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Things that are worth remembering on exam results day

By Mark Richards,

24 Jan 2020

We are now in ‘exam results day season’.

As hundreds of thousands of students receive their results across the UK in August, there will be considerable anxiety, nerves and sleepless nights up and down the country; for teachers and parents, as well as pupils themselves. With so much pressure being felt at this time, it’s well worth considering a few simple truths – easily forgotten when there is so much stress around and so much at stake. It’s the young people getting their results that matter Sadly, a poor set of exam results can mean individual teachers are not allowed to progress up the pay scale.

Capability procedures are sometimes triggered if student results in a teacher’s class fail to meet targets.

At a whole-school level, disappointing exam performance almost writes a disappointing Ofsted report.

All of these things can have devastating effects. But, when all is said is done, at the heart of any exam results day are the young people themselves: individuals, not numbers; real people, not target grades or data on a spreadsheet. There is a massive weight of expectation placed on the shoulders of young people in such a results-driven environment.

Many are not well-placed to cope with this.

And, even for those pupils who can handle the pressure, it’s still an extremely tough time in their young lives. Bad results don’t stop you, they just change your direction Exam results are stepping stones that help you move onto the next level.

There can be no denying that exam results open doors.

Naturally, disappointing results might mean that young people find that certain doors are shut – access to particular courses, careers, etcetera.

However, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other doors that young people can go through.

It might mean that you have to go through the back door rather than straight through the front.

It could mean you need to get a different ‘key’. It’s important to give young people a vital message if their results are disappointing.

Poor results don’t stop the journey.

They just mean that you might need to change the direction of your journey. Analogies aside, the simple fact is this: exam results don’t stop you at all.

You might have to change your initial plan, that’s all.

They are not the end of the world. Exam results don’t define you It’s also important to reinforce the message that exam results do not define you as a person.

They don’t measure your integrity, honesty or reliability.

Results don’t even show (necessarily) your hard work, commitment and determination. Exams are a snapshot of a moment in time.

Nothing more, nothing less. Tomorrow’s workers will never stop learning More so than ever before, the set of exam results you leave school with do not dictate your future entirely.

The world of work has changed considerably over the last couple of decades.

Upskilling and in-work training opportunities are greater, and more necessary, than ever before.

It’s easier to change career-path these days, because changing jobs and careers often is becoming the ‘new-normal’. Of course, exam results are important but it’s worth having some perspective if they do happen to be disappointing.


1- Are the new GCSC grades making it difficult for teachers to predict a student's likely results?

2- Innovation in schools hindered by pressure for results

3- Why Ofsted feels the need to publish 'mythbusting' documents

4- Exams - How could they be done differently?