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A Month in the Life of a Wymondham Sixth Former

Freddy Lowe Published: 26 May 2022

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Freddy Lowe
Freddy Lowe.

At Wymondham High Sixth Form, a theory exists that there are two exams more stressful than any other, and that getting through these two exams means you’re ready for anything in life. The first is a driving test, and the second is a recorded language speaking exam. What was less fortunate was that one of my friends recently was ill-fated enough to have both within 24 hours of each other. (Both went fine. He passed his driving test with four minors.)

Parents and teachers of Wymondham will be aware that we are now entering the ‘kick-off’ period of A-Levels and GCSEs. Here is where we are on the timeline: for A-Levels, French Speaking exams are done, the Spanish/German ones are in the coming days, and the main bulk of paper exams kick off in June. For GCSEs, the paper exams begin with full throttle on the week beginning the 16th May, with (most of) their speaking exams already done and dusted. It’s a difficult time for all concerned – and not just academically! In a teenage Sixth Form exam environment, you definitely find out who your true friends are, as everyone naturally allows the stress to get to them a tiny bit. The friends you want to be with are the ones for whom the stresses manifest into humour. We couldn’t help but be amused recently when the aforementioned best friend – the one with both hideous exams back-to-back – was terrified that he’d lost his licence on his first drive out (he hadn’t) because of a harmless error that was rectified immediately. He proceeded to ask our French teacher, “why have I passed when I can’t drive? Was my examiner just being nice?”

Even with those who feel the stress more, one can’t blame them. It’s entirely understandable: we all joined this school when we were children, grew up into adults together, and now have to interact in a tighter-fitting building that hasn’t got any bigger. A teacher asked me the other day if I was ‘emotional’ about the fact that we are all leaving for study leave in two weeks’ time. My short answer was no. Not because I won’t miss anyone there (quite the opposite, especially with some members of staff), but rather because most of us are feeling the desire to take revision matters into our own hands and leave the confines of school.

The staff feel the pressure of exam season too, and like most Wymondham High staff members, they take it like absolute pros. It’s interesting to see their variety of methods: some turn maternal (“please eat all your vitamins over the coming months and stay away from ill people!”), others become like the motivational speakers at the side of racetracks (“you’re so nearly at the end!”), others don’t care if we even listen to them in lessons (“I’ll stand here teaching for those who want it, but feel free to ignore me and do your own revision”), and others become the pioneers of #Relaxation (“don’t work too hard and make sure you rest too!”). The only bizarre moment was when we received a PowerPoint presentation – delivered by our bewildered form tutor – about ‘tips for school life, such as asking teachers about homework deadlines’…two weeks before we’re due to all disappear for study leave. (Maybe there was an admin error somewhere down the line.)

However, contrary to popular belief about ‘relaxation’, Sixth Form students do know how to relax without trashing the streets, as some believe we do – and it can be in a number of ways. Headphones are a frequent go-to. Billie Eilish is popular (despite my previous orchestral purism, I’ve been converted – she is superb), as well as others like The Beatles or Ariana Grande. Some listen to podcasts. Among us language students, the responsible ones listen to the Duolingo podcasts, whereas I prefer ‘HitchPod’, an iTunes show about Alfred Hitchcock films (of which I’m a huge fan). It is total procrastinating escapism but would highly recommend.

Several of my friends play football matches that provide much debate and contention the Monday after (I never have a clue what they’re on about), and many of us also play music ensembles. (The only thing we don’t do too often is read, and that’s because we’re saving it for post-exams.)

But suffice it to say, as frenetic as it can get in current Sixth Form life, one thing is very clear: the Exam season is coming fast, and it will be over faster than it came.

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