I offer my warmest congratulations and best wishes to those who have been getting their A level results. I hope that they were at least as good as, perhaps even better than, what you were expecting, and that they will lead you towards your career of choice.  My memory is that A Levels and GCSEs were the toughest part of your education, not least because you are studying a wide spread of subjects, in some of which you may, in retrospect, have less interest than others. The pressure is huge, and the relief when you get your results palpable. University seemed to me to be less stressful because you are at last focussing on something in which you are truly interested, and therefore perhaps more expert.

This year 79% (or some 200,000) of all 18 years olds have gained a place at their preferred University; nearly half a million all told will be heading off to Uni after the Summer. But if you have not got into university, or perhaps not the course you would have preferred, don’t be downhearted. There are a variety of appeals/pooling mechanisms which can help.

However, I was always uneasy about Tony Blair’s target of 50% of all young people going to university. It used to be 7% of the population - all of them highly academic, which was very probably too elitist. But the 50% target risks devaluing some degrees; it introduces a degree qualification where hands on training might well be more appropriate (nursing, for example); and it tends to reinforce the wrong message- that the other 50% who do not go to university have somehow or another ‘failed’ in life. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.

The fact is that there’s more to life than Uni - especially nowadays with modern apprenticeships and the like which may well suit your talents/ interests better than forcing yourself through some University course just for the sake of the resulting letters after your name. I am firmly of the view that every human being on the planet has talents and skills, and it should be the job of educationalists at all levels to find out what they are and then help the individual nurture and expand them.

Leadership - in education, business, the armed services, politics alike must be about helping every person of every academic or practical capability achieve their greatest potential. It should be about finding out what each student is good at, truly enjoys doing, and then opening doors for them to maximise their capability and achievements. Those who are academic should be encouraged to the highest academic qualifications. But those who may be less academic should in no sense be thought of as ‘failures’. They should on the contrary be given every possible encouragement and support, so that their lives are just as successful and fulfilled as those of us who may be of a more academic bent. Selectivity- and I am a product of the grammar schools system- and exams at every level help winnow out those who happen to have big brains; but it should also highlight those who have all of those (probably very many) skills which we graduates are missing.

So my warmest congratulations to those who have done so well in their A level results; my commiserations if you have achieved less than you hoped. But to both groups I would just say; “Get out there and do stuff; aim high and you will achieve more than you thought possible; whoever you are, whatever your skills, there’s a role for you in society - academia, manufacturing, the armed services and so much more- and these exam results are just what you need to point you in the right direction. So be of good cheer. There’s a wide world out there in great need of your personal skills  -  whatever they may happen to be.