A teacher's guide to Clearing

If you're a sixth form or college teacher and any of your pupils need to look for a university place through Clearing, it can be a stressful time. Emotions will be running high and you may be expected to provide advice and get on the phone to Clearing hotlines before places full up. To help ease the pressure, here’s five things you can do to help your students on A Level Results Day.

1.  Prepare your students

Some Clearing vacancies are published weeks before results day – so make sure your students are aware of this and encourage them to research their plan B, just in case. Ahead of the day, do not think that even the student who is top of the class is exempt from falling short as this could and has happened in the past. Helping all students make a list of alternative options is a sensible idea. On results day, if your students have gone into Clearing, emotions are high and it’s important to be realistic. Once the initial shock tides over, have a look at the courses available through Clearing in case they miss their first choice and insurance offers.  

2.  Get ready for difficult reactions

Although students will find out their grades at school, they will probably already know if they have a place at university as UCAS Track is updated in the early hours of results day. This can be tough for teachers as well as students. Some students don’t want to open the envelope at all; they want to take it home and open it on their own after they’ve built themselves up to it. It’s important to try and persuade the student to open it right then and there so you can start talking about their options and making those phone calls.

3. Get strategic with the phone

Once a student is in Clearing it’s time to get on the phones and contact universities. Clearing hotlines will be busy and places will be filling up fast. The best way to work the system is to have several people calling different universities; when one answers, hang up on the others and let the student speak to the adviser.

4. Talk to students away from parents

A number of parents accompany their children and stand with them as they open the envelope. This can make an already stressful situation much worse and not only confuse the student on what to do next but put exceptional amounts of pressure on the child. It’s a lot to take in. It’s better for students to open results, talk to their friends, talk to their teachers and then face parents when they feel prepared. 

5.  Reassure your students

Be human. Having your future plans dramatically change on results day is horrible, you more than anyone know how hard your students have worked and it’s important to be understanding of that. Whatever your students choose to do, let them know it will be alright. Let them know there are many options available to them, and that their grades today aren’t the be all and end all. There's plenty of back up options if they can't find a place this year.

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