Another school year is over and my kids have reached the end of year 12 and year 10. It’s been a big year for both of them – the start of A Level courses for my son and the start of GCSE courses for my daughter. I know we all say it every year, but I can’t believe how quickly the year has flown by. I also can’t believe how old my kids are getting! Another year and my son will have left school.
It has also been, as it has for all kids, an unusual year because of Covid. I don’t suppose any of us would have imagined back in September that it would still be affecting everything at the end of the school year. They had just over two months of online learning at the start of 2021. I’m pleased to say they both engaged with it and did everything they needed to, but the things they learned during that time were the things they felt they knew least well when it came to their mocks at the end of the year. My daughter also had two periods of self isolation in the autumn term of year 10.
Both of my kids’ schools introduced masks right at the start of the year, before they were made mandatory by the government. And when the government said schools could stop using them, they carried on using them in corridors and communal areas. They also had a long period of wearing them in classrooms, of course, which my daughter found quite difficult with her glasses. She either had steamed up glasses or she went without her glasses and struggled to see and gave herself a headache. Like many schools, they also got to go to school in their PE kits on PE days.
My son is doing four A Levels – maths, chemistry, biology and PE. Everyone at his school has to start out with four A Levels, although they are allowed to drop one at the end of year 12. Many of the kids have now dropped an A Level, but my son hasn’t. It’s not really necessary when you’re predicted four A*s!
My son has never worked very hard, but school work has always come easy to him. I warned him that A Levels are much harder than GCSEs, but he hasn’t found them hard. He’s working slightly harder than he has in the past, but I don’t think many people would describe the small amount of work he does as ‘working hard’. He actually found maths frustrating at first as it was a bit too easy. He did get 96% on one of his mock papers though.
A Level PE is all academic work, apart from 10% (I think) based on performance in a chosen sport. We already know my son has achieved 100% in this bit by jumping 6.93. He gets slightly frustrated with PE as the answers aren’t as clear as they are in maths and science. There are elements of biology in the course, but also elements of psychology and even history, which he is less keen on.
My son wants to study medicine at university and usually he would have had to find some voluntary work/ work experience in a related field to help support his UCAS application. But nowhere is allowing 17 year olds in to do work experience in medicine or care at the moment, so he and the rest of his generation will go to university without it.
My son can be quite shy and is very good at hiding his light under a bushel, so I was very proud when he stepped up this year as a house official (prefect). He shares tasks with the others and will also be the specific house official for the new year 7s when they come in. As a team, they pulled together a drama performance for the lower years in challenging circumstances. Usually it would be a huge performance in front of a packed hall full of parents. This year it was four separate performances (years 7 to 10) all filmed, then edited together and shown in assembly. My son, as the only team member with GCSE art to his name, took charge of the set design and also the budget. I was in awe of how he pulled a team together, how hard he worked and the fantastic pieces they produced to his designs.
Needless to say, there were no sports fixtures in year 12. The rugby tour to South Africa in July 2020 was moved to July 2021 and then swiftly cancelled.
My daughter has always worked hard, and year 10 was no exception. She just gets on with her homework without complaining and it paid off with some excellent marks throughout the year and some brilliant mocks results.
If there’s one subject she really works hard in, it’s art. She has produced some truly exceptional pieces in year 10, although she does work incredibly slowly. She got a 9 (that’s just above an old A* for anyone who doesn’t understand the new system) in her mock, although it was far from finished. She brought it home to finish over the holidays and is happy to spend her time on it.
In year 10, the girl who hated science in year 7 discovered a love for physics and biology. It turns out she’s pretty good at them. She’s now planning to take them for A Level. Also in year 10 she got an award for drama, which she was very excited about. The school issues only one of these awards per subject across two year groups (year 9 and 10) and they are purely based on attainment (rather than hard work or being a nice member of the class), so getting one isn’t easy.
She was disappointed that their geography field trips were cancelled, even though they were only in the same town. Geography fieldwork has been taking off the curriculum for next year’s GCSEs because of Covid. But she was very pleased that Covid didn’t stop work experience and she recently had a brilliant week working at the primary school where my sister teaches. Eventually, Covid didn’t even stop D of E. She started her D of E bronze at the beginning of year 9 and did her practise expedition at the end of year 10. She will do her final expedition at the start of year 11.
My daughter’s school seemed to make more changes for Covid than my son’s. They had an altered timetable, to stop them having breaks and lunch at the same time as other year groups, even though they had prescribed places around the school each bubble was allowed to hang out in. Each year group also had its own toilet block, which year 10 weren’t happy about as theirs only had two cubicles.
It’s been a funny old year. I really hope there is less disruption and more normality for years 13 and 11.