Disappointing GCSE Results

Today is a big day – a day which fills young people across the country with fear and dread. It is GCSE results day.

Today, especially, I’m reminded that I got poor GCSE results – the worst in my family:

  • C – Maths Level II
  • C – Environmental Science
  • C – Physical Science
  • D – Design
  • D – English
  • E – Drama
  • E – Integrated Humanities
  • G – German
  • U* – English Literature (*but that’s another story for another time!)

But today, I’m also reminded that since then I’ve worked hard and those grades are just a distant memory. Here’s the story of how a boy from a single parent family on a council estate responded to his disappointing GCSE results.

I left school at 15 (due to an August birthday) with those grades and not much else. I got a job which paid a poor wage, but included a day-release College course for three years. At the end of those three years I could add to my CV:

  • RSA: Level II Diploma in Information Technology
  • City & Guilds: Coding & Programming in BASIC
  • City & Guilds: Application Programming in Pascal

After my College course my pay was increased and I was given a company car. I gained a wealth of experience in the areas of business, computing, and life skills. I took every opportunity presented to me, plus a few which I made for myself, and was eventually offered a job by a company I’d been working in partnership (these days that’s called ‘head hunting’). I accepted the new job, even though it would challenge & stretch me and my skills, and it did! The focus of my role changed from hardware repairs to software development & support (building on my college qualifications).

My next job (third) presented a wealth of further opportunities for learning & development which I grabbed with both hands and made the most of. The experience I had received up to that point (not what I learned at school) meant that I was able to do the job. When I resigned from that job I was able to say with thanks and honesty that the only reason I had the experience to get my next job (fourth) was due to what I’d learned with them.

My next job (fourth) was my dream job & came with a dream salary increase. As a contemporary philosopher has said recently: ‘it’s not about the money, money, money…‘; but actually it is a little bit about the money. It definitely helps when the money increases from ‘can just about afford to keep your flat & car’ to ‘let’s upgrade to a sporty car and still have spare cash at the end of the month’!

At the end of that job another adventure began, which involved even more hard work, and allowed me to add a further qualification to my CV:

  • BA (Hons) in Youth & Community Work & Applied Theology (2:1 – so close to a first that it still hurts!)

I’m now enrolled at the University of Oxford to continue my studies. If you’d told me all this when I opened the envelope which contained my GCSE results, I would have laughed in your face. Whatever the reasons for those poor GCSE results (and there are many!) they have never held me back. It’s been hard work along the way – but it has been so worth it.

So whatever joy or disappointment you received in your results envelope today, please remember that they are nothing but a stepping stone at the start of what can be an amazing journey – are you prepared to continue the hard work?

Blessed, Refreshed, Resourced & Encouraged

On 21st March we held an event, in partnership with the Milton Keynes Bridgebuilder Trust [MKBT], which aimed to ‘bless, refresh, resource & encourage’ Christians in Education across Milton Keynes.

We were joined by 18 attendees, representing 9 Churches & 11 schools/institutions/organisations. Delegates included teachers (current, supply & retired), teaching assistants, deputy headteachers, assistant principals, administrative officers, KS3 coordinators, a reading recovery teacher and private tutors. We were also joined by the MKBT Office Manager and a Trustee.

The evening started with refreshments (yummy cakes, freshly brewed tea & real coffee and the option of apples, of course) and time for delegates to introduce themselves and chat. We then assembled to introduce the plan for the evening and the presenters (myself & Rachel Foster, Primary Schools Worker for MKBT). The primary audience for the evening was those involved in teaching, but the event was also intended to bless the whole range of roles involved in the Education Sector. We wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to Christians involved in Education, for the long days and late nights, for their hard work (blood, sweat and tears) and for enduring stress and occasionally despair.

I shared some of my reflections from my school days, the adults who stood out among the many I encountered. Some for the right reasons (tailored teaching, excellent personal care and attention) and others for the wrong reasons (because I was a hormonal adolescent – but enough about that).

