A-Level results loom for teen who missed test after her dad died
Grieving Belfast Model schoolgirl Rachel Dean is praying for extra good results in her A-levels on Thursday after an examinations board refused to grade her for a paper she was unable to sit after her father died.
The 18-year-old's father Graham (48) collapsed and died before her eyes the night before her sociology exam on June 15, when he suffered a sudden acute aortic dissection.
And despite the fact that the Ballygomartin girl last year achieved a grade A - obtaining the highest grade in her year - in the first exam in her sociology course, the authorities rejected her plea for an assessment to entitle her to a grade, which she requires to take up a place offered to her by Queen's University, Belfast.
"I'm very nervous about getting my results on Thursday," said Rachel, who lives with her mother Anna, a care assistant, and her brother Michael, an IT student at Queen's. "The school opens at 9am but we're going to go up early to get them, then ring Queen's to let them know.
"They said they'd consider my application on the grades I get in English and history, but I need the equivalent of an A and two Bs. The Joint Council For Qualifications (JCQ) has the final say and they aren't budging on it. They said that their rule book was 'black and white' and they couldn't deviate from it."
The JCQ, a council acting as a single voice for the six largest qualification providers in the UK, monitors examination administration, invigilation of exams at individual schools and activities of exams officers.
Rachel was referred to the body by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), an independent education charity that sets and marks papers for around half of all GCSEs and A-levels taken every year.
The uncertainty hanging over Rachel's third-level education is all the more heart-wrenching given the delight of her late father at her acceptance by Queen's, pending her grades.
Surgeons operated for two hours on Graham, who worked for Specsavers, to try to resuscitate him and repair his torn aorta.
His family is still waiting to find out what caused the dissection, as Graham had been in good health.
"Daddy was light-hearted, easy-going and funny, but honest and sincere, too," added Rachel. "He was delighted when Queen's confirmed the offer of a place for me.
"He was glad I wasn't going too far away. I hope I can get all this sorted for him as much as for me."