Results day!

It’s GCSE results day, the moment of truth for thousands of 16-year-olds across the country. As Hayley goes into school to learn her results, Tiger Mother can only wait, bottle of bubbly and box of tissues at the ready, not knowing which will be needed…

Thursday morning, pacing the hallway

I’m trying to busy myself but can’t concentrate so I’ve given into wearing a path around the house, waiting for Hayley to come back from school where she’s finding out her GCSE results. I’m trying to be prepared for celebration and joy or commiseration and disappointment. Or all of the above!

Results day, I can’t believe it’s come at last. We’d pretty much put it to the back of our minds throughout the summer, it seemed a far-off distance on the hazy, sunny horizon.

Teenage Girl Happy With Good Exam Results

Then yesterday when the tension started hotting up, the ‘eek, it’s tomorrow!’ chatter among friends, family and classmates started building, it brought it sharply back into focus.

When I asked Hayley last night if she was feeling nervous, as many of my friends’ children confessed to, she just shrugged.

“I don’t really care anymore, I know I should but I don’t. As long as I do alright in Food Tech,” was the response.

Very down to earth and eminently practical – which is what Hayley is and why she’s heading for a career in catering and hospitality.

She doesn’t want to go to university, so why should she mind as long as she has what she needs to get into college to do her chosen course.

I’m fighting the impulse to run from the house, swallowing back little laughter squeaks of nervousness. I’m also practical, but I can’t bear the idea of Hayley being disappointed with dire fails.

The front door opens, she’s got the envelope in her hands. She’s waving it, she’s smiling, but she’s on the phone to her big brother Lee, who’s called from work to see how she got on.

“Well?!” me and her younger brother Harry shriek, crowding round her trying to get the envelope out of her hands.

So she clicks off from the phone and holds out the results letter.

She’s got two Cs (Food Tech and Art), a Pass and a Merit (in BTEC Science), plus a temporary Q (‘to be queried’ apparently) which is predicted to be a Pass (in Travel and Tourism), and a good IT supplementary exam which is a GCSE equivalent.

I make that just the right amount to get into her Diploma in Hospitality and Catering.

Phew! Big PHEW!

Okay, English was an E and Maths was a D – so close, all that hard work she put into it, it’s a shame. The tragic thing is it means it will stalk her for the next two years at college until she gets a C, the same for English.

But what the heck. Work in progress. The main thing is Hayley’s got what she needs to be on her way to the career she’s desperate to be in. She’s a very happy and excited chef in the making.

Big hugs, no tissues, the champagne is chilling ready for popping when all the family’s home.

Let the future begin…

Has your deaf child just got their results? Feel free to comment below :)

*Please note image is not of Hayley

Life after exams

With GCSE exams all behind her now, the stress receding to a distant memory, Hayley has officially left school and looking forward to a long glorious summer before embarking on the next phase of her life…

Thursday evening, art exhibition in school sports hall

Well, we made it. When the battles, the shock and awe strikes and the crossfire suddenly subside, it feels unnaturally calm.

Twirling my glass of wine in my hand, standing in the GCSE art exhibition admiring Hayley’s little corner of achievement, life feels very civilised.

I give Hayley a hug. “Love it,” I say. “See? It was all worth it.”

She shrugs, blasé like it doesn’t matter at all, but the relief is clear. Every day since the final exam she uncoils a little more; smiles, laughter, even pleasant conversation, in evidence once again.

We got through the hellish weeks and months of revision and exams. The tidal waves of encouragement, the pep talks, the drip-drip of nagging, the bribes…

It’s over bar the shouting – August 20th results day.

Students in a school hallway

But I don’t think there’ll be tears and tribulations.

Hayley doesn’t want to do any more purely academic study. She’s got a college place to do what she loves, catering and hospitality, and will be placed on the most suitable course level after her results are known.

But also, whatever the results, she knows she’s done her best.

Several weeks before exams, parents with children at risk of failing to get grade A*– C grades were asked by the deputy head to write a letter to their child, expressing how proud we were of them and how certain that they’d try hard and do well in their exams.

The sealed envelopes were distributed by the deputy head on the first morning of exams.

Apparently it did wonders for the performance of a rugby team (England?) and for the GCSE exam grades of a school that had tried it.

It seemed a great idea, and once I’d started there was so much to say. Because if there’s one thing Hayley is it’s a trier.

Part of it read: ‘You’ve shown your determination over again since you were born, half the size of most babies, first fighting to get well and strong and come out of hospital. And again whenever you’ve had big operations.

