Headteacher's disappointment at my lack of geographical knowledge still haunts me but exam results are not the 'be all and end all'/ Sue Plunkett

'A  'u' for Geography... how very disappointing.'

Exam results, good or bad, do not determine your path in life says reporter Sue Plunkett
Exam results, good or bad, do not determine your path in life says reporter Sue Plunkett

Those were the words I heard the day I went for my GCSE (or O'levels as they were known back then) results.

And if you are wondering what the 'u' was for it stood for unclassified!!

Yep, I didn't even get a grade for my Geography paper. And that's what led to the 'disappointing' comment from my headteacher. In those days you lined up to be called in front of the head and she opened your results and saw them before you. As you can imagine it took a long time so some students were in quite a state by the time it was their turn.

In a way the head almost seemed to relish lingering on my lack of geographical knowledge and prowess. It was a subject I just never took to at all.

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I could fell my face reddening with disappointment, embarrassment until she said 'well at least you got A for both English language and literature.' She said in such a matter of fact way I thought for a second she was kidding.

But it was there in black and white. Two capital As.

The results came typed on a long strip of white paper and you had to read it lengthways. I still have it somewhere.

I went from feeling despair to elation in a moment. At least I had done well in my favourite subjects. I had also passed a range of other subjects, enough to gain me a place to study A' levels at sixth form and go on to study for a degree in English and Media at college.

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So last week, with the announcement of both GCSE and A' level results in the same week for the first time ever, I really felt for all the students pinning their hopes on achieving top grades.

But whatever grade you get those results do not dictate the rest of your life. That's what I told my daughter six years ago when she didn't get the results she had hoped for.

Her tears of disappointment were heart breaking but I reassured her it was just the beginning, not the end.

She was able to do re-takes and eventually went to university to study drama and education with hopes of working in the theatre, on stage or teaching.

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Fast forward six years and she is a carer, looking after a range of people, from young adults with special needs to end of life care for terminally ill patients. It turned out university wasn't for her. So long the main focus for both students and tutors, she struggled to really settle and found the course hard going.

And while the hours are long in her chosen career, and the pay quite poor, she loves it and appears to have found her calling. I take my hat off to her for doing something so worthwhile.. that she loves.

I will be going through it all again in a couple of years with my son who is preparing to start year 10 in high school.

And my message to him will be the same... try your best and if you do well, excellent news.

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If the results are a 'u,' well it's certainly not the end of the world. Those results do not dictate your path in life.

A very talented woman and high achiever I was at university with ended up becoming editor of the New York Post.

A dream job in a dream city. What could be better? I was in complete awe of her.

But in a double page interview spread she gave in a glossy magazine the main focus was on how lonely she felt as all she did was work. There was no time for fun, friendships, relationships.

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My awe switched to pity for her because she seemed to have it all but had so little. But I suppose it depends on what you mean by 'having it all.'

Now, that's another story.