Back to School 2020

There is no question that the events around this year’s results have led to a great deal of stress and uncertainty. However, the centre assessed grades produced by schools and colleges were subjected to a rigorous internal moderation process and certainly will have produced fairer results than the abandoned statistical method. Nevertheless as in any year some students will have received lower results than they had hoped for. 

Hopefully, by the time you read this, your son or daughter will have been able to access a suitable university/college or sixth form course. In some cases, however, they may wish or need to resit one or more subjects. If you think that might be the case, teachers will be able to advise whether that is necessary. All young people have the right to access professional careers advice which can be accessed through the school college or via the National Careers Service telephone line or webchat.

Here are some tips to help you support them...

If your child was in year 11 and now has their GCSE results they will hopefully be able to progress to their chosen post 16 destination. This may be in the school sixth form, a sixth form college or an apprenticeship. 

If that is the case students will need to ensure that they are fully prepared and equipped for these more advanced courses. They may well have gaps in their knowledge and understanding of aspects which would, at another time,  have been dealt with in more depth in years 11 and 13. 

Course leaders are fully aware of this and will have adapted their programmes of study to compensate for this. Whether or not their school or college is fully open it will be vitally important for students to plan their learning carefully and use the vast range of available resources to consolidate their knowledge and understanding. 

At home, they need a quiet place to work with a laptop and internet access. If that is not available please talk to the school or college. They can help and may be able to access government initiatives to do so. 

Your child must not be reluctant to ask their teachers for help. It is completely understandable if they struggle with topics they feel they should know about so please do encourage them to be proactive.

What to do if results were lower than expected

The systems for calculating final results this year were unique and complex.  It is likely that some results will differ from what might have been expected. There is little point in dwelling on this as the appeals process will only address errors in calculations rather than reassessing student’s work as there are no papers to re-mark.  In most cases schools, colleges and universities will look sympathetically as each student and allow them to enrol for courses. If that is the case there may be little point in resitting GCSE exams in November apart perhaps from English and Maths. Teachers will be able to advise about this.   

What if there is another lockdown?

At the time of writing we have no idea what might happen but we have all learnt a great deal over recent months. Schools are in a much stronger position to organise remote learning and students now have experience of what this might look like. As parents the best advice is to help young people to have a daily routine which enables them to balance study and leisure. 

What should my son or daughter be doing to prepare for their future careers?

Year 13:   Now is the time to be researching future destinations in detail, draft CVs and personal statements. There are many resources to support this including those we have produced for schools in the PiXL network. This magazine and the Careermap website provide extensive insights into different sectors and useful links to explore.   In all cases I would strongly advise all students to consider employment-based routes as well as traditional degrees. Remember that there are now degree apprenticeships through which students are employed and incur no debt while training.  Universities are providing virtual tours if it is not possible to go on a visit.  

Year 12:  As well as adapting to the new advanced courses it is important to be finding out about possible destinations. The two years of post 16 study will pass very quickly. Using resources like Careermap it is really important to find out about the different sectors, use the online tool to explore the labour market and find out which jobs have the best employment prospects. It is certainly not too early to start writing to companies and exploring their and university websites. 

In addition to this practical research, students need to be able to articulate to a future employer which employability skills they have. Employers want to hear about skills like communication, problem solving, organisational skills,  initiative and resilience. 

Many young people do not realise that they already possess these. Have they for example given a talk to their class?  Have they organised a fundraising event in school, coached a team or have they had a personal experience which has tested their resilience? A great example of that might well be how they coped with the lockdown.  They should be encouraged to note these experiences in preparation for future applications and interviews.

Year 11 will need to be planning actively for post 16 destinations. If that is to be the school sixth form their school will no doubt provide plenty of guidance but this is also the time to investigate what local sixth form and further education colleges have to offer. It is important not to be lured into courses for their ‘novelty’ factor  but really to understand where they might lead to. If , for example someone wants to become a lawyer an A Level in Law is not essential. Subjects like English and History which develop strong skills in presenting and communicating an argument are ideal preparation for a Law degree.  Again it is important to understand the labour market. There is a significant mismatch between career aspirations in some sectors and the jobs available. Hair and beauty and sports are examples.

For year 10 and below much of the same applies. The more they can do to understand the vast range of exciting opportunities available the better. Increasingly there are opportunities for virtual work experience which schools can facilitate. 

Remember that all schools and colleges provide careers education and guidance. Details of their offer is required to be published on all school websites. Good advice and guidance can be a powerful motivator and doesn’t cost anything so please do ask the school or college for help if you need it. 

My final tip is that this is not a time for gloom or despondency. The current crisis will pass and the opportunities for all of them are waiting to be seized.

About the Author

About the Author

Brian Lightman of PiXL, the largest partnership network of schools in England and Wales with over 1500 schools, is passionate about improving the life chances of young people.

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