GCSE results day is held up as a significant milestone in anyone’s educational journey, and one that many students and parents associate with nerves and trepidation. Throughout this understandably stressful period, there are certain things students are encouraged to do to stay calm. Various sources rightfully remind them to remember that they’ve done their bit, having done the work and sat the exams; and they’re encouraged to exercise and sleep well, both of which help create a positive mindset.

Most important however, when trying to remain calm in the days around GCSE results, is to look at the bigger picture.

'Lesser' GCSE results are rarely the backwards step they are made out to be. More likely, they are a step sideways, onto a different path.

By the time GCSE results come around, students have generally already chosen the subjects they intend to do at A Level, and therefore, in turn, what they plan to do at University. The two often work in unison, at a time when it can feel like you’re on an educational conveyer belt that is reaching full speed.

This leaves us with the scenario where sixteen year olds who fall short of expected and desired GCSE results are left feeling the odd one out when they don’t know what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives. In reality, of course, this is something very few sixteen year olds know.

Another damaging theory is the idea that those who leave school after their GCSE’s do so because they have nothing to offer in education, or worse, that education has nothing to offer them.

However, A Levels make up only one path of education, albeit a traditional one. As such, although good, positive GCSE results are a fantastic achievement for all students who get them, and something which should be commended and celebrated as a significant step forward, ‘lesser’ GCSE results are not necessarily the step backwards that they are often made out to be. More likely, they are a step sideways, onto a different path, which though less traditional, doesn’t have to be any less beneficial.

There are lots of things to expect with GCSE results day, but a dead end is never one of them.

Celebrities often come out at this time of year, strangely bragging about how badly they did at school, and boasting about how well they’ve done ever since, like the two things are linked. (They rarely are: in most cases, all they’re doing is highlighting just how lucky their lucky break was.) But they have a point in one regard: GCSE’s will never define anyone, and now more than ever, with options such as further education colleges and
apprenticeships, they don’t even necessarily have to define your educational journey.

There are lots of things to expect with GCSE results day, but a dead end is never one of them. In fact for many people, the change from school to a further education college will feel like just the beginning of their educational journey.

The Freedom and Responsibility of a new type of Education

For lots of students, leaving school after GCSE's means a certain element of freedom. This can come in small things, having a less rigid schedule, rather than the 9 o'clock, monday to friday routine; or even never having to wear a school uniform again. However, the bigger picture comes in the freedom that can be found in studying what you want and experiencing it in a way that is more connected to the real working world. This can come in the form of studying something you've had a life-time passion for, like Hair and Beauty or Sport, or by enrolling in an apprenticeship that allows you to split your time between the classroom and the workplace and earn while your learn.

Of course this new freedom also brings responsibility, because the routine of school is also a handy way to make sure that you're always on top of things. Once in a different learning schedule, students have to find their own way of balancing education with work and other aspects of their life outside of college. This can be a challenge, but it's also another way that joining a Further Education College after GCSE's can become the making of some students, as it adds responsibility and organisation.

There are lots of changes that come with leaving school for a further education college, and no matter what your GCSE results, there are no shortage of options. South West College is on hand to help you explore everything that is available to you: visit our GCSE Results Enrolment Day, from 10am-4pm in Dungannon, Enniskillen and Omagh.