Series following bright teenagers from low-income backgrounds across the UK. In this episode, three Year 9 girls face mounting pressure in their first year of GCSE preparation.
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The expectations for us is that we go to McDonald's,
and clean the toilets,
do not get very far and don't do very well.
These six teenagers are exceptionally talented.
They have all been identified as gifted
in at least one subject by their schools...
Maths is like puzzle solving.
I don't know why, but I really enjoy finding answers.
When I'm drawing, I just feel like I'm escaping everything around me.
..but all are from disadvantaged backgrounds.
My mam does struggle for money.
You think it's going to be £500 for university?
Money's there for those who can push them through the door,
but we're not in that category.
Kids living in poverty are half as likely
to achieve the top GCSE grades as their better-off classmates.
Life is not as simple as a linear graph, and it does not go straight.
We will follow these kids over the next three crucial years,
from age 13 until they take their final GCSE exams at 16.
Best of luck today.
You may begin.
They expect me to get the top, top, top grades.
We'll return each year
to see the challenges they'll have to overcome,
both at school...
Mam, what do you think may be causing these kick-offs and things?
..and at home.
Did you honestly think when you got them scores,
I was going to sit there and go...
No, I did not. That's why I don't tell you these things.
At a time when social mobility in the UK is in sharp decline...
I don't want to be in poverty, but neither do a lot of people,
and a lot of people don't have that choice.
..we'll find out just how far these kids can really go.
This is where their journey begins.
Well, it's just like giving someone a head start in a race.
It's your job to catch up.
In your bedroom, is there anything that defines you
more than anything else?
Erm... I have books.
Lots and lots of books.
This one's pretty good.
Reasons To Stay Alive.
I kind of finished reading it, cos it made me cry.
When I'm reading, I feel like I'm where I want to be.
So it's not in Port Talbot, and it's not on the planet.
It's within those lines, those pages.
That's where a reader really wants to be,
because that's where they feel like they are...
I was born in Barnet, and then...
..and then when my parents split up, that's when we moved to Port Talbot.
I was only, like, seven.
I didn't really understand...
..like, what it was, like, what splitting up meant, you know?
I suppose when all that was going on,
I did grow up quite fast during that time
because of what it was and how long it went on for and stuff like that.
Like, I realised quite quickly that the world is not a good place.
There are... Like...bad things happen.
Port Talbot is...small.
Not much goes on.
It is deprived of tools for, like, education, and...
..like, work, and stuff like that.
Mam, what are you doing?
I'm cutting up a quiche. What does it look like?
-That's it. That's why I'm doing that.
Don't drop it.
Anne-Marie lives with her mum, stepdad and four siblings.
Place things on the plate properly.
-Don't put that there.
-You sound just like my mother!
-Yeah, well, don't do that.
The family survive on benefits,
as her parents are full-time carers for her younger brother,
who has severe autism.
It's hot in here!
We have a love-hate relationship, I think.
Not like normal mother and daughter does.
She doesn't talk to me, and I don't talk to her!
She loves to hate me.
I don't talk to people about anything.
We do have similarities sometimes.
We are alike, even if she doesn't like to admit it,
-we are so alike, and it is scary...
..that we are similar.
This is quite scary, as well.
-Yeah, I know.
What do you mean, Anne-Marie?
She's interacting with me!
-We always talk!
-You just don't listen.
That's the difference!
I feel that I can't talk to people,
and writing gives me a chance to express myself properly
without having to explain to people how I feel.
You could write about every single little thing...
..in this world that you see,
and every single one of those things is a new story.
It's like, if one life is just not enough for you,
or you feel like it's not good enough, you can always write.
I couldn't cope in a mainstream school, basically.
I couldn't cope.
I had ADHD when I was younger, but they didn't know I had ADHD
when I was younger, of course.
It was like hyperactivity.
But I went to college for a bit.
I did a GNVQ in health and social care,
and then I just got a job at Butlins Southcoast World.
And then I moved back to London,
and then I just floated about, like, had my children.
I want her to do well with her life, and not screw up.
Anne-Marie attends nearby Dyffryn Upper School.
We need to push you that bit further.
You need to be working on thinking and creating for yourselves.
Don't look so scared.
She's currently in year nine, a make-or-break year,
when sets for GCSEs are decided.
Some of you will love the challenge,
some of you will probably be dreading it and want to run away.
Although she's one of the top students in the year,
especially in English,
staff have recently had concerns that Anne-Marie
has been losing confidence.
