Disappointed by your exam results? What’s next?


Opening that envelope on results week is a moment of dread for quite a few students. And can we blame them for being a little tense?

Most of us spend the majority of our early lives in education. During that time, we’re put into sets based on our academic ability, and learning is treated like a competition. We’re taught to measure our value based on a test score.     

The truth is that we can’t all fit inside the boxes that schools and exam boards often try to squeeze us into. Especially when we’re still young, and we’re still far from figuring ourselves out.

But should we be forcing ourselves to fit into such a rigid mould to begin with? Einstein supposedly said that “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”.

As a former A-level drop-out who made the switch to a more coursework-driven course and did far better there, I believe there’s a lot of truth to this.

A piece of paper with a low grade on it can make your heart sink. You can feel that so much depends on that one letter or number - that your whole future hangs in the balance.

But as Jeremy Clarkson likes to remind us every year, high grades are hardly the one and only pathway into a fulfilling career.

In fact, some of the most fulfilling careers are in industries almost completely spear-headed by people who care far less about academic aptitude, and far more about practical problem-solving, strength of character, and a willingness to work hard.

If you’ve failed your GCSE’s or A-levels, don’t panic. Despite what many would tell you, they’re not for everyone, and the gateway to a high-earning job has not been closed to you.

It’s likely that a static classroom setting is not a good fit for your learning style. Luckily, there are other ways to learn.

Consider an apprenticeship, or a diploma programme.  

Many ex-students who find they didn’t thrive in a school or college environment discover that an apprenticeship or diploma gave them what early education never could: a hands-on, learning-by-doing experience.

“Standard education simply does not suit everyone”, Darren Ponsford, Apprenticeship Manager at GFM Apprenticeships, told me. He went on to describe the benefits of an apprenticeship.

“Once an apprentice has completed their learning, they’re left with a respectable qualification, a wealth of experience and zero student debt”.

This raises the question: are apprentices actually better off financially than those who go into academia?

Those who struggled at school or college have the opportunity to leave an apprenticeship with more money than when they went in. How many straight-A students can say they graduated from university richer than when they started?

While academic education works for some, for others it can feel restrictive, and insular. Many would prefer to be more active in their learning, and apprenticeships can be very freeing and uplifting for these people.

“Apprenticeships offer a more holistic experience of life than academia can.”, Darren said. “You’re not just learning a trade, but also picking up several key skills that naturally develop when you’re working and interacting with the world around you.”.

If this kind of education sounds good to you, then maybe an apprenticeship is the right next step.

Some higher-level apprenticeships require a minimum qualification of Level 2 Maths and English, which are equivalent to GCSE grades 9-4/A*-C.

However, Level 2 exams are aimed at people who prefer a more practical approach to learning, and don’t present the same obstacles as GCSE’s.

SERT Recruitment and Training work in partnership with the Gosport and Fareham Multi-Academy Trust (GFM) to provide quality apprenticeships in gas and electric.

Additionally, diploma routes provide another alternative for those looking to escape the constraints of conventional education.

Diplomas are vocational qualifications that focus on practical skills and specific industries. They offer a more targeted approach to education, allowing you to dive deeper into your chosen field.

Diploma routes combine classroom learning with practical experience, giving you the best of both worlds. The curriculum is designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in your industry of choice.

One of the advantages of diploma routes is the flexibility they offer. Whether you are a recent high school graduate or a working professional looking to switch careers, there are options available to fit your needs.

Many diploma courses are offered on a part-time basis, allowing you to study while working or managing other commitments. This flexibility ensures that you can pursue your educational goals without compromising on your personal and professional life.

Should a diploma be the direction you’d like to follow, SERT offers gas, electrical and metering new entrant schemes, and you can view them here.

If you’ve decided an apprenticeship is more to your liking, you can apply to one at GFM right here.

Exams are a means to an end, but you should never let them define you. Whatever path you decide to take in life, it’s important to remember that you have options.

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