GCSE results day is a strange beast for IAG workers in schools.
The build up is like preparing for battle, your presence on the day is expected, advertised and relied upon, your target audience is tense, your colleagues are tense, everybody is REALLY TENSE…the appointed hour arrives…and then…the vast majority of students pay you absolutely no attention at all.
Admist the post envelope opening screams of joy and relief I usually find myself strolling through the crowd, giving out the odd “well done” and matey backslaps of congratulations to young people who visibly lift from the weight of stress being removed from their shoulders. Groups of them hug and cheer and scramble to grab their phones from their pockets to pass on the good news to their parents blissfully unaware of my presence.
All that is, apart from the occasional student. As you pause in the crowd you begin to notice the ones who have stepped back from their group of friends. Those who are hiding their results printouts close to their chest and not lost in a frenzy of sharing and comparing grades.
Those are the students who, subtly, with a glance or a quick “ok?” frown, I try to make contact with. The expectation in the build up to results day means that many young people will be reluctant to admit that things have gone wrong or that they have not achieved all that they had hoped.
Those that are brave enough to wear their disappointment on their sleeves soon find themselves comforted by teachers or tutors. Sometimes these bawling bundles of despondancy are sign posted on to me but sometimes they prefer to talk to a favourite teacher. On a past results day, a young man who had set himself extremely high standards, missed out on some of those top grades and was clearly upset. In that instance he was quite clearly being ably advised by his English teacher who, after speaking to me briefly to confirm entry requirements for the A Level pathways to medical routes, then went back to the student. The IAG happened and it happened it a way right for the student.
The quieter ones, those more reluctant to advertise their unease, are the students from whom I learn more about how to approach difficult IAG conversations and how best to structure an interaction so it finishes on a positive expectation of action.
Of course, it’s hard to catch every student that wants or needs to discuss things on the morning. In the days after, I find parents and students will get in touch through the school email, sometimes just to confirm small things about enrollment at Colleges, so I check regularly. Small hint here: I wouldn’t advise stumbling about for thirty minutes outside the main arena at Reading Festival trying to get a good web signal on your phone.
Results day is a wonderful morning of celebration and achievement and during the very best of them, I have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do.