The focus is always on A Level results day. The positives - those students achieving 3 A*s or more, the equally successful twins, and how high they can all jump for joy. Or the negatives - what to do if things don't go too well, or how to get through clearing.
Yes, of course A Level results day is a really important milestone, and it marks the end of school - but GCSE day is equally, if not far more important. It's the time when students really begin to forge their future - because at this point the decisions they make about what they are going to go on to study, and how, are monumental. The choices they make after GCSE results day can set them onto a very specific track - one that is right for them and, unfortunately, one that could possibly be wrong for them.
Here are 5 reasons why GCSE results day is far more important than A Level results day:
1. The end of GCSEs is the start-line for the future. If students make a wrong choice here, it can set them on to the wrong path. After GCSEs, students really need to be considering all of the same options that face A Level students -University, Further Education, Apprenticeships, or to go directly into the world of work. But they have the added stress of needing to make a call on what exactly is the best route to achieve it (e.g. A Levels or BTECs).
2. These difficult decisions are made even harder. Students just aren't getting the good, impartial advice they need to be able to make an informed decision about their future. Ofsted's report, back in 2013, clearly outlined that alternative options, such as vocational training and apprenticeships, are rarely promoted effectively, especially in those schools with sixth forms.
Quite simply, many schools push the A Level route because it's in their financial interest to retain their students. It's naïve to think that students are getting impartial advice about their future. So, GCSE results day is vital, because, hopefully, it gives students (and their parents) the impetus to reconsider and really look at all of their options - to search the internet and to follow up on the different courses that will be heavily advertised at this time.
3. GCSE results set a ticking clock. There's no clearing service for students who've done GCSEs. Students with results that are better or worse than expected don't have access to a central information point. They need to work it out for themselves. And they don't have the option of taking a gap year to think their options through. As such, they need to work quickly to consider all of the options available. And they need to be brave to not just follow the crowd, of where their friends are going, but to put the time and effort in to get on to the right Sixth Form course for their future.
4. You have to study a subject, to know the subject. It's only really after GCSE exams have finished that students can make a call as to which subjects they should continue with. Only now will they have the hindsight of which ones they actually enjoyed revising for, which they have an aptitude for, and which they really want to continue for the next two years!
5. GCSE's are the 'first'. They are the first set of major exams that students have taken. Never before have they had to experience revision on such a mammoth scale. They've not had to focus their energy on sitting multiple exams day after day, or endure exam nerves. They've never experienced the anxious wait for results day... and the resulting euphoria or, potentially, their first real taste of disappointment. As well as being a lot for a teenager to handle, it's only after their first experience of exams (and their outcomes) that they can really make a decision whether or not they want to continue in an A Level, exam-focused, system. If not, there are alternatives, such as taking a more practical-based course or Apprenticeship, or academic alternatives such the Project-Based-Learning approach offered at Studio Schools.