GCSE results day yesterday, it seemed to trigger mixed responses across my Facebook newsfeed, and for many people close to me. Some who sat the exams and collected their results, Some who didn’t, home educating parents, there was a lot of emotions in the air yesterday.
I remember 2 yrs ago going with my 14 yr old daughter to collect her results. She didn’t get the grades that she had hoped for but they weren’t important. For us, the big thing was that she had overcome her anxiety and walked into that environment and taken the exams. She was 14 and had been home educated for 2 yrs and she chose that path. When she then chose to not sit any more, we supported that decision. This year we know that she has already achieved her English, maths and ICT functional skills. We know that she has achieved her bronze duke of Edinburgh award, She was awarded a Hertfordshire young people’s award, She has gained work experience. She is surrounded by friends and family who are incredibly proud of her, and that love and pride is not dependent on grades or results.
I know there were teenagers celebrating with their families some fantastic results, and plans for further education can now continue to move forward without a hitch, parents are proud and that’s great. But what of those who didn’t do so well, or those who for whatever reason didn’t sit the exams?
GCSEs aren’t a legal requirement, at any age! And while they can make routes into certain careers a bit easier, they aren’t the be all and end all! I have no GCSEs and have never been held back. I reached senior level doing a job that I loved and yet was able to choose to become self employed and work around my family following maternity leave. I have a Bsc that I worked for in my adult years, and own 2 properties along with my husband who left school after his GCSEs.
I know of many home educated youngsters who are doing brilliantly on their chosen paths. Some include sitting exams, others dont. Education isn’t a one size fits all package as we well know, all these young people are overcoming their own things and following their paths. Alternative qualifications and experiences are just as beneficial if not more so, skills learnt will stay with young people longer than knowledge read and regurgitated onto a piece of paper.
A quick search gave lots of results of famous and successful people who didn’t shine at school: Richard Branson left school at 16, so did Simon Cowell, he only had one 0 level.
Drew Barrymore dropped out of school aged 13 yrs after being admitted into rehab. Successful tv journalist Jon Snow got a C in English and failed all his other A level subjects. Broadcaster Clare Balding planned to study at Oxbridge but her A level results delayed that. She chose to take 2 yrs out before resitting her exams, practising her interview skills and finally gaining a place to study English at Cambridge.
Lord Alan Sugar left school with just one GCSE and Russell Brand wad actually labelled a “waste of space” by one of his teachers!
Steven Spielberg was rejected by film school 3 times, that didn’t stop him creating many multi award winning classic films! In fact, he only returned to study to get his BA in 2002!!
Jeremy Clarkson got two Us and a C at A level, Robbie Williams failed his GCSEs through lack of interest. David Karp left school at 14 but made his millions founding Tumblr.
Joey Essex got a U in his drama GCSE. It hasn’t stopped him, he now owns his own fashion brand and boutique.
Writer and Critic AA Gill, is incredibly dyslexic. He had a miserable time struggling at school and was advised to become a hairdresser. He didn’t start writing until his 30s but gained success.
Green and Blacks chocolate founder, former Cosmo editor and the UKs youngest ever magazine editor Jo Fairley left school at 16!
Guy Ritchy was kicked out of school aged 15 for bad behaviour. Lawrence Graff (OBE) left school to learn the jewellery trade at 15 years old. He founded the Graff diamond company in 1960.
And not forgetting, Albert Einstein himself! He was famously expelled from school for being “a rebel and a dunce” he did not even speak until he was 4 years old!
There are many people who I know in my life with various results at school. Some as adults have found they needed to resit exams to get the grades that their adult chosen careers have required. They have done this, no trouble. Some are in jobs that have never required GSCE results. Some have no evidence of GCSE grades but higher education certificates instead.
School, exams is not a route that suits everyone, and fortunately it is not the only route. Whether you or your children sat their exams or not, whether you or your children got the desired grades or not, what is absolutely important is that you remember to do what you love. Do what makes you happy and work for what you want. You are not defined by your exam results. In the long run they will have very little influence over who you are as a person.
Be you, be happy, be kind. That is what defines you.