18 August 2011: A level results were issued today and brought with them delight in some quarters and disappointment in others. This morning I was travelling by bus and I could not help but overhear the disappointment of two family members, seated near me, who were concerned that one of their loved ones had not achieved his expected grades. Their shared disappointment was palpable and was coupled with anxiety over what future the young man now faced. Where would he find work? Would he go back to school? What were his options? It struck me that these family members had strong aspirations and education was a key element in their fulfilment. In reflecting on the student's performance both held to the view that he could have applied himself more. Applied. There's a word. In today's squeezed workplaces we often hear of attitude and aptitude. The adage goes "your aptitude gets you hired, your attitude gets you fired!" It seems to me that being able to apply oneself should make up a trilogy of skills. Have you ever noticed that some with less talent than others make up for the deficit by a steely determination to apply whatever talent they have to best effect? Wouldn't it be great if our workplaces combined more fully, aptitude, attitude and positive application? Leaving the bus, I walked past one of our most prestigious and highly selective schools. It was clear that many of the students gathered around the entrance had received the grades they had been hoping for. Happy and relaxed in their summer casuals, they showed no sign of any anxiety they may have had in the run up to results day. Their teachers too appeared to be relaxed and enjoying the occasion. Having worked in education for close on forty years I know that many teachers feel that they too are being "examined" and results day for them can also bring its ups and downs as they share in the pleasure or pain of their students. And what of our students? Some will now leave and start their third level education. What future for them? Tuition fees? Student loans? Employment prospects? The media report that many youngsters are foregoing a gap year due to concerns over the cost of student fees. By taking a place in university this year the overall cost of their degree course is likely to be lower than if they enrolled in 2012. What future for those who didn't make it this time? My hope is that we encourage them to realise their potential by applying what they already know and can do. Applying ourselves to make the most of our aptitudes is the attitude required.