In an issue which is celebrating heritage, it feels very fitting that August is also ‘results month’ for GCSEs, A Levels, T Levels, SQAs and VTQs: young people creating their own legacies in spite of, or because of their heritage. Where they have come from, which route they have travelled, the position of privilege or deprivation that they have come from can all inform their success or otherwise at an academic level. And, of course, there is still the legacy of Covid which looms large over all of us.
For the young, Covid meant unthinkable disruption in their development. Days, weeks and months spent away from their peers, out of the classroom, away from their teachers, cut off from resources earlier generations were able to take for granted – even if at the time we thought we resented it.
The further we travel from those liminal days of lockdown, the harder it becomes to remember the reality of how we lived. As adults, we at least had been given the chance to develop these skills; not least to learn how to work toward something and for it to come to fruition.
Even without this three-year-long break in normality, results day is undoubtedly one of the most stressful experiences a young person can go through. Anticipation, anxiety, and insurmountable pressure from everyone around you can make the build-up to this day completely unbearable, and reminders of the looming occasion are all around.
Social media feeds will then be littered with posts from proud parents and delighted young people for whom great results will indicate a bright future, but if you or your young people don’t perform as well as had been hoped, bear in mind what is actually being tested here. Not intelligence, but the ability to work within a strict set of requirements. We all know academic qualifications don’t say anything about kindness, about strength, about the ability to judge a moment or read a room, about passion (academic or other), resilience or about your capacity to work alongside others and build great relationships.
Most importantly, though, they don’t really say anything about your future. This heritage needn’t be your legacy. The future is what you make it, this is merely a moment.