It’s been a tense time in the Taylor household waiting for and finally receiving our daughters GCSE exam results and it all worked out well in the end, but it has made me think back to the time I received my O’ Level results, in August 1980. They were not stellar, they didn’t set the world alight, but they were enough to get me into college, so I could study for three A’ Levels.
Perhaps it’s not so much the grades themselves that matter but what you choose to do with them and how you choose to move forward with what you have.
So, in no particular order, here is what I managed to achieve in the Summer of 1980:
Maths grade B, thank you Mr H, you were a brilliant maths teacher who knew exactly when to move me up and down through the sets. I also remember with your tall frame and square shoulders we all thought you looked a little like Frankenstein and you were okay with me being the first to laugh when you suddenly slipped and fell in one of our final year classes. I did genuinely try to stop myself from being the first to laugh aloud, after the initial hush from the rest of the class.
English Language, grade B this was one of my favourite subjects and the one where I was hoping for an A. Though my mark might have been related to my habit of writing over complicated plots and then once I became bored with my own story, I’d kill off my characters in quick succession. Still I got over this and it was all good.
English literature, grade C, I remember long hot, tedious afternoons in the school library listening to someone read from Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. Sorry 😐, but to this day I still couldn’t give a sh*t about Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene. I was too busy messing around with my two mates Sarah and Nuala, doodling in our exercise books as we attempted to draw each other’s hairstyles. Or I was busy trying to locate and extract various pencils and pens from my Afro.
Chemistry, grade C had more fun with this subject at A level, especially when our fume cupboard broke down one day and chlorine gas was being released into the chemistry lab. Made me laugh 😂 when a PhD student attempted to analyse the atmosphere as we were being led out. He would have stood there a little longer if someone hadn’t pointed out that the green gas billowing out into the lab was poisonous, Chlorine.
Physics, grade D, I might have soft pedalled a little on this a bit after being told by my prospective college that a grade D would be good enough to get me onto the A level course. I very much doubt this would happen today.
Who remembers CSEs, certificates of secondary education? A grade one CSE was equivalent to a grade C at O’Level.
Geography, CSE 1 enjoyed the subject but can’t remember much more than that.
German, CSE 1, found this far easier than French and it was an easy choice for me to make. Loved the fact that I was able to continue learning it at Poly as part of my degree. Also ended up staying and working in Switzerland for three months during my four years as an undergraduate. An amazing experience and opportunity.
Food and nutrition, grade C, I remember various culinary disasters with this subject and how we had to present our dishes at the end of each lesson. The funniest and best part of the lesson as far as I was concerned. I also managed to burn the apples for my Apple Charlotte in the practical exam. Luckily my teacher was able to nip out and grab a jar of cherries, which looked far better. This might be why cooking has never been a favourite pastime of mine.
And what did I end up doing with these?
Well, for some bizarre reason which I still do not quite understand I simply opted to do Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics without really thinking too deeply about it. This would not happen today. I just plucked them out of the air and thought I’d give them a go.
May well have had Biggles running through my head along with dreams of becoming a fighter pilot. But there was no notion in my head of not being able to do it because I was a girl. I finally let go of this ambition when someone told me that I wouldn’t get in with my flat feet.
Luckily, my wise and observant head Mrs G took one look at my options and intervened, suggesting I would be better off leaving school and applying to the local college. I need to thank her for pulling a few strings and helping to get me an interview.
My interview with the college chemistry teacher Mr G didn’t start well, especially as he explained to me ‘we don’t normally consider pupils from your school. 😝’ That was a real confidence booster I can tell you. Though he did relent and offer me a place if I achieved a grade D in Physics and a pass in everything else.
Today as I look back I am deeply thankful for the choices I made then and the support of my school head in getting me a place at college. Especially as no one, including me would have been aware of my Dyslexia.
Sometimes you just need someone to give you a break.
So, there you have it, until next time.
PS after two great years at College, some great teaching, great support from the other students and a lot of bloody hard work I passed all three of my A’ Levels.
Word Count: 973