A-level students have been warned to prepare for disappointment as tens of thousands are expected to fall short of predicted grades due to harsher marking, putting them at risk of losing their place at university.
The announcement has made what is already a stressful week even more difficult for many students anxiously awaiting their results on Thursday.
Ofqual is aiming to reduce grade inflation which was heightened during the pandemic when exams were cancelled but this has yet to be fully reflected in teachers’ predicted grades.
John Blake, director for fair access and participation at The Office for Students, said it was ‘only fair’ to warn A-level pupils, most of whom are aged 18, about disappointing grades to avoid a ‘shock’ on results day.
‘Whatever happens, I think there will be a lot of volatility and people need to be prepared for that,’ he said. ‘And I think it’s only fair to say that to students so that it’s not a shock to them.’
Fortunately there are steps parents and carers can take now to support students and ensure they are as well prepared as possible for whatever the outcome may be.
FEMAIL has spoken to education, parenting and career experts from across the UK who have shared their advice on what you can do to prepare…
A-level students have been warned to prepare for disappointment as tens of thousands are expected to fall short of predicted grades due to harsher marking, putting them at risk of losing their place at university. There are steps parents can take now to prepare. Stock image
Implement a social media ban
Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat will be flooded with posts from ecstatic students thrilled about their results. But this can make struggling students feel even more disappointed.
Make a plan for the morning
Uncertainty fosters stress so it’s important to have a solid plan in place for Thursday morning.
Students can find out their application decisions from 8.15 am on results day by checking UCAS.
‘Find out what time your young person’s school or college will open on the day and also encourage them to think about who they want to be with when they’re opening their results,’ advised Elaine Bowker, principal and CEO of The City of Liverpool College.
‘That might be their parents and carers, a group of friends for moral support, or they might even prefer to be by themselves. Encourage them to make the plan that feels best for them.’
Giancarlo Brotto, global education advisor at SMART Technologies, advised implementing a social media ban in the days before and after the results to avoid damaging comparisons being drawn.
‘Remember that young people share almost every part of their lives on social media, and exam results will inevitably be discussed,’ he said.
‘While some students will be thrilled with their results, wanting to share them with friends and family online, it can often be detrimental and encourage teenagers to compare their results to others.
‘To prevent this, encourage your teen to avoid social media for a few days and remind them to only judge their success by their own standards.
‘And the same goes for parents. Don’t compare your teenager with their peers, their path is their path. If they’ve done well, you may be tempted to shout it from the rooftops, but be aware of others when celebrating their achievements.’
Remind them that their results don’t define them
Careers adviser for Working Wales, Gareth Jones, said: ‘It’s difficult to remember sometimes, especially when you’ve lived every moment of their study and exams alongside them, through the highs and lows, but reminding them that results don’t define who they are is really important.
‘Tell them it’s natural for them to feel nervous, it shows they’re passionate and invested in their future, but there are so many opportunities open to them and the grades they get this week don’t define them or their achievements for getting through their exams.’
He continued: ‘Make sure they know that you’ll be celebrating their achievements whatever the results, and that you’ll be proud of them regardless of the grades they receive.
‘Try and distract them as much as possible, whether that’s having their favourite meal together as a family, watching a movie or getting outdoors for a walk, it will help ease the pressure and show them you’re there for them.’
Get your head around Clearing
Clearing is a chance for students to apply for an undergraduate course after they’ve received their exam results, or if they haven’t already applied through UCAS. Parents can brush up on the ins-and-outs of Clearing but students have to make the phone call. Stock image
Clearing is a chance for students to apply for an undergraduate course after they’ve received their exam results, or if they haven’t already applied through UCAS.
It covers lots of scenarios – from different grades than expected, to students changing their minds about where (or what) they want to study.
What you need to know before a Clearing call
Remember: it must be the student that contacts universities during the Clearing process, not the parent.
The universities won’t be able to share any information with a parent or guardian without talking to them first — so be focused and supportive, and help them prepare for their calls.
They should have all the essentials on hand — their results (including GCSEs and any other Level 2 qualifications), their courses of interest, and a pen and paper.
Clearing opened on July 5 and prospective students need to have received their grades to apply. Most Clearing activity takes place from A-level results day.
