James Heappey weekly column

Last week’s paper was published on the day that hundreds of local students were receiving their A Level results and this week’s paper coincides with the delivery of GCSE results to hundreds more. I remember my own GCSE and A Level results days very well indeed. GCSEs went well but in my A Levels, I’d missed one of my grades and so university was not guaranteed until a few nervous phone calls had been made to the admissions department at Birmingham University. Thankfully all went well but I can remember the deep sense of foreboding that somehow my whole life hinged on what happened that morning.

Of course over the twenty years since I’ve learnt that people achieve success along sorts of different pathways and that there is no single moment in a lifetime on which everything hinges. If things don’t go as planned, adapting quickly and choosing another route can often be as rewarding as the path originally planned.

That all said, there is no mistaking that good and honest careers advice is vital to minimising the chances of those forced last minute changes of plan. Nowadays there are vocational and technical qualifications that can be achieved whilst in work that can lead to careers that are better paid and with more responsibility than some of those traditionally reserved for graduates.

I don’t want to do that thing where graduate politicians tell every young person they meet that university isn’t worth it – I had a great time and I found my course really interesting – but there’s no escaping that neither the Army nor politics required me to be a graduate. Instead, I simply want to encourage those who are getting their results to consider every option and to seek out the best advice so that they can make good decisions. Results days can seem absolutely pivotal but in reality there’s always another path.