Maths and English GCSE resits leading to mental health challenges

Exam pressures are increasing anxiety and stress levels in young people, a parliamentary committee has been told

George Ryan

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The pressures created by compulsory resits in English and maths are adding to the anxiety and stress experienced by college students, a parliamentary committee has heard.

Stuart Rimmer, chair of the Association of Colleges’ (AoC) mental health policy group, told a joint meeting of the education and health select committees there was a culture of failure in education.

Mr Rimmer, who is the principal of East Coast College in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, said: “If you’re looking at the maths and English resits, that’s something we’ve reported that’s causing an increased amount of anxiety and stress in young people in colleges, which we are then having to deal with.”

Mental health green paper

He added: “Half of the young people at the age of 16 are told they’ve failed because they don’t achieve the five GCSEs ‘gold status'.”

The joint committee was considering the government’s Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision green paper on Tuesday morning, as it is currently out for consultation.

Labour Party MP Thelma Walker said earlier that young people told her exam pressures led to problems with mental health and suggested the "curriculum diet" could be changed.

'Fear of failure'

And Rowan Munson, a former member of the youth select committee, said the fear of failure was a big driver of anxiety, but suggested a culture shift where learners were more nurtured with less of a focus on exams could help.

The vice chair of the Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition, Dr Pooky Knightsmith, said the role for colleges needed broadening in the green paper, as there is a unique challenge with 16- to 25-year-olds because of the transition from children's to adult mental health services at 18.

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George Ryan

George Ryan

George Ryan is a further education reporter for tes

Find me on Twitter @GeorgeMRyan

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