Don’t panic, a journey is just beginning

Years of long study culminate in the arrival of the exam results for many Scottish school students next week. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Years of long study culminate in the arrival of the exam results for many Scottish school students next week. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Disappointing exam results should never mark the end of any student’s career hopes and ambitions, says Damien Yeates

I remember it like it was yesterday. That moment when I ripped open the envelope on my first ever exam results. The excitement and let’s face it, fear.

On Tuesday, around 145,000 young people in Scotland will run that gauntlet of emotion, as exam result certificates drop onto doormats across the country.

Among those pupils will be the first ever to receive new National qualifications, as changes to the exam system in Scotland begin to be rolled out.

Skills Development Scotland’s Exam Results Helpline opens at 8am on Tuesday, and as in previous years I’d expect the majority of calls to our dedicated advisers to be about the unexpected results that were above or perhaps below what pupils thought they’d receive. The advisers will be able to talk pupils through every stage of what comes next.

The helpline is now in its 22nd year, and there is one piece of advice above all others that I know will ring as true on Tuesday as it has done on all previous results days. It is, quite simply, don’t panic.

As much as Tuesday is a rite of passage, it’s important to remember that whatever the results, this is really just the start of the journey, not the end of it. There are a wide range of options out there, and our team will be able to talk pupils and their parents through exactly what’s on offer, and how to take advantage of those opportunities.

For those who want to go on to university or college, advisers can talk through every step of the process. From information on UCAS course vacancies to exactly how clearing works, and how to track their progress through their clearing number. They’ll also have tips on what happens with course choices and conditional offers, and information on appeals if grades aren’t what was expected.

It is vital to remember that higher and further education are just two of the options on offer to young people. If pupils don’t think university or college is for them, the helpline team can talk through jobs, internships and other types of work experience. Modern Apprenticeships allow young people to learn on the job and gain valuable practical experience, working towards an industry-recognised vocational qualification all while getting paid. And as the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is currently showing, volunteering is also a valuable way of getting an insight into what kind of job might suit you, and building confidence and experience in the workplace.

As a father I understand this time of year can be just as daunting for parents as pupils. Parents will be the first port of call for many young people on Tuesday keen to discuss what they can do next. You don’t have to wait for the helpline to open to find the information you need, it’s at your fingertips 24 hours a day at our web service, which has a dedicated parents and carers section. There you can access not just information on the next steps after results, but advice on helping your child put together a cv or prepare for a job or college interview. My World of Work will also link you up with our partners SQA, SAAS and Young Scot, for further advice and information.

You may have read a letter sent some weeks back by a head teacher at Barrowford Primary School in Nelson in Lancashire, which exploded onto the internet. Going viral within hours, it was sent to a class along with the results of their latest batch of national testing.

It stressed that although exam results are important, they didn’t necessarily reveal all about that young person’s talents and commitment. “The scores you get will tell you something,” it said “but they will not tell you everything”.

I’d urge young people to think of those words in the days ahead, as they take their first steps on that journey into their future. Every single person of the thousands receiving their results on Tuesday should be proud of what they’ve achieved and the hard work it took them to get there, but must remember their skills and abilities amount to much more than what is printed on their certificate.

A little luck never did anyone any harm, and I wish those of you waiting on results next week all the very best, whatever direction your journey now takes you in.

• Damien Yeates is chief executive of Skills Development Scotland


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