Results day 2023: How parents can support their children on GCSE and A-level results day

As A-level and GCSE results day looms, parents will be wondering how to best support their children through the process.

This year, exam regulator Ofqual has reintroduced pre-pandemic marking criteria, making this year’s students some of the most “anxious cohorts ever seen”, according to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

In England, this year’s national A-level results on Thursday will be similar to those before the pandemic. It comes after Covid-19 led to an increase in top A-level grades in 2020 and 2021, with results based on teacher assessments instead of exams.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, has suggested 59,154 fewer A* grades and 35,505 fewer A grades will be awarded to sixth-formers this year compared with last year.

School leavers are also expected to face more competition for university places due to a growth in 18-year-olds in the population – with A-level entries this year increasing by 2.3 per cent to 806,410 pupils – as well as international demand.

Here, we take a look at how you can help support children who are receiving grades:

‘It can feel like a balancing act’

On 17 August, hundreds of thousands of students across the country will be opening their A-level exam results. Just a week later, on 24 August, younger students will also be waiting to receive their GCSE results.

With students nervously awaiting their results, it can be quite difficult for parents to know how to help their children through such a nerve-wracking time.

Joanna Leite, deputy head of Sidcot Independent School in Somerset, said exam season can be “stressful” and “challenging” for some students and therefore finding the best way to support them can often “feel like a balancing act.”

“The key thing to consider is finding ways to help them deal with their feelings in a positive way and avoiding adding to the pressure they’re experiencing. Prioritising mental, emotional and physical health, finding effective outlets for stress and creating a plan of action for any potential outcome can go a long way to helping students feel supported and prepared, no matter what their results are,” she said.

Ms Leite said the first thing you should do is celebrate your child’s efforts and that “regardless of the outcome, reassure your child about the hard work and effort they put in during exams. Celebrate their dedication and perseverance”.

She stressed parents should not compare their children with others. “It’s important to remember that every student’s learning journey is different, so comparing against others is never going to be a fair or productive process. Instead, invest energy in finding a way forward. Get the ball rolling on alternative plans or explore other options,” Ms Leite added.

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Try to be empathetic and patient with your child as some children may react differently to their results, she said. This may be feelings of excitement, stress or some may feel “imposter syndrome.” If students do not get the grades they may have wanted they can end up being “despondent and be hard on themselves.”

But whatever the outcome may be, Ms Leite said parents should be patient and allow children to process things at their own pace. “Be sensitive and try to avoid dismissive statements. Validating their feelings can make them feel understood and supported,” she added.

It is always best to plan ahead to ease things for your child as the process can be “overwhelming”, Ms Leite said, adding: “Figuring out a clear plan of action, from writing out a shopping list to dealing with documents can help alleviate anxiety and help them feel more prepared.”

She also recommended helping look for alternative solutions. It is important to remind your child that there are other routes to go in if they do not get their desired grades and that “is it not the end of the world,” Ms Leite said.

Other options are available such as clearing, resitting exams, apprenticeships, a foundation year or even a gap year.

The Ucas website has all the information your child needs to move forward during this process.

Lastly, Mr Leite said you should do is “respect” your child’s space. “While your support is important, teens sometimes need personal space to be able to freely experience how they’re feeling. While it’s important to make sure they are not cutting off contact entirely, seeking space is a perfectly normal reaction. Respect their needs and provide encouragement where needed,” she added.

What are the signs of stress?

According to Mind, stress can affect our emotions, body and mind in many different ways.

Some of the physical signs of stress include:

• Difficulty breathing

• Panic attacks

• Blurred eyesight or sore eyes

• Problems with sleep

• Fatigue

• Muscle aches

• Headaches

• Chest pains and high blood pressure

• Indigestion or heartburn

• Constipation or diarrhoea

• Feeling sick, dizzy or faint

• Sudden weight gain or weight loss

• Changes to the menstrual cycle

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to them, be patient and hear them out. If the levels of stress continue to grow, parents should consult their local GP to make sure there are no underlying issues.


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