Kirsteen Januszewicz, June 2020

Yesterday should have been my daughter’s last exam… potentially forever (the outcome of these exams was going to determine what happened next – potentially another year of home ed, potentially college, potentially a gap year…) Today was going to be day 1 of her summer holidays and the beginning of her preparing for all the fabulous opportunities, missions trips and adventures she had signed up for this summer. All now cancelled.

If you have a disappointed teen just now, I get it. I get that young people are anxious about what grades they will be assigned for their cancelled exams, and disappointed that summer plans are cancelled. They are anxious about whether they will still get into uni or college next year, and about what that might even look like now.

Across the UK just now there are loads of teens who cannot even apply for a grade for their exams. Home educated young people and other private candidates who self study, like my kids generally do, are unable to get a grade and have had to either withdraw from their exams or postpone them for another time, either because their exam centre wouldn’t play ball, or because they were unable to transfer to an exam centre who would, or because there were just too many expensive hoops to jump through to provide the right kind of evidence, or because there just wasn’t enough evidence to support a grade, or because there were additional needs at play that made the whole situation too stressful and simply untenable. The end result being an entire academic year written off with nothing to show for it.

That includes my 18yo daughter and my 16yo son. My son, who was at the IGCSE stage, and for a variety of reasons, will now need to repeat this past academic year and sit his exams next summer instead. But a repeat year, again for a variety of reasons, is not an option for my daughter just now, so we currently have no idea what she will be doing come September.

But we are choosing not to be disappointed about it. We are choosing to believe that all will be well, and something will work itself out. We are choosing to trust that the God we put our faith in will open a door at the right time and that the next step on my daughter’s journey will unfold, whatever that looks like.

For too long our society has made exam grades the golden pinnacle of our education system. It really is not. Does it really matter if our kids go straight to uni at age 18/19 or not? Or 17 if you live in Scotland? Does it really matter what grades they get? There is always another route into whatever paths they wish to travel. And they will find their route and their path eventually.

Right now, in our new COVID-shaped world, what matters more than exam grades is this… Are your children well and healthy? Is their mental health good? Are they showing kindness and compassion, both in and out the home? Are they showing kindness and compassion on social media? Are they emotionally resilient for whatever is coming next? Are they taking time to develop their gifts and talents, and taking time to deepen and strengthen relationships? Are they taking time to strengthen and develop their relationship with Jesus? Are they putting Him first in their lives before all else? Do they know Him and are they able to trust Him and cling to Him, no matter what?

We do not know what is coming next. We do not know what our new ‘normal’ will look like. We do not know what kind of jobs and businesses will survive this or what parts of our economy may end up redundant. We do not know if we will experience further peaks or further lockdowns, and ultimately we do not know if all our friends and family will make it out of this alive. All we know right now, with any certainty, is that Jesus is still Lord.

So, honestly, how important are grades right now?

Give your teen a hug and help them refocus their perspective. Even if everything is
suddenly, magically, back to normal come September, but their grade predictions have
been poorer than hoped for, there will still be a path for them. A different path maybe,
but a path all the same.

It really is time for us to redefine the golden pinnacle.