For months now your world has reduced to the square footage of your home, or possibly your temporary accommodation or refuge shelter.
To be on the brink of adulthood and independent living, and have it snatched away by the pandemic, has been unusually cruel.
I know many of you may have suffered bereavement and grief because of this virus from which we are determined to keep you safe.
You may have found the isolation of lockdown unbearable and gone searching online for support, only to be led down paths detrimental to your mental and even physical health. For every sea shanty on TikTok, there’s another about self-harm.
You may have had to care for ill relatives; or indeed “care more” because you have not had the escape of school. Similarly you may have been trapped at home with an abusive parent and no way out.
You may have seen your mum and dad or both, lose their jobs, or find their earnings reduced, and watched as they’ve struggled, and felt helpless in the face if it all.
You may have logged on for remote home-schooling only to find the system wasn’t working, or your home broadband, if you have it, has not worked.
You may have had teachers desperate to talk to you, to ensure you’re coping at home with the workload or you may not. Education has, after all, been a lottery this year. We know this.
Frustration. Anxiety. Stress. We have all felt these harbingers of mental health problems this year, and not all of us have managed them successfully.
Returning to school or college will have helped, I hope. The routine, seeing your friends, even your teachers, and knowing where you fit in life again will, for many of you, have made things easier. Of course, there will also be those of you who have been anxious about that return.
But I want you all to know that I am listening. So I have an admission to make to those in senior years. We made a mistake. We thought cancelling exams would be enough, that somehow we were relieving you of some stress with a new model of assessment.
We know we made an error last year: we put the sanctity of the exam results system first. We rectified it but this week I’ve compounded that error. Instead of defending a moderating algorithm like last summer, I have defended this year’s alternative which again puts the system ahead of you and your future. I am sorry.
The assessments have not been fair and have been diverse in their application by schools. While I know many of you will still have excelled, too many of you without the benefit of being in school to keep you motivated, will have fallen by the wayside at times.
Teacher judgement is what we ultimately relied on last year. I say now that we will do the same again because your teachers know you, know what you’ve been through, and what you’re truly capable of. And should you appeal your grade, I guarantee there will be no detriment to you.
That’s my promise to you.