E for Effort

Posted on August 22, 2013 by Lauren Greatorex


There are some news stories that I’ve learnt to avoid… ‘new football season’, ‘train fare hikes’ and anything to do with ‘soap stars’.

Yet, nothing quite gets me ranting like ‘exam results day’. Headlines I have avoided in the last fortnight include: ‘GCSEs 2013: Top grades fall for second year’, 'A-level results and clearing 2013: as it happened' and 'A-level results day 2013 in pictures'.

It’s not just the sweaty-palmed fear I experience remembering my own special day, it’s the relentless, dull, clichéd news reporting that happens year after year.

There is no doubt that exam results are important and very well-deserved – students have worked incredibly hard to achieve them and they’re an important step up the eventual career ladder.

In PR we talk about the media ‘silly season’ that envelops most of August. ‘Exam results day’ is a classic example of this. The endless build up, the lazy reporting of smiling/crying students and the unceasing negativity aimed at teachers, parents, exam boards and universities.

The themes are always the same: exams getting easier, ‘Mickey Mouse’ subjects, and grading fiascos, peppered with vox pops stating the obvious (“it was different in my day”). The BBC has compiled a far more comprehensive list in ‘the unofficial exam results phrase book’.

For my part, I’ve written a list of the most shudder-inducing results day moments below.


Live opening of exam results

A go-to for breakfast TV shows and local broadcasters that delight in forcing students to learn their fate in front of a live audience. This type of voyeurism should never be encouraged.


Attractive students leaping in the air

This well-worn cliché has been helpfully illustrated by the Guardian using the medium of Lego.

I had a very similar visceral response to Olympic athletes being encouraged to bite their medals for the camera. As I sit up here on my high horse though, I am reminded that I may or may not have leapt into the air on cue for my local paper circa 2003.


12-year-olds with A*s

It’s literally a case of how low can you go. I expect to see toddlers with A-level maths any day now. This does nothing to dispel the ‘exams are getting easier’ myth.


The 'clearing' melodrama

‘Coming to a cinema near you – the highs, the lows, the bitter disappointments (running time: 1 week minimum)’.

Yet, there’s hope. Students like me who have been encouraged to jump for joy on results day are now at university or in jobs. Many of us are helping to shape the news agenda. That's our next challenge – taking our dumbed down, Mickey Mouse qualifications and using them to do things differently!


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