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Contemplating your next steps in a Covid-19 world

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 09:11
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As we find ourselves in mid-August, I am conscious that it is usually a month where students look to the future and their next steps, full of hope for what September might bring.  

However, this is 2020, and it is most certainly not a normal year.

Over the last few months, I have often thought about students across the world, and wondered how I would have reacted when faced with such challenges. Among others, students have been struck with the following blows since March 2020: 

  • Cancelled exams, after months of hard work 
  • Being denied social celebrations such as prom and graduation 
  • Universities changing their teaching methods, often forcing students to move to online or blended learning 
  • The prospect of high unemployment, leading to an increasingly competitive job market and potential recessions across the world. 

With A-level exam results around the corner, and the signs of second waves of coronavirus across Europe, I want to encourage students to really think about their options. Educated at a small secondary school in Warwickshire, I don’t remember considering anything other than going to university straight after my A-levels. I certainly hadn’t heard of a BTEC Higher National Diploma, which is equivalent to the first and second years of a university degree in the UK.

Having worked at Pearson for just over a year, my eyes have been opened to a much broader range of offers within the education sphere, and I truly believe there is something for everyone. Reading through stories from our successful Higher National students has been fantastic, as it really shows the breadth of industries covered within the portfolio. For example, Robyn Wedderburn, who ended up studying for a Higher National instead of going to university, rates the practical nature of her qualification, which has taken her on a rewarding career within the sector. 

Perhaps your circumstances mean you can no longer attend university full-time, or start your internship or apprenticeship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of this time and continue to upskill for your future. You could look at short courses, online learning, or alternative locations to let you stay near your family – the list is endless. 

A personal insight 

When I look back to August 2008 (which sometimes feels like yesterday), I do think I made the right choice by going to university to study French. I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career, but I knew that I loved learning languages, and the series of choices I made led me to where I am now. Although I don’t use French on a day-to-day basis, I’m still passionate about it; as well as trying to go on holiday to France every so often, I teach French in my spare time, all helping me to stay connected to my education.  

But this doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you! I have worked with colleagues from very different educational backgrounds, so if you are keen to continue learning, why not consider a Higher National qualification like Liam Archer, or a focused short course or professional qualification? 

So, what advice can I offer to those feeling nervous at the prospect of their results in August? Do your research on the options available and decide based on what’s best for you at this point in time. But most of all: work hard and stay positive!


I joined Pearson in July 2019 from a Higher Education background, having studied languages at university. I work in the Progression and Recognition team, helping to ensure that our students and centres are aware of their options post-study, whether this is into employment or further education.

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