Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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A level results -- aren't we in danger of taking them too seriously?

Published By: The Independent - 26 Aug 2009

Of course it makes sense to plan, prepare and manage expectations. But even by feeling the need to outline such practical, step-by-step advice, arenít we in danger of blowing things out of proportion?

Of late, the annual rite of passage which is results day has somehow turned into ĎResults Dayí when the TV news shows obligatory pictures of young people hyperventilating with emotion while adults stand by in their thousands to offer counselling, man phones, hand over bribe money or share bitter tears.

Obviously A level results mean a great deal to the students involved, but now the whole world seems to have muscled in on the act and turned a personal day of reckoning into some great, overblown, communal drama.

I have seen all three of my children through their Results Days, with varying degrees of success or failure. I know how low a young person can plunge when things donít turn out as expected, and how delighted they can be when they do. And I know, too, that as a parent you canít help but feel all these things along with them. But I have also seen my three children go on to get their degrees and search for jobs, and know for sure that while, to some extent exam results matter, they donít matter nearly as much as we think they do.

It is terrific if a young person does well at A level, but it certainly isnít the end of the world if they donít. There are always opportunities out there for youngsters with resilience, confidence, flexibility and persistence.

The trouble is that, in focussing so ferociously on exam results and their immediate aftermath, we are in danger of losing sight of all other things that shape a young personís future. All the A*s in the world wonít ultimately shore up the boy or girl who lacks the self-reliance or personal skills to make their way in the world, while the young person who knows how to pick themselves up after a set-back will never let something as minor as a set of disappointing exam results hold them back for long.

So remember, results day is exactly what it says and no more: one day. And afterwards, in all the ways that really matter, life will almost certainly carry on much as before.

Hilary Wilce writes The Independentís weekly Quandary column. She is a writer, journalist and personal development coach working with parents, young people and educators: