Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The importance of GCSEs

Every year I find myself saying to kids 'don't worry if they don't go your way. It's not the end of the world' - and now I know, it's really really not!

I watched this video and it really touched me, have a look:
I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate: https://youtu.be/soRE2XoLlIM

I feel for teenagers these days. Are GCSEs getting easier? Really? It's been reported as such every year since 1992 when I took mine (no need to do the maths, I'm ancient). I think that children are being trained to pass tests better, that's all.

I clearly remember the terror, age 13, taking my GCSE options, it being impressed upon me that THIS was the biggest decision of my life. That I needed to get them right. My whole life depended on them. If I ever wanted to make something of my life I needed to choose the ones most applicable to college and uni and a career. And I was expected to know, age 13,  sidetracked by whichever boy I fancied that week, what I was going to be doing successfully at age 24.

How? How can anyone that age know for sure what they want to do when they are 'grown up'? 

How can the little amount of independent life experience bestowed upon a teenager be enough to have an appreciation of the impact this choice is supposed to have?

My hormones were raging. I didn't know whether I was going to laugh hysterically or cry my eyes out on any given moment. I was hugely concerned at being in public with a face full of spots. I had the most acrimonious parental divorce to negotiate. I was suffering intense and despairing depression which nobody ever noticed.... But forget all that Tracey Ann, decide what exams you want to sit in two years and know that if you get THIS wrong, if you choose the wrong subjects, your life is effectively over. 
You will be nothing. 
You will have nothing. 

Decide. Now.

Quite ludicrous really.

Life didn't actually get any better. I did much worse than anticipated in my exams and certainly much much worse than my capabilities. But I just don't 'do' tests. Blimey, it took me 6 attempts to pass my driving test for crying out loud. I could drive perfectly well, as my final examiner (who'd since started calling me 'Trace' such was the familiarity) said I should have passed first time round. Nerves just made me a wreck.

And I have to say, my GCSE results have not made an ounce of difference to my life. Except that I was told on application to my  A levels at college that the one and only grade 'A' I got in my favourite subject didn't actually count. In fact it meant nothing, apart from that I needed an extra science GCSE to be able to do A levels.

Nobody thought to tell me that when I was 13. And nobody thought (despite my loud protestations) that sitting Spanish and Chemistry GCSE would not actually help me in a Sociology A level.
Pointless. Totally pointless. 

But that was the system. That's what happened. That's what was insisted upon. That's what I did.
I wasted a year of my life in order than I could waste another 2 years of my life doing further studying at A level.

And in the end, none of it has mattered. I got my first job based on a brief test in an employment agency and the rest is history. Learning on the job, using common sense, making the most of secondments and extra training, applying for promotions, working my way up.
Absolutely and precisely NOTHING has been based on my GCSE results, or my A level results, which I also failed badly.

How do I know? Because for 20+ years it has been my experience and willingness to learn that got me the job. Every time. 

I worked my way up and became a Marketing Manager working alongside with people who were apparently qualified up to the eyeballs.
And yes, I was the one mopping up their tears in the boardroom because they didn't have the first clue how to actually deal with people in a real life work situation because *that* wasn't taught on their uni course.
And yes, I hated it. Because that wasn't what I wanted to do. Not really. I was just good at it and was on the treadmill of life.

Nowadays.... well, I work in a summerhouse at the bottom of the garden sewing soft furnishings. For myself. And I LOVE IT. 

Do you know the irony? I sat a GCSE in textiles when I was 15.
I failed. 

My textiles teacher never let me complete a single item. She told me I was infuriating and I needn't bother with a sewing machine ever again. 
Age 36 I was so scarred by my time in her company I was shaking as I threaded a machine for the first time in 20 years. Within an hour I was head over heels in love with sewing and I went into business 6 months later.
So here I am.
I found my way.

And I'd have found it much sooner if  I hadn't wasted so much time at school being taught stuff which didn't excite me. I managed to pass my English exam and have still never read more than 41 pages of Romeo and Juliet on which my GCSE was based. And the only reason I will ever need to know that Jethro Tull invented the seed drill is to win a quiz night at the pub....

Hey ho, I'm here now. I got there in the end. 

We all get there, in the end.

I'd be really interested to see how you feel about your GCSE or O level results. Do you think they have any bearing on what is happening in your life today? Why not leave me a comment, I'd love to read them! 

Thanks as ever for reading my blog :)

Tracey xx


  1. Mine did. But I absolutely agree with it being far too young to know what you want to do. I did go to uni but didn't have the subjects several of them wanted for my course. So with my English, history and French, i would say getting into a Bsc course was maybe more about me and my overall ability. I am asked about secondary school... All.... the..... Time. My answer is similar to yours.

  2. I was so unhappy at school (I can still see that bully's face) I couldn't wait to leave. Actually passed my 'O' levels much better than prophesied by teachers who kept telling me I was stupid and, when I did MENSA tests in my 40s, I scored 159 which apparently makes me a genius! Who knew............. Great Auntie Susan


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