GCSEs results day 2017: What to do next?

GCSE results day is on Thursday. Picture: Dominic Lipinski

GCSE results day is on Thursday. Picture: Dominic Lipinski - Credit: Archant

If there is one day guaranteed to punctuate the calm of summer it’s likely to be this Thursday, August 24, when youngsters collect their GCSE results from school.

In an ideal world everyone gets an A, but what if you don't get the grades you want?

In an ideal world everyone gets an A, but what if you don't get the grades you want? - Credit: Archant

If they get the grades they want, they and their parents can relax – their path to sixth-form or college is assured. But what should you do if you haven’t done as well as expected?

The first thing to do is to contact the sixth form or college you had hoped to attend. It’s tempting for parents to do this on behalf of their demoralised children. But don’t – it’s a mistake. Admissions tutors are much more likely to be impressed if a student takes the initiative and contacts them directly.

Parents may be naturally tempted to appeal a poor GCSE result. This is an option but in most cases the school would have to agree to lodge an appeal, it takes up to 30 days, and the chances of success have declined markedly since the appeals system was overhauled last year. In short, it’s an outside bet but it’s no substitute for a plan.

Remember, too, that schools and colleges will want to help – they have places to fill and they won’t be reimbursed if they remain unfilled. Yes, they won’t want to take students who they think will struggle, but if there is a solution they will be keen to help your child find it.


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How flexible schools and colleges are prepared to be depends on which GCSEs a student failed to pass and by how much. English and maths are essential, so if you didn’t pass them, or failed to get a sufficiently high grade, you should resit them in November.

Many schools and colleges will allow students to start A-levels in other subjects while they resit English and maths, it depends on the subject mix. But it’s worth asking before looking elsewhere.

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If students did considerably worse at GCSEs than expected, a more drastic rethink may be necessary. Some may be tempted to retake the entire year, though for most that won’t be affordable or practical. Another solution is to opt for a BTEC rather than an A-level. These are primarily vocational qualifications but they are valid alternatives to A-levels and accepted as such by most universities.

An added complication this year is that English and maths GCSEs will be graded differently, with a 1 to 9 number scale replacing the old A to G system. 1 is the lowest grade and 9 the highest, with a standard pass set by the government at 4. Colleges that stipulated a C last year as the minimum entry requirement should accept a grade 4 this year.

If students find themselves in the fortunate position of doing better than expected they shouldn’t necessarily stick to their plans – they could use their good grades to barter up to a more popular course or college. But it’s also important not to take on too much. Three A-levels are sufficient; students don’t need to study four.

My last piece of advice is don’t despair. Even if you did far worse than expected, there are always solutions; there are always options. As adults know but most 16-year-olds don’t, learning from failure is one of the best routes to success.

• Danuta Tomasz is assistant director of education at Cognita, which has some 70 schools in the UK and abroad.

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