Students across the UK have been anticipating the release of their GCSE results, a moment they have been working towards for years

As one gets older it is easy to forget the significance that public examination results have for those who take them and for those who care for them.

Thursday August 25 in England was GCSE results day. These are the public exams taken by students at age 16 and our granddaughter’s time to receive hers. She, as with all her friends and their families, was up early in anticipation. By 8am they were gathered at the school gates and on the stroke of the hour were ushered in to receive their results. Some immediately ripped open their envelopes, others sought some privacy, whilst others made a beeline to their parents to open it with them.

The results mean so much to both students and parents.  They play a critical role in the selection process for the world of work and are part of the rights of passage in their journey from teenager to adult. They had been achieved whilst all battled through the exam years under restrictions imposed to contain the spread of Covid. The students had worked hard, parents supporting as best they could and the school staff going out of their way to ensure their chances were not jeopardised. This was their reward.

We received our granddaughter’s fabulous news by mobile phone about ten minutes later, to a background of whoops, cheers and a few tears.  The celebration that followed included free chicken at the local outlet of a well known national restaurant chain. Once over the initial euphoria, many of the parents felt proud, contented and exhausted. It has been a very difficult two years for everyone, and the recent rumours circulating in the press that the results would not be as expected had only served to crank up the tension. However, as nearly all of these students would be using their grades to gain entry to schools with a sixth form, their minds rapidly turned to selecting the right school and of course to securing the next stage in their child’s educational development.

In our day-to-day work in schools we sometimes forget that for many of the parents, the outcome of their child’s state education as manifested in their examination results still represents a chance for them to provide for their children an opportunity they never had. This forms a key element in our desire to create a society which facilitates social mobility based upon ability and effort.

Wellbeing and refining theory of action

We had a chance this week to catch up with Mike Dubeau, Director General of the Western Quebec School Board. Mike and his leadership team had just had their first meeting this school year with their principals.  During the meeting he and his team took the opportunity to see first-hand how they were all faring after the difficult times that they have been through during Covid.

Most of the remainder of the meeting was set aside refining their theory of action. This included Ruth Ahern, Assistant Director General of the WQSB presenting an update for two of the criteria for leadership competencies and the principals working collaboratively to select within their own schools which part of the competencies they would make more explicit to aid development – their espouse theory – and which key staff they would work with to grow their practice – theory in use.

On what some of our readers may consider to be on the more mundane side, Mike was deep in negotiations for school bus contracts. These contracts are awarded every five years, negotiated overall by the provincial government but commissioned and delivered locally. As the Board covers a vast geographical area, a significant number of rural schools bus students to school and it is an essential service. The potential disruption caused by the lack of an agreement would not be the best way to start the new school year.  As we publish this article the bus companies have agreed to provide the service, although negotiations are ongoing. Thus the students will be back at school for the start of the year on time.

UK Government directives to reduce the cost to parents of school uniforms have been reported in the press. This has been welcomed by parents who already face rising energy and food bills. We are aware that for some of our readers, the wearing of school uniform will be seen as a very British thing.

The first section of this report made us reflect upon how all of us in education continually need to be mindful of the significant impact our work has on determining the direction of our students’ lives. We are grateful as ever to Mike Dubeau for sharing his work with us and we congratulate Ruby Conlon and all her friends on their GCSE results and thank the staff of The Eastwood Academy, Leigh on Sea for their excellent work. We wish all of them the best of luck in the future.

Take care and stay safe


Professor Sir George Berwick, CBE