Rising numbers of pupils calling helpline with exam stress

Childline has provided more than 3,000 counselling sessions over the last year, helping pupils to cope with exam pressure

Tes Reporter

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Rising numbers of pupils are seeking counselling because of exam stress, according to children’s charity Childline.

Thousands of children turned to the helpline in 2016-17 after struggling alone with the pressures of exams, new figures show.

The findings come in the week that 11-year-olds across England take their Sats, and as teenagers prepare for upcoming GCSEs and A levels.

Overall, Childline provided 3,135 counselling sessions related to exam stress over the last financial year – equivalent to almost nine a day.

More than a fifth of these took place in May – the start of the summer exam season – with pupils telling counsellors that they were worried about heavy workloads and feeling unprepared.

The numbers of exam-related sessions has risen by 11 per cent over the last two years, the NSPCC-run phoneline said.

'So afraid'

Children aged 12 to 15 are the most likely to seek help over exam stress. But this year the biggest rise was among 16-18 year olds, many of whom will have been studying for A levels.

One teenage boy told Childline: "I'm really feeling the pressure of A levels. I've been having panic attacks and difficulty breathing. I'm so afraid of not getting the right grades and I'm stressed about the future. My life could turn out so differently, depending on what I get."

Another said: "I am about to take my GCSEs and I am under so much pressure as my parents are expecting me to do really well."

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: "Exams are important, but worrying and panicking about them can be counter-productive, leaving young people unable to revise and prepare.

“It is vital that young people are supported by family, friends and teachers during the exam period."

'Tough times'

Dame Esther Rantzen, Childline's founder and president, said: "Young people are turning to Childline because they have nobody else to confide in safely when they are desperately anxious.

"We need to recognise how stressful exams can be and reassure our young people and support them through these tough times, which I remember only too well in my life, and my children's lives."

Childline advised young people taking exams to make sure they take regular breaks, do some physical exercise, go to bed at a reasonable hour and try to think positively, even if they do not feel like it. The hotline also encouraged them not to compare themselves with their classmates.

Parents can help to ease stress by not placing unnecessary pressure on children, by encouraging them to take breaks and to be supportive, and to ease their worries by talking to them.

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