I wish you would speak up more.
You have such lovely thoughts,
but I've noticed, like, in the last few weeks, you've been fairly quiet,
and not putting the pen to paper whilst you're here.
We both know you're talented,
and you should be showing that off a bit more,
because you do seem to sort of step back.
It'd be nice to see more of the words from Anne-Marie,
because I kind of miss them, I'll be honest.
Anne-Marie is the sort of student that every English teacher
wants in their class,
but she's so uncomfortable with her own potential and abilities.
What makes you uncomfortable?
Is this a common issue for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds?
A lot of pupils who come from such backgrounds
are the sort of pupils who absolutely have low self esteem.
She's a very anxious person, as well.
But at the same time, she's capable of a lot more than she thinks.
So, who was to blame, in your opinion, Anne-Marie,
who was to blame for the outbreak of World War I?
What would you say?
-I don't know.
I don't know.
I'm not a very confident person.
I try and keep myself from thinking about stuff
that I probably panic about later on.
What kind of things do you mean?
I don't know, my GCSEs, college, university.
Just life, like, later on.
I'm already panicking about it.
And I don't know why.
I want to go to college, and I want to become a criminal psychologist,
and I want to be able to help people, but before I do that,
I know that I'm going to have to sort my own problems out
before I help anybody else with theirs, you know?
SCHOOL BELL RINGS
OK, then, you lot, ssh!
You lot, year nine!
Shakira? Listen to me, please.
In you come.
14-year-old Shakira has been identified
as one of the most talented artists in year nine.
So, when you do homework and sketches,
try and do as much as you can like that, cos that's brilliant.
-That's what I'm getting tattooed.
You're getting tattooed?
-When are you getting a tattoo?
-Well, that's what I want my job to be.
With Shakira, I think this is one of her favourite subjects,
because she is one of the best.
This is the type of stuff I'm looking for,
because that is really...
But she thinks she can't achieve things.
It's just confidence.
It's a much harder task to get through to someone...
..on free school meals,
because of their constant struggle
or their constant battle with believing in themselves.
Because people often think if you are on free school meals
or if you are poor, then you cannot achieve anything.
I want to talk to you about your homework,
why you did it, why you chose that particular person.
What they meant to you.
Lovely. OK, so why have you done...?
-Who is it?
-My little brother.
Why is your little brother important to you?
He's got Cornelia de Lange Syndrome.
Can't speak, can't walk.
-Can't sit up.
-But he loves the TV...
-..and he loves to touch things.
Ah, OK. So I can see now, it looks like, yeah, all the senses.
Because he can't speak, what he feels like inside.
A thought bubble is he's really creative,
he really likes bright colours and likes playing with toys.
It's brilliant, and you've done exactly like I said -
find someone that you care about,
and show me that you care about them.
DISCORDANT NOTES ON KEYBOARD
SYNTHESISER MUSIC PLAYS
FUNK RHYTHM PLAYS
REGGAE RHYTHM PLAYS
This is my jam.
Shush now, please.
SHAKIRA SINGS AND PLAYS NOTES
Shakira lives on the Belgrave Estate,
one of the most deprived parts of Tamworth,
with her mum, mum's boyfriend and four siblings.
They live on benefits that include Disability Living Allowance.
He'll sleep for a nice few hours now.
That's because he's had his pediatril, his milkshake.
Look at him smiling!
My youngest brother, Leo, is disabled.
He can't really do nothing.
Can't talk. He just hums.
But I seem to know what he's going on about,
like when he needs changing, or he needs feeding,
he moans and just cries a little bit.
I do get upset, and I do cry sometimes,
because I see what he's going through,
and you just don't get...
You'll see, like, these two-year-olds running around.
My brother's still in a pushchair, and just don't do anything.
I think about it all the time.
-This is your bedroom?
It's very pink.
When I get angry, I just come up and draw.
I feel happy, and I feel like I can escape.
Like, some people can escape in a book.
When I'm drawing, I just feel like I'm escaping everything around me.
That was just like a quick sketch, doodle thing.
Do you get angry much?
Yeah. All the time.
I was halfway through a video on YouTube of how to draw something...
..and I was sitting there,
and then it comes up, "No connection."
And because Mum wouldn't put the internet on
because I'd had it on all day,
I went in a mood and slammed my door.
Look, I slammed it, and cos they were wobbly anyway, it came off.
But the wood snapped, that's why.
She's good, isn't she?
