Thursday, 18 August 2011

Reflections on A-Level Results Day

It's a scary time.

No matter how old you may get and no matter how distant the years feel from when it was my turn to face that excruciating wait, the memories remain.

It annoys me slightly to see some good people commenting on how they don't care about today's A-Level results. The more the years pile on, the more results days we witness and the more we hear of the 'dumbing down' of our educational standards to ensure that high standards are achieved.

Well, let's not forget here that whilst many of us will have seen this day come and go many times, there was a time when it was we that were trembling with trepidation at what those sealed envelopes had to say for our effort and for our future aspirations.

A-Level Results Day 2000
It was 11 years ago now since it was my turn. The day arrived and the anxious build-up came to a head. If you thought GCSE results day was a nervous affair, it had nothing on this! Because the results this time round could mean the difference between going to Aberystwyth University as I hoped or an uncertain future that lay ahead through the Clearing system.

Our results were given to us by our form tutor Pauline Brind-Davies (who I met for the first time since that momentous day only last week and which I commented upon here) and if I remember correctly, our Head of 6th Form Mr Jarvis and quite possibly in fact, the Headteacher Dr Davies himself.

The year 2000 was the last but one to sit the old fashioned A-Levels which were the culmination of 2 years work in Years 12 and 13. That autumn, the first intake began the AS-Levels and were to sit the new A-Levels in 2002.

I was particularly nervous because my results were far from certain. The required score for me to attend Aberystwyth University to study Modern History and Politrics was 18 points. This equated to a 3 C average across my A-Levels of History, English and Business Studies. It didn't matter how they were achieved as long as the total matched that average or more.

I was particularly worried as I mentioned in the related blog post above that I may only get an E in Business Studies. This meant that I would need a BB average in my stronger subjects of History and English to get the 18 points needed. But I was expected to only achieve a C in English and I had undergone extra out-of-school tuition in Robeston Wathen to improve my English language in readiness for my finals.

So it was all I felt, on a bit of a knife-edge doing into the dreaded results day itself. My relief at finding that I had achieved a D in Business and a B in English to go with my B in History was therefore clear for anyone who knew me. I had in fact in the final analysis, 20 points.

But do you think that this was enough to calm my nerves? Not a jot! A gang of us went down to the Station Arms in Whitland for a celebratory or comiseratory drink that lunchtime. I was still technically underage as I didn't turn 18 until a week later (being the youngest in the year was always a pain up until that point!). But never fear, I had no time for drinking for I was still worrying that Aberystwyth University would not accept me for some unfathonable reason!

Such was my mild state of panic that I found myself at the public call 'phone in the pub searching through a Yellow Pages for the number of the History Department in the University. On finding the number and placing the call, I was asked on the other line for my name, the amount of points on my conditional offer and the number of points achieved. When my answer given made clear that I'd achieved more than the conditional amount I was met with a brief silence. Then the rather curt response "Yes, you're fine". As if to say 'stop wasting my time, there's students here who have underachieved and who have genuine reason to worry'! It goes without saying that I was mightily relieved to know for sure that my place was secure!

Good Luck!
So you can say, I sympathise entirely with those experiencing these mixtures of emotions today.

It is not just another day of spewed out statistics of 97% of students nation-wide achieving an A*-E grade. It is much more than mere figures. It is the hopes, dreams and aspirations of thousands of our youngest and brightest - all hoping that the future that they have tentatively mapped out can be realised.

I was greatly fortunate that my results day brought me the results that I required to realise my dreams of studying up the road from my Pembrokeshire home at Aberystwyth University. As an earlier blog post that I wrote here about my time there demonstrates, it was a venue and a period of study and living that changed my life.

It all started on that results day in August 2000 at Ysgol Dyffryn Taf, Whitland, Carmarthenshire.

I sincerely hope that all of my friends receiving their results today and indeed all students in this position at thisd moment in time are as fortunate as I was and achieve everything that they desire in thire futures that lie ahead.


  1. I was in the group that first was under the new alevels and, my gcses were in 2000. I was always c/d borderline so these days made me pretty scared!