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Charity begins with exam stress

Sue Jones reports on a survey that shows pressure on students to earn cash is jeopardising their academic success

Concern about pressures on young people during their exam years led Bruce Harris, general secretary of Examaid, to take action.

After doing some research, he teamed up with other concerned teachers and parents and they set up the registered charity to monitor the non-academic side of student life for 16 to 18-year-olds.

"I'd done research on how kids revised, so I knew there were things that had a bearing on their revision that weren't academic," said Mr Harris.

"We knew they were working (in paid jobs) but we were taken aback by the hours they worked, all the way down to Year 10. And the low pay did seem a bit startling.

"The main thing was the extent of the confusion about their rights and responsibilities at work that could make things very awkward for them. And they're not really attuned to the idea that there are things they have to find out for themselves."

Set up in March 2001, Examaid is supported by institutional and individual members. The website, which has had nearly 10,000 hits, provides information, advice and links, much of it free.

The charity deals with topics such as bullying, sexuality, drugs, race, stress, careers, health, part-time work and GCSE, AS and A2-level revision.

It also sells publications for staff, students and parents on a wide range of issues related to coping with the exam years. There is also an email advice line and an opinion forum.

There are questionnaires on student motivation, part-time jobs and Year 13 stress.

Members can get help with data collection and interpretation on their own students as well as access to wider research findings, and a quarterly magazine.

Mr Harris wants to see a much broader approach to research into exam performance.

"There are a lot of well-funded people looking at results, but not looking at what happens to the young people involved," he said.

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