Undercover Teacher: Our Indispensable A Level Results Day PREP LIST and UCAS Inside Track

What's the worst sight in teaching? There are a few, but one of the worst is the child who has messed up their A-levels and suddenly doesn't have a university to go to. Watching them wandering around in a daze trying to make decisions by themselves that could affect the rest of their lives is heart-breaking.

They may be big, they may be legally adults, but some of them will need their parents more on A-level results day than they have done for quite a few years. Here are my top five things you can do to support them before, on, and beyond 10th August.

Three critical websites to know are:

UCAS Track- where your child can track the progress of their application

UCAS Course Search- where your child can search for alternative courses if they want to go through the process of 'adjustment' (their grades are higher than expected) or 'clearing' (their grades are lower than expected and they have missed their first choice and insurance offer.)

UCAS Clearing- this has all the advice and resources you need should your child have missed their offers.

1. Prepare the Night Before

You don't need to tell your child you are doing this, as they may think you are being pessimistic - but if you go to the UCAS Course Search the night before you can find courses with vacancies. These can be in the subject you know they have offers for or ones that are related to it.

Should the worst happen on results day you will then be ready and prepared with suggestions, allowing your child to get a head start on others if they decide to go down the clearing route. It is better to do this with a clear head before results day than under pressure on the day or in the days afterwards, knowing that the clearing vacancies are filling up.

2. Early Morning Preparation

At 8am your child can go onto UCAS Track, which will tell them, before they know their results, whether they have been accepted onto their chosen course. If the status is 'unconditional' for their first offer that is very good news - but if there is a 'clearing number' available - it is not good news as it means both offers have been missed, which means they will need to search for universities with courses they are interested in and call them to ask for a place.

There are a variety of other statuses your child could have and it is useful for you to understand them before the day, as it will be a guide as to what to do next. Don't make any quick decisions at this point, because you need to find out your child's actual results.

3. Be There (on the Phone or in Person)

It might not be possible for you to be in school with your child, but it is important that you are at least able to be on the end of a phone. Now is the time that you might want to talk to your company, manager or colleagues to try and be available on that day in some capacity.

There are many reasons for this:

  • Your child may simply want to share in their success with you, which is a lovely phone call
  • More importantly perhaps they may need some comforting words from you and some help and advice
  • They may need you to sign something to ask for a priority re-mark (see below)
  • They may want to talk through and ask your advice on what they should do as they have missed both of their offers
  • They could have exceeded their offers and now want to go through the process of 'adjustment', which is applying to a university and a course appropriate for those higher grades

To be honest, if it is impossible to be there, these things can wait until the evening when you can all sit down and talk together (again, see below). The key thing is that whether your child asks you to be there for them or not, this is one of those days when they do need you.

4. Re-Marks

A-level results are important, and not just for getting into university. They are also important for job applications in their twenties and, depending on their career, even further than that.

It may be that your child has just missed a grade boundary. This means that although perhaps they got a B, they were only a few marks off an A. You have the right to ask for a re-mark if this is the case. A successful re-mark could mean your child does actually get the university place they have an offer for, in which case you should ask for a 'priority re-mark', which can be done in the next few days.

These cost money (about £50), although the money is returned if the re-mark comes back 'successful' (the grade for the unit or overall grade changes). But think about it, what do you have to lose? If your child is close to a grade boundary then their grade is unlikely to go down after a re-mark (although it could do). If the grade does change then that can be extremely helpful, in the short and long term.

In terms of what to ask to be re-marked - choose the unit in which your child has the lowest score, and in particular one in which they wrote essays, as these can result in particularly significant changes. Your school's examinations officer will advise you what to do - but you need to sign the form for it to happen.

5. That Evening and Beyond

If you know your child didn't work hard enough, it is possible that you will feel like screaming 'I told you so' at them. Of course, this is not the time - although once you have followed the advice I am about to give, I do recommend the sentence 'it would be good to make sure you never feel this way again'.

If you come home in the evening and your child doesn't have a university place, the best thing you can do is go through their choices with them.

  • They can contact the university's admissions department and make a case to be taken anyway (this sometimes works but is rare)
  • They can go through clearing, perhaps using some suggestions you could throw in from your research in point 1
  • They could take a gap year and either take another A-level course (some tutorial colleges can teach a whole A-level in a year) or re-sit one of their A-levels
  • They could just take a gap year and re-apply with the grades they got to a different course in a different university
  • They could even, if you decide this is a sign that an academic path isn't for them, take an apprenticeship to get into a profession

But above all - although time is of the essence - try to balance this pressure with calm decision-making and don't make any snap decisions, think through the options, and also ask your child's school's advice.