Worried students told not to lose heart

Sarah BrealeyBy STEVE DOWNES, Education correspondentThousands of worried students across East Anglia were told 'don't lose heart' as they prepared to pick up their A-level results this morning at a time of spiralling youth employment and a freeze on extra university places.Sarah Brealey

By STEVE DOWNES, Education correspondent

Thousands of worried students across East Anglia were told 'don't lose heart' as they prepared to pick up their A-level results this morning at a time of spiralling youth employment and a freeze on extra university places.

Today is the day when 13 years of education comes to a climax and very many young people will be celebrating their examination success.

But congratulations will be tempered by what is one of the most nerve-racking years for students, with young people fearing the worst about their prospects and careers because of the recession.

The added uncertainty comes because:

t An unprecedented number of people have applied for a dwindling number of university places in a bid to ride out the recession, meaning as many as 60,000 could miss out.

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t A record 835,000 18-24-year-olds are not in employment, education or training, which shows how bleak the picture is for those who decide to look for a job.

According to one organisation, soaring numbers of 18-year-olds are signing up for gap years in a bid to escape the dire situation in Britain.

But, to the majority in East Anglia who are preparing to tough it out, higher education minister David Lammy said: 'Don't give up'.

He said: 'What of those who do not get the grades they need? Is the journey now over for them? The answer is: not at all.

'Each year around 20pc of all applicants, for one reason or another, are not accepted into their chosen university. As applying is a competitive process this is only to be expected, but what people often don't realise is that of this 20pc more than one-third choose to reapply, with the vast majority of these securing places.'

He said many young people could get a second chance by going through the clearing system operated by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS).

'Ultimately the message is: don't lose heart. There are options out there, not only in clearing but in extended apprenticeships, internships and work placements through the government's 'Backing Young Britain' programme.

'We also expect to have 50,000 more accepted applicants at university than three years ago, increasing people's chances of taking place in higher education like never before.

'The benefits of a degree are clear and I want as many people as possible in East Anglia to realise their ambitions and take advantage of the opportunities available to them.'

Karin Porter, head of operations for Connexions Norfolk, which offers advice and guidance to 13-19-year-olds, said: 'If students don't get the results they had expected it's important they don't panic or give up on their future plans.

'Whatever the outcome, help is at hand. Our personal advisers can help young people look at all their options and make the best choice.'

Shelagh Hutson, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services, said: 'I would like to wish all our students good luck, and I hope this year's results reflect the hard work that they have put in, and give them the best chance of success in their future learning, or career.

'Whilst the economic environment is difficult at present, the investment in study and getting the highest qualifications possible will be essential for their future and for the future of our county.'

Tom Griffiths, of advice website gapyear.com, said gap year take-ups had soared by as much as 20pc over the past 12 months.

Mr Griffiths said: 'There are many factors contributing to the increases and one of them certainly is to give people that edge in the university market.

'In the current climate, there is also the fact that the 'Bank of Mum and Dad' has become less willing to shell out on teenagers fresh from taking their A-levels to embark on degrees only to drop out in their first year.'

While getting your A-levels results is the end of an era, it is also the signal for young people to snap into action.

For some, it means a guaranteed university place, for others it means going through the clearing system in the hope of getting an offer to make up for the disappointment of lower-than-expected grades.

Still other young people will be ready to go out into the world of work, while significant numbers will be planning a gap year, either at home or overseas.

For advice on all of those different paths, check out the following websites:

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service - www.ucas.com/clearing

Connexions -www.connexions-direct.com

National Union of Students - www.nusonline.co.uk

For advice on organising student finances - www.studentmoney.org

For job advice - www.workthing.com and www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk

For information about gap years - www.workaustralia.com and www.gapyear.com.