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My GCSE journey

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Image captionImage 1: Penny Hampden-Turner (pictured) spent many hours working by herself in her room

By Penny Hampden-Turner

Penny lives in Fulham and is awaiting her GCSE results this Thursday (12 August). She has written below about her experiences studying during these unprecedented times.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with saying that “Life is a journey, not a destination”, but I think you would find that many GCSE students would disagree.

For us, the journey involved uncertainty, video calls, isolation, adapting to online learning, and a crash course on wifi speeds. It’s almost surreal to think back to that time where everyone was just excited about what they assumed was going to be a short-term change. We never thought it would lead to the cancelling of exams. Although that headline was certainly misleading as my friends and I have found ourselves doing more tests and exams than any year before us.

When at home we had to set our devices up so we could be monitored visually and audibly as we sat paper after paper to ensure we had enough proof to get the grades we deserved. In school, despite much protest from us students, test after test was set by each teacher as they scrambled to be able to provide us with the best opportunity for the top grade.

Although I can appreciate the tireless effort teachers put in now, I can’t say I did at the time. There was so much uncertainty about what would count and what wouldn’t. In fact, it was only in the last few months that we knew that our end of year GCSEs would not be happening.

Despite my complaining, I am actually glad they were cancelled. The weight put on one exam at the end of the year now seems unjustifiable. With so many pieces of evidence provided there is no chance of you having a “bad day” that could ruin your result despite months of hard work. The system used this year seems, at least in my experience, so much more accurate than the traditional one.

Away from the topic of exams, this year has arguably been hard for everyone. Once the novelty of lockdown wore off, the reality of isolation set in. Despite FaceTiming and texting friends as often as possible it’s just not the same as seeing them everyday. With my parents working and my brother busy with his own online school many hours were spent working by myself in my room.

It was a relief when Boris Johnson announced that it was safe for us to return to school, although I was not looking forward to the slightly earlier start. Sleep is always a priority.

While many were apprehensive about their health and safety, there were so many measures put in place that I felt reassured. The windows stayed open and everyone wore their masks. Social distancing was enforced, although not always as effectively as the teachers hoped, especially with all of us so happy to be finally reunited.

As for the future, I’m not sure what it holds. At the time of writing, I have not received my GCSE results which are due on Thursday via the school website. Sixth form is already a big change, even in normal times but now there are even more unknowns.

The usual school trips remain unbooked as rules change. Whether we’ll be able to socialise with other years depends on the government’s rules on bubbles.

However, with everyone getting vaccinated and my age group being eligible for vaccination soon, the future feels more certain. I cannot deny that I’m excited for what’s going to happen and I wish all other students luck with their results.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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