I have been a teacher for 27 years, a Headteacher for 12 years and, at the age of 51, this much I know about A level results day.
How was A level results day for you?
I discovered my A levels results in front of an audience. Dad brought the envelope to the golf club after it had arrived in the afternoon post one August day in 1984. I mooched around the club shop waiting for him with my mate Greg and the two golf professionals, John and Dennis.
I felt confident. I worked hard preparing for the examinations which, bar an essay on The Return of the Native, had gone well. I needed two B grades and a C grade to secure a place at York to study English and Related Literature.
I opened the envelope and read the contents out loud: Economics, grade A. English lit, grade A. Maths, grade A. Greg was thrilled. John and Dennis were chuffed. For only the second time in my life, dad shook my hand and smiled. I borrowed the shop ’phone to tell mother the news and all was done.
The sun shone so Greg and I went to play golf. Dad returned to work his afternoon shift at the Post Office.
As I walked up the first fairway I had one sensation. It wasn’t relief at getting the grades. It wasn’t concern about leaving my girlfriend back in Sussex. It wasn’t excitement at the prospect of studying literature for three years. It was an overwhelming sense of liberty.
I said to Greg, I tell you what. The most important thing about those results is that I can leave home now. I’ll have my own room. You can come up and we’ll have a great crack! And that was it. A good state education had given me a choice about how I lived my life.
Years later, people told me how proud my dad was of my academic success. He must have gone back to sorting letters that afternoon happy and relieved, knowing that his son would not be confined to an unskilled, manual job as he had been for the whole of his life.
This week, across the country, tens of thousands of young adults will open envelopes which will reward them with a room of their own and choice. As a Headteacher, there are 150 or so York youngsters I’ll be rooting for in particular on Thursday, and as a dad there’ll be just one special one…
I might go to France. I might go to my mother’s. I might even have a baby. I dunno. I’ll make a decision. I’ll choose. – from Willy Russell’s Educating Rita