Today is the day that A-Level students get their results. Below, our Claire writes about her experience of this day back when she was a teenager…

Despite this year’s pandemic, it is expected there will be more top A-Level grades than ever before. However, not all students get the results they want. Back in 1991, I was one of them. I can remember the nervous expression on my teacher when she revealed that I had failed all three of my A-Levels. To be exact, I got two Near Misses (N) and an Unqualified (U) or, as my brother put it, a NUN. When I revealed this to my parents, their worry was palpable. They clearly believed I’d written off my future.

I can understand their concern but whose life has not been without setbacks? We may want the best in life but we rarely get it. So the important thing is learning to cope with the disappointments. I’ve certainly had my fair share of them. Not only did I fail my A-Levels, the lifelong career I hoped for in the newspaper trade was killed off by the 2008 recession, my husband died in 2013, and I was made redundant again in 2015. However, when I look back on my life, what I recognise is that I kept coming back for more.

That is not to say I’ve not been tempted to give up on life. I have many a time – particularly when my husband died. So I can speak with some experience of the importance of having a supportive network. When the chips are down, we need more than ever to have something to live for. I’ve been lucky with my choice of friends. They invited me out, found me work, and got me on the course that led to getting a First Class BA (Hons) in Fine Art. They also made things like Christmas and birthdays without my husband bearable. I often feel I would not be here if not for my friends.

So I’d like to remind today’s students that life doesn’t revolve around your A-Levels. That, in fact, there are far more important lessons in life than you’ll ever learn in school. So, if you take anything away from today, please let it be that neither success or failure are exclusive of each other. It’ll always be how you handle them both that matters or, in the words of Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

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