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GCSE's not the be-all and end-all
24th August 2014 ... Victoria
Earlier this week, after a prolonged summer break, teenagers across the country returned to school and eagerly collected their GCSE results. Sitting in my front room multiple television channels broadcast groups of students screaming with glee or hanging their heads in disappointment.
Looking outside, a couple of girls clutching their results papers walked passed. Thank goodness that's not me anymore!
In fact it has been nine years since I was in their shoes; yet the memories of that day are still fresh in my mind. I made the journey to collect my results alone, not wanting the humiliation of sharing the experience with friends. I sat on my bed staring at the brown envelope. This was it. I was seconds away from discovering whether my life was going to be a success or a failure......
I had never been an academic child and required one to one support to manage my dyslexia. In year four my teacher voiced concerns over whether I would be able to achieve the vital five C's. Predicting my GCSE results when I was only 8 years old seemed slightly premature in my opinion.
I struggled through the rest of primary school and transitioned to a very academic secondary. According to my teachers, B grades were not good enough and yet A grades were thought nothing special. To compensate for my academic difficulties I spent an unhealthy amount of time working, putting myself under inordinate pressure to succeed. Top grades started to creep my way, but this was not achieved without sacrifices. I found myself with no social life, getting very little sleep, and with no time for recreational activities. While the depression and self harm that followed were the culmination of multiple factors, the academic stress could not have helped.
A combination of hard work and non traditional subjects earned me good GCSE's; better than anyone had predicted, especially my year 4 teacher! However nearly ten years on I could probably count on two hands the knowledge I have retained or even utilised from my GCSE days. If I was to advise today's sixteen year olds, I would tell them that GCSE's are not worth making yourself ill over. Having said that I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have listened!
The message of this blog is not that GCSE's don't matter; however they are not the be-all and end-all in life. There are many successful individuals who have not let the absence of academic qualifications prevent them from achieving great things. Just this week I heard that a friend has been offered the opportunity to study paramedic science at university despite not having the traditional A levels. What he does have is the experience, knowledge and personal characteristics to make a brilliant paramedic, which was clearly recognised.
Congratulations to everyone who received their results; and to those of you who were disappointed, be kind to yourself as there are still many options available!