Richard Lister: Fed up with exam cynics

IN the last couple of weeks thousands of students have been getting their A level results and for many examination success spells the end of life as they know it! Many are looking forward to a new life at college to university often a long way from home.

IN the last couple of weeks thousands of students have been getting their A level results and for many examination success spells the end of life as they know it!

Many are looking forward to a new life at college to university often a long way from home.

Of course, from next year at University Campus Suffolk we are providing a different alternative and we will be offering the chance of a university education here in Suffolk (for those who choose it) - and we look forward to welcoming lots of students through our doors. But even then there will still be many students who decide that they prefer to go away from home to study - for all sorts of reasons - personal development, a particular course or a desire to see somewhere new or just to start again.

It can be rather scary moving away from home and it is surprising perhaps how few students fall by the wayside, abandon their new course and return home. It is a tribute both to the way universities and colleges deal with each new intake and the level of advice and provision that students receive from many quarters before they go that they cope so well. There is another reason and that is the quality of young people themselves. I do get fed up with people moaning about the quality of exams and how easy it all is these days. How dispiriting to work hard, get great results and then see headlines that suggest the exams are easy and the outcomes worthless. And I for one don't accept it. The exams are different for sure and they don't measure the same things - but they do measure new skills and they measure attainment in different ways. And while some skills are definitely not so well developed, others clearly are and I am in no doubt that the overall quality of students, their preparation for student life and study is much better than it was a generation ago. And of course in a modern knowledge society we are educating over 40per cent of our young people at university level rather than the 15pc of 30 years ago. Whatever the outcome of the quality of exams debate it is clear that today's young students are balanced, capable and mature and quite comfortable with moving on to new things.

So young people cope well with the transition to student life and face the future with optimism and cheerfulness. But the exam results bring change to others who have fewer support mechanisms and who can find the change just as daunting: parents! And parents often cope less well with the change. The empty nest syndrome is well documented but it is one that - just like the arrival of the children eighteen years before - comes as a big life change no matter how much preparation you have. So as one who has lived through it - here is the parents guide to student life. First you have to cope with the quiet of the house. Attractive in some ways but quite a shock. From a houseful of noise, to absolute peace. Nothing ever gets moved out of place - when you return home all is as it was left - most unnerving. The phone will almost never ring. From being switchboard operator for everyone but yourself there is only an eerie quiet. There will be no piles of enormous shoes in the hall. It is not just your own offspring but all their mates who aren't around. You will also notice a huge reduction in supermarket shopping, from going every day you will find once a week is quite enough. The fridge keeps the same contents from one day to the next. The freezer remains stocked. You can buy beer and end up drinking it yourself. There will be no pizza debris, no cold oven chips when you come down in the morning. No late night giving of lifts to unnaturally cheerful hordes of teenagers, no incomprehensible DVDs when you switch the TV on. No loud music to complain about - and probably most worrying in the long term - you lose that spark of connection on a day to day basis with the younger generation.

So if you can remember the strange days when you first had children - the moment you brought them home, closed the front door and wondered what the hell you were supposed to do next and why didn't anyone warn you? Well when you return from taking your youngest to college and close the front door behind you the effect can feel just the same. So if this is you, this year, or in the near future, try and plan for the empty nest and console yourself with the knowledge that it is only 10 weeks until the Christmas holidays - and then they will come home determined to make up for lost time.

Most Read

Come the middle of January you will be desperate to get your house to yourself again!

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter