A parent’s guide to exam results

Parents have an important role to play as children deal with the impact of exam results

School exam results can be very tough for the kids who don’t perform as well as they would hope. Parents have a huge roll to play in helping young people get through these challenging times.

Part 1 – Coping with unexpected exam results

If the experience has been too stressful or a child’s results were not what they hoped for, some may feel like giving up on education. You may need to guide them firmly into reconsidering their options and trying again. You do, however, need to maintain a careful balance because young people sometimes have a better idea than their parents about what is good for them. Don’t push them unless it is towards something they clearly want to do.

  • Plan or have an event to mark the results. Celebrate the effort that went into producing them and make it clear that you love, respect and value your child for who they are, independent of their academic achievements. 

  • Try to separate what you might have wished for yourself at their age from what they wish for themselves now. Support them in their dreams and goals.  

  • Whatever face they show to the world, your child cares deeply about their results and your attitude towards them. Encourage them to talk and reassure them that your respect, pride, love and support are unconditional.

  • Let them know that you will be at their side through the highs and the lows. Big hugs are good (although probably very embarrassing in public).

  • Show your children that you’re their ally. This could be by doing something small, like buying them their favourite snack. 

  • Give yourself some breathing space and time to reflect. 

  • Ask the school to help your child explore possible next steps, such as re-sits, re-marking or alternative courses.

Part 2 – Planning the next steps with your child after their GSCE exam results

  • Know who to call at the school for advice or support. If your child had a place at college conditional on results, have a contact number – you can often negotiate around a lower grade. And know how to get in touch with UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admission Service) to find a place at another college if the first option falls through. 
  • Anticipate underlying problems that might have been put on the backburner during the exam period. These could suddenly emerge once the crisis is over. You may need to acknowledge what has been simmering under the surface for some time and address it, head on. 
  • Parents and children need to communicate. This means both talking and listening. It might help to get an outsider – such as a teacher, mediator, youth counsellor or mentor – to help.