I had a wonderful time at college and each year that A-level results day comes around it brings back fond memories. Thoughts of the choices that lay ahead, the nerves, the anticipation. It was also the first time my voice was ever heard on the radio. Yes, I was one of the students who opened their results envelope on-air. It was August 2007 at Parrs Wood Sixth Form in Didsbury, Manchester. As well as the usual hustle and bustle in the common room, there were also a lot of journalists gathered.
The circumstances why were tragic; A member of our year group, Kesha Wizzart, had been murdered in her home a month earlier, along with her mother and brother. I didn’t know Kesha very well but we had both been awarded the same scholarship to study at the University of Manchester and I got to know her through that. I went on to study English language, linguistics and film studies, whereas Kesha would have studied law. After news of the 18-year-old’s death broke, it sent shockwaves among our tight-knit student community. Kesha was never far from our thoughts on results day – she had taken her exams but never got to find out the results. Balloons were released in her memory.
That’s why there was a lot of media attention, as well as covering the tribute to Kesha, the journalists also collected vox pops from students, like me, opening their results. I was interviewed on my local commercial radio station in Stockport, Imagine FM – a station I actually freelanced at years later. There were so many people being spoken to that day I never thought a clip of me would even be included in news bulletins. Then, as I was driving home, off to celebrate with a few friends, my name was introduced and a clip played. It must have only been short – I couldn’t really make it out – because there was so much screaming from everyone I was with! Meanwhile, my mum managed to record my 15 seconds of fame onto a cassette tape, which is a memento of the day she still has.
In my career, I’ve had the chance to be on the other end of microphone on A-level results day. I’ve reported live on location into programmes for 2BR and The Bee in Lancashire. As a journalist, I love the buzz about results day – all the excitement and expectation. It’s been a privilege to be small part of the students’ memorable day. I wonder if, like me, any of the students I spoke to will end up working in radio one day? I hope so.
A-level results day is something that comes round each year and is a challenge in newsrooms in terms of how to keep the storytelling fresh. The colleges, understandably, want to showcase the year’s high achievers but I think we need to try to keep it as representative and realistic as possible, in terms of how we portray attainment. Not every student studies A-levels; there are a range of other vocational further education qualifications. Of course, there are a lot of happy people on results days – and congratulations to them. However, not everyone achieves the grades they wanted and that’s also absolutely fine too. Exam results do not define us as people, it’s what we do with or without them that counts.
This year’s coverage of results day will be different and there’s no disputing where the story will go in running orders. Due to coronavirus, students weren’t able to sit their final exams and grades have had to be based on predicted results and other formula. That’s why I’m sure we’ll remember the class of 2020 in years to come – I wish them all the best for the future.