Helping Children Deal with Disappointing Exam Results

Our guest blogger this week is Angela Giglio, Centre Director of Kip McGrath Education Centres in Musselburgh, Edinburgh East

After many years of thinking about it, I have finally taken the plunge and am writing my very first blog!  Like many novices, I am dipping my toes into this unknown ocean with a certain amount of trepidation. One wonders what to write about and whether indeed anyone will be interested enough to read on. There are so many “experts” out there and it seems that the whole world and his dog know all there is to know about mostly everything. What if my work isn’t as good as others? What if after all the hours of research and effort I don’t get the results I want or perhaps deserve? What if I am disappointed?  What if I have poor results?

This got me thinking about all the teenagers who will shortly receive that long-awaited envelope containing their SQA exam results and how they might be feeling. Inside, a piece of A4 card from the Scottish Exam Board will make a judgement about their academic ability and announce its findings to the world Young hopefuls will be admitted or not to Higher or Advanced level courses. Dreams of gaining a university place and pursuing life-long ambitions will become reality or end up crushed. Doors will be opened and others firmly shut.

The more self-confident will no doubt rip the envelope open straight away and face the music whilst others might hold it in their hands for hours, just staring at it, in the hope perhaps that prayers or sheer will power might somehow make the print say what they want it to say. What an anxious time this is for parents and teachers too. Everyone has had a part to play in the preparation stages and we desperately want our youngsters to do well. If I can make one suggestion to parents, no matter how much you are itching to do so, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not open the envelope for your child! Unless specifically asked to do so, let them do that for themselves. One of the worst feelings in the world is trying your hardest at something but still falling short. How much worse is all of this in the modern world when not only do you have to share bad news with your parents but perhaps broadcast it on Facebook or tweet about it too?

Sometimes, when things don’t quite go our way we realise that we could have done things differently. But life isn’t always fair and we might have deserved better. This can make the bitter pill of disappointment even more difficult to swallow and cope with. In the case of school work, studying for months on end yet bringing in disappointing grades may make many students feel hopeless or helpless even though this is far from true. Everyone responds to disappointment in different ways. Identifying how we respond when the going gets tough helps us identify our strengths and weaknesses and equips us to face the future. Parents too may find it difficult to hide disappointment or anxieties but now more than ever, it is important to be strong and show support, encouragement and unconditional love.

The crucial thing is to act fast. If the results haven’t gone completely as we hoped, it is important to step back a bit and see the wider picture. What has happened has happened and we can’t change the past. What we can and must do is concentrate on the positive, learn from our mistakes and plan a future course of action. Look not just at the overall mark. Have we passed part of the paper or passed some of the internal assessments? We must be rightly proud of ourselves for the elements that we have passed but be determined to identify where we went wrong and make amends in future. Consider how much of what has happened was within our control and how much beyond it. Many Heads of Department or careers staff will be in school when the exam results come out and will probably be happy to give advice. If not, go and see them as soon as school starts up again. Overcoming the initial disappointment might seem tricky but the sooner you start focusing on your next steps the sooner you will start to quickly move forward and feel better.

If your child is feeling very low, try and help them to identify all the things that they have achieved in life so far. It sometimes helps to list these things and display them somewhere visible. Success is a mixture of many things and academic qualifications are just a small part of our worth as human beings. Is your child sporty, hard working, polite, kind, generous, tidy, fun to be around? Did they put effort into their exams, try their best and listen (even if was later rather than sooner) to advice? You could make up a family award for them so that they feel loved, valued and hopeful about the next steps. If you have more than one child taking exams, make sure to celebrate every child’s achievements to the same extent. Self-esteem may be very fragile at this time and it is important to boost it.

Okay, the results are what they are, we have celebrated or shed some tears, so what do we do now?

Worried about exam results? Childline can help.

In my experience successful students are those who strike a good balance between optimism and reality. To achieve your dreams it is important to make changes to what you do and how you challenge yourself. As the saying goes, if you always do what you have always done, you will always get the same results. The good news is that there is a great deal that you can do to turn your dreams into reality. They key to changing the future lies in planning for future success and then following through. Act fast and act now. If you found the subject difficult, get help.

At Kip McGrath we help thousands of children all over the world every day to achieve success in exams and we see first hand how easy it can be, given the correct support, to turn things around. If you didn’t really know how to prepare for your exams consider enrolling on a Study Skills course and learning how to learn effectively. Organise your space, make sure that you start your revision as soon as the new academic year starts – don’t let the work pile up and overwhelm you. Use the last few weeks of the summer holidays to start preparing for the next level. The leap can be huge! Go seek help the very moment you begin to struggle and don’t leave it until the first internal assessment or mock exam. Perhaps a gap year would give you a chance to research your options and take a breather. Just think of all the new and exciting pathways that may be open to you as you start again on a wonderful learning adventure.

But what if the exams have gone exactly to plan and you’ve got brilliant grades? First of all celebrate your success! Congratulations! You have achieved your objectives and should be rightly very proud. However, once you’ve done that, here’s a wee word of warning. Don’t rest on your laurels. My advice on planning applies to everyone. Start preparing for your next success now and like our Kip students make sure you get the new academic year off to a great start.

As I come to the end of my first blog, dipping my toes into the cyberspace wasn’t quite as scary as I first thought. The hardest thing was taking that first step and luckily, I know who and where to turn to for expert advice and support when I need it. As I continue my own learning journey, I will no doubt get feedback on my efforts and take action to learn from any mistakes. Learning is fun and even though occasionally there may be disappointments or setbacks along the way, the rewards we reap for persevering far out way any pitfalls.

At Kip McGrath our philosophy is that anyone can learn given the correct expertise and resources and I would like to wish all the young people out there, the very best of luck. Learning is a life-long journey and one that I hope you will travel long and successfully no matter what comes out of those little brown envelopes.

Angela Giglio
Centre Director at Kip McGrath Musselburgh


8 comments on “Helping Children Deal with Disappointing Exam Results

  1. What a wonderful article Angela. Tomorrow is the day for Scotland students to receive their exam results and we have our fingers crossed for all of our exam students. However, sometimes things don’t go to according to plan and this blog is an excellent source of information for parents and students alike. There will be many mixed emotions tomorrow but even if students do not achieve the results they had hoped for, your advice will help them to refocus and reach their goals. Well done on your first blog – we welcome future contributions!

  2. I remember this day well 25 years ago. I did well in my ‘O’ Grades as they then were called but was away on holiday when my Higher results arrived. My dad couldn’t stop himself and opened my results which weren’t good. I had discovered boys! He was so disappointed in me! I had to stay for a 6th year to retake my Highers. I got there in the end but I wish there had been this sort of advice available when I was a student!! Great advice for both students and parents alike on how to cope if things don’t go as you plan.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement. This is indeed an anxious time for many youngsters and whilst some will be floating on cloud 9 others may well be feeling very different. Our mission at Kip is to continue to help and support as many children as possible so if this blog helps even one child, it will have been well worth it.

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