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How to help your teen through results day: education expert shares top tips for parents

As teenagers up and down the country await their A-level results just days away, there’s a palpable sense of anxiety.

And, with a return to the pre-pandemic grading system, a lower number of top grades expected and warnings of increased competition for university places through clearing, it’s easy to see why young people are concerned – particularly when you consider these are the same teens who went through their GCSEs at the height of COVID-19. 

But an expert at one of the country’s top performing schools has shared his advice for parents to help them guide their children through what could be a tricky results day.

And according to Malvern College Headmaster Keith Metcalfe, for those for whom things may not quite go to plan, not only are there a myriad of options available, but finding a way through tricky situations can foster resilience and underline the values of being open-minded and creative in your thinking – all invaluable traits whatever the path a young person chooses to take.

“One of the key things to remember is that although the grading system is returning to the pre-pandemic system, there is still a certain degree of protection built into the overall national results due to the impacts of COVID. This doesn’t apply on an individual level, so students shouldn’t expect a huge boost to grades, but there is still a certain level of tolerance there,” Keith explains. 

“Despite those assurances, it’s only natural for young people to feel anxious – after all this is a big step. But there are a few things that parents can do to ease some of those concerns; starting with making sure your child has a plan B, or at least a willingness to consider that there might have to be one.

“One of the values we try to instil in our pupils at Malvern is resilience. Navigating challenging times like, for example, not achieving the grades that you expect is an important part of life – sometimes things simply don’t go to plan – but finding a way through this builds resilience.

“Thinking ahead and having a contingency plan is a big part of that and being open-minded and discussing all the options with your child will help them to recognise that there are alternatives to the route that they might have originally chosen. 

“Whether that’s exploring work based apprenticeships, taking a Gap year and considering re-applying with known grades or simply considering a different course from the one they may have initially applied for, there’s actually a lot of flexibility whether they achieve their predicted grades or not. Going into results day aware of all the alternatives can really help to alleviate any worries.

“Take Clearing for example – there’s still the misconception that the clearing system only offers places on second rate courses or at universities lower down the league table, but that’s simply not the case. Almost every university from the Russell Group to the smaller institutions will offer places through clearing. 

“Now that’s not to say that it isn’t competitive, especially with the larger than usual population of 18 year olds that we’re seeing this year, but there will still be plenty of options available,” Keith adds.

And Keith’s biggest piece of advice for parents?

“Although we want to support our children as much as possible, it’s ultimately their choice and while we can guide them, the best thing to do is to empower them with all of the information and all of the options they need to feel comfortable about the decision they make.”

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