Tuesday, 9 May 2017

A level results day – five things parents cannot do

As the parent of an A level student, you will have faced your share of exam seasons and results days already. Your experience may have been pleasant, and your child may have been delighted with their results, in which case you could just join in with the celebrations. However, if your experience of results day was a little less positive, you will have already had a lot of practice picking up the pieces and mopping up the tears.

This results day is different. This is the one that REALLY matters, because it determines whether the student will gain a place at their chosen university or whether they have to adopt a new route. If they have their heart set on a particular path, it can be very painful to witness their disappointment.
Thankfully, there is a raft of excellent advice provided by websites, and social media feeds set up by organisations like UCAS. There is already a great deal of excellent advice out there on what parents can do to help, and I don’t want to duplicate this. Instead, I want to give a brief insight into what you cannot do. This is probably just as important – at this stage of our children’s lives we need to recognise our limitations.

Five things parents cannot do on A level results day:


  1. Make it all okay. This was our job, wasn’t it? We liked to control the environment in which our children existed, deftly removing anything which threatened to hurt or upset them. Those days are in the dim and distant past. The results are outside your control. An A* is an A*, and a U is a U. As a parent you are not able to change that. If your child, or their teachers, feel the grade they have been awarded is an error, you may have a role to play. Only a school/college (examination centre) can make an enquiry about an exam, but you can go with your child to speak to the school and pay the fee for them.
  2. Brush it under the carpet. This situation cannot be approached in the same way as a tumble off a scooter. You can’t kiss it better and encourage them to forget about it. Someone has to DO something. Hopefully, you have raised a supremely resilient young adult who will brush off the transient disappointment and forge ahead to bigger and better things. Or, like me, you have raised normal human beings complete with vulnerabilities and insecurities, and you can hold their hand while they sob for three hours. Then, you can hand them a tissue and let them construct a plan.
  3. Be in control. It is highly unlikely you have the necessary skills and experience to give them the best advice on results day. You must call in the professionals. It may be a UCAS adviser on the phone, a university admissions tutor, or the staff at their examination centre. Schools and colleges are very slick at this. They are the experts, so let them do their thing. Some very big decisions may have to be made around this time, so make sure you are available should your opinion or practical support be needed.
  4. Give in to your emotions. Yes, the results may be bad, but it really is not the end of the world. It simply offers a different set of opportunities, which may turn out for the best. If you start acting as if the sky has just caved in it will not help. It also doesn’t help if you mention they didn’t do enough work / went out too often / didn’t take it seriously enough, even if these things are true. What’s done is done. A cool head is needed. Bite your tongue.
  5. Run away. This is tempting, because you are definitely just the support crew and not the main act. However, your presence will be much appreciated, and your support will be valued. Take a day off work (or get someone to look after younger siblings) and think of yourself as the St John’s ambulance at a rock concert – no-one wants to be in a situation where they need you, but they like to know you’re there!

My final thought is this: enjoy the day if you can. It is a big milestone, and some life-changing things are going to happen. It is hugely exciting. Do what you need to do and then open a bottle of bubbly, because whatever the results, at least it’s all over!

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website www.aftertheplayground.com.

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