THE furore and revised action over Scotland’s Highers results has raised opportunities to change the future. It has been distressing to witness young people thinking their life blighted. Some of the issues being discussed refer to the pandemic, but many relate to the old system of sifting young people into winners and losers. “If you don’t do it at 18, you’ve lost.” There is no need for this.

The #NoWrongPath movement encourages individuals to tell their unusual stories of progress and success to encourage others to strive for their dreams.

In 1984 I arrived in Bridgeton in Glasgow, from Brixton, South London (still talk like Michael Caine!) armed with my nursing and district nursing certificates and – as in the Goon’s sketch – my “two O Levels and a budgerigar!” I found opportunities, but also the need to be better qualified.

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I took two Highers at night classes, before a degree at Stirling, with my clinical career. A chance to undertake research arose. Many adventures ensued – including the arrival of my children. I attained my PhD in 1997. After working as health care manager at Barlinnie, I became one of the nursing team at the University of the West of Scotland School of Health, Nursing & Midwifery. I retired as a professor.

There is an old myth in education, health and social care, that if you “open the flood gates” hundreds of inappropriate types will storm the ramparts and upset everything for all the nice proper types.

Having worked with the homeless, those with HIV, prisoners, research students and professionals, I have never found this to be the case. Most people, given the correct professional guidance and academic engagement, find their own level of place and involvement.

As an enthusiastic European London Scot, fortunate to live here, I am confident new paths can and will be created. The people’s skill base and political will in Scotland is second to none. Out of the terrible and disruptive experiences people of all ages have suffered this year, wouldn’t it be good if we made positive and beneficial change as well as rectifying this year’s results?

Professor John Atkinson