and speaking exams, pretty stressed about the sheer amount of work we were expected to do but knowing that it would help us to perform well and win a place at our first choice of university. The exams were at the forefront of our minds a lot of the time as it was drilled into us that they were some of the most important ones we would ever take.
Back at school, I saw my teachers react to the news. Some of them seemed just as shocked as their pupils were and didn’t seem to know what to say; others offered consolation, and some told us to “just keep going”. The day after the news broke, I walked into my English lesson at school and it suddenly felt very strange. It was difficult to stay optimistic. Over the next couple of weeks the school told us that instead of sitting exams, our teachers would pass on to the exam board the grades they think we would have achieved had we sat our A-levels in the summer. So it was all the more important to prove to our teachers that we were working hard.
The most unsettling part of it for me, and I’m sure for most pupils, has been the uncertainty and the lack of concrete information about when or if schools will reopen in the summer term, and whether university terms will start on time in the autumn. Keeping motivated has been a real challenge.
Right now, the most important mindset for me right now is one in which I appreciate the positive elements of the school closures: cancellation of our exams removes the pressure to perform in timed conditions. Also, a lot of our classes are continung online: being at my desk at home, I’ve felt a lot more comfortable.
Young people rely so heavily on school life and socialising to feel balanced. Although the lockdown rules mean I can only see my friends on a screen, and sometimes they buffer or disconnect, it has made me appreciate their company even more, and I know what one day we will come out of this feeling proud about ourselves.
It’s going to be slightly bizarre in August receiving grades for A-Levels I didn’t actually sit, but I will be no less deserving of them.