And when you find things tough because of your hearing or your difficulty understanding/processing some things.

Whether it’s learning to swim, running in school relay races with the most determined look on your face, little legs bombing along; jumping off mountains into freezing cold lakes with Air Cadets; or just doing your best to sort out something I’ve asked you to do – whatever it is you’ve done it to the absolute best of your ability. Your determination shines through like a beacon.

You are such a trier, and that’s what is important in life. Anyone can be skilled or academic or gifted – but it’s how hard you try, how determined you are especially when you don’t find things easy, that’s important.

It’s those that don’t find it easy yet still do their damndest that deserve the credit. And that’s you.”

I’m not sure whether it’ll help, especially as being Hayley she forgot to go and collect it until after her first two exams – ! – but anyway it’s true. Her qualities are easily worth as much, and will be as useful to her in life, as any amount of A* grades.

The Exam Monster

Hayley’s family are hunkered down waiting for the danger to pass as she runs the final gauntlet of her GCSE exams

Saturday afternoon

I’m in the hallway straining to hear anything from upstairs but there’s only silence.

I know the exam monster is in its room. The door is shut with an angry orange glow around it. We’ve heard occasional shrieks, cries and gnashing of teeth, rampages to the kitchen for human, preferably chocolate-covered, bones to feed the beast, followed by house-quaking slams of her door.

But right now it’s quiet. It can mean only one of two things – she’s revising or she’s on Facebook. Dare I pluck up the courage to find out? Hmm, not yet. I’ll hold faith a little longer, which will encourage her if she’s doing the right thing and perhaps induce guilt-powered resolve if she’s not.

teenager exam

We’re several weeks into the GCSE onslaught, with less than a fortnight until it’s all over, bar the shouting. The house is a tinderbox, the advice is not to even make eye contact, definitely not ask how it’s going or offer any tips about revision or exams. Or anything. But all that aside, Hayley’s being a trouper, struggling along, knuckling down to study. She is more practical than academic and it doesn’t come easy to her.

Also, on the bright side, exam access arrangements are in place, meaning 25% extra time and a separate room – and I was notified in advance. That’s progress from two years ago when Hayley was told by the SENCO at the end of a class exam that she wasn’t eligible for extra time and should leave the room along with non-special needs pupils. This was Hayley’s right yet the SENCO didn’t know and I had to battle for it.

There have been wobbly moments, including Hayley walking out of her Art GCSE exam on the final day. But there were trying circumstances – a blaze broke out when the pupil next to her accidently set light to her own final piece. With the whole room in shock, the poor girl in tears, Hayley and another girl upset about damage to their final piece from water used to douse the flames, it perhaps wasn’t the moment for the art teacher to tell Hayley her home-prepared sketchbook pieces weren’t very good.

Hayley’s already low self-esteem knocked, still unnerved by the blaze, she’d shouted that she was obviously rubbish before running from the room. I was worried she’d be disqualified but it’s all okay. I told Hayley I understood but it probably wasn’t good to make a habit of it.

Hold it together Hayley, you’ve come this far. The light at the end of the tunnel is nearly here, last exam on the 11th.

The prom ticket’s paid for, the dress tried on, the ‘Leavers 2015’ hoodie ordered. Just keep going Hayley, hold your nerve and keep your head down for another fortnight. Then you can embrace a summer of freedom and the next stage of your future.

Hayley’s earning money!

Hayley’s got a new job, a budding fledgling bank account and friends – the girl’s going places

Saturday morning, in the car

‘OMG! I can’t believe it, Mum look!’

I resist the temptation to squint at Hayley’s mobile screen as I’m driving.

‘How about just tell me so I can keep my eyes on the road – is it good or bad?’

I can’t tell from the exact nature of the shriek but veering towards good rather than tragic I’d say.

‘I’ve been paid over £100!’

Extreme close-up of hand holding a modern smartphone with a generic mobile banking app running. This is a version with Pound symbol. Note to inspector, concerning copyright etc: The whole screen (every single graphic element, including battery indicator) is designed by myself.

I’m driving Hayley to work – her new weekend job at a big children’s amusement farm near us. It really is the Holy Grail of the teenage job market in this area – and she’s just seen her first month’s wages in her online bank account.

Hayley can still barely believe she’s got the job; the competition is huge. It took a lengthy application form, complete with points-based psychological personality profiling scenarios to respond to, then a four-hour team-based assessment evening with 40 other applicants – and hallelujah she got it!

She didn’t mention her deafness, although of course her hearing aids are visible. We’d decided not to put it on the application form either as she needed no support to communicate – with her hearing aids plus a little lip reading she gets on fine.

