This time last year my daughter Erin opened her AS results. A few months earlier, she had achieved an award for ‘Young Scientist of the Year’ and was predicted a Grade B in chemistry.
You can imagine the shock — and distress — when she went online to discover she was awarded a grade E. Yes, you read that correctly – an E.
In fact, all her predicted grades had dropped. We started an online campaign as other parents shared that their children’s grades had also dramatically dropped.
Erin shared her story, along with many other young people, on TV and radio, and, slowly but surely, we watched the Education Minister change his mind and reward the deserved grades to our pupils.
Congratulations to all the students from NI getting results today. You’ve had an incredibly tough 12 months. My thanks also to all our amazing teachers for their hard work this year. pic.twitter.com/9yI0fooxC1— Michelle McIlveen (@MMcIlveenDUP) August 10, 2021
Fast forward to this year and you can imagine the tension and nervousness of my daughter as she approached A-level results day. From six years old, Erin always dreamed of being a doctor.
She isn’t a natural academic but she studied day and night as she was determined to get the grades she needed. When she transferred to a grammar school to study her A-levels, things changed. Some of the teachers told her she was not capable of studying medicine.
I did email the school asking them to kindly stop discouraging her and reassured them that we were aware that there are many routes to becoming a doctor. If Erin needed anything; she simply needed a little encouragement. Unfortunately, she didn’t receive such encouragement.
I will never forget one particular day picking her up from school and she was in tears. She had been told to consider Sociology as a career. She cried saying, "mum, I want to be a doctor." I sat in the car and told her it was time we move schools as I wanted her to be part of a school that encourages her — even if it takes a little longer to get where she wants to be in life.
I will never forget her rubbing her eyes and saying: "No, I will stay and prove them wrong. Can you get me a tutor?"
I still fill up when I think of this moment. I was terrified she would be disappointed but she needed her mamma to believe in her. And I did – I always have.
Best wishes to our young people receiving A-Levels results— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) August 10, 2021
I hope you feel accomplished & proud of your efforts
For those who did not get the grades you wanted, there are options out there. Talk to your teachers & parents
Every single one of you can & will achieve great things
She worked day and night, attended classes, and met weekly with her tutor (online). We began to see a huge improvement in her tests/assessments. When it came to filling in her UCAS, she was advised to not apply for medicine and so she didn’t. Fast forward to results day (last week) and we knew she needed certain grades to get into Bio-Medical Science, which is an alternative and longer route into medicine. We held our breath as Erin logged in. She burst into tears and said: "I did it-I got AAA. I really believe I can be a doctor."
She sobbed. We sobbed.
Yes, she is my daughter, but trust me, having watched her throughout her school life she really has proved that she is an ‘against the odds’ kid. Even when exams never went her way Even when teachers said it’s unlikely she will get into medicine She did not give up, instead, she exemplified determination and resilience.
Whatever the future holds for Erin, I know she will get there. Our precious young people have been through so much with having to deal with their studies in the midst of a pandemic. Extraordinary times indeed.
But let’s take a moment and acknowledge that they are all heroes - no matter their grades. The words from 1 Timothy 4:12 comes to my mind: "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young." Let’s always be champions of those who are coming behind us.