This summer there were families up and down the country celebrating with their children after the release of this year’s public exam results.  

Many schools published headlines with photos of smiling students and their ‘best ever results’ on their websites and social media feeds. But what about those who don’t get A*s?  

The reality is that behind the headlines of As and A*s there are hundreds, if not thousands, of students whose results are an enormous personal triumph and will be, in most cases, what they need to move on to their next stage.

At Channing we talk about Girls Enjoying Success, however they define it, and whilst we have lots of the headlines that prospective parents like to see, including great A-level and GCSE results, much more exciting is what they choose to do with these results.

Ham & High: Mrs Lindsey Hughes is not lead by exam results or gradesMrs Lindsey Hughes is not lead by exam results or grades (Image: Channing School)

Often parents look at Oxbridge, medical school or veterinary school places as a shorthand for success (and yes, our students achieve places on these courses every year) but that’s not just what Channing - or life - is about: it’s about success as each student defines it so that they go to do what they want to do, whether that is university, art foundation, or a gap year.

Good schools spend lots of time listening to those students who don't shine in exams and work with them, often from as early as Year 9 or 10, to guide them to the right next step, helping the individual continue to explore who they are and what they want out of life.  

When choosing a school, it’s easy to be wowed by the headline results and the facilities - but do also take time to find out more about how the careers and higher education programmes work. How do they help students to think about their next steps? How will they support those who are not academic high-flyers but want to access the best possible university and course available to them? And what provision is in place for those who want to take the path less travelled after school?

Our inclusive, supportive ethos means that we focus on outcomes, rather than grades. If our A-level students are smiling at the end of results day because they are set on their chosen path - whatever that may be - then I think that's job done.

  • Mrs Lindsey Hughes is headmistress of Channing School in Highgate.