I do wonder if it would’ve made a difference had she flagged it up. We’ve debated in previous job applications whether or not to include it, deciding on the ‘let’s not give them any reason to turn her down, illegal discrimination or not, and bring it up later’ approach.

I don’t believe people are deliberately discriminatory but I suspect often, through lack of knowledge, some might imagine deafness will present too many difficulties so it’s easier to just sift out the application, perhaps for other reasons.

I know not everyone would agree, but I think deaf and proud guerrilla-style is the effective way forward for Hayley in these instances. Get in the door, then there’s the chance to prove yourself, that your abilities are as good as anyone else’s.

So Hayley’s doing weekend shifts, some on the activities side but mostly in their cafes. This is great because she’s aiming for a career as a chef and her hospitality and catering college course lined up for September requires students to have a part-time catering job to support studies.

Hayley couldn’t be more thrilled. That girl loves to work, the money’s just an added bonus for her.

She loves it – the uniform, the team meetings, doesn’t even mind getting up at 7am on a Sunday morning (no me neither, honest…). She’s made friends too, which is fantastic; school’s been a struggle socially all the way along.

Already it’s done lots for her self-esteem. At 5.30pm when they all troop out, the farm army of weekend workers, it’s so good to see her happy little face, enjoying being part of something worth having.

I know she should be spending those hours revising, I’ve clocked the looks from other parents of Year 11s, but as far as I’m concerned Hayley needs mates, self-esteem and a solid work record more than she needs top grades.

Hayley’s got the revision blues

Revision is on the cards bringing with it big stress and frustration as Hayley embarks on the final run up to the GCSEs.

Tuesday, early evening after school

I walk into Hayley’s room. She has adopted the usual position – huddled under the duvet still in her school uniform, headphones on, Facebook up on her phone. I brace myself. Yet surely there’s no need, we’ve discussed this in a calm manner and agreed with logic and good grace that it has to be done.

“So, you going to get on with some revision then…?” I venture in a cheery, no problems, no arguments kind of way.
The response is one of disproportionate rage. What happens next is like a scene from The Exorcist, all spitting fury and head-spinning outrage.

I close the door on it and take a deep breath, searching my brain for another tactic.

Yup, the revision’s not going so well.

Student drawing a chart

We’ve had a letter home warning that Hayley is ‘at risk of not achieving a C grade in Maths and English’.

It follows the one earlier this year which said she’d been identified as at risk of failing to get five grade A*–C GSCEs’ so I’d already been through the ranting incited by pure frustration at Hayley being cheated of an equal education. Rage that the school had finally seen what I’d been banging on about for years but only now that the crunch had come, and their standing in the league tables in danger of being affected, had they taken notice and tried to pull out the stops.

But there’s room for more anger because now they’re personalising the blame, saying in so many words how of course much of the responsibility for a child’s failure or success comes from home.

Yes I know I’m angry, defensive, bitter and cynical, but that’s how it gets to you after years of dealing with the system and bashing your head against a brick wall to get your deaf child the help they need.

Anyway, we’ve been summoned in to various meetings to address it. The revision strategy meeting was useful and seems to have inspired Hayley, like it always does until the moment comes to stop talking about it and actually do it.

Suddenly clearing out the fridge and rearranging your books shelves in alphabetical order seem so compelling. We’ve all been there.

So I keep telling her you’ve just got to bite the bullet and do it. Break it down into small chunks, remove all electronic devices and screens other than the one with the revision websites up on it. And above all put it in perspective – it’s a tedious, mind-numbing, big black cloud enveloping you, but it is just a tiny little pinpoint moment in your life that can wield a huge influence on the future stretching out before you.

Perhaps the most effective wake-up call was showing her on a calendar that in five weeks she’ll be in the thick of it and two months from now she’ll be as free as a bird.

In the meantime we’ll try every strategy, bribe and reward going.

Could a change of career plan be on the cards for Hayley?

Hayley’s such a natural with children; could a change of career plan be on the cards?

Monday evening, exhausted after a visit from a very lively two-year-old…

The dog’s stopped quaking and has finally been persuaded to venture downstairs from the safety of my duvet. The breakables have been returned to their usual positions two feet lower than the emergency safe places we hastily stashed them. All the cupboard doors have been screwed back on; the contents restored. Jesse, one determined little explorer – his unspoken motto: ‘inside every cupboard a new adventure’ – has left and peace reigns once more.

