A significant milestone: GCSE results day

sue-williamson-fullSue Williamson, Chief Executive SSAT, writes…

I would like to send my congratulations to all the young people who have successfully taken their GCSEs. It’s a significant milestone in your educational journey.

Today is about hundreds of thousands of individual stories and the impact these results will have – not only on the lives of the students, but on the life of the school and its teachers, and the lives of students’ parents, grandparents and siblings.

It’s too early to tell the true extent of the impact of education reforms – you can read SSAT’s response so far in our press release. I hope that there have been more tears of joy than of sadness, but there will be young people who have not done as well as they expected or needed to for their planned next steps.

Today, failure on a personal level will be hard, particularly if your friends have done well. However, our education system does give a second chance and it’s so important that we encourage young people to have the determination and courage to have another go, in whatever form that may take.

Recently I met a truly inspirational person – Sharla Duncan. She was heading towards becoming NEET when a new student to her school befriended her and became her mentor. Sharla surprised herself, her family and her teachers by achieving an outstanding set of GCSE results. With the continued support of her mentor, Sharla went on to read science at Kings College, London. There, she set up a charity, TeamUp, which uses undergraduates to work with potential NEETs. You can hear more about Sharla’s story and the work of the charity at the SSAT National Conference 2014: The Learner in Manchester, 4-5 December.

Many of the young people getting their GCSE results will have overcome difficult personal or social issues. Not every child has a supportive family and a home environment conducive to learning. Schools do a remarkable job in supporting these young people – we were amazed at the creative solutions designed by headteachers and teachers when undertaking research into the achievement of white working class boys. Pupil premium funding has helped and we will be exploring how we can embed social mobility for all young people at our Annual Lecture and Debate, with Sir John Dunford, National Pupil Premium Champion, and Graham Stuart, MP, Chairman of the Education Select Committee.

The lecture takes place from 15.15-19.00 on Thursday, 11 September 2014, at the International Coffee Organization, London. It’s free to attend but places are going fast – please do reserve your place today.

Finally, congratulations and thank you to all the teachers who have worked so hard with the students. It is a wonderful feeling to know that you are helping to make the lives of so many young people. I still remember the teachers who inspired and steered me through my ‘O’ level examinations. Miss Campbell, my history teacher, who shared her passion for history; Mrs Musgrave who convinced me I could do maths, and Miss Temple, my PE and games teacher, who gave me the chance to lead. They and many others helped lay the foundations for my career. Today should be a day to celebrate a job well done, before you start the next academic year with its fresh challenges. Thank you.

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