GCSE results day is a significant milestone in anyone’s educational journey, and one that many students and parents associate with trepidation and stress. This years group haven't been helped by the introduction of a new set of grade boundaries which will see a '9 to 1' grading system replace the traditional 'A* to G' regime in three key subjects. This change is believed to be beneficial, but the concerns around it are simple: marking errors occur around grade boundaries, and even with the utmost care, more grade boundaries mean more errors; so it's expected that there'll be more exams sent away to be remarked this year than ever before.

Throughout this understandably stressful period, there are certain things students are encouraged to do to stay calm. Various sources rightfully remind them to remember that they've done their bit, having done the work and sat the exams; and they're encouraged to exercise and sleep well, both of which help create a positive mindset.

Most important however, when trying to remain calm in the days around GCSE results, is to look at the bigger picture.

'Lesser' GCSE results are rarely the backwards step they are made out to be. More likely, they are a step sideways, onto a different path.

By the time GCSE results come around, students have generally already chosen the subjects they intend to do at A Level, and therefore, in turn, what they plan to do at University. The two often work in unison, at a time when it can feel like you're on an educational conveyer belt that is reaching full speed.

This leaves us with the scenario where sixteen year olds who fall short of expected and desired GCSE results are left feeling the odd one out when they don't know what they're going to do with the rest of their lives. In reality, of course, this is something very few sixteen year olds know.

Another damaging theory is the idea that those who leave school after their GCSE's do so because they have nothing to offer in education, or worse, that education has nothing to offer them.

More and more, A Levels make up only one path of education, albeit a traditional one. As such, although good, positive GCSE results are a fantastic achievement for all students who get them, and something which should be commended and celebrated as a significant step forward, 'lesser' GCSE results are not necessarily the step backwards that they are often made out to be. More likely, they are a step sideways, onto a different path, which though less traditional, doesn’t have to be any less beneficial.

There are lots of things to expect with GCSE results day, but a dead end is never one of them.

Celebrities often come out at this time of year, strangely bragging about how badly they did at school, and boasting about how well they've done ever since, like the two things are linked. (They rarely are: in most cases, all they're doing is highlighting just how lucky their lucky break was.) But they have a point in one regard: GCSE’s will never define anyone, and now more than ever, with options such as further education colleges and apprenticeships, they don't even necessarily have to define your educational journey.

There are lots of things to expect with GCSE results day, but a dead end is never one of them. Your results are important, and it's a significant time in anyone’s educational journey; but at this particular crossroads, there is more than one way forward, and it's what you do with your results that will ultimately decide how important they are. South West College is on hand to help you explore all the options.