As students start sitting their GCSEs, one college has launched a campaign to support students’ mental health during the exam period.
In partnership with the YMCA in Sussex, Greater Brighton Metropolitan College has launched the #NoStressSuccess campaign, aimed at GCSE students around England.
The campaign features videos and blogs of 17-to-19 year-old “exam survivors”, and an online Study Stress Survival Guide, published on YMCA Right Here’s FindGetGive mental health support website. This includes a visual guide to the “four zones of stress”, showing how to identify and manage symptoms, and when to seek different kinds of everyday and specialist support.
The campaign focuses on college students retaking GCSEs, as well as those in schools sitting the exams for the first time. More than 200,000 entries in English and maths GCSEs, from students aged 17 and over, were recorded last summer.
The video and blog accounts include tales of students fainting due to exam stress, being alienated from other students due to anxiety and feeling disappointed on GCSE results day. The aim is to offer students inspiration on how to get through the exam season. The central message is that there is more than one route to success – and that it does not solely depend on exam results.
The two organisations joined forces after data gathered by YMCA Right Here, a health and wellbeing project in Sussex, showed exam-stress workshop requests from schools had increased by 40 per cent over the past three years, while the number of students asking for post-workshop support had tripled during the same period.
'Not the only path to success'
Nick Juba, the college's chief executive, said: “GCSEs are an important step towards young people finding something they can thrive at, but they are not the only path to success. We have students who passed all their GCSEs with the highest grades, students who studied hard and managed to get four or five, and students who didn’t pass any GCSEs at school.
“What they all have in common is that they have found something that really motivates and interests them, and as a result, they are happy and doing well.
"My message to Year 11 students who are about to start their GCSE exams is please don’t panic during the exam process or on results day because whatever happens, there will always be options available and people to help you find the one that’s best for you.”
Chas Walker, chief executive of the Sussex and Surrey YMCA DownsLink Group, said: “More and more young people are experiencing symptoms of stress and other mental health issues, as a result of the pressure associated with GCSEs. Exam stress has increased as a reported concern for young people accessing our services over the past five years – recorded levels in 2016-17 were almost double what they were back in 2012-13."