Today is the last Thursday in August: GCSE results day. The sun is blazing and a throng of pupils waits eagerly on the hill outside our main doors. At 10am, we open up and the pupils – adults now, I guess – move nervously into the foyer searching for the correct table where they’ll find their envelope.
Our school doors open onto a flight of steps and a gentle hill to the village beyond, crowded now with excited young men and women and, perhaps even more excited, their parents. I wander through the masses and chat to pupils about their holidays, their fears, their future and a few embarrassing things that they did at prom. One parent beckons me to the car she sits eagerly waiting in. She thanks me for my efforts with her son and this one tiny act from just one parent makes my job worth the world.
“Are you planning to be here a very long time?” I ask her as I spy an open Inspector Morse book on the passenger seat.
“No.” she replies, “he said he’ll just quickly grab the envelope and then we’ll be off.”
We both smile knowingly. The pupils never rush this moment. And we both know she’ll be waiting long enough to finish the book.
This is the last time that many of our pupils will walk up the path to our school. And they know it. So, they stop for long minutes in conversation with friends, they seek out teachers who they wish to thank, they hang around for a while in uncertainty. They know now the world awaits, and it is comforting for them to stay at school just a little moment longer.
There are girls jumping up and down, boys hugging each other, and both leaping onto parents and startled teachers alike. There are tears and there are screams of disbelief, “I got an A! I got an A!” There are moments of reflection and long sighs of relief. Mobile phones appear everywhere, and mothers, fathers, grandparents, and siblings can be heard on the other end of the phone roaring with delight.
The local press is here, and the headteacher is rounding up our straight A star pupils for a photo shoot whilst the deputy talks to a reporter about our Fischer Data Targets and the Upper Quartile.
The boys pat me on the back and say things like “Safe, Sir” and the girls give me a kiss on the cheek and tell me about their dreams for the future. I wish them all well and tell them I hope to see them again, but really I know that they are gone now. I am leaving this school to move on in September for the dizzy heights of Northampton and for a moment I reflect in personal sadness and pride. But then I am brought back by a group of lads jumping around me. “Look at these! Look at these!” they are saying, but I already know. They were in my class this year and have all achieved A*. I shake their hands individually and tell them I am very proud.
“I can see why you didn’t let us piss around now, Sir” one of them says. A compliment indeed.
Eventually the crowds dwindle, and only staff remain. Proud, sad, overjoyed, and lost.
“Right. Let’s go to the pub.” The Deputy Head suggests, and nobody disagrees.