Monday, 31 July 2017

Winner of The Apprentice 2015 Joseph Valante: ‘Try not to stress about your exam results – just take control when the time comes’

Joseph Valante, who won The Apprentice in 2015, wants to give a clear message to stressed-out young people who are waiting for exam results: ‘Don’t panic – if you don’t get the results you want, just take control and get the information you need to move on.’

Joseph has some serious first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to have to make alternative choices when things don’t go according to plan.

Having been expelled at the age of 15, he turned his life around when a local plumbing firm offered him an apprenticeship and from there he got into college and changed the direction of his whole life.

Joseph, who is now a successful businessman in his own right, said: “I was an off-the-rails teenager, hated going to school and had loads of issues about education. So, quite rightly, when my behaviour got too much the school decided it was time to let me go.

“It was that realisation that made me completely re-look at my life and I knew I had to take control to get what I wanted.

“There’s no doubt that having something like exam results hanging over you can be a really worrying time – loads of people think ‘what happens if I’ve not done well enough?’ or ‘what will happen if I’ve failed’?

“But the truth is there is always a way through even if the marks mean you have to deviate from your original path, with the right help and some courage you can work out a new way of doing things that will get you where you want to go.”

Joseph, aged 27,  gained his qualifications, took out a personal loan and branched out on his own to form ImpraGas in 2012. In 2015, he took part in The Apprentice and won.

In 2017 Joseph bought back his company from successful businessman Lord Alan Sugar, who fronts the BBC show, and has tripled his turnover in just six months to over £2 million. 

Joseph said: “It’s easy to think that something big like getting your exam results is the end of something – but it’s actually the beginning. Your life is your life – no one else is going to live it for you, so if you get an unexpected result make sure you pick up the phone to the Exam Results Helpline. It’s free and it’s a resource made available especially for people in this situation.

“But that phone is not going to jump into your hand and call itself, it’s up to you. So, don’t panic, don’t stress, just take control when the time comes, get the right advice and you will work it out.”

Friday, 28 July 2017

UCAS Clearing: Advice from university staff

If your results weren’t what you expected, you may have found yourself in Clearing. If so, there’s no need to panic. Last year, over 64,900 applicants secured a place through Clearing.

By now, you’ve probably had a look at our search tool for Clearing vacancies. If you’ve found the ideal course for you, that’s great news! But
you shouldn’t rush your decision and add the choice in Track. You should call the uni first to make sure they still have vacancies, discuss your application, and check whether they can accept you.

In this blog, we’ve got some valuable advice from university staff on how to approach Clearing. 

James Ackroyd, University of Reading

Contacting a university about Clearing vacancies might seem like a daunting process, but I want to assure you that it really isn’t. First and foremost, you need to remember that you’re in control, so make sure that the university and course you’re choosing are the right ones for you. 

If you’re considering Clearing as an option, there are a few things you can do to prepare:                                                                                                                                                                      
Research the courses that you’re interested in. Most universities will only have a limited number of spaces, so having a clear idea of what you want to apply for will help you feel calmer on the day.
Fill in expression of interest forms before Clearing starts. Ours is available on our website , and means that we can give you up-to-date details of vacancies direct to your inbox. 
On the day, check out websites. If you want to know exactly which courses are available on the day, some universities’ homepages will be displaying live updates. 
Have your details ready before you call. Most universities will ask you for your ten-digit UCAS number, the qualifications you’ve taken, and the grades you’ve achieved. If you’re an international applicant, you may also need your English language qualification. 
Be patient if you don’t get through straight away. Phone lines can get very busy, but you’ll get through eventually and it’ll be worth the wait.
Check your emails throughout the day. Most universities will confirm your offer by email, and some might even invite you to visit their campus to find out more about studying there. Keep up-to-date with your inbox to make sure you have all the information you need to make your choice.  