I included this video by Taylor Mali, which seemed to catch the mood of those present:

In preparation for the event I had been asking friends, family, colleagues and, occasionally, strangers about their experiences at school and what made individual adults stand out to them when they look back now. Their reflections helped to shape part of the evening. I shared two testimonies with them:

Lauren (pseudonym)

  • The person she reflected on was her 6th form tutor and A-level Psychology teacher.
  • ‘she understood that I didn’t want to talk about the issues I was dealing with, but realised that I was depressed and self-harming’
  • ‘forced me to sit down with her and organise an action plan – helped me stick to it’
  • ‘took walks with me during lunch breaks just to chat about how things were going’
  • ‘treated me more like a daughter than a student’
  • ‘was concerned with my welfare as well as being an awesome teacher’
  • ‘she let me take naps in her office when I had insomnia’
  • ‘she stayed in touch with me for a few years after school to see how I was doing’
  • ‘generally took care of me when I was unable to take care of myself’
  • ‘I definitely wouldn’t have made it to Uni without her support’
  • ‘and may not have even made it out of A-levels alive’

Alison (pseudonym)

  • She reflected on her secondary school RE teacher
  • a ‘consistent presence during six years at secondary school/sixth form
  • ‘an amazing teacher who knew and loved her subject’
  • ‘she genuinely cared for the young people in her class
  • demonstrated personal care and support during a key crisis point in Alison’s life
  • above and beyond what was/is expected
  • long term support, care, encouragement – two years after the crisis
  • ‘two of the toughest years of my life’
  • ‘she helped me to believe in myself, because she believed in me’
  • ‘her constant encouragement and reassurance enabled me to achieve my A-levels when they seemed to be impossible’
  • ‘she inspired and encouraged me to follow the path of higher education’
  • ‘I will always be massively grateful to her for that’

I followed up by reflecting on my own experiences of pastoral care & support at school.  But then pointed out that simply providing great pastoral care isn’t what makes a Christian teacher distinctive from any other teacher. We would be pursuing that later.

We moved on to briefly introduce the resources which we’d provided around the room which delegates were free to browse and take away as they wished. Rachel started us off by explaining the role of the Bridgebuilder Trust and detailing some of its projects, then I introduced the following resources:

Then we broke for further refreshments and delegates had time to chat together and browse the resources.

When we reconvened we spent some time considering what makes Christians in Education distinctive by exploring Ephesians 2:12-18. I summed this up with the phrase ‘I AM @ work’ – that God is at work in each one of us, through all our interactions & relationships. [Further notes on this section can be made available if desired.]

Then Rachel led the part of the evening where we commissioned the delegates to go in the name of Jesus and continue their ministry in the Education sector and prayed for them. The evening closed with further chat, and delegates completing feedback forms about their impressions of the evening. They were overwhelmingly positive, and have given us a great deal of food for thought about future events. Plans are already in motion…

‘If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 30 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.’

Here are a few images of the set-up – I didn’t get any once the delegates arrived as I was busy chatting…

Remembering Teachers

School wasn’t my favourite time for lots of reasons, but I can look back on it now with fond memories.  In preparation for an event we’re organising to celebrate, encourage & commission Christian teachers, I’ve been reflecting on some school memories, and in particular, some of my teachers.

During my first school & middle school years I had some excellent teachers who made learning fun (and some who made it not even seem like learning!), but the teachers who really stand out are mostly from my time in secondary school.  I won’t say too much here, as I’ll be sharing some of the stories during the event: for now let’s just say one was referred to as ‘the Hobbit’, one was ‘fit as!’ and another (supply teacher) went on to become leader of MK Council…

During the event we’d like to include anecdotes & stories of teachers (and support workers) who really stood out during your school life, who had a significant positive impact on you, and

Do you have a story to share?

  • perhaps you can think of a member of staff who has had a lasting impact on you: a teacher, dinner lady, secretary, caretaker, or librarian…
  • maybe there’s a specific incident you can recall from your school day where you were inspired by an individual…
  • or have you kept in contact with one of your former teachers, and become friends over time…

There is a huge amount of excellent work being done in schools by great teachers & support workers. Can you spare a few minutes to share your story and perhaps in turn inspire them? Please add it as a comment below, or drop me an email: youth.minister@spurgeonbaptistmk.org

Appreciating Christians in Education

I am fortunate to know a number of teachers & support workers: some are members at my Church, others are friends, some are acquaintances. I’m privileged to be able to go into our local Secondary school once a fortnight and pray with some of them.

The city I live in has a high proportion of young people – and as a result has a lot of schools (90 Primary, 13 Secondary) and, of course, a lot of teachers/support workers too. For the last year we’ve been thinking about putting on an event for Christians who work in our local schools:

  • to encourage them
  • share some resources
  • give them space to chat together
  • celebrate the work they do
  • commission them for another year

Now the thinking and dreaming is over, and the planning and doing has begun. But the scope has changed, as we’ll be extending the invitation to Christians in Education across the whole of Milton Keynes and we’ll be working in partnership with the MK Bridgebuilder Trust.

We’ll be releasing more details in due course, but if you’d like to be kept informed about the event, add a comment below or drop me an email: youth.minister@spurgeonbaptistmk.org

Meanwhile, please pray that we’d reach as many Christians in Education as possible.