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GSCE results – how to support your teen if they haven’t got the grades

Alice:  “ Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
The Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice:  “I don’t much care where –”
The Cheshire Cat:  “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

(Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)


With GSCE results upon us (despite not even taking an exam), there will be many of our teens celebrating today, but also many who will find their grades aren’t what they were hoping for and feeling the system has let them down.  We speak to Kedge Martin, Founder of Forward, the UK’s leading mentoring and coaching company for young adults, on how to support and give direction to your child should they be one of the unlucky ones.

In the swirl of emotions after receiving disappointing GSCE or A’level results, it can be very difficult to see or think clearly.  Our amygdala, (often referred to as our lizard brain which played a critical role keeping us safe from real threats – like predatory wild animals, when we were cave men) goes on high alert.  If our anticipated plans have been derailed and the future looks uncertain, fear, sadness and anger can be our overriding emotions, we can feel lost.

It’s at this time that getting back to one’s core and gaining a sense of self is so important.  There are 7.7 billion people in the world, 600,000+ A’level students applying to go to university in the UK this Autumn and 700,000 young adults who’ve just done their GCSEs; one of them is your daughter or son. They are completely unique, with their own personality, their individual strengths, interests and capabilities and significant potential. This can often be forgotten in the single track, conveyor-belt education system where you are assessed and compared on just one measurement – academics.

At this time, it is really important that you:

  • Don’t panic! If the grades are disappointing or not what was expected, you can certainly pursue an appeal or re-mark route if better results are needed for specific goals, perhaps if you want to follow a ‘knowledge’ profession eg law, medicine.  But also consider, as Richard Branson famously says ‘your grades do not define you’. Maybe the university plans look dented (first choice may not be an option)  but reflect on what the rationale for those choices really was?  There are many other routes if you chose not to go to university  from apprenticeships https://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/parents/their-career# to business courses eg https://www.tma.work/ that might suit better.  It’s important to take time to reflect and consider options  – so often things happen that in retrospect we see that it worked out for the better.
  • Acknowledge that the workplace is un-recognisable from a generation ago and yet our ‘sausage factory’ education system hasn’t changed! Many of the companies transforming the world today didn’t even exist 5 or 10 years ago.   According to the Institute for the Future, more  than 85% of the jobs in 2030 are yet to be created.  The key skills employers are looking for are interpersonal and communication skills, confidence, motivation, resilience, sense of their own direction  and critical thinking.  Consider what you can do to build these.
  • Remember, grades are just a ‘snapshot’ of where you are (in one area); they do not define you; you are so much more than a group of numbers or  letters! The most important thing is to develop your individual personal plan (perhaps with the help of a professional mentor or coach – just as sportspeople and top executives do); identify goals which engage and motivate you and you will succeed.

Kedge Martin is an executive coach, entrepreneur and founder of Forward Coaching – the UK’s leading coaching mentoring company for young adults 16 – 30.  www.forwardcareercoaching.org   0203 130 0295

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