When it's bad news come results day; Not everybody will get what they need from their A-levels - but there are still options, writes Laura Davis.
THE waiting is over and your child's results have arrived. For many A-level candidates today will be a red-letter day, but for others that long-awaited envelope will contain, not a passport to the university course of their dreams, but the dreaded news that their best efforts have not been enough to secure the grades they needed.
If your offspring falls into this unfortunate category then don't worry - it's never as bad as they think it's going to be and they have still plenty of options if they failed to achieve the grades they needed.
Even if clearing, which involves contacting other higher education establishments for course places, doesn't reveal a new path, these days there are still plenty of options available for your teenager, whether that means an alternative route through education or starting straight into work.
Brian Christian of Liverpool College, in Mossley Hill, says the main thing is to stay calm.
"If it happens, it happens. There's no cause for panic. Your first step must be to contact the admissions tutor for the course you hope to study - have the number to hand, with all the relevant details - and ask if the grades, though not what were asked for, might still be close enough.
"Secondly, seek the advice of the senior staff from your school who will certainly be on hand on results day to help guide you at this crucial time.
"It certainly helps to have calm and experienced professionals who know the system, but remember that all they can do is point you in the right direction, any decisions have to be yours," he says.
Connexions, the careers service, is also available for help at www.connexions -gmerseyside.co.uk for the Merseyside branch or www.connexions-cw.co.uk for Cheshire and Warrington.
There are courses on offer at university for those students who achieve one A-level pass such as HND courses in a variety of subjects, which often lead on to a degree course.
Universities also offer one-year foundation degree courses, which prepare students for a degree course. Further information onfoundation degrees is available from the University and Colleges Admissions Service at www.ucas.com Retakes are also something to consider. Some sixth form colleges offer resit courses tailored to third year students.
For advice about financial support available and how to apply for it contact your local education authority or see www.dfes.gov.uk/studentsupport Mr Christian warns that you should also consider options other than university.
He says: "Perhaps you will have to ask yourself the $64,000 question. ' Should I consider alternatives to higher education?' You don't have to go to university this year, you don't have to go to university at all. There are other options.
"In the short term, a constructive gap year or taking time out to repeat somemodules might make you a better candidate in 2006, while long term options might include employment as a school-leaver with a company offering a good training scheme.
"Whatever your results you must remember that A level grades are just a means to an end. There are always other ways of getting to where you want to be
If taking the exams again is an option
IF YOU'VE searched through the newspapers for a place in clearing and nothing appeals but you are still tempted by the idea of higher education, then it may be worth considering resitting exams.
Maths resits are usually held in November and those for other subjects the following January, depending on the original examining body. This means plans to take a gap year do not have to be completely written off.
It is possible you may have to do part of the course again or retake all the units. However, this could be worth it if you are planning a career where employers pay a lot of attention to exam results.
The school or college careers adviser will be able to highlight all the available options
Brian Christian, Headteacher of Liverpool College; Getting the right result is something to really celebrate - but don't panic if you haven't; It is a tense moment opening that results envelope