Head prepares parents ahead of A-level and GCSE results days

With no exams having been sat this year, talking through all results eventualities is more important than ever, says the head of St Margaret’s School

A Hertfordshire headteacher has been offering advice to parents on how to help children ahead of A-level and GCSE results days.

St Margaret’s School’s Lara Péchard said this year’s unprecedented circumstances, with students unable to sit the usual exams, presents a unique challenge. She advises families to ‘get ahead’ of possible outcomes.

“Students had been studying for their exams for two years knowing they would happen,” she said. “The sudden cancellation of these has rocked their world and generated an anxiety that everything else is changeable and uncertain, too. It is something that many are still coming to terms with.”

When results days arrive – A-levels on 13 August and GCSEs a week later – students’ final grades will be based on mock exams, non-exam assessment, homework assignments and general performance record. Should they wish, students will have the option of sitting exams in the autumn or next summer.

Péchard believes that planning for all eventualities can only be beneficial. “With the unfamiliar territory of centre-assessed grades and the impact of the pandemic on starting sixth form and university, 2020 has been tough on Year 11 and 13 students. Preparing for a variety of results eventualities and talking together can really help to make sense of everything and ease worried minds.”

What parents should do ahead of results days

Péchard offers the following advice to parents on what to do ahead of results day:

  • Reassure your child that your support, and the school’s advice, are all solid and not going anywhere.
  • Talk about the possibilities: university choices, gap year plans, resitting exams. Try to stay open-minded.
  • Talk about what your child is most worried about first.
  • Talk about the worst-case scenario, and show that there is always a way through.

If possible, steer your child towards a practical rather than an emotional response – Lara Péchard, head, St Margaret’s School

Four possible outcomes

On results day, there are four possible outcomes, said Péchard.

Happy results day

Your child achieves the grades they wanted and feels they deserve and they are moving on to the sixth form or university of choice. “This is the day we all want for our children. Time to breathe and celebrate”, said Péchard.

Happy but unsettled results day

The student achieved their grades, perhaps in part because of the absence of exam nerves, and are now wondering whether they played it safe with their university choice.

“In this case, seek immediate UCAS support from your school. The chances are that this year they will be able to make a change to a course or university. It is worth careful consideration first because if they took time and care in deciding on their first choice, it should not be underestimated or forgotten during the excitement. Equally, if you are considering changing your A-level choices because of your results, speak to your school as soon as possible.”

Confused results day

The student secured their A-level or university choice, but their centre-assessed grades don’t match what they had hoped.

“If possible, steer your child towards a practical rather than an emotional response. Resitting exams in the autumn could unsettle their plans for the year and, once they start sixth form or university, there is a benefit from moving forward and away from feelings of disappointment.

“Speak to your child’s school – understanding their grade predictions might help to make sense of everything. Most importantly, try not to lose sight of [the fact that] they have still achieved a place at their university of choice.”

Disastrous results day

Your child’s grades are completely off what was expected and their A-level choices or university place is not secure.

“This is the day no child or parent wishes to experience. If the worst case happens, don’t despair because there is reason to believe that there will be more university places available this year even for those that may have not achieve what they were expecting in their grades.

“Equally, speak to sixth forms about A-level options in light of the grades received. In this case it is important to listen to what has upset your child specifically; is it all about the grades or is it about the university or A-level choices?”


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