With A Level Results being released today and GCSE results just around the corner, NACUE Chief Executive Johnny Luk has some words of support for those nervously awaiting their results.
We have reached the time again where hundreds of thousands of students across the country gulp nervously as they collect their GCSE and A Level results. Shadowing the students are battalions of weary parents, who juggle awkwardly a box of tissues and a ‘congratulations’ card, ready to ditch one for the other at the appropriate moment. Teachers too, who have devoted their professional lives for this moment, cross their fingers as their careers are put on full display. Education is an emotionally invested roller coaster.
Results day is a big deal. For students, it could feel like the biggest deal of their lives so far. Suddenly things become serious – we are now measured, placed in a league table, sorted between the ‘gifted’ and the patronizing ‘vocational route’. Students are weighed, filtered and assessed, on the backdrop of societal expectations – pushed through the assembly line of a constrained curriculum, essays and exams. We tick the box of one paper and move on to the next. And all along – we are told, if you are in a fortunate environment, that having a good grade is key to a great start in life and if you don’t – well, you might as well throw yourself into the ‘ life is over’ scrapheap.
Feeling the pressure yet?
Well let me start by saying it is good to feel a bit of pressure, but not necessarily for the reasons you think. It is nice to be recognised for putting in the hours, and grades are a tool for driving performance in your core skills, especially in English and Maths. And yes, employers do care about it - universities even more so. The feeling of smugness at proving your teachers wrong, or getting extra pocket money from parents, are all well meaning.
Yet – grades on a piece of paper, are just that, a piece of paper. They do not capture your full story, your personality, your social activities, your hopes and dreams. It is just a snapshot of one tiny side of your performance, designed to make it easy for overworked HR advisers to put you in boxes.
This works on both sides, if you scored straight A*s, well done, but it doesn’t mean you are better than most people. And if you feel you messed up, and I have experienced that feeling before – do not panic. Your attitudes, your willingness to work and stretch your imagination, those are the behaviours that define you.
So when you open that results letter, remember, how you react is the key measure of your real self. If it’s bad, do you despair, moan, blame everyone but yourself? Or do dust yourself off, find problems to solve, work harder at your goals and carve your own future, whether that means a retake or a different journey? Most of you will get the results you hoped for, and for those who haven’t – you’ll be fine – and actually – more than fine, if it means you break out and carve out a less conventional path. And hopefully – with the right guidance, that path will be a noble, entrepreneurial one.
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