Emma Powell, Edge Hotel School

Don’t be afraid to get in touch
If you haven’t met the conditions of your original offers, just pick up the phone and give those universities a call before assuming all is lost. Equally, if you do find yourself in Clearing for whatever reason, but are not sure how to go about applying, phone any universities/colleges you think you might be interested in and talk through your options.  

Plan ahead
If you don’t yet have a place or know you might be using Clearing, get in touch with universities before your results are released and try to visit them, to help you make your decision before results day. Having some options ready will make the day much easier to navigate. Most universities will also allow you to register your interest for Clearing, so if you’re interested in one of their courses, they will get in touch with you on results day to take you through the application process and remove some of the stress. 

Get your checklist ready
It’s a good idea to write down – whether it’s in a notepad or as a note on your phone – your UCAS ID number, Clearing number, email, and telephone number. When you are calling universities, you’ll have this information in front of you to help make the process as easy as possible. Hopefully you will be able to remember your name and date of birth too! If you’re calling after you’ve received your results, have these in front of you, as well as your GCSE results and any other grades you would include on your application. Having everything in front of you when you’re calling will make you calmer, and make it easier for the university to work through the process with you as quickly as possible.

Sarah Simms, Head of Admissions at the University for the Creative Arts 

Here are my top Clearing tips:

  1. Don’t worry! Lots of excellent applicants secure a place in Clearing. 
  2. Remember, you don’t have to be in the UCAS system already to apply for a course. We can set you up with UCAS directly if we can make you an offer.
  3. Prepare and research your options.  
  4. Have your qualifications in front of you when you call. 
  5. And finally, call us yourself! We want to speak to you, not your mum or dad!

If I don’t get the grades I need, what should I do?

Firstly, check UCAS Track; your university may accept you onto the course anyway. If you didn’t get your first or insurance choice, check the UCAS website to see which courses are available in Clearing. Call universities and speak to their admissions teams – they are there to help.

Will you need to see my portfolio? 
If you’re applying for an art or design-based course and you don’t have qualifications in a relevant art and/or design subject, we will ask you to send a digital portfolio via email.   

If a course is in Clearing, does this mean it isn’t a popular course?
Not at all – universities have varying targets for their courses and use Clearing to recruit high-calibre students.  

Will places fill up quickly? Should I accept the first offer I get?
You don’t need to accept the first offer you get. Do your research, call around, ask questions, and carefully consider your options. Take time to ensure you’ve made the best possible decision.

Alison Wilde, Admissions Manager at Nottingham Trent University
You may have a lot to think about on results day, so it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the Clearing process now to help you understand your options – particularly if you don’t do as well as you’d hoped.

If you receive your results and don’t hold a firm offer from a university, or if you haven’t yet applied in the 2017/2018 cycle, then Clearing is an opportunity for you to secure a university place. Although Clearing can feel fast-paced, taking the time to research and prepare before making a phone call will help ensure that you secure the right course for you.

When you call, you'll be asked a series of questions to find out more about your results and experience, so make sure you have all of your results to hand, including your GCSE or equivalent results. Get all your UCAS documents together, including your UCAS number and your Clearing number if you have one.

Talk to teachers, parents, and friends about which courses might suit you best. Entry requirements may differ during Clearing, so it’s worth contacting universities directly to discuss your options.

Remember, Clearing isn’t a race – there are plenty of university spaces up and down the country and Clearing is an opportunity to find the right one for you.

We’ve put together some handy hints and tips so that you’ll know what to do should you end up going through the Clearing process. From making your Clearing phone call to securing student finance, our advice guides will help make the process as simple as possible. 

You can find Adjustment and Clearing vacancies in the UCAS search tool, and most universities will also have a clear link through from their homepage. If you have a particular university in mind, then it's best to start with their own web pages, but if you're interested in a particular course, searching via UCAS for all universities with vacancies available will give you a list of options all in one place. You can often apply for vacancies online with individual universities. Alternatively, many universities have dedicated Clearing and Adjustment hotlines, with trained staff to talk you through the application and course options available.