How long have you known that she's been so good at art?
Since primary school.
-You started at primary school, didn't you?
-About year three.
-Do you want her to do well?
Yeah, which is why, when she comes home and tells me
she's done something bad at school,
I act on it and I take off her iPad, or I ground her.
-And that's what I was on about earlier.
-And that's what I do.
Because that's something... When I was growing up,
I never...had that sort of discipline,
which is probably why I went a bit AWOL.
Every child needs discipline in order to focus, I think.
If I could turn back the clock,
I probably would have done a lot, lot better.
I got no qualifications.
No qualifications at all.
I really haven't.
Which is why I've brought my kids up differently
to how I was brought up, you with me?
SCHOOL BELL RINGS
Did you put your name down for the Rome trip?
I was going to, but Mum said she ain't got enough money
to pay for it, cos of what's going on with Leo and that.
-So, if your mum's not got enough...
-And I ain't got a passport, so...
-So, why don't you come and see us about those things?
Cos that is part of my job,
is to make sure that anybody that's in a difficult situation,
there's money available to support.
Assistant head teacher Mr Spears
is in charge of monitoring the achievement of students
from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Did your mum come to Options Evening?
No. She was at the hospital with Leo.
OK. So this is going to be a big step.
We're going to enter year ten,
and you're going to be doing those subjects
that hopefully will set you up on whatever career path that is.
Shakira needs to choose which subjects to take for GCSE,
and Mr Spears wants to make sure they play to her strengths.
So let's try and pinpoint - definitely music...
-..definitely, 100%, art.
What A-levels do you think I did?
Obviously English. Anything else?
I didn't do English.
-I did drama, art, and photography.
And although I've ended up teaching English,
it was the art and the drama that gave me the confidence
to think I could go on and be a teacher.
I know what job I want to do.
-A tattoo designer.
A tattoo designer?
But what I want you to do is to sort of broaden your horizons,
and think about what other careers use art.
What we could do is look at another arts-based subject
that's going to give you a stronger sort of variety within the arts.
We could go drama in that block.
I like drama, it's just...
Just...? Go on, be honest.
It's just performing in front of people.
I don't like to perform.
The big barrier that she has is confidence.
But you find that one thing that's the talent, the skill, the interest,
and it suddenly opens the doors.
You should be confident, you know? You enjoy singing.
It enables them to realise that they're good at something,
realise that they can belong to something,
and then that enables you to sort of broaden that horizon.
She doesn't have to just be Shakira from Belgrave
who lives in Tamworth and dies in Tamworth.
I'm always thinking about what else I need to do to get that top grade.
For me, if you get 12 out of 16, why didn't you get 16 out of 16?
People go, "Oh, you are such a nerd." I'm like, "I'm not a nerd."
I just call myself an intelligent young lady.
After her parents separated five years ago, 14-year-old Jada,
her two siblings and her mum became homeless.
Ever since, they've been staying with Jada's nan.
You have to be able to make the best of what you've got.
Rather than looking at what they've got and moaning...
OK, what have I got that I can use?
Take care, Jada. Bye.
You may not have silver and gold, but some things are not material.
So I try to encourage them,
work with what you've got and make it work for you.
My goals are to get good GCSEs,
to get into the best university, and...
to become a paediatrician, and that's my dream.
To realise her ambitions,
Jada knows that her next step in education will be crucial.
Going to grammar school would make me feel more intelligent, I guess,
because most people that go there are intelligent
and have earned their spot,
and it feels like I've actually earned something.
I recently saw one of my friends that went to the grammar school.
I was like, "Wow, she's changed so much."
She sounds more proper than the normal kids from here,
cos she used to sound like me and people from round here.
Now she just sounds, "Oh!" Like, posh, from the Queen, and...
We're going to look at squatter settlements, OK?
So, they migrate from rural areas into the urban areas.
For a better education, that's one reason.
-Let's keep going with that. Sukhvir?
Rakshma? Yeah, better standard of living, good.
Now, let's think about the living conditions. Jada?
There's no sewage system, so there's all, like, diseases.
Good. Really good.
I imagine she's going to be a roaring success
in whatever she does, to be quite honest with you.
I'd like to think straight As.
Some of my...
Some of my concerns have been,
and this is not to use this word in a derogatory sense,
but a naivete.
I think you need to be aware that purely your desire
to want to go to grammar, sixth form,
to want a go to university to study medicine,
maybe that alone isn't going to get you there.
