Now that school has broken for the summer, most young people who have sat their exams this year will be having a well-earned break before the results arrive in August. The anticipation can be nerve racking as futures seem to hinge on these fateful grades. But of course we know that there are many varied factors that ultimately contribute to future success and failure. Exam grades are only one piece of the jigsaw. What is important is to engender a positive mindset that allows students to feel in control of their destiny and to have a balanced view as to what their exam results mean in the grand scheme of things.
Schools have become more aware of the importance of helping young people to manage stress leading up to and during exams, becoming ever more conscious of supporting their students’ mental health and providing a balanced perspective on what can be a challenging experience. We now need to the bring this approach into play into managing the outcomes of those exams.
Of course many students will experience a huge sense of relief and joy as they achieve the grades they hoped for. But as some achieve top grades and others not, there is also a balancing act required that acknowledges and celebrates success while at the same time provides calm reflection for those who are disappointed.
Perspective is the key word here, from the high achievers for whom only straight As (or A stars) will do and anything less can seem catastrophic, to those who miss out on the grades needed for their preferred choice of university or course – both will need support and guidance to bring their perspective back into focus. But it is also important to acknowledge that their disappointment is real and they need time, space and support to process the results and form a new viewpoint.
Parents play a pivotal role at this time, as their child will no doubt be looking to them for assurance. They are the catalyst to bringing calm and clarity to the situation – taking advice from the right people and putting the next steps into action – whether that’s helping their successful child secure their place at university and prepare them for this huge step into the unknown, or looking at the alternative options for those who didn’t quite get the grades.
However, it is my belief that academic success is a hollow ambition on its own. Part of the Quaker philosophy that underpins our school is about living life adventurously – developing social skills, emotional intelligence, resilience and a determination to make a difference in the world. We explore ways to manage both success and set-backs and to take forward a new understanding about ourselves into the future. We believe education is for life and the development of active responsible citizens.
I too will be waiting with great anticipation as the results start coming through, thinking of my students, parents and of course my teaching staff – but I know no matter what the outcome there are positive opportunities for everyone and bright futures for those with the vision to see them.
IWK July 2016