When you call, make sure you have your UCAS ID and qualification subjects and results to hand, including your English language and maths GCSEs, as a lot of places will ask for these too. Don't forget to ask about accommodation options – some universities will be able to offer you university accommodation if you’re applying through Clearing, but others won't, so you should check exactly where you’ll be accommodated before accepting an offer. Remember, choosing the course and university that's right for you is an important decision, so take your time in considering any offers you receive. Visit your preferred university if possible – a lot of places will hold special Clearing and Adjustment open days or campus tours. See if you can view accommodation, department facilities, and speak with department staff or current students to get a good feel for the course and university. You’ll be spending the next few years of your life studying your chosen subject at that university, so it’s worth taking the time to make the decision that’s best for you.

Rachel Jones, Recruitment Coordinator at Teesside University
Contacting universities, making quick decisions, changing direction; Clearing can be a confusing time, but with the right support, it needn’t be. Here are our tips for you.

Be quick – spaces fill up, and access to systems can be tricky with the number of people using them. Get in there quickly so you can secure your place.
Be cool – take each step as it comes, and try to think through your options logically.
Be inspired – take a look at student and graduate profiles online. Clearing can send you on a completely different path to what you expected, and it can be reassuring for you to see someone who’s been through it already.
Be flexible – consider different degree titles, which might contain similar course content. Look at the list of modules and graduate destinations.
Be on the phone – don’t be shy! It’s better to speak to someone sooner rather than later.
Be positive – Clearing can open up a whole range of opportunities and courses that you hadn’t considered before.
Be there – if there’s an opportunity to visit the university you’re applying to, go and see it. It’s a big commitment, so you need to feel happy there.

For more advice and information, visit the Teesside University website.

Got any questions about Clearing? Ask our helpful advisers on Facebook or Twitter.

From trainee to NQT – Lauren Gaisford

My PGCE has been a tough but exciting year. It’s affirmed and re-affirmed my faith in the profession and my career path, it’s taught me to be patient and made me see that I can learn so much from others, but most importantly, it’s taught me that every single teacher is different.

Embarking on your journey from trainee to NQT is difficult, it’s a tough year that no one can really prepare you for. However, here are six tips that should help you along the way:

1. Ask for help
The most important piece of advice I can give is to ask for help. Seriously, I know it seems simple, but it’s hard to do. Whether it’s asking for resources, asking for advice on lesson plans, or just needing someone to rant to, you must ask for help. No one is expecting you to be perfect, so use the people around you!

2. Use the resources that are already there
When you first start teaching classes, it can be hard to know where to start, it might even seem like you’ll have to re-invent the wheel - you don’t. Chances are, the school you are placed at will already have a set of resources for the topic you are teaching, use them! Even if it’s just as a starting point, or to see the progression of the topic through the term, it will help!

3. Take time for yourself
This one is hard to do, especially in the months where the work is getting on top of you. But you must save time for yourself. Yes, there will be days where this seems impossible, especially in the week, but try and spend a day or even just half a day at the weekend doing something for you. Get enough sleep and don’t stay up all night working – it will do more harm than good.

4. Don’t worry
Do not spend time worrying. It can feel like the worst thing in the world when a lesson goes wrong or you just have a bad day in general, but the best thing you can do is draw a line under it and move on, this year is a learning curve after all!

5. Start your folder as soon as possible
Don’t leave it until the last minute! As soon as you get your first piece of evidence, file it somewhere safe, put it in your folder and compile your evidence as you go along, trust me, your future self will thank you when its hand in time.

6. Enjoy it!
Make jokes, have a laugh with the children you teach, don’t take yourself too seriously and try to stay positive. It can be tough at times, but try to think about the positives of every day at school, instead of focussing on the negatives!


Monday, 24 July 2017

What NOT to do on the run up to getting your exam results.

