It's all so long ago!

Written by Piers Cawley on

Once upon a time, when the world was young, I sat my O levels. I passed 10 of the blighters. That was 20 years ago and, as these things are wont to do, my examination certificates have been mislaid. For strange reasons I have a bit of paper to prove that achieved grade 3 at the flute, and another to prove that I could swim 100 metres at the age of 9, but if I have to prove that I got an A grade at O level maths, no joy.

For most of my life, this has not been a problem; I went on to get A levels and a degree in mathematics, and since about my second job even these qualifications have been pretty much irrelevant – employers were far more concerned with my experience and references.

Except now, I’m about to start training as a teacher. For some reason, being in possession of a degree certificate from Nottingham University proving that I have a BSc in Mathematics (which, amongst other things required me to have passed O levels in Maths, English Language and a modern foreign language), the rules are that I must prove that I’ve got appropriate qualifications (GCE O level in my case) in Maths and English by presenting an official piece of paper to that effect.

So, after quizzing my parents closely in case they’d hung onto said pieces of paper, I racked my brains to remember which board I’d sat my exams with – The JMB – got in touch with the AQA in Manchester and sent them a cheque, photocopy of my passport, and an application form and, after nearly four weeks, they sent me back a statement of results. Very nice it is too. Except that it appears I didn’t get my Maths O level from the JMB.


I got it from the AEB; I could have sworn it was A levels that were AEB, but apparently not. So now, I have to get in touch with the AQA in Guildford; send them another cheque, photocopy and application form; and wait four weeks. Which is all very well, but my course starts on the 13th of September.

So, kids, if anyone ever tells you that your GCSE certificates are next to useless once you’ve gone on to further qualifications, don’t believe ‘em. Hang on to them. Okay, so it’s unlikely that you’ll ever need them, but it’s far easier just to present a piece of paper that you have handy than it is to dredge up memories from 20 years ago and still get the examination board wrong.

Oh yes, as part of the interview process for the teacher training course, we potential maths teachers all had to sit a copy of last year’s GCSE exam. Which was a shock since I’d done no revision whatsoever. It’s surprising how it all comes back though; I answered every question and I presume I didn’t commit too many howlers or I wouldn’t have the problems I’ve got now.