Exam Stress

For most of us, this time of year signals the start of better weather and the welcome approach of summer.

But for thousands of young people up and down the country, the only high pressure they are seeing is the pressure and stress that accompanies the onset of exam season.

The tension is undoubtedly felt most strongly by undergraduates. Whether it’s the end of three, four or, in some cases, five or seven years, those all-important finals bring panic attacks, sleepless nights and a steady queue of students heading for their nearest GP surgery or pharmacy.

Here, at Future Schools Trust, we see stress levels rising along with the temperature, as our GCSE students and sixth formers approach those all-important exam dates.

We endeavour to keep stress levels to a minimum, however, by setting aside time for revision and equipping our students with the necessary tools to help them set realistic revision targets and pace themselves in the weeks and months leading up to GCSEs and A-levels.

With schooldays meant to be the happiest days of your life, it’s alarming to read, however, that tension and stress is now being felt by pupils in primary schools.

Primary learning is meant to be fun! If children as young as six and seven decide that learning to read and write is a chore, what hope is there for them wanting to tackle secondary and further education with enthusiasm and vigour?

The source of primary school stress appears to be SATS tests. There has always been serious opposition to SATS – by teachers, as well as by parents.

With primary schools under pressure to deliver improvements year after year, many schools have time to focus only on the core subjects of reading, writing and mathematics, with the – arguably more pleasurable – subjects of art, music, foreign languages and science, taking a back seat.

Surely this is a sorry state of affairs?

What can be better for young children than combining fresh air and fun with the study of minibeasts, flora and fauna?

Or expressing their creativity with huge dollops of bright and colourful paints?

Last year, one Yorkshire head teacher locked the SATS papers in a cupboard and took the children on an outing to a museum and the seaside instead!

This year, more schools are expected to boycott the SATS, the results of which are used to compare and compile league tables.  A few schools are so desperate to make the grade that they have been found guilty of cheating – with class teachers giving pupils clues as to the answers or letting them see the papers in advance of the tests.

Whilst this isn’t commonplace, it shows the desperation of some schools wanting to come up with good results, at whatever cost.  And surely makes a mockery of the whole process.

SATS have no bearing on a child’s future; the results are used purely to compare (judge?) one school against another. But these tests undoubtedly put our children, as well as the teachers, under stress.

There is evidence that growing numbers of children are suffering from anxiety and depression, manifesting itself in headaches, stomach aches and nausea.

They don’t have SATS in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Perhaps it’s time England followed suit?