Iwan Williams, one of the Exam Results Helpline Careers advisors, give his top tips on how to keep it together as D-Day approaches.

  1. Panic! It seems inevitable to feel some nervousness as you get closer to the results coming out but stay positive that your hard work will pay off and think about the fantastic experiences that await you. Feel reassured that even in a worst-case scenario, you will still have a range of choices and options to help you move forward with your plans. 
  2. Stick your head in the sand. You probably already have a clear ‘Plan A’ scenario in mind. But things can change very quickly and what if you suddenly need a ‘Plan B’. Or even ‘Plan C’? If your results aren’t quite what you were hoping for or you have exceeded your wildest expectations then it doesn’t hurt to know what choices you have.
  3. Isolate yourself and turn away from loved ones and friends. I often talk about the importance of students building and maintaining a support network. Your own personal cheerleading squad, there to celebrate your successes and help you up when you feel down. It can be made up of friends, family and teachers; anyone that knows you and cares about your wellbeing. 
  4. Be inflexible. Understandably, your eyes will be fixed on a September start in your first choice university. I always think it is worth knowing about alternatives to that option though. And I don’t mean only consider this in a worst-case scenario! There are many pathways to success and while a September start at your chosen university is undoubtedly one of them, what could a gap year offer you? How would building work experience that supports your career choice be really beneficial later on? What options are there in the world of apprenticeships? Each option has pros and cons, right for some, not for others. If you are unsure of what these good and bad points are, it might be good to investigate things now. 
  5. Rush your decisions. Remember only you can take these steps and that no one can pressure you into doing so. Think positively but dare to think about the ‘what if’ scenarios too. You do have the time and space – even on the results day itself – to look at all options, learn what they offer and make the best decision for your future. 
  6. Not call the Exam Results Helpline! This is the most important thing that you should not not do! We’re here for - and genuinely love - helping thousands of students with their individual circumstances and range of choices. We are open from 8am on results day so please do get in touch. If any of the above has left you any unanswered questions, then we can help you unpick the tricky stuff.

The Exam Results Helpline is 0808 100 8000 and opening times can be found here.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Exam Results Helpline is back for August 2017

Careers advice service on hand to help stressed-out students 

The Exam Results Helpline is preparing for another busy August helping stressed-out students and their families as 2017’s major exam announcements approach.

The 40-strong team of career advice experts provide free, specialised information, help and guidance to students who have higher or lower exam results than expected.

The helpline number 0808 100 8000 opens in Scotland first on August 8, when Higher, Advanced Higher, National and Scottish Baccalaureate results are announced and closes North of the Border on August 16.

It is then open for students in the rest of the UK on August 17, the day A Level results are issued and closes on August 31 following GCSE results on August 24.

Students make the bulk of the calls, but a quarter are parents reviewing options for their children.

A full timetable of opening hours can be found here.

The three top reasons for calling:
1. What are my options for clearing? (26%)
2. My results are lower than I expected - what now? (20%)
3. I don’t know what to do and need careers advice (12%)

Last year (2016) more than 7,500 students called to speak with an adviser on the Helpline’s 0808 100 8000 number as well as through dedicated Twitter and Facebook accounts.

One of them was Molly Claridge, from Colchester in Essex, who had just received grades that resulted in her thinking she would not be able to achieve her first choice degree of Media and Communications at Bath Spa.

Molly, who is now 19 and just finished her first year at Bath Spa, said: “When I looked online and saw my grades I really freaked out as I got lower than I thought. It was so nerve wracking anyway with all the build up to it and so the day itself was pretty traumatic.

“The thing that was confusing was that it said I was still going to get into Bath Spa but I couldn’t really believe that without checking it out properly.

“I called the helpline number and spoke to someone who was so helpful and immediately told me what to do. Their advice is common sense, things like calling the university itself, speaking with tutors, looking at all the other options available – things you really need to hear if you’re worried and don’t know what to do.”

