Failsafe Fun On GCSE Exam Results Day

23/08/2012 09:00 BST | Updated 22/10/2012 10:12 BST

So, they thought trying to decide what to wear for their Year 11 Prom was stressful?


The Year 11 students waiting for their GCSE results on Thursday will be now be realizing that was just a dress rehearsal when it comes to stress and pressure.

And just like the build-up to the annual Prom night celebration, they'll be prone to a parallel social obsession with the build-up to GCSE results day. They're all at it, you know; teachers, parents, and the media, of course. Not to mention league tables and the like. It's become a frantic and furious coalition predicated on the celebration of success and the fear of failure.

I blame it on Homepride myself. There, I've said it.

Way back in 1965 they began their popular run of tv commercials that had as their strapline - "Graded Grains Make Finer Flour". Such unashamedly elitist nonsense was reinforced by the velvety upper class tones of John le Mesurier oozing his way through the various scripts. Just take a look at one of these commercials for yourself if you don't believe me - - click on 'Disguise' in the box labelled 'Select an advert'.

Innocuous enough you might be thinking. Now take a closer look at its strapline - "Graded Grains Make Finer Flour" and then at the adjectives in particular - Graded and Finer.


An unambiguous clarion call for an examination-based meritocracy if ever I heard one.

Not convinced? Look at the flour sifters themselves. In their black suits and bowler hats, they're thinly disguised DFE bureaucrats and Ofsted Inspectors surely? Pity the lumpen grains that failed to make it into the Homepride bag. What fate awaited them I wonder?

There were plenty more television commercials with similar sentiments too. Remember Birdseye fishfingers and their famous campaign with the strapline - "Only the best for the Captain's table." ? Here it is on YouTube - What I always wanted to know was where the less than best - the downright inferior- ended up.

So as they nervously await their GCSE results it might be more constructive for students to remember the popular Dr Pepper commercial with the title - "What's the worst that can happen?" - -

no meritocracy or elitism on display here, just unadulterated fun, a commodity that's much underrated in my opinion and and sometimes in short supply, yet fun can certainly be an effective antidote for stress and pressure.

That's not to say GCSE results aren't important - of course they are.

I'm simply advocating a little compassion and consideration as the results draw near not to mention the need to keep things in perspective. I'll be the first to congratulate those talented students who've achieved a string of A*s - but I'll also be there to cheer loudly for the students who pulled their marks kicking and screaming up into the C grade category, not least in the twin totems of GCSE English and GCSE Mathematics, as well as for those students for whom achieving just one GCSE pass constituted real success. Studying for GCSEs and sitting the examinations is a slog whichever way you cut it and the publication of the students' results on Thursday is always going to play across their emotional spectrum from jubilation, through apathy and shock, to resignation and even dejection.

My advice to students on Thursday - whatever they do, try not to borrow that other well known strapline and "Go compare." As Thursday comes and goes, the trick is to reflect and move forward with a new sense of purpose and direction on your own results, whatever the outcome. Remember - 'What's the worse that can happen?'

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