I know it's going to be hard, but anybody, like,
if their mind's set to it, can go to grammar school.
-And if you've got that mind-set...
..and you carry on the mind-set in your years,
-you can get there.
So, I went to grammar school.
I'm from Erdington, Birmingham, OK?
I'm mixed race, Irish and Mauritian immigrant.
When I got there...
..I personally found that the barriers
to me being able to do other things was that I wasn't actually perceived
exactly the same as the other kids.
I came on three buses, and I came from Erdington.
I didn't just come from down the road,
dropped off by my parents in their Range Rover.
Potentially, say you went to school in a posh part of Edgbaston,
you might be perceived as the girl from Handsworth.
That wouldn't really stop me, cos I'd say if you were in Handsworth,
I think you wouldn't be able to cope,
because you would want your fancy house, your car,
your this, your that.
You wouldn't be on a bus, walking to school, or anything like that.
So I'd, like...show them...
like, you don't have to always come from, like...
the top end to always go to, like, the best...
On social mobility...
SCHOOL BELL RINGS
..there's a lot of people who've come from really poor backgrounds,
and have come out.
Like Walt Disney - he...
He used to just live on dog food,
because he got fired from his newspaper company
from lack of creativity, and...
a household name now - everybody knows about him.
It doesn't matter what class you come from,
because there's a ladder, and you can climb it.
Today, Anne-Marie and a number of other high ability students
in year nine have been invited to an open day
at nearby Cardiff University.
You what? I want to live in, like, one of those student houses.
But then you'd have to make all new friends and everything.
Yeah, I'm not about that, so I'd just sit in my room all the time!
Can you get single rooms?
Yeah, single room, please!
With year nine progressing,
the school wants to introduce students
to the idea of life after GCSEs.
Port Talbot has one of the lowest levels in Wales
of school leavers going on to higher education.
How do you pay for universities?
Like, how do you pay for them?
I know you get student loans,
but don't you have to pay them off for, like, years and years?
And if you don't get a job out of it...
I know, imagine that.
You just go, you pay, like,
thousands and thousands of pounds and you, like, you fail everything!
-It's like, my mum would kill me.
-I wouldn't be able to go home.
I'd have to, like, live on the streets.
Buy a cardboard box.
This is Hogwarts!
If I want to go to university, then I'm going to have to do it myself,
I'm going to have to work hard in school,
I'm going to have to save up,
I'm going to have to do all these things, you know?
Because I'm not going to get it handed to me.
My mum's not going to give me an envelope full of money and say,
"Oh, here you go, spend this, you know, on what you want."
-You all right?
-I want to ask about criminology.
Cos that's something I'm interested in doing after I leave school,
so I wanted to know a bit more about it.
OK, well, what do you want to know?
-Everything about criminology, in five minutes, yeah?
In your first year,
you look at all different kinds of aspects of crime.
You look at criminal justice systems,
so the different agencies that work with criminals.
If you get in touch with the criminology department,
you'd be able to come and visit us and see whether it's what you want.
I was, erm...
I really do want to go to university and do the whole living there thing.
-And, erm... it was really nice.
Erm... You're going to have to research it,
and I'm going to have to research it as well, on the costs.
..I don't know, 500, it could be anything over £500 for costing,
could be £800, it could be more.
I really don't know. I...
You think it's going to be £500 for university?
-No, I said it's over £500!
-It's going to be over, like, £1,000.
-So, the fees are up to £9,250...
-There you go.
-..per academic year.
So, If I'm... Cos I want to do... what I want to do,
that's, like, five years.
-That's a lot of money.
I'd be paying that off for the rest of my life.
Yes, you would. You'd have to get a job to pay it back.
-You can't rely on me...
-..all the time.
-Mum, I know!
I know you know, but I'm just saying,
you just can't rely on...like, me to help you out.
I mean, I can try and help you out as much as I can do, but...
I don't want to have help to pay it off, like.
Cos know that it's my responsibility.
Your fees would be £9,000.
That's how much it is for you to pay.
Do you ever feel, like, jealous of people, maybe,
that have got more money behind them?
I don't think I feel jealous...
..because I'm working for it, and I know I've worked for it then.
-I'm not, though.
You are, though. Don't keep putting yourself down.
If you want to become somebody big or great, like a Prime Minister,
you've got to work for it, cos it's not just... Well...
I don't know how they work,
so I wouldn't know whether it's just handed to them.
But from what I have gone through personally,
you've just going to have to work for it whatever you do.
