The results are in
A level results day is only a few days away (Thursday 15th) and although it’s a year since Ella got her final A2 results, it still makes me feel slightly queasy when I think about it. All the positive thinking and platitudes in the world mean nothing in those first heart-stopping moments when the envelope is opened.
It’s even harder now because the results don’t come in the post, students collect them in person at school, usually in a huge assembly hall that has been transformed by rows of tables and teachers, disconcertingly visible during the dog days of August, all primed with brown envelopes and unreadable smiles.
The downside for parents is that we cannot be there when the envelope is opened and have to spend an agonising hour or even longer waiting for a text or phone call and, like the accused waiting for the jury’s verdict, wondering whether no news is good news or bad.
The upside for the students is that parents cannot be there when the envelope is opened – giving them a modicum of privacy and thinking time if the results haven’t gone well. And though it is probably the hardest thing for a parent to do if their child doesn’t get the results they need, resisting the natural instinct to take charge and try to “fix” things is almost certainly the best thing you can do for your child. The irony is that at the time when a child is likely to feel at their most helpless and vulnerable the only way to help them is to enable them to help themselves.
If you are tempted to intervene, remember, the teachers aren’t lined up in the school hall for their health, they are there, like university teachers and admissions tutors all over the country, primed and ready like the fifth emergency service to put students’ crushed dreams back together.
For students without the right grades the actions they take during the first hours following the release of the A Level results are as crucial to their future as they are for someone following a stroke. If they haven’t got the grades they need to get the university or college place they need they get a second chance on results day by picking up one of the thousands of unclaimed places that get freed up by someone else’s failed grade. The clearing system is like one big transplant operation for school leavers – one person’s devastating car crash is another’s ray of hope. Teachers, universities and UCAS are all primed for action and, if the worst happens, will lead your pale, drawn and possibly tearful son or daughter, into a room full of telephones and computers and gently nudge them back to life by showing them the places that are still available. Once they have identified a possible match they will point them to a phone and, with the motivational skills usually only seen in physiotherapists, get them to pick up the phone and enquire about a place. Like walking, talking and passing exams, parents can’t do it for them, they have to do it for themselves
Harsh as it may sound, an 18-year-old who can’t pick up the phone for him or herself is not going to be in pole position for a college or university place – especially if all they have to back up their application is a personal statement that boasts of their “communication skills” and “self-motivation”.
UCAS has already warned parents against picking up the phone and trying to find courses through clearing on their child’s behalf (http://ow.ly/nP4Zr). As Clare Reseigh, head of sixth form at St Gabriel’s School near Newbury said – that sends out exactly the wrong signals. What universities want to see from our children is initiative, independence and self-reliance (http://ow.ly/nP4SH).
It’s not easy to pick up the phone and talk to strangers, especially if you feel your grades are not up to scratch, and I speak as someone who still gets butterflies in her tummy when I have to cold call someone for work.
When Thursday comes, remember, an emergency room is no place for amateurs, the last thing your son or daughter needs is a bossy or tearful relative around while they are trying to put their lives back together – so leave it to the professionals. So, in the couple of days left all you can do is prepare them for independence – maybe get them to phone for their own pizza tonight.
Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn