A quick skim of social media this morning and assorted friends posting about their children starting GCSES - the Scottish National 5s are well underway but much more spread out.
I suddenly realised that it's forty years since I say my 'O' levels, during a very sunny June in 1979. I can still recall English Language and Literature, and Maths in the Sports Hall; Physics, Chemistry, History and French in the Main Hall, Tech Drawing in the Tech Drawing room (where else?!) and RE in the Scout Hut! I can still recall the bemusement of having a 'moderated' answer booklet for my English language paper and the smirking external examiner who read over everyone's shoulders in the Physics exam. I still recall the topics for French Conversation, the essays I wrote for English (lang and lit), parts of the RE paper (notably my essay on the Last Supper) and some questions from other exams. I still remember worrying how many marks I'd lose on the English precis because I mis-spelled 'pillage' and the awful sinking feeling when I opened the history paper to discover not a single question that matched what we'd been taught.
I liked exams, and, not wishtanding the disaster in history, generally did really well. I'm not even sorry about the history, it was good to learn early what failure and disappointment look like; in any case, I now have published work on church history, so all's well that ends well, maybe!
Forty years later, it's sobering to look back and realise just how important those exams seemed, indeed were, and how little they actually count for in the end.