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Pupils in Ireland fear test failure

Irish youngsters worry more about school failure than anything else, according to a detailed survey for children's charities.

Although the 1,100 children aged 8-15 were generally happy, three out of 10 often worried and four out of 10 sometimes worried about failings tests or examinations.

Among Ulster children, 74 per cent worried about failing - possibly reflecting the stresses of the 11-plus - compared with 66 per cent in the Republic.

The survey - for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Northern Ireland and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children - also revealed that among pupils in the North, only the Troubles worried them more than exams, affecting 77 per cent.

The gap is small considering the research was carried out in late July, after the eruption of violence following the Drumcree march and while children were on holiday, when their anxieties about exams should have eased.

Children in the Republic were less worried about the Troubles, but just over half were affected. On many issues, from illness to the environment, they were more easy-going than their counterparts in the North. For example, 32 per cent were worried about bullying, compared to 54 per cent across the border.

The importance of educational factors emerges also when 82 per cent of the children aged 12 to 15 say they feel proud when they do well at school, beating any other cause of pride.

This partly reflects the views of parents, who emerge from the survey as reasonably liberal but concerned about their children's academic progress.

In Ireland as a whole, 88 per cent of children said their parents were very strict about them doing homework, more so than about smoking or drinking and far stricter than about having boyfriends or girlfriends, wearing jewellery or how they style their hair.

Teachers come out poorly compared with parents, being more likely to shout at children and less likely to explain what they had done wrong. Four children in five said teachers gave them extra homework when they were cross with them and almost as many resorted to the old punishment of giving them lines to write.

Almost a tenth of children reported that teachers threatened to slap them and 4 per cent said that they actually did, although corporal punishment is banned. One-fifth said their parents smacked them, though relationships with parents were positive.

Children were far more likely to talk to their mothers (69 per cent) about sex than to their fathers (20 per cent), but only 4 per cent said they would talk to a teacher.

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