Coping with Exam Stress

Girl sitting on bench anxious

Shropshire Council has reported that student exam stress levels are placing undue pressure on health services.  There are suggestions that exam stress is resulting in more suicides and mental health problems.  According to the on-line news article Childline has seen an 11 per cent increase in calls from students.  In 2017, Sally Weale reported for the Guardian that 8 out of 10 school leaders felt that fear of academic failure was leading to mental health issues around exam time and that primary children were showing increased signs of stress and anxiety before sitting exams.  In Manchester Evening News, Emma Gill reported that a 10 year old daughter recently revealed to her Mum that she was stressed about SATs and that her friend was suicidal because of the exams.

In 2016, a Kellogg's sponsored survey of 1000 pupils revealed that 6 out of 10 students (21%, roughly a fifth) were skipping meals to undertake more exam study.  More disturbingly according to the report "33 admitted drinking coffee, 41 ate chocolate or sweets and 16 (up from 8 in 2014) 10 to 11 year olds said they'd smoked cigarettes before exams".

Worryingly, recently TES reported that the children's charity Barnardos conducted a survey that revealed school was the biggest stress factor for young people!

So what's being done to eliminate this problem?  According to Emma Gill, SATs at Key Stage 1 (Year 2) are being scrapped in 2023 although Key Stage 2 SATs (Year 6) will continue.  In addition she quotes MP Angela Rayner as saying that Labour would invest £90m a year in school based counselling and increased mental health budgets for children and young people.  TES has reported that Kelvinside Academy in Glasgow has got creative and is introducing Alpacas on to their playing field to help with pupil stress levels whilst Huffpost reported that All Saints' School in Blackheath chose to set a more relaxed homework before the SATs exams (i.e. extra curricular activities such as riding a bike or going for a walk or swim).  TES has a link to the charity MISP (Mindfulness in Schools Project).  Mindfulness (if you have been reading my previous posts) is an important way of reducing exam stress and the charity has a curriculum totally devoted to mindfulness.

There are many articles saying that children and young people are under undue stress around exams and the negative effect this can have.  There are also many ways of reducing stress that people are implementing.  I feel that biggest ways to reduce stress is firstly by being more open about mental health awareness and secondly by encouraging positive change.  These children are our future so why not support them?


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