Skip to main content

Exam stress drives rising number of teens to counselling

Childline caller: 'If I don’t get all As I’ll feel like I’ve let everyone down'

News article image

Childline caller: 'If I don’t get all As I’ll feel like I’ve let everyone down'

Exam stress has led to a sharp rise in the amount of counselling being sought by teenagers, according to new figures from Childline.

More than 1,000 counselling sessions given by the helpline last year related to exam worries – an increase of 68 per cent during the last two years.

More than a quarter (28 per cent) of the sessions took place in August, when GCSE and A-level results were released.

“I am so worried about my exam results that I feel sick,” said one girl who contacted Childline, which is run by the NSPCC. “I studied all day and overnight for them. If I don’t get all As I’ll feel like I’ve let everyone down and my parents will be disappointed. I want to make them proud.”

Pupils told the counsellors that they were struggling to cope with the pressure to do well and achieve top grades. Many said they were disappointed with themselves and worried their grades might affect them getting into the university. Others were concerned about their parent’s reaction to their results.

“Pressure to achieve good grades and worries about securing further education places and jobs can be too much for some teenagers to deal with on their own,” Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said.

The NSPCC, which runs Childline, advises parents to try not to place pressure on their child to achieve certain grades and to encourage them not to rush into a decision about what to do next, once they have their results.

Dame Esther Rantzen, founder and president of Childline, added that young people need to remember that getting good exam grades is not a “make or break moment”. “Whatever your results, there are options and opportunities to make a great future for yourself,” she said.

Childline has published a series of videos dedicated to helping young people through exams and life after school, which are available on Childline’s YouTube channel.


The latest figures come after a survey by the National Citizen Service found that more than half of teenagers admitted having cried because they were "stressed out" by exams

This year's tougher GCSEs in maths and English have been particularly pressured, according to a teenager whose Facebook post was shared more than 28,000 times.

Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes on Twitter and like Tes on Facebook


Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you