My diary: Reflecting on school life one year after the first lockdown

9th April 2021

As part of our commitment to shining a light on the issues that matter most to young people, we reached out to our Student Ambassadors to talk about their thoughts, feelings and concerns for the future. In this blog, Mathieu shares some of his diary entries from the last year to paint a picture of school life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

I spent a long time thinking about how I could describe how the past academic year, which is when I realised I had documented my journey in my diary. Here are a few excerpts to find out what life has been like over the past year:

March 1st 2020:

Today was a good day. I just finished my Biology flashcards, which means I now have notes for every subject. Only two months and 29 days until my GCSEs!

March 18th 2020:

The government has announced that schools will be shutting down on the 20th and that GCSEs are cancelled! The last two years of effort and months of revision feel like they were a waste of time—all those notes, flashcards and interventions for nothing.

March 20th 2020:

Today was the last day of Year 11; the school was empty. There were only around 30 of our year in school today, instead of the usual 150. Everyone else was self-isolating or, more likely, didn’t see the point of coming to school. There were no lessons today, just an assembly, then we left; no ceremony, nothing. This is far from what I imagined my last day of secondary school would be like.

March 23rd 2020:

Today, I have what the school calls ‘online learning’. Seems a bit counter-intuitive as GCSEs have been cancelled. But, if GCSEs are scored on predicted grades, I might as well continue working and keep my expected grades high.


After my GCSEs were cancelled, I lost almost all my motivation to study and engage with online learning. I remember thinking that if there are no tests, what is the point of revising? It would have been easy for me to give up. However, I kept studying and doing all the work I was set for me because I knew I had to keep my predicted grades high just in case something changed. Being cut off from all my friends was difficult, but for some reason, I just kept on working, and to my delight, on March 19th, one day before results, the government scrapped the GCSE algorithm (which it had planned to use to award grades) and stated that they would be using predicted grades. I was right!

August 20th 2020:

Today was results day, and I got FANTASTIC results. I’m so happy! The next step is the sixth form. Next year will be a good year.


Looking back on this period, there a two main lessons I learnt:

1) Even if a teacher says, “don’t worry, this isn’t a real exam; it won’t contribute to your final grade”, you should treat that exam as if it is the final one. This is precisely what happened to me, and these “unimportant” exams ended up determining my GCSE results. Don’t wait until the actual exam to start proper revision. Get a head start and do it now.

2) Don’t get into the habit of procrastination. There is so much advice about how to stop procrastination, which goes along the lines of “make to-do lists” or “create a schedule”. But what I’ve learnt is that if you are a procrastinator, the easiest way to stop is to start the task you are avoiding. Once you start, it is easy to finish. So if you are a student reading this and have homework or revision to do, just sit down and make a start, whether it’s writing the first line in an essay of answering the first question; don’t plan, just do.

I hope that my experiences have been insightful and even relatable. Thank you for reading.

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