Young Boy Relaxing On Sofa At HomeHe’s adorable and we all love his visits but it’s like having a mini-whirlwind in the house. Everything not screwed down will be upended, hurled like a shot put or, in the case of the dog, chased and pelted with toys/drink beaker/biscuits. Now he’s gone home with his patient saint of a mum. But while the rest of us are lying down in darkened rooms with damp flannels on our foreheads, Hayley’s still beaming. “If only he could stay here always,” she says.

I pull the flannel more firmly over my eyes. I know I’ve done it a few times over, with four children and a stepdaughter, but it all seems so long ago. I can’t honestly imagine how anyone copes day after day with such a demanding little bundle of energy. And I’m frankly amazed at Hayley’s total character change in the presence of her little nephew.

She’s not best known for her patience and calm. The house frequently trembles with her meltdowns and outbursts. I have come to know that having a hearing loss is frustrating and tiring, a constant battle struggling to catch everything and not miss out, so I try to make allowances, though there are limits. And recently hormones have come into play, unleashing even more scathing fury and spectacular intolerance upon the rest of us. But something about Hayley comes alive when small children are around. It totally transforms her into a mature, patient, responsible little adult. And I won’t pretend I don’t like it!

Hayley has always got on with children younger than her, seems in her element with them. In the last two years she’s done lots of babysitting, worked on a job scheme at a local nursery and did her work experience at another nursery, both of which she loved and got great reports. Maybe it’s easier getting round the deafness issues – small children have a far less sophisticated grip on language than Hayley’s own peers. Their needs are simpler and they won’t object or get impatient if Hayley hasn’t heard and asks them to repeat themselves.

Jesse’s latest visit demonstrated Hayley’s childcare skills again. And he loved her – a great playmate, good for cuddles and endless repetitions of his favourite chase-me-up-the-stairs game or peek-a-boo behind the curtains.

Although Hayley has long wanted a catering career, I can see childcare vying to become an option. The rewards are very instant – that irresistible giggling, little arms outstretched for a pick-up – and all without the pressures of trying to communicate in a peer or adult environment. I can totally see the attraction.

Hayley’s mock GCSE results are worrying

Hayley has learnt the results of her mock GCSEs and they’re not what she was hoping for…

Thursday evening after school

“Well I did good in some and, um, not great in others…” Hayley sounds overly bright as she hands me the slip of paper bearing her mock GCSE results.

A glance at her downcast face before scanning the results tells me I’m not going to be excited about what I see.

exam paper

She’s got a C for art, a Pass for a BTech subject and the rest range through E, G, a few Fs and for good measure, a U for Drama. This is bad. I didn’t think anyone got a U for Drama.

“Well done on the first two,” I reply equally overly brightly. “Still lots of work to be done but it’s good we know that at this stage so you can put the work in where it’s needed.”

Hayley’s very disappointed and knows that even though these grades don’t take account of her coursework, in which hopefully the grades are better, she’s still way off course. Success measured in five A–C grades may even be outside the realms of possibility for her now as I seem to recall a teacher saying it’s unlikely anyone could go up more than a grade at this stage.

Again I despair about the lack of support Hayley’s had over the years, not for want of me trying. Despite me banging on for years about how she is struggling, trying to get her assessed for an SEN statement, there’s never been the help she’s needed.

“She’ll be fine”, “just lacks confidence”… I’ve heard these phrases over and again, but the truth is that as well as her deafness, Hayley has various problems including word retrieval difficulties and slow processing skills.

So now my fears are materialising, but of course there’s no triumph in being right. Just fury and frustration at how Hayley’s been cheated of an equally flying start to her peers. The education system has badly let her down.

And understandably she’s become really quite demotivated, which isn’t going to help. It’s been creeping in during Year 11 as her subject teachers have heaped on the pressure make the huge leap to catch up to where she needs to be. She’s massively behind with her coursework, doesn’t understand a lot of what she’s being taught or set for homework – and is overwhelmed and beginning not to care.

“I’m rubbish, Miss hates me, she only cares about the A* students” is becoming a familiar refrain about every subject.
All we can do is keep trying to motivate her, get her working harder still and take full advantage of the sudden battalion of sixth-form mentors being wheeled out to help her with everything from maths to organising herself.

And there is some good news that’s cheered her up and hopefully will serve to inspire her. She had an interview for college where she’s applied to do a Diploma in Hospitality and Catering. They’ve made her a conditional offer on her getting five grade Cs but if she doesn’t make the grades they’ll take her on a lower level instead.

Still, a lot of hard work lies ahead over the coming months. Seatbelts fastened for a bumpy ride…