You can't just go into school...
..and be told that you're going to become a Prime Minister one day,
"Get ready," you know?
If it's like that, then...
I think somebody needs to do something
about the education system.
OK, so, this is the gallery that we set up,
and this is all GCSE work.
If you're taking it for GCSE,
this is the type of thing that we want you to try and achieve.
Does anyone know what this one is about?
Margaret Thatcher, and she's stopped, like, all the milk,
and underneath here is milk bottle things.
Basically, she took away the milk from children,
so they called her Margaret Thatcher, the milk snatcher.
This is all painted on milk cartons to just add something to it,
and it's much more impressive.
I want to see her with a good career.
A career that she's happy in.
Do you know what I mean?
Setting a good example for her younger brothers and sisters.
Her siblings, yeah.
Well, she's told me already that she's got her heart set
on wanting to be a tattoo designer, or tattoo artist.
And to be honest with you, with her drawings that I've seen already,
she has got a lot of potential.
So, there's no reason as to why she couldn't do that, no reason at all.
-Do you think she should go to art college,
-or something like that?
-Yeah. Yeah, she should.
But there is loads and loads and loads
of real good artists out there that are just doing nothing, really.
Because there's...not many jobs, is there, really, for an artist,
except for tattoos.
One of them's going to poo on my head!
And I've only just washed my hair.
Do you know, like, lots of people that live on the estate?
Yeah. Tina, my mum, Tommy.
Bryden, Keeley, Ellie.
Tyler, Colette, Colin.
-We know nearly everyone.
Do you know anyone that's gone to, like, university or college?
Do you see yourself leaving here when you get to 18?
Cos I just don't.
Got better things to do.
I think about my brother and all his hospital appointments.
He's more important.
He could just, like, go at any minute, like, you know what I mean?
Like, he could die cos of all his problems,
so I just think about him all the time.
Here is my room.
Mine and my sister's room, more like.
Here is my clothes.
Well, kind of everybody's clothes.
Here's the bed, which takes up half of the room.
Destiny sleeps there and I sleep over here.
My sister puts her foot in my face, and it's really annoying,
so I said to my mum, "I can't, no more, I need my own space."
Children grow, children take up space...
and all of a sudden, the space gets smaller!
It's not an easy thing to talk about.
When it is brought up, it creates a little bit of a...
a debate. Can I say debate?
-That's putting it mildly, OK?
This is a housing application form.
Birmingham City Council.
Although Jada's mum works,
the rising cost of renting privately in Birmingham
means that her only chance of getting a bigger house
is through the council's housing office.
I would like to know if we CAN move.
That's all, really.
I want my own room.
I don't want to share with my sister no more.
So it's really, like, important.
With Destiny in there, it's more cramped.
When I'm revising, I put all my revision stuff on the floor.
When it's time for my GCSEs, I can't have Destiny, like, in there,
cos she's going to be in year eight, and she won't really understand,
me, as I need all this space.
I'm aware that there is a waiting list, of course.
Sometimes people can be on the housing list for years.
The reason why...
I realise we stayed here this long was,
I wasn't too keen to be relocated
in certain places that I didn't want to be.
-# Don't you know that if you cross your fingers... #
Now, keep it short.
Don't sing. # And if you count from one to ten. #
We cross our fingers and we bounce.
-# Don't you know that if you cross your fingers... #
-We're going to do it...
-# And if you count from one to ten... #
-We get down!
-# You can get up off the ground again... #
Shakira has been encouraged to take drama as one of her GCSEs next year.
This definitely is acting in tune, yeah?
So teachers want her to audition
for the after-school performing arts club.
..then you'd face me.
# Don't you know that if you cross your fingers
# And if you count from one to ten... #
Today, they're rehearsing for their end-of-year show.
# It doesn't matter, the whole thing's just a game. #
What are you doing, Shakira?
I don't even know.
Come in, Shakira. You having a moment?
Are you joining?
Well, that's a surprise!
-What's the matter?
-I don't know.
Are you coming in to join performing arts with us today?
-I don't want to do it.
-Why don't you want to do it?
I just don't.
So, we think you're incredibly talented,
you've got a lot to offer,
and there's a lot that you could do with us in performing arts,
and that's why we've invited you.
We're not going to force you to come.
If you don't want to, so be it, but I find it quite disappointing.
Cos how do you know that you don't like it until you've done a session?
What are you going to do? Your choice.
I really don't know.
