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What to do if your kids fail their exams

Maya Griffiths

Maya Griffiths

With the weight of their futures on their shoulders, students all around the country will be finding out their exam results in a few weeks. Despite the joyous A* students that celebrate triumphantly in newspaper photos, the majority of students have a more anxious experience.

With the opening of the results email young people realise their dreams or find them potentially broken.

However, there are ways to help your teen through less-than-ideal exam results, both mentally and practically.

When are the exam results released?

A-level results will be sent to students on 18th August, and GCSE results on 25th August.

What do we do if my child doesn’t get the result they need?

There are always options and it’s important your child knows that (ideally even before sitting their exams).

What not to say!

Fegans counsellor Debbie Pattison point out there are some things you should not say.

  • If you feel that your child could have revised more, try not to remind them of the times you nagged them to. It is never helpful when someone says ‘I told you so.’
  • Don’t compare what they have done to how much better you or others performed.If you feel tempted to, then leave the room for a few minutes to calm down.
  • Don’t go in with all guns blazing suggesting this or that option. Try to listen to what your teenager says. If they aren’t saying much, try to give them time to think without confusing or overwhelming them

What are your child’s next steps?

Resits/ repeating a year

Students are able to resit both their GCSEs or A-level exams. Whether this is a good option is dependent on how far below the desired result their original mark was, and if achieving the mark they need is an honest possibility.

It also means potentially wasted time, which could have been spent perhaps finding another course or career route that may suit them better.

GCSE students can retake English and Maths in November, and other subjects can be retaken in June. They can also retake the year if they wish. For GCSE students who do not wish to resit their exams, local colleges offer a wide range of courses in all sectors, from beauty to photography to engineering.

For A-level students, the first port of call is the college or university that your child was intending to go to. It’s possible that they may still be accepted onto their course even without their requested exam result.

Entering clearing

For students who missed the marks their university requested, they can find an alternative course through clearing. Clearing is the process of universities offering available spots on courses, which students can then apply for.

Even top 10 ranked universities have opportunities during clearing- including Warwick and Bath.

Students must make sure they’ve carefully considered where they’d like to spend their next 3 years at university, as grabbing a place through clearing can feel pressured.

Take a gap year

A gap year can be a life-changing experience, and it doesn’t have to entail lazing around on a beach. Most gap years now involve interesting voluntary work, perhaps on conservation projects or teaching children abroad.

Gap year experiences teach youths about different cultures, while building confidence and gaining new skills. Plus, they can be much less expensive than you may think.

An apprenticeship

Nowadays, it’s possible to build a great career without even setting foot in a university. Apprenticeships are on the rise, and not just for the trade industries. Even blue chip companies such as Rolls Royce and Santander run apprenticeship schemes, which allow teens to hit the ground running with their career development. Plus, they’ll earn while they learn.

Here are some thoughts from Ian Soars, CEO of and Children’s Charity Spurgeons

How to help your child cope with exam results

Students who have missed out on their desired results can feel crushed. It’s important to reassure them that nerves and stress can have an impact on their marks, and that an exam is not an indication of their overall academic capability.

The next step is to sit down and go through all possible next steps, and to consider carefully how best to move forward. It may be that their original plan was not the best course of action, and that a different subject area may be worth looking at instead.

Contact your child’s school and ask for advice on the next best move, or seek their advice on your child’s ability to resit and pass their exams.

There is always a way to get back on track and have a successful future.

Further Reading

What to do if your child’s A-level grades leave them uncertain about next steps

Coping with exam results

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