Experts at Nottingham Trent University explained: ‘Clearing vacancies are advertised on university websites, and on UCAS.
‘Typically, Clearing applications are made by phone. Most universities have a dedicated Clearing number that takes callers through to the relevant team.
‘All universities are different and Clearing offers can be made in many ways — from completing online forms to WhatsApp and social media.
‘That said, our advice is always the same: phone the university or college first, especially if the student’s query is a little more complex or if it’s not clear if there are vacancies available.’
While your child won’t know for certain if they need to use Clearing until they have their results, there is no harm in planning ahead for the eventuality.
‘If your son or daughter thinks they might need to use Clearing, encourage them to do their research and decide which universities they want to approach,’ advised the team at Derby University.
‘Make sure they know the course they want to study and check if it’s available through Clearing. You can do this via the UCAS website or on individual university websites. Encourage them to keep checking back as course availability will be regularly updated.’
Make a plan B
There is more than just Clearing to think about if the results isn’t what the student expects, and now is the time to do it.
‘Whatever the outcome of their results, do your research in advance and read up on all the options available to them so that you’re in the best place to give help and advice,’ advised Mr Brotto.
‘With the increasing cost of education due to recent student loan reforms making it more prohibitive for students and families, university is unfortunately not as appealing, nor accessible for everyone.
Keep YOUR worries at bay
Sharon Davies, CEO of education charity Young Enterprise, said: ‘It’s normal for us as parents and carers to often reflect our own concerns and worries onto our children, however, in the days leading up to results day, this can often amplify the situation and heighten emotions further.
‘Instead, try and listen to your children’s worries, reassure them and concentrate on what they can control.
Take the opportunity to do your own research so you feel as fully informed as possible and able to advise and signpost, to help them make their decisions.’
Tom Davis, principal at David Game College Liverpool, added: ‘You can’t change the outcome now – so there is no sense in stressing.
‘Distract your children – let them go out with friends, play sports, go for walks with the dog, paint, watch movies – anything but focusing just on results day.’
‘So do come prepared with advice on alternatives to university too, including gap years and apprenticeships. Losing your university place is not the end of the world, and there are options for everyone.’
Ms Bowker agreed: ‘They might have their heart set on university, but have they considered other routes? Long gone are the days when being a university graduate was the only way to succeed in your career.
‘At The City of Liverpool College, our learners know that when it comes to education, there’s no longer any such thing as “one-size-fits-all”.
‘Whether their results are better than expected, or not as high as they had hoped, there are so many options.
‘From further study and qualifications to the world of work and work experience, the list goes on. Sit down together to talk through the options, the pros and cons of each, and what the best one is for them.
A healthy lifestyle matters more than ever
It might sound simple but a healthy, balanced lifestyle is more important than ever at times of high stress like exam results week and parents are central to making this happen.
Mark Pearce, head of service development and delivery at wellbeing charity caba, said there are five key areas:
Quality time: All parents are busy these days, but it’s important to spend more time than usual with your children if they’re worried about something.
Make yourself available for fun activities or just being in the same room as them. Ask them about their day and show an interest in things that are important to them.
But try to avoid forcing them to talk about their worries – they’ll open up when they feel comfortable talking about it.
Sleep: Getting the right amount of sleep and rest can help children become more resilient to stress. Children need different amounts of sleep at different ages – find out how many hours your children need by visiting NHS Choices.
Good nutrition: This is also essential if you want to boost your child’s coping skills. Try to make sure they’re eating at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. If your children are resistant to eating fruit and veg, there are lots of ways to get them into their diet (these tips by NHS Choices may help).
Stress management: It may be useful to remind your children that some level of stress is perfectly normal in life, and that everyone is affected by it and has to find ways of coping.
Explaining that it’s okay to feel what they’re feeling could give them the confidence they need to manage their stress levels. If it helps, try talking about times when you’ve been stressed, and explain how you tackled it.
Physical activity: This can help children and adults alike manage stress, so make sure your children are getting plenty of exercise.
Other things you could try with them include relaxation techniques and even things like breathing exercises.
Also try leading by example – if you use these methods to manage your own stress levels, your children are more likely to follow in your footsteps.