The Helpline is supported by the Department for Education and run by UCAS from its headquarters in Cheltenham.

The advice covers what to do if students haven’t secured the grades they predicted, or if they’ve changed their minds about their chosen course. There is also guidance on next steps for students whose grades are better than expected, help with Clearing and information on apprenticeships and vocational courses.

School Standards Minister for England Nick Gibb said: “Following the culmination of years of hard work, the day students open their results is an exciting yet nerve-wracking time.

“The government has reformed GCSEs and A levels so young people leave school with gold-standard qualifications, which ensures students are taught the knowledge and skills to succeed in the next stage of their education or career.

“The experts at the Exam Results Helpline provide a vital source of information to students and their parents as they carefully consider their options for the future.”

Annie Dobson, one of the career advisors who will be supporting the helpline this year, said: “This is an exciting but sometimes worrying time for students and their families. There is so much expectation on the morning of the results days for A Levels and GCSEs that having a friendly, expert, safe pair of hands to turn to is beneficial – for students and parents alike.

“Through the years advisors have helped tens of thousands understand the best way forward no matter what they are facing. The team for 2017 has already been assembled and are looking forward to supporting this year’s young people as they move into the next stage of their lives.”

Further information including opening hours can be found at 

My teacher training experience: part 2 – Stephen Pearce

This is the second my blog where I’ve been reflecting on my experiences of initial teacher training. You can read part one here. But now, I’m going to look at some of the questions trainee teachers frequently ask themselves:

1.    Is my subject knowledge good enough?

I am going to probably upset a few people but the answer is no, your subject knowledge is not good enough. Before you grab your pitchforks let me explain. You may be an expert in your subject and have a degree to prove it, however, teaching a subject is vastly different to being able to do it yourself. To really exaggerate this point, let's take 2 + 2. This would be mathematics most of us would have seen at a very young age and now you can tell me that the answer is four. You have learnt to do this basic arithmetic but to get that stage someone had to teach you what numbers where, what symbols we use for them, the concept of addition, and what symbols we use for operations. Your knowledge will become greater on the course as you won’t just have to be able to do your subject, you will gain the ability to explain every aspect of your subject from the ground up. If you love learning and am guessing you do if you are reading this, this is a lot of fun.

2.    Will the kids like me?

When you first enter the classroom some of the students may not like you. They may dislike your subject or just resent you are messing up with their routine and they miss the teacher they had before. But ultimately time heals most wounds and eventually you will have an interest(s) that resonates with pupils and they will at the least get to the point of begrudgingly not giving you much hassle. And yes, you will have classes you prefer and some you don’t look forward to. My biggest piece of advice for this is to set the atmosphere in the classroom. If you enter the room unhappy and deflated, pupils pick up on it and you will seem less approachable. Try and smile or at the very least go in neutral, it goes a long way.

3.    What if I forget a student’s name?

You will, you’re human, and it's great opportunity to show it. What would you do if you forgot someone's name you haven’t seen in a while? You would ask, right? Same applies for students. Like-wise, what if you called Tim, Tom or Chris (yes sometimes you get it that wrong)? You as a teacher are a role model and students likely will have had this awkward social interaction happen their lives as well. Just apologize, again this humanises you and makes you more accessible to students. Do try and learn pupil’s names as it shows you care and is useful for engagement but it is not vital or something you should worry about.

4.    How will I control a class of students?

Honestly, this is the most difficult one for a lot of teachers, new and experienced. Schools change policies frequently as everyone is trying to find something that works. Not every technique will transfer from class to class but the best advice I can give is try and be consistent. Fairness is important to students, so if you praise or warn a student for an action, you have to give that same praise or warning to the next student. You will find something that works for you, it may be frustrating at times but ultimately you will be fine and remember they are people too but they are only just starting to learn what appropriate action is and what is not. I’m sure you can think of something that you did at school that you would do very differently now.


