An article by Charlie Davis, Year 13, Mulberry UTC
Published by the Metro UK Online on Monday 25th May 2020
I turned 18 in March, the same week the UK began to shut down. With pubs and clubs advised to close due to the coronavirus pandemic, I didn’t exactly get the big celebration that I’d dreamed of.
At that point, I didn’t think life could get any worse – but then I walked into school the next day, only to find out that it was to be one of my last ever days there.
Seven weeks later, I’m still struggling with the idea that I won’t be sitting my final exams.
All those countless hours stressing about the importance of language in Wuthering Heights, and trying to memorise the names of what felt like thousands upon thousands of sociologists: all gone to waste.
For me, taking my A-Levels and completing school felt like the final step of growing up, where I could prove myself after years of learning, before beginning the rest of my life. Now, it feels like I’ll never get that final step.
I’ve got mates who are overjoyed that they don’t have to sit the exams that they weren’t revising for anyway. But I wanted to know that on results day, if I was crying with tears of joy or despair, it was because I’d earned it, not because my teachers or a government database had decided that this seemed like a reasonable grade to give me.
Students used to joke about the possibility of not having to take our exams for one reason or another, but now all that joking has come true and my future is in someone else’s hands, it’s terrifying. My folders and textbooks are still in my locker at school – I didn’t even have time to take them home, because everything happened so quickly.
On our last day, teachers were saying goodbye, friends were rapidly trying to fill up their camera rolls with as many pictures as possible, and no one knew if we’d ever return to school.
I understand that this is a health crisis and the closure of schools was an absolutely necessary measure to take. Obviously, the cancellation of exams is by no means the worst thing happening in the world right now. But that doesn’t mean, for those of us who it affects, that this isn’t an extremely important and worrying time.
“As testing and as difficult this time has been, my friends and I are closer for it, and it makes me appreciate the small things in life.”
I’ve been in school for nearly 14 years now, and I can truly say Year 13 is where I came out of my shell. I found my group of people, friends who could help me revise and bring the best out in me, but who could equally distract me and turn revision periods into us rolling around on the floor in absolute hysterics.
Sixth form was also a year of firsts. The first boyfriend, the first girlfriend, the first freedoms, the first tastes of adult life. Year 13 is both your last chance to be a kid and your first go at being an adult.
This year, we were supposed to have a leavers’ and graduation ceremony, and I was supposed to have a prom where I could dress up and celebrate with my friends. None of that can happen now.
But, as someone who has spent the majority of my life on social media, social distancing has meant spending more virtual time with my friends. We do pub quizzes and online movie nights. I’m still doing the same things that I love with my friends but from a distance.
We’ve been having lengthy discussions about school ending and life beyond Year 13, and these have really helped us to come to terms with everything that’s going on right now.
I really am looking forward to the future. I’m hoping for a postponed leavers’ ceremony at my school, and I’m also planning to have a big night out to celebrate mine and all my friends’ lockdown 18th birthdays.
Come September, I will be starting the next stage of my life as a university student studying English literature and creative writing.
My university hasn’t made any changes or announced that they are moving to an online system so it is all still up in the air. Nothing is confirmed but there is a possibility that I won’t be on campus for my first term.
I will definitely be using this weird and extraordinary time as writing inspiration.
As testing and difficult as this time has been, my friends and I are closer for it and it makes me appreciate the small things in life.
While it hasn’t been the ending to my school career that I’d hoped for, it’s fair to say 2020 is a year that I’ll never forget.