SIOBHAN BAILLIE: We should be thankful pupils got any grades at all

The Stroud MP’s weekly column.

Congratulations to all those pupils who received their GCSE and A Level results in Stroud, the Valleys and Vale this month.

I would like to say thank you to all the teachers who have worked so hard in such difficult circumstances to make sure students received results. I am not much interested in talking about grade inflation and I do not think criticism of teachers taking on a marking role in the absence of exams is fair at all. I think we should be thankful pupils got any grades at all considering just how disruptive 2020 and 2021 have been for them and for schools.

And to the pupils – whether you got the grades you wanted or not – I think you should be proud of yourselves. You have been at the sharp end of the pandemic and endured really difficult times either home learning or grappling with social distancing and all the disruption that has caused to classes, friendships and life experiences.

Hopefully, in the next academic year, things will largely go back to normal. I have also encouraged young people not to panic if their results are below what they wanted.

I didn’t do so well myself in school but I went to work, trained to be a solicitor at night school and practised law before becoming Stroud’s first ever woman MP. Hard work often wins and there are plenty of people who have found ways to pick themselves up from disappointments.

I personally like that every year Cotswolds farmer and Grand Tour presenter Jeremy Clarkson sends tongue-in-cheek tweets about A Level results. This year’s was: “If the teachers didn’t give you the A Level results you were hoping for, don’t worry. I got a C and two Us and I’ve ended up happy, with loads of friends and a Bentley.”

Jeremy’s humour can be controversial but sending the message that working as hard as you can and not giving up is important.

The terrible scenes this week in Afghanistan following the Taliban again taking control of the country are still unfolding. I fear it will again plunge that country into a long-term tragedy. Women and girls, especially, now face the loss of fundamental rights like an education, entering public life, voting or being able to work or even wear clothes of their choice.

As the French writer Simone de Beauvoir said: “Never forget that it only takes a political, economic or religious crisis for women’s rights to be called into question. These rights can never be taken for granted. You must remain vigilant throughout your life.”

The reasons for what has happened will be debated for many years. Right now the human tragedy of these events and we must help those fleeing the country who worked with British troops in the last two decades.

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