Feeling inspired?

Find out more about becoming a teacher.

My teacher training experience: part 1 – Stephen Pearce

As the end of the PGCE course seems in sight, I have taken the opportunity to reflect on my experiences. If you are reading this you are probably at the same stage of your career or where I was last year, considering if this is what I want to do. If you are in the latter, please just do it, I won’t say you won’t have moments that you regret that decision but on the whole you will love it.

I am going to start off with one of the best things about the course. I started teacher training successively from an undergraduate course and your new classmates will seem very different. Mainly, you will notice the range in ages. This diversity means that your new classmates will have a variety of professional experience that you can learn from.

Honestly though, the other people on the course will be great for support and for letting off steam but your main asset on the course will be the more experienced teachers. Hopefully what convinced you to go into to teacher was a fond memory of a teacher you had or the thought that you can truly inspire young minds. If that's the case you will meet a lot of like-minded individuals who are doing exactly what you want to do the following year.

Teachers each have their own individual style and techniques but there is never anything new under the sun. You will steal what has come before but just add your own spin to it. That is while it is vital to see current teachers try and perfect their own teaching to try and analyse what they do and implement it.

My three top tips

·       More experienced will have their own style of marking and planning. This is a good year to experiment or create something that works for you. This likely won’t happen straight away, took my about two months before I was happy with how I was planning and the time it was taking me.

·       Each school is unique, try and learn as much as you can from the school you are at right now. It will be different from next school and to be employable you want to be seen as a chameleon that can work with everyone while simultaneously having a special set of skill that no one else applying will have.

·       Enjoy it! This is a job and quite a fun one but just as if I played FIFA all afternoon, eventually I’ll want to snap the disc. Have a life outside of the classroom and try to have friends outside of teaching. Groups of teachers often end up talking about teaching, why? Because one it's common ground and two we either love it or love to complain (usually a bit of both). If you have a hobby, make time for it. You need the time to switch off, you are human.

Hopefully I haven’t put anyone off so far. In part two of my blog I reflect on common worries and questions for teachers starting out.


Feeling inspired?
Find out more about becoming a teacher.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Wondering what to pack?

Before you know it, it’ll be time to pack and get on your way to uni. Here’s a quick guide on what to pack.


  • Clothes – there’s no need to pack your entire wardrobe, especially if you’re going to head home at the end of term!
  • Bedroom bits and pieces – duvet, sheets, pillows, hangers, and towels. You might want to think about ear plugs if you’re going to be in a lively area, or a mini fridge for your room if you’ll be in shared accommodation. 
  • From the bathroom cabinet – toiletries, glasses, contact lenses, medication, and a small first aid kit.
  • Laundry – washing products, laundry bag, and drying rack.
  • Electronics – laptop, tablet, printer, extension leads, and chargers. You may need an adaptor if you’re coming from outside the UK.
  • Kitchen essentials – check what is included at your accommodation. As a minimum, you’ll need enough cutlery, crockery, glasses, pots, tea towels, mugs, baking trays, and pans, plus basic gadgets such as a kettle and toaster for yourself. 
  • ID – passport, driving licence, NHS medical card, online card reader (if you use one for online banking), National Insurance number, and all important correspondence with your university. 
  • Food basics – while you’ll do your first food shop when you’re settled, it may take you some time to get settled into your room, so think about taking enough for the first day – stuff like coffee, tea bags, cereal, cooking oil, tins, and condiments.
  • Course essentials – if you can, try to get hold of any reading lists before you go and buy books in advance. You may be able to get a deal on second-hand books before term starts, and everyone tries to buy the same copies. You should also consider the stationery you’ll need. 
  • Little touches – if moving to uni is your first time away from home, take some keepsakes that will help keep you from getting homesick.
  • ‘Just in case’ items – things like an umbrella, torch, batteries, alarm clock, and plenty of change for washing machines.