So, yesterday you got your GCSE results – congratulations!
In all seriousness, whatever your results were, well done. There is a lot of hooha about exams getting easier, about grades getting higher, but there is no doubt this is one of the most stressful things you will have experienced up until now. Are students getting cleverer? Are teachers teaching better? Are exams, in actual fact, getting easier? I am in no position to comment, not being an expert in any of these areas. I would suspect, certainly a combination of all those factors. The only one I have a quibble with is the one about teachers – without the slightest disrespect to teachers who in general do an excellent job, and with my only reference the experience of my father who has recently retired from secondary school teaching but continues to be a Senior Marker for GCSE English, my personal view of the matter is that teaching now is geared to exams, exams, exams, results, results, results.
This means, if I’m right, that your education over the past 5 years (or even 11 years) has been focused on this moment. This is your reward for your compulsory education – the little piece of paper that right now has you either on Cloud Nine or down in the dumps. I remember getting my results – 13 years ago, oh my – and nothing else in the world seems as important. Now, I’m not going to lie to you – when you do your A-Levels or uni exams or vocational exams or driving test or whatever your path in life leads you to, GCSEs will not seem as vital as they do now. But they are important – they sum up your school career. They make you either rethink your career options or feel very smug that you are obviously fulfilling your destiny.
My advice? Treasure the moment. Hold on to that piece of paper. Let it inform your choices for a couple of years. Then let it go. In ten years, it is highly unlikely you will be on the same path you are on today. That does not, absolutely not, devalue anything you are doing now. Every exam result, piece of coursework, boring hour spent doing maths homework (apologies to maths buffs, but, you know…) is forming the person you will become in ten years. But it is not the be-all and end-all of the essential you. Your skills and talents may be highly academic – mine were – or just not being recognised right now. But you will, YOU WILL, get a chance to develop those skills and to shine in your true calling. The most important thing you can do now is celebrate your triumphs (and just getting through one of the most stressful experiences of your life so far is a triumph in itself), file your mistakes, and keep an eye out for your chances, without worrying how old or young you are when they come along. I have had about 3 careers since leaving school – 4, if you include my choice to stay at home and care for my family, and it’s taken me until now, nearly thirty years old, to discover and pursue my vocation. I may never have measured success, or it may come tomorrow. My husband is nearly 32, and he has only found his path over the past 18 months, with mistakes, mishaps and missed chances along the way. You can regret them, looking back, or looking forward. But if you keep looking back, you will continue to trip up.
And final tip? Take all advice on GCSEs, including mine, with a pinch of salt. Good luck!