You never forget the moment you find out how you’ve done in major exams, whether it was opening a letter, reading results on a board at school or even receiving a phone call from a parent. You will probably even remember who you were with, what you were wearing and possibly what the weather was like; a truly memorable milestone in your life.

Waiting and worrying about the results is often as stressful at the exams themselves, as you pick over the bits that should or could have gone better. And the reason it matters is because it’s often a gateway to the next big stage of life – college, university or possibly starting a job.

East Hampshire is fortunate to have a great range of places to study, and I was delighted to see that The Petersfield School is celebrating its best ever GCSE results this year; a great tribute to the students and staff at the school.

And Alton College has had an equally impressive cohort this year, with a 100 per cent pass rate across twenty eight A Level courses, and 70 per cent of their vocational students achieving the highest grade of Distinction* across more than forty BTEC and Cambridge Technical courses.

Students and teachers are working harder than ever before, with a high level of expectation and scrutiny – levels that are unlike anything we had in the past. We’re living in an increasingly competitive world, with new technological developments creating both opportunities and challenges, and we need to keep up with the rapid pace of change.

Educational standards are rising, especially across the new economic powerhouses of East and South East Asia, and it is right that our exams are rigorous and testing so we can compete in this new global skills market.

It’s good to see that more GCSEs are being taken in the core academic subjects, as the premium on English and Maths remains high. Doing well in these subjects can make a real difference for young people, broadening the range of occupations and careers on offer, and improving the life chances for those in disadvantaged areas of the UK.

Entries to STEM subjects have increased this year and the government is committed to making Britain the best place in the world to study these important subjects, helping to boost our economy in the years ahead. There has also been a significant increase in the number of students studying GCSE computer science, with the number of girls choosing to take up the subject more than doubling since last year.

But academic performance is not the only measure of success, and for many people it won’t be the best route to a career. The progress made in recent years to develop an extensive range of apprenticeships has been impressive, and this remains an area of significant focus and investment for the government.

I’ve had the privilege to meet many young apprentices across East Hampshire and elsewhere, and have been impressed by their knowledge but also their confidence; something that is often more important in encouraging ambition, and in turn hard work and determination.

So, congratulations to all the students who have just received their A Level and GSCE results this year; you certainly won’t forget the moment in a hurry or that it was a hot and sunny August day.

Written by Damian Hinds and published in the Petersfield Post on 31st August 2016