Really don't know. I know what I'd like you to do.
I'd like you to come in the room and try. Half an hour.
That's what I'd like you to do.
You're going to do it?
-Shall we go into the theatre?
I don't really have the confidence to perform in front of people.
I think it's better not to do it,
just in case someone don't like it,
and then they start saying bad stuff to you, and you get, like,
all hate comments, and stuff like that.
You just don't want to get put through it, really.
If you were going to sing today,
what song would you sing, and to which karaoke?
-Do you want to type it in?
-I don't know.
There's no pressure to do so, but if you felt like doing it,
I'd like to have it loaded ready to go.
-I'm Not The Only One.
I might do that one.
I wonder if in just a moment
you'll do it in front of all these people here? Let's go.
-What if I forget it?
-What's going to happen?
Will the world stop turning?
Will the floor open up and swallow you whole?
What's going to happen?
What's going to happen if you sing a wrong note?
Do you know, when we learn the most is when something goes wrong.
We're not even saying we're working towards a performance.
We're working towards feeling good about the instrument you've got.
That's it. OK?
You'll walk out of here feeling so proud of yourself.
Right, performing arts, sit yourselves down.
A couple of people are going to sing for us today.
We know, we all know, in our own way, how scary it is
for the individual who's standing up and singing today,
so we're going to be respectful, yes?
Lovely. Shakira, shall we go?
Come on, Shakira! Come on.
Raise your hands if you've ever felt how Shakira is currently feeling.
Do you know what, Shakira, look at me.
Yeah. So, is today going to be the day
when Shakira's brave enough to show us a verse and chorus?
-I think she should.
-Please. For me.
-We're are all behind you.
Good girl. Right, I'm going to go and press play.
Give her a round of applause.
Love you, Kira!
Blow 'em dead.
MUSIC: I'm not the only one by Sam Smith
# You and me we made a vow
# For better or for worse
# I can't believe you let me down
# But the proof is in the way it hurts
# You say I'm crazy
# Cos you don't think I know what you've done
# But when you call me baby
# I know I'm not the only one. #
Give her a round of applause.
Right. Stay where you are, Shakira.
Stay where you are, all right?
I'll need five things she's absolutely fantastic at
before she leaves us.
-The projection in the chorus was really good.
The tone of it, the quality of the voice.
-She looked like she belonged there.
Did the world open up and swallow you?
-Was that the worst thing you've ever done?
Right. Well done, performing arts.
Shakira, would you come back next week and have another go?
Told you you could do it!
Come on. You got me crying!
I personally believe that if a student realises something
about themselves, that moment of feeling so good about themselves,
that feel-good feeling that I can do
is the most powerful emotion to take with you into adult life.
INTERVIEWER: How was that, Shakira?
I am literally shaking.
You had me crying!
What are you doing with your life?
I think the talent's there,
and I think if we got her singing in the summer show long-term,
it could just do amazing things for her as a person,
across the whole of the curriculum,
outside of school and in her music and art classes.
It's about making choices.
When you leave this school,
you should be able to make choices to do whatever you want to do.
The only way you're going to be able to make those choices
is by getting grades that reflect your ability.
With only two months remaining of year nine,
the focus is shifting to the end of year exams.
You must now achieve your target grade for the end of year nine
if you are to make the sustained progress
that you should be making - and it starts now.
You know, I'm not very good with tests,
so, you know, I'm going to panic a little bit,
but it should be OK.
INTERVIEWER: What do you mean you're not very good at tests?
I, like, panic quite a lot
and then I upset myself about it, and then I can't read.
You know, where stress comes out in a certain way,
so you might, like, get angry or something like that.
Mine comes out, like... with my sight, so I can't see,
and it stresses me out like that. So, yeah...
I won't... I try not to make a fuss about it,
but then I'll ask if I can go out the room,
and then, yeah, I just cry for a while.
You know, like, sometimes I won't even pick up the pen -
I'll just sit there because I don't know what to do.
-But aren't you really smart, Anne-Marie?
Finally, Serbia had grown in 1912 and 1913...
Could I borrow Anne-Marie, please?
The year nine exams are vital
in determining what level of GCSE pupils go on to study next year.
We're just going to have a quick chat
about the arrangements for the exams.
So, pastoral support, Miss Mason,
has come up with a possible solution for Anne-Marie's exam panic attacks.
-I've spoken to various people.
I think what we have decided is, as long as it's all right with you,
-we're going to keep a space for you in the quiet room...
