A-levels from a student's perspective: 'Uncertainty, confusion and chaos... but also new opportunities'
Lizzie Roberts, who lives in Hatfield Broad Oak, achieved three A*s in her German, Latin and economics A-levels at Stephen Perse Sixth Form in Cambridge. Here she reflects on her experience of studying for A-levels in the midst of the pandemic...
From the months of online learning to the way my grades were eventually decided, my sixth-form experience was very different to the reality of the last two years.
Sixth form typically offers more independence and a chance to connect with a new group of people. But disruption caused by lockdowns, self-isolation and differing messages from Government announcements meant that despite all of the positives, background uncertainty was a significant feature of my A-level courses.
The level of uncertainty and confusion was, for me, one of the main challenges of the pandemic, along with the various changes given at short notice, particularly those which surrounded how grades would ultimately be decided.
The last couple of terms of an exam year are always stressful, but this year the late change from exams to teacher-assessed grades injected further chaos into an already fairly charged period.
Guesses and assumptions were used to try to fill the large gaps in information throughout the spring term, fuelled by wide variations between different schools' approaches and frequent emails saying yet again that there was still no new information.
However, while it was less than ideal, eventually transparent messages from my school, as well as open and honest conversations from my teachers, created some reassurance among the stress and confusion.
It can be easy to let the challenges of the pandemic overshadow the positive experiences. But despite the turbulence of the past two years, the lockdowns gave me new opportunities.
I had much more time, and although remote learning brought with it a variety of challenges, I was also able, for the most part, to experience somewhat of a better balance between school and life. For example, I spent a lot less time on a train and spent more time away from my desk, particularly during the sunny first lockdown.
Online learning also made me more appreciative of the benefits of actually being in school. Despite all of the hand sanitiser, face masks and one-way systems that greeted us after the lockdowns, it made being back in the classroom with the rest of my year something not to be taken for granted.
The period leading up to results day is an anxious wait for most, and it was particularly challenging listening to the news and predictions of this year’s results nationally, which highlighted the key differences of 2021's results day.
One theme that stood out for me was the dominating talk of grade inflation, raising questions about a potentially more negative external perception of this cohort’s grades, despite most students still sitting some form of internal exams.
But the fact that the differences of this year’s results day were being highlighted also emphasised the challenge of these very different circumstances, and therefore the reward in merely having completed sixth form during this period of time.
* Lizzie Roberts, who is spending a week on work experience with the Bishop's Stortford Independent, is taking a gap year to ponder her next move.