Friday, 26 August 2011

Heartache and Hindsight

Hindsight really is a wonderful thing!  Oh, how I'd have done things differently if I could have just known then what I know now. Let me share the painful experience I had yesterday...
Paul and I took Matt to Exeter to collect his exam results. we were nervously excited in anticipation of his getting good grades which would enable him to achieve his goal, which was to gain entry into the 6th Form of Torbay Boys Grammer school.
He opened the letter in the back of our car, Paul and I both watching intently. He began to read, trying to keep a poker face, but, then his facial expression was unmistakable. Something was wrong! "What the?" He exclaimed, and I looked at the letter....Maths A, Science AB, French C, Geography D, English literature E, English language E, History F. Oh My Goodness! How can he have E's for English?? History I expected because he disliked the syllabus so much and didn't want to 'waste valuable revision time on it'.  But English? No, this couldn't be right. He had a B in his mocks, and was confident that he had improved on this grade. He felt that the exams had gone really well. He read books voraciously and loves writing, so what on earth can have happened?

We drove back to Torquay, where he had to go and report his grades to the staff there. I waited for him in the car, feeling sick to my stomach about the whole thing.
While I was waiting, a boy got into a car beside me, and announced to his parents that he had 5 A*, 5 A and a B. His parents immediately launched into a telling off for this poor guy. I heard him say, "I revised. You know I revised..."   I put my windows up, so I couldn't hear any more. I felt sorry for that kid....I felt sorry for my kid.
Matt came back, got into the back of the car, and said, "No". I looked at his dear face, trying desperately not to crumple into tears.  We were supposed to be going to see Gwen next, to see how she is faring with her chemo. I knew Emily would also be at home, and she would have done really well in her exams (and well deserved too), which would be hard for Matt to deal with because he was so crushed about his own.
"Shall we go home?" I asked.  He nodded his head, tears brimming in his eyes.
What do you say in that situation?  You can't make it easier, you can't soften the blow. I tried to think about what we could do, and to think about plan B, C or D.
Bless him, he went straight to his room and didn't want to talk. He thanked me for taking him, and waiting for him, then gave me a kiss on my cheek. I had a lump in my throat, trying to keep the tears down, myself.
I sent a text to family members telling them the distressing news. All of them were sweet and supportive.
I searched the internet for OU courses which had originally been Matt's plan B. There were a couple of maths courses which he could do, starting in September and October.  I also looked at Exeter College, at the International Baccalaureate in particular, which is what he'd have been doing at TBGS if he'd have gotten in.
NO, he couldn't do this because English C or above is required. I looked at A Levels.....same thing! It hit me then, that this is a HUGE deal. With such a poor English grade he is severely limited in what to do next.
I called the school where Matt sat his exams, and requested the English papers be remarked (cost of £45.00 each) and for the scripts to be returned (cost of £12.00 each) so that we can see what happened. The remark will take about 10 days.
I emailed the Principal of his school explaining what had happened, and asking if it was possible for the mock exams to have been marked too generously? Could it have given us a wildly distorted idea of Matt's true level?
The Principal, Paul Daniell rang me and confirmed that the mocks had been marked, if anything, a little strictly.  He was pleased that I'd asked for a remark, and the scripts. He offered to speak to any college to give them a character reference, and to confirm Matt's level of work and achievements.
I went into Matt's room and told him what I'd done, which he was glad of. I asked him to phone Exeter College and speak with them, and explain what had happened, and ask if there's any chance they would accept him on level 3 courses despite the English result.  He did so, spoke with a lovely lady called Anna who said that his exam portfolio was very unusual, and she'd confer with some colleagues and call him back.
Meanwhile, Matt ignored his mobile phone and all the texts which came in, and avoided Facebook.
I spoke with Paul, with Chrissy, with Dan, with Andy and with Gwen. Everyone was so lovely, we all care so much about Matt, and want to help him go forward.

I spent a good long while thinking about choices which had taken us to this point. Choices which I believed strongly at the time were the right ones for Matt, but which now, I questioned.
Matt had been bullied in his previous school. It was clear that the school were not going to effectively deal with the situation, and meantime, our son's health and confidence and self esteem was suffering. We took the decision to remove him from school and home educate him. There were supporters and disagree'rs in the family but we felt that we were absolutely right to home educate.
A while after that we enrolled Matt in an online school where he'd have lessons each day. This worked very well for us, and Matt thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. He was entered for  IGCSE exams (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) through Edexcel which are linear exams taken at the end of the two year course. Compare that to the modular exams which others take, where they study a module, take an exam at the end of that module and can retake if necessary and then submit the best of the two towards the final result.
I now questioned this whole decision because my lovely son who has worked so hard, but has not achieved what he wanted and was capable of, now has to modify everything because of that. I feel that I have failed him. I feel that I should have kept him in a school, should have been made of sterner stuff, and should have thundered and railed upon the school to sort that damned bully situation out. My goodness to read their prospectus and anti bullying statement makes me furious now, but I SHOULD HAVE BEEN A THORN IN THEIR SIDE making them live up to what are essentially empty vacuous words.

Still, that's all if's and buts. and it doesn't change the now.

Anna, true to her word, did call back and encouraged Matt to apply online for Exeter College, adding an email supporting statement to it, and hopefully he'll get an interview where they can evaluate and decide. He will probably resit the English exams in January if the remark comes back unchanged.  We hope that he will be accepted, and can continue towards his ultimate goal which is to attend Cambridge University reading Maths.
Matt applied late last night just as he was advised. He then gave me a hug and quietly said "Goodnight mum, from your retarded, thick son." Then he went to bed.
Heartbroken, I cried.

Someone once said 'As a mother, you are only as happy as your saddest child.' I felt that to be true last night.

My niece did very well and got 9A* and 3A's  very warm congrats to her. x

I'll update as to what happens, when it happens.


  1. Good luck with the remark, I think it will really help from what I've read here. When I was at uni my friend was in the running for a 1st and worked so so hard, then in her dissertation she was harshly marked and brought it down to a 2:1 (with the rest of us ;) ). She appealed and it transpired there was a bit of an issue between the marker and her dissertation supervisor which meant she was marked down for who she was teamed up with rather than the content of her paper. She got her 1st in the end :D

  2. A remark sounds very necessary to me - I failed my first year at uni, left and was about to go to the USA as an au pair when Uni called to say they'd been a candidate number mix up and it was only when the papers were returned my tutor realised it wasn't my handwriting! I shed a tear for your and family reading this, my son starts in reception this september and I'm so aware it's the start of a marathon. Every best wish to you and yours. Claire x

  3. hope that the remark comes through for you - sounds like it's incredibly harsh. And huge hugs for your poor son.

  4. There is no way you did the wrong thing taking him out of a bullying situation, I too removed my daughter from school and home educated for 2 years before getting her into college a year walker than she should have gone.
    I know I did the right thing as do you when you think about it without this trauma at this time. He has the love and full support of his mother and the family, this will see him through this disappointment and set him on the road he needs/wants to take. Harsh as it seems right now he will get there believe me and it will be because of the love of you all.


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