Celebrating every young person's achievements

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By Claire Carroll
on 31 December, 2018

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This Summer saw the first cohort of youngsters taking the new ‘number grade’ GCSEs, the culmination of a draining and confusing period of uncertainty for secondary schools. And by and large, the students did us all proud.

School after school has pictures of smiling youngsters on their websites, leaping into the air, clutching certificates. Individuals who have achieved exceptionally are often named and singled out for special praise. And how they deserved it! All that hard work by staff and pupils really paid off.

In these days of “Gove levels”, data, standards, value added measures and tracking schools are held to account for “results”, and yet we all know that not all personal victories come with a certificate and a rosy future.

Their battles, courage and personal victories!

The students we work with as educational psychologists often have a very different journey to the end of year 11. Every day at One Education Educational Psychology, we are out and about in schools and we see the tremendous time, effort, support, planning and care put in by incredibly dedicated education professionals to try to support young people with a wide array of special educational needs in Manchester schools.

When it comes to the end of year 11, the achievements made by this cohort, in spite of their difficulties, and because of the help of dedicated staff, are rarely publicly feted.

The student with...

Their achievements may be more modest – not a string of top grades – but we would all agree, they are no less worthy...

  • The highly anxious autistic student with a history of anxiety-related non-attendance who turned up on time for every exam.
  • The young carer who didn’t have a chance to revise as she was running the household for her younger siblings.
  • The child with ADHD who struggled to maintain focus during a single snapshot exam that doesn’t care that his sustained attention period is less than 10 minutes.
  • The child with significant memory problems or a slow processing speed or learning difficulties who has struggled through 12 years of school, always behind the others.

Only 10% of children with EHCPs achieved A*-C in English and Maths GCSE in the most recent statistical analysis of UK data. These are the children who don’t tend to appear on lists of the successful, or in the pictures of the leaping students with smiling faces.

We know that schools share their pride in each individual’s achievements, perhaps especially where these were hard won. We know that many SEN students are told ‘Well done’ on a one-to-one basis.

Celebrating all young people's hard work

It would also be wonderful to see a line or two in more of those delighted exam-day write ups, to say that many of the children who perhaps didn’t achieve top grades also did themselves and their school proud.

An additional acknowledgement that some students have a different mountain to climb, and whilst their success isn’t necessarily measured by exam results, we acknowledge their battles, their courage, and their personal victories.

We are proud of them, too.