..but try you in the gym with everyone else at first.
If you feel that's not working, or it's a bit too much for you,
-then we can put you back in the quiet room.
-Is that all right?
It's giving you the option, then.
-She didn't mind being in the gym...
-..as long as it's at the back, where she's not noticed...
..and she doesn't feel like everyone's staring at her.
-That way, if she feels panicky, she can just...
-..indicate that she's panicky.
-I will be there.
It is going to be a stressful few days,
because it is quite full-on, isn't it?
You've got three exams or more a day,
three full days of exams - it's going to be stressful.
I'll be honest with you,
-I just want to push you out of your comfort zone a little bit...
..to see how you cope with the rest of the group in the gym.
I don't want us to go in there with the assumption
-you're going to need all these things, you may not.
-I'd rather us work on the basis of whether if you do need them...
-..not necessarily that you absolutely will.
Cos I think you're coping better than you think you are.
Now, kids are pressurised to do really well...
..with all these exams, being in the top sets.
But do you put pressure on yourself to do well?
Because I don't want to fail, and disappoint people.
Because I feel like...
..I have a responsibility to do well,
and then, like, help my family and stuff like that.
My family don't have a lot of money,
and, like, we're not going to win the Lottery any time soon,
so, you know...but if I can, like...
..do something good and go to university
and get a job and do all this stuff,
and earn that amount of money, then I can help my family.
I feel I have to do that because I am the eldest,
so I have responsibility to look after my brothers and sisters,
and I'd rather them be, like, comfortable and stuff like that
than of having to just live in a really small house, so... You know.
With no movement on the housing front,
Jada's mum has found a temporary solution
to give Jada more space for revision.
I've got a bunk bed in here.
I know I've got Disney Princess at the moment.
INTERVIEWER: Are you pleased?
Yeah, it's fine now.
I want to give the children the best opportunity they can get.
-I grew up in Handsworth. I went to the local school.
I wanted to be a ballerina.
That's Destiny... Jada, Jada... These would be on the wall in the house.
This was something that was done years ago.
Yeah, that was me.
Erm... I was so young then! I think I was 11 or 12?
And I had a brilliant dance teacher, Sheila Marie.
She suggested London Contemporary Dance School.
I used to be told you can't make a living off that,
and so you take it on board and you think, "Hmm..."
But I didn't really fit in anywhere else.
Erm... I want to give the children the best opportunity they can get.
And I think, in reflection,
I've had a lot of opportunities which I didn't take.
Based on either
lack of confidence, and, erm...
..erm...sometimes you just made bad choices,
and the consequences, you see afterwards.
My mum pushes me.
She makes sure that I go for the best.
If I get this grade, she says, "You can do better than that."
Nothing less than gold, no silver, no bronze, no, that shouldn't...
Because she expects the best of me.
I don't want to go to school.
Cos I have my exams.
And I'm not particularly looking forward to them.
I was struggling last night with my revision.
I got myself really worked up
and I couldn't really read what I was doing so, yeah,
I started to cry.
I was trying to revise and, like...
..it just didn't work out for me and I got really upset about it.
I just couldn't sleep.
This is where we're going to be sitting for the next six hours.
That's a lot of tables!
If you want to talk about it, go and talk out there!
The year group begin to line up
in preparation for the start of their first exam.
It is the first time Anne-Marie will be sitting an exam in the conditions
in which her GCSEs will be held in two years' time.
You there and you there...
Honestly, you are going to be fine.
I just don't want to do it.
I know you don't want to do it, but you have to do it.
We are all scared.
Anne-Marie, you're really smart.
Like, I've seen you in class.
No talking, please, when you get in here.
Everyone has to be facing the front.
Keep quiet and face the front, please.
Fabulous. If we can keep it like this for the next 45 minutes.
OK, you can start.
BUZZ OF CHATTER
I couldn't read for the first, like, ten minutes,
-because my eyes were just full of water.
My tears would just fall onto the writing, so I just couldn't read them.
In Tamworth, the school's 210-seat theatre has sold out
for tonight's end of year performing arts show.
Shakira has been persuaded to perform a solo.
INTERVIEWER: How are you feeling about tonight?
Cos I could mess up at any time.
This really, really, really matters to me.
More than life itself right now.
Yes, it is just a school show, OK.
I woke up this morning and I was so excited,
because I'm excited to see you
all feel wonderful at nine o'clock, right?
So, now is the time, you take this thing off my hands.
