13th August 2020 — On A level results day, a number of St Benedict's Year 13 students went in to school to share their thoughts about this odd, but crucial, stage in their lives. They, and most of their friends, had got places at their first-choice university and will be starting their undergraduate study in September. After six months of limbo, anxiety and uncertainty, everyone was relieved, and excited about the future – if a little shell-shocked from so much confusion.
Losing the final term of sixth form and living in lockdown had obviously not been easy: “I found the last term of school quite stressful, because it was all so unknown”, said Rachel, who is going to St Andrew’s University to study History. Keeping in touch with each other helped everyone to cope with the uncertainty, however: “It was nice to re-kindle with people through Zoom, like a social escape”, said Isabella, who has a place at Leeds University to read PPE; “Although it made you appreciate how much nicer it is to talk to someone in person”, added Jack, who is going to Oxford University to read Music.
With exams cancelled, St Benedict’s offered a programme of pre-university study to all Year 13 students, with 1-1 tutorials and seminars covering a wide range of subjects. The aim was to help them prepare for their chosen undergraduate courses, and to broaden their knowledge. “It was good to learn about something different, unconnected with any syllabus” said Isabella. Several remarked that they had found the programme useful, as a means of maintaining academic focus, getting ahead with some pre-course reading and honing their research and essay-writing skills. “The teachers seemed to enjoy teaching the various courses”, said Evan who is going to Nottingham University to read Geography.
Everyone agreed that taking mock results into account would not be a good way of adjudicating the award of grades as mock exams vary hugely from school to school and are not standardised: some schools have ‘open book’ mock exams, others hold them in the autumn term, and many had not had any at all (although St Benedict’s students took mocks in January). The school is looking very closely at the grades awarded in certain subjects where they suspect there may have been some unfairness. If this proves to be the case, they will not hesitate to appeal these grades.
Now, everyone in Year 13 is looking forward to coming back to St Benedict’s for their postponed leavers’ lunch and leavers’ ball at the end of the university term in mid-December. "We pay tribute to the resilience, positivity and adaptability they have shown in uncharted, very difficult circumstances, and wish them all the very best as they embark on the next stage of their lives", said the Headmaster, Andrew Johnson.