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A week on from A levels, more than 600,000 young people across the UK yesterday picked up their GCSE results. With top grades dropping for the second year in a row and a lower proportion of those achieving grades A*-C, I wondered, what’s causing the decline?

The biggest reduction in grades can be seen in the results of science exams, with 7.6% less achieving a grade A*-C. It turns out this is partly the effect of a tightened approach to marking. The increased number of entrants taking exams at a younger age also factors in. But what impact does this have on how young people feel?

Recent research carried out by the Prince’s Trust reveals that the once ambitious drive of young people can be diminished as a result of poor exam results. In a survey conducted by YouGov of 2,342 young people (aged 16-25), a surprising 30% of those who achieved fewer than five GCSE grades A*-C have since lowered their  expectations in life.

Other findings of those with fewer than five GCSE grades A*-C show that 45% believe their life would have improved if they had done better at school, 26% think that their exam results will hold them back, 34% predict they will end up on benefits, and 20% have abandoned their ambitions altogether.

Clearly these young people had aspirations, but those bubbles of ambition have been burst and another generation of hopefuls now lack the self esteem and motivation needed to flourish. I echo comments made by my colleague Dawn in a blog last week, emphasising the need for better opportunities and support for  young people. As Martina Milburn, CEO of The Prince’s Trust says, without this there will be a ‘huge impact on our economy, which needs a confident, ambitious workforce in order to thrive’.

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