The Corona Chronicles: Week 72: Decision Time

It’s a time of big decisions. Exam results have come in. Futures are in the balance. There’s been a rise in top marks. But instead of taking this as good news, it’s been greeted with the same concern as the current rise in Covid infections.

The Nearly-Beloved is particularly concerned. ‘How come with this grade inflation, your GCSEs are distinctly average?’ he asks Grunting Teen. ‘Why haven’t you got any 10s?’

Seeing as the highest score is, bizarrely, a 9, this is somewhat unfair to our not-really-academic son. After all, he’s got through to the next stage and has been accepted into Sixth Form, so he’s achieved what was needed. Job done.  And not a bad one at that.

For the last two years he’s spent more time at home than in the classroom. He’s been isolated from his friends and had Professors Google and Zoom as his main instructors. He’s been terrified into thinking the entire population will be wiped out. Then he’s expected to re-emerge and mix in a viral soup of ‘school bubbles.’ Factor in wearing a dog-breath mask for six hours a day and twice-weekly tonsil swabbing, then it’s hardly conducive to effective learning.

And overall, I think his school has got it right. Had ‘Play Station Performance’ or ‘Rapid Growth Spurt’ been part of the curriculum, Grunting Teen would have aced his subjects. But studying a foreign language or working out how to convert pounds to euros in a travel-banned pandemic just didn’t grab his attention. He did his best. And it was good enough.

No doubt there will be future government funded studies comparing this Corona generation’s results uncharitably with those that went before. But let me save them money and pronounce my own non-scientific judgement, as the mother of three children. The oldest was rubbish at tests but amazing at coursework. The middle one scraped through, purely thanks to last-minute exam cramming on BBC Bite-sized. And the youngest has had to rely entirely on teacher assessment. All results weighted by different factors. But three siblings of similar intellect, similar ambivalence towards studying and, in the end, similar outcomes. I rest my case.

And hopefully by the time A-levels come around for Grunting Teen, the education system will have sorted itself out. The Nearly-Beloved, however, is all for the chaos continuing if it means Grunting Teen can have a £10,000 gap year and free accommodation, courtesy of an oversubscribed university.

But for now, there are other decisions to be made. Older teenagers are in one of the groups of highest levels of Covid infections, so vaccinations are shortly to be offered to all sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds in the hope that this will have a significant effect on dampening transmission.  Do the benefits outweigh the risks? It’s not for me to say. That’s up to Grunting Teen to determine. Parental consent will not be needed.

But parental consent will be needed for the traditional, post-GCSE celebration treat. The oldest child chose a culture-filled weekend. The middle-one opted for an adrenaline-fuelled body boarding course. Grunting Teen has his own ideas. His biggest wish, which he shares with all of us, is to see his big brother once more. He was hoping for a fun-filled weekend, hanging out with him in his adopted home-town of Amsterdam. There’s lots you can do at sixteen years old in Amsterdam!

But even with our blessing, this treat will have to wait until the UK amber turns to green and the Dutch deem the Covidy Brits less of a high risk. How much of this is science and how much of it is politics is hard to decide. For now we can only keep our fingers crossed and hope. Yes, it’s a time of big decisions. Just unfortunately sometimes they’re out of our control.

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