The last time I wrote about my daughter’s university choices, the world hadn’t heard of Covid-19, or lockdown.
Lauren and I had visited five campuses up and down the country, bonding over Wham’s Greatest Hits and coffee. We whittled it down to her favourite university, Leeds, with her first-choice course liberal arts and religion, politics and society second.
In February, she had to knuckle down and revise for mocks. Then came Covid-19 and life as we knew it stopped.
Instead of pupils sitting A-levels, schools and colleges were asked to provide a centre-assessment grade for each learner. This is the grade that each pupil is most likely to have achieved if they had sat their exams, based on evidence held by schools and colleges and reviewed by subject teachers and heads of department.
Schools and colleges also had to provide a rank order of students within each grade. This is because the process would “require a more granular scale” than grades alone, Ofqual says.
If a school or college had 15 pupils for GCSE maths with a centre assessment grade of 5, they should be ranked from one to 15, where one is the “most secure/highest attaining”, two is the next most secure, and so on.
Get it? Many of us didn’t either.
For some, this new turn of events would have been a positive. For those who crumble as soon as they walk into the hall, whose mind goes blank and all those hours and months of hard work goes out the window.
But for others not doing an exam meant never getting to finish the marathon they started. Like leaving an unfinished manuscript with so many unanswered questions — how well would they have coped under exam conditions.
Many, including parents, feel cheated. Of course, schools and universities are at the mercy of Covid-19 and governments rules, but this year’s cohort will forever be looked on in a slightly different manner. They’ll always be known as the Covid-19 year and only time will tell whether it have a detrimental effect on future studies and employment.
Lauren celebrated the start of what would have been her A-levels with a large cocktail and on the day of her first exam woke up late, watched Netflix and spoke to friends. I think she would have liked to have been waking up early, facing the butterflies in her stomach and tentatively driving to school in readiness to take them.
The weeks before results day on August 13 would usually have been filled with inter-railing, a summer job, fun with friends and experiences parents shouldn’t know about. Instead, they were filled with Netflix, social distancing with a friend in the park and checking the Leeds University website to see how they envisage university life restricted by Covid-19.
I have trawled through the Facebook pages of other worried parents asking if their child is deferring for a year — No. They’d be sad if their child misses out on fresher’s week. They question if we’ll be reimbursed for some of the expenses of campus life if it doesn’t happen as normal. What should I buy in the sales — clothes, bedding — when we don’t know what Lauren will need in September?
We are just going to have to wait another fortnight and see what it brings. And make sure we have a plan B, C all the way to Z with a large cocktail or two ready.
Debbie Rose is commercial director of the JC