Many people reading an article in today’s Guardian will be appalled by what they see in it – but how many will lift a finger, or write a tweet, an email, a letter or a blog post about it?
Surge in young people seeking help for exam stress
It’s a truly shocking situation, and it’s getting worse.
The number of young people in Britain seeking counselling over exam stress has increased by 200% in recent years, according to the child protection campaigners NSPCC, with worry over education one of the leading causes of concern for children.
The NSPCC said last year that its ChildLine service received record numbers of approaches from students worried about exams, with a tripling in the number of those receiving counselling over exam stress specifically.
In 2013-14 ChildLine said it received more than 34,000 approaches from young people over school worries such as revision, workloads, problems with teachers and other issues, putting education into the top 10 of most frequent concerns among users for the first time.
Our guess is that this is only the tip of the iceberg – these are the young people who are strong enough, determined enough or desperate to reach out for help. (We need to look in a similar way at the numbers of teachers who suffer from anxiety and stress and need to seek counselling advice and support).
How bad do these figures have to get before any action is taken to remedy our abusive and dysfunctional system? Would a tenfold increase spur more of us to action? Would more than a million sufferers? Two million?
The current levels are bad enough to warrant immediate change. There is no need at all for high stakes exams at 11+. We’ve argued in many previous blog posts that 16+ exams are unnecessary, and have quoted many other people and organisations from the CBI to Tristram Hunt on this subject.
The mental health and wellbeing of our young people and our teachers is too important to ignore. This article goes on to say:
Where school and education was given as a young person’s main concern, more than half of subsequent counselling sessions dealt with exam stress specifically, a 200% increase compared with 2012-13.
The NSPCC also said that there were also more than 87,500 visits to ChildLine’s website over the same issue.
The charity said that one teenage boy told an adviser last year: “I am about to take my GCSEs and I am under so much pressure as my parents are expecting me to do really well. I am going to revision classes and trying really hard but I feel like it is not good enough for them.
“My parents don’t allow me to do anything else apart from revision and if I try and talk to them it always ends up in an argument.”
How can this be acceptable? Education is supposed to be something that is provided FOR young people, not something that’s done TO them – which they have to put up with, conform to and suffer from. Why should children be put at odds with their parents over excessive workloads and unreasonable expectations? Why on earth should a child be told to do nothing else with their time except cram for tests and exams?
Overall, family relationships were the most common concern cited by young people using the Childline service in 2013-14, while “depression and unhappiness” were the major worries for children in 2012-13.
One reason for the rise in exam stress could be nervousness on the part of teachers who face being judged by Ofsted inspectors if results dip below government targets, according to the National Union of Teachers.
“We must all listen to what the children calling ChildLine are saying about exam-related stress. NUT-commissioned research has revealed increases in anxiety, stress and disaffection among pupils as well as a negative impact on the quality of the teacher-pupil relationship because of the level of pressure on schools,” said Christine Blower, the NUT’s general secretary.
“It is possible to draw a link between increased stress and exam reform and the accountability framework under which schools are ranked and measured. England’s children are some of the most tested in the world – and doctors, teachers and parents want change.”
Children also want change, and it’s for their sake that we all need to stand up for their rights and their wellbeing. How many of us will actually do so?
If you have any thoughts on this please leave a comment in the box below. We’re particularly interested in people’s thoughts on the DfE’s continuing denial of any responsibility for these ever-increasing reports on ever-rising numbers of children in distress.
Education for Mental Health and Wellbeing
Counting the Cost of Mental Health
Education for Wellbeing
Act Now – For the Rights of the Child
Wellbeing: Change or Status Quo?
Open Letter to Ed Miliband and Tristram Hunt on Mental Health
The Wellbeing of our Young People
Action Needed on Wellbeing and Mental Health of Children and Young People
Stress Levels of Young People – Concerns about Wellbeing
Wellbeing, Wellbeing and Wellbeing
Education Done To, For or With Students?
Schools of the Future and the Present
The Future of Education – in Finland and Elsewhere