As we approach the end of summer, one where we could have hoped for some better weather, many of us – including myself – will be getting ready for a return to our busy lives if we haven’t already.

The end of the school summer holidays also marks a particularly stressful period for senior students as they attempt to make sense of their exam results and go forward with the next stage of their lives, be that another year at school, entering college or university, or even venturing out into the world of work.

I wanted to use this column to highlight the fantastic achievements of our young people in North Ayrshire and highlight some great opportunities to expand their horizons.  

Firstly, I want to congratulate all of those pupils in North Ayrshire who have done exceptionally well this year. Exam results day was on August 8 and, to get buried into the statistics for a moment, our S4 pupils earned more National 5 Qualifications this year than the year before the pandemic, with over three quarters of S4 pupils gaining at least one National 5 qualification, and an astounding one in 10 walked away with at least eight National 5 qualifications or better.

In addition to this, across 45 subjects, there were almost 4,200 Highers, Advanced Highers and Scottish Baccalaureates awarded to around 1,800 candidates in S5 and S6 in North Ayrshire. 

While the successes of local pupils cannot be overstated, the statistics and figures show only a small piece of the whole picture.

The hard work of teachers and school staff who have dedicated years of their careers to the learning of their students is something that is far too often overlooked in the media when it comes to results day.

These exam results are a positive reflection of their hard work in the midst of adversity and challenges far outside of their control – they deserve our congratulations as well.  

Of course, there will be those pupils who are disappointed with their exam results, those who have worked hard all year and have maybe missed out on that key grade by a mark or two.

If that is you, remember that those grades neither define you as a person nor your future career.

Just because your grades aren’t what you were hoping for doesn’t mean you can’t get into university or college. There are plenty of clearing options available, and Skills Development Scotland as well as UCAS are on hand to help you make sense of them all.

But you don’t have to go to university to have a good career – that’s an old fashioned way of thinking. Scotland has so many great modern apprenticeship opportunities where you can earn and learn at the same time.  

So whatever your grades, congratulate yourself on your hard work this year, and remember (if you’ll pardon the cliché) there really is no wrong path to achieving what you want to achieve.  

All the best for your future ahead.