INTERVIEWER: Give me a sense of, like, what's going through
your mind at the moment?
Erm... Where's my mum?!
That's what I'm thinking.
Have you got my mum's number?
-Could I ring her?
-If you want to.
-Is it really important that she sees you do well tonight?
-Why is that?
-Because I want to make her proud. Yep.
-# You know that if you cross your fingers
# And if you count from one to ten
# You can get up off the ground again
# It doesn't matter, the whole thing's just a game
# The whole thing's just a game! #
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-BABY CALLS OUT
PIANO INTRO, MIC FEEDBACK
# She's just a girl and she's on fire
# Hotter than a fantasy, lonely like a highway
# Oh, oh, oh, oh We've got both feet on the ground
# And we're burning it down
# Oh, oh, oh, oh
# We've got our head in the clouds And we're not coming down
# This girl is on fire
# This girl is on fire
# She's just a girl and she's on fire. #
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Well done. Give me a cuddle!
Did you enjoy that?
-You were brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
Was your mum here? Is she going to be waiting for you?
-Go and see your mum.
I was quite shocked that I done it, to be honest.
Because I didn't really have any confidence,
and then I was really proud of myself afterwards.
INTERVIEWER: Have you had that feeling before?
-Is that the first time you felt like that?
Here she is. Here she is! Girl of the night!
Brilliant. I had goose bumps on my arm.
I could be biased, I know, but I thought she was the best.
The more you do it, the more successful you will get.
-You all right?
-Well done, Shakira. Smashed it!
Are you proud of her?
Very, very proud.
-See you later.
-How did your mum react to you being on stage?
How did that make you feel?
I don't know. I was just thinking to myself,
"What the bloody hell are you crying for?!"
At Jada's school, the end of year exams have been marked,
and her mum has been invited in to go through the results.
So, two grades above English, two grades above maths.
-Two grades above Spanish.
On target, science. One grade below in geography.
Proportionally speaking and looking at the rest of the year,
-this is a very impressive report.
-Right, thank you for that.
So, maths and English, she'd need to go up one better
than she's already at to get A's in maths
and English. I imagine Jada will want to do better with that science.
-English, I got a five minus, wow!
Maths, I got a five plus!
Erm, just a note I want to share with you,
I spoke to Mr Panjanaden, and he did point out that
for some grammar schools, you're looking at A's in all subjects.
-Now, you've got two years.
What do you feel would be a booster for you?
In the holidays, I want to do tuition, because it will help me.
The only concern I have would be finances.
Well, I'm not meant to be worrying about it, because I'm a child.
-Yeah, that's not my responsibility.
-That's not my responsibility.
It's not always about the money.
Money's there for those who can push them through the door.
All the more power to you, fine.
But we're not in that category,
so I'm going to work with the category that we're in,
which is determination.
-No, I'm not scared of my disadvantage.
Nothing will get in my way in getting to my goal.
But there will be setbacks.
But you've just got to get up and dust yourself off and keep on going.
OK, so, it's promising that you've made that much progress.
You know, you sat in the exam halls with everyone else, with the nerves,
and you got it over and done with.
You know, you've done that, it's a massive achievement.
So, obviously you're doing something right, being sat in the exam hall,
because you've managed to pull these results out of the bag.
Which is incredible.
Given the circumstances, to still be coming out with 92%, 80%, 73%,
is crazy. It's amazing. You should be really, really proud of yourself.
If you can replicate that at GCSE, I think we'll all be very, very happy.
-Yeah? So, it's all very, very promising.
-I know my own strengths.
Maybe not all the time, I don't recognise them,
like, not all the time. But I know that they're there.
There you go. All right?
And I'm not going to waste them.
And I'm going to use them and I'm going to, like,
show them off to people.
We are all, like, these little story characters and we are writing our
own stories every day. So, my story's still going.
We just have to find out where it goes.
GCSE preparation begins for the Year 9 students, but the girls each face added pressures.
In Port Talbot, avid reader and top-tier student Anne-Marie knows she wants to go to university, but she suffers from anxiety around her exams. Meanwhile in Tamworth, Shakira's school recognises that she is a talented artist and tries to help her find her creative voice by pushing her out of her comfort zone.
Confidence is less of an issue for Birmingham-based aspiring paediatrician Jada - her determination to ace her Year 9 exams is pinned on her dream of winning a future place at nearby Sixth Form grammar school. But however determined she and her mum are, money may halt her dream.