How to support students on GCSE results day

On GCSE results day, students will be looking to their teachers for guidance. Here’s my eight-step-guide to help you provide the best support you can

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1. The first thing to do is tell students not to panic – it may feel like the end of the world but it’s most definitely not. Have some ready case studies of students who missed their target grades but went on to great things.

2. All may not be lost if A levels were ‘plan A’. Make sure students have checked with their chosen college that they definitely cannot access their preferred course. If they are struggling to fill places, the bar may well have been lowered, or they may offer a place on similar courses.

3. If the answer is no, ask an alternative provider. It may be worth phoning round a few local colleges. Stay with the student to make the calls if necessary.   

4. Re-marks. This is where students really do need teacher guidance. Walking the tight-rope between saving them the (significant) expense, and ensuring an opportunity is not missed, is a difficult judgement call. All teachers know that grades can and do move up because of remarks, but more often than not they don’t. Protecting students’ emotional well-being so that they don’t pin all their hopes on a positive outcome is a top priority too.

5. Resits. These may be realistic for some. If there is a reasonable chance of an individual improving the second time around, their character can cope with it, and their preferred career path depends on it, then this option is worth pursuing. Of course, it is quite possible for students to study for GCSE resits during the evenings, or at another institution, alongside their existing timetable. Again, a steer in the right direction from a trusted teacher is crucial here.

At GCSE exam boards will have to provide:

  • two re-sit opportunities in relation to legacy GCSEs in English, English language and maths - one in November and one in summer. 
  • a re-sit opportunity, no later than summer 2018, in all GCSE science and additional science qualifications they currently offer.
  • exam boards are also allowed, but not required, to offer a single re-sit opportunity in the year following the last scheduled sitting in any other legacy GCSE subject


6. Signpost further good advice. Sometimes the teacher’s job is as simple as convincing the student that it is worth getting over the fall-out with mum, and listening to her advice. But you may be the best person to take the individual to your school’s careers adviser (if he or she is not willing to approach them under their own steam). Tes has some great advice, too. 

7. A-levels are not the only option. There are several post-16 routes to travel, some of which arrive at the same destination anyway. Good results in many vocational qualifications can open the door to many university courses and careers. In addition, apprenticeships work really well for many young people, who never look back once having started, even if they were initially hesitant.

8. Finally and above all, make sure your students understand that their GCSE results do not define them. Their identity is not attached to their examination performance. They are more than their results.

Christian Pountain is head of RE and director of spirituality at a secondary school in Lancashire 

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