It’s safe to say that A Level students are put under some pressure in their time.  Exam results translate into university places – these in turn become (apparently) the premier route into good jobs and secure careers.

Failure, it seems, is not an option.  We have a culture where schools are graded incessantly based on the results their students achieve, so much so that schools are happier to push students away than let them attain ‘average’ grades.  Funding for projects and budgets all hinge on academic success.  Average simply isn’t enough – near-perfection is needed.

To add to that, you’ve got parents who are proud of you and want the best for you, which in turn leads to varying levels of expectation.  

And of course, there is one of the biggest motivators of them all: the sibling.

Whether they are younger or older, a sibling adds a definite pressure to the proceedings.

  • If you have a younger sibling, you are perceived as the example-setter, the act for them to follow.  A good set of results will almost certainly serve as a motivator for them – they have something to live up to.  However, a less-than-amazing load of results prompt a whole host of discussions – mainly something to do with “don’t do what your older brother did.” (Indeed, this is what my head of Sixth Form still refers to whenever my name is mentioned.)

  • If you are the younger of the siblings, you have the act to follow.  Your proud parents will want to see success from you too and that is a huge pressure, especially if the older sister got 4 A*s at A Level or your elder brother swept through a degree with a first.
    There’s pressure.  Get it right and you’ll find yourself being showered with the compliments.  Get it wrong and you’ll hear “we never had any of this trouble with your brother!”

There’s always going to be some kind of pressure, sibling or no sibling.  However, because you’re (presumably) from the same parents and family, you’ll find your motivation and effort (and ultimately success) under intense scrutiny.  It depends on which side of the debate you fall: some people like being compared to a successful sibling, and it serves to motivate success.  Other times it’s a detraction.  Trying to move out from behind someone else is all you want and that can add to the stress.


I was by no means perfect at school – after getting through GCSEs based merely on what I knew (I’ll admit I probably didn’t work hard enough but then again I didn’t feel tested much) I struggled with a poor year in Year 12, getting CDEE in my AS results.  That’s tough, but it served me right, seeing as I continued to take my attitude from GCSE forward.  Thankfully, I managed to sort my priorities out, knuckle down and I walked out of Year 13 with ACC – I dropped out of the D and one E, took up another subject (to get the A), held a C where it was and improved my French to a E to a C in the space of 10 months.  That took work.  So imagine my horror when my brother gets his A Level results – A*A*AAB.  No sweat, no real fuss, no considering taking Year 12 again.  The only retakes that were taken by my brother were to help make the step from ‘great’ to ‘top of the year.’

Obviously I’m incredibly happy for him – he’s off to Bath University to study economics with that load behind him.  It’s an eye-opener though.  He watched me struggle and likely didn’t want to get into that sort of difficulty.  I do wonder ‘what if I was were the younger one?’

Of course, I’m proud of my successes.  I’m proud of how I pushed on to get to where I am now.  But now am I in his shadow, instead of the other way round, like it used to be?

Do you have any stories of sibling rivalry?  Drop us a comment.

Need a School support teacher?

Did you like this article?

5.00/5, 1 votes


As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.