Let’s Celebrate All Exam Success

Summer Exam results have brought the usual range of pupils jumping for joy in staged photos for the press. But have we rather lost the art of real celebration and congratulation?

There is no doubt at all that the pupils, every year, achieve great things in their summer exams. This year we have had the best results probably in a decade at school. However, soon after that news breaks, the nation at large begins to worry. If results are too good, have standards fallen? Have the grade boundaries been too low? Are some exams easier than others? Is everything as it seems? All reasonable questions in their place but can we not have just a little consideration for those who have just taken the tests and done well. Do we have to take any sense of achievement from them so quickly? This is not a new phenomenon either – it has been so for 25 years at least in my experience. So my plea is that news editors remove from the usual summer stories list the endless questions about exam standards, if for no other reason than it is often January when the full data is validated. Why not celebrate in Summer and trawl over the detail in Winter?

Then there are those pictures. They do tell a feel good story and it is good to see them. Yet when assembling who should be seen celebrating we make other judgments as well. Of course we should celebrate Oxbridge success and medics and so on. They have achieved great things. Yet we should also celebrate those equally successful who have chosen different courses elsewhere. And we should find a way to celebrate those for whom what looks like a low grade might well be a great achievement, especially those with learning issues or who have had pastoral challenges. What would the picture look like if we assembled those with the best value added scores, whatever the grade? Of course it can’t be done easily until that data has been published and exams aren’t a news story in Winter – that is what we do in Summer, isn’t it?

I wonder if we can reshape what we celebrate in the press and how we do that – different news stories about all sorts of achievements, including Oxbridge but ranging far beyond as well; giving some space to value added as well as absolute results and encouraging those with worries about technicalities to do so quietly and away from the immediate moment of results day. Nothing would be lost and I think a fair bit gained for the young people with whom we celebrate.

About Philip Britton

Philip Britton is the Head of Foundation of Bolton School. He was brought up on Tyneside, took a first in physics at Oxford and did teacher training at Cambridge. He worked as physics teacher, Head of Physics and Deputy Head at Leeds Grammar School before moving to Bolton in 2008. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to physics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics where he has been much involved in physics education, encouraging teachers to encourage the next generation of physicists. Follow at X: @Philip_Britton | View X/Twitter archive | Listen at: Exploring Bolton School | Social Mobility, Leadership & Future School Thinking | Strategic School Leadership with Philip Britton | Strategic School Leadership with Philip Britton