What a result – the highs, lows and the new opportunities

For students, parents and teachers, GCSE and A level results day 2020 will have been like nothing they have ever experienced before.

The sleepless night before, the excitement and anticipation of arriving at the school hall with worried looking parents in tow, the queue behind the desk of teachers with their little baskets holding that vital information, trying to gauge from the teacher’s expression an inkling of what awaits as they hand over those precious brown envelopes, shuffling over to corners with parents to find a safe haven for their big moment… and the moment itself, the big reveal – peeling open the envelope, pulling out the paper with trembling, clumsy fingers, opening it up and scanning, scanning, scanning and then elation, hugs, high fives, whoops of joys, and in some cases tears, disbelief and more hugs, the celebratory night out with friends to follow.

Results day 2020 will sadly not have followed suit; it will undoubtedly have been a much more muted affair.

Many students will have been emailed with a result that can never fully represent what they may or may not have achieved if given the opportunity to sit their exams. Many will not take up the university place they will be offered as the experience just won’t seem the same without the hype of freshers’ week and the freedom university life normally brings.

I actually write this article on the eve of A levels results day in England - by the time you read it, results days will have come and gone and I’m sure that will bring much debate about the accuracy of results and the options for students. Perspectives may change, but I spoke with two students getting their GCSE and A Level results to see how they felt.

A student who is due to get his GCSE results told me that his results were being emailed to him and overall he felt there were pros and cons, commenting: “I didn’t have the stress of exams, but I didn’t revise for my mocks, so I have no idea what I could really do if I tried harder”.

A student awaiting her calculated A level results said she was also receiving her results via email and understood that was the way it had to be done at the moment. Of the results themselves she said: “It’s unfair as they are predicted by government from previous data i.e. stats, the area you live etc.”.

At Starting Off, this period around results day is normally our busiest time of year. In pre-COVID years, we would have spread our staff across as many schools as possible throughout Northamptonshire, so we could be on hand to offer information, advice and guidance on all things apprenticeship.

Luckily, we have a good relationship with our contacts at the schools and have been able to give information for them to pass on and have also arranged for virtual next step Zoom appointments which can be booked with our recruitment staff in the weeks following results day.

Whilst this isn’t an ideal situation for anyone – there are some positives to draw on. At the very least, a system has been devised whereby students are not having to retake a year or resit exams. For those that struggle with exam-based scenarios, having an overview grade based on predictions, coursework and performance may be a preferable option for them. And for local employers, what we now see is a very high volume of home grown talented, bright, university-ready school leavers, who have turned to apprenticeships as their preferred option. At Starting Off we have registered a higher volume of excellent candidates seeking an apprenticeship than in previous years.

We do see locally that many employers are picking up on this and seeing it as a great time and opportunity to employ apprentices.

One of our key clients – Judith Chadwick, HR Manager at Emplas in Wellingborough, told us how the busines is embracing apprenticeships: “Apprenticeships are a key element of our recruitment strategy, with four apprenticeships currently ‘live’ and 11 former apprentices, working within the business. The new Government incentives for employing apprentices has given us additional impetus to extend our planned apprenticeship recruitment to eight positions this summer with a mix of office and production roles, offering young people leaving school or college an opportunity to start their careers in a very progressive and fast-moving business”.

The day itself may not have the same special feel as ‘normal’ times and the results themselves may not give the students the same sense of achievement or validation, but I do hope and believe that this pausing of life we have witnessed, this slowing down over the last six months has given everyone, but in particular, school leavers a real moment in time to properly think about their future, their choices and their options and see the full range of opportunities open to them, apprenticeships certainly being one of them.

If you are interested in finding out more about apprenticeships and the fantastic school leavers we are working with, please contact: katie.goodall@startingoff.co.uk