Over-stressed students sitting three times more exams than last year

Headteachers speak out about the stress children are under due to changes to the exams system. 19/5/15''L-R: Mark Talbot (Head of The Bishop Bell), Gene Payne (Head of The Causeway School) and Keith Pailthorpe (Head of Eastbourne Academy). SUS-150519-151822001
Headteachers speak out about the stress children are under due to changes to the exams system. 19/5/15''L-R: Mark Talbot (Head of The Bishop Bell), Gene Payne (Head of The Causeway School) and Keith Pailthorpe (Head of Eastbourne Academy). SUS-150519-151822001
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A group of head teachers have warned students are sitting more than three times the number of summer exams as they were a year ago.

The Eastbourne Area Secondary Headteachers (EASH), under the chairmanship of Gene Payne, from Causeway School, said government-enforced changes to the GCSE examination system had placed increasing pressure on the county’s students.

The changes to which Mr Payne referred were introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove and saw the return of final exams rather than allowing students to sit bite-sized tests as they worked through their courses.

Speaking for EASH, Mr Payne said: “We recognise the increasing pressure on students as a result of government changes to the examination system which have ended the use of modular examinations and coursework as key components of GCSEs, with the focus now being on terminal exams.

“This means that compared with students taking GCSEs a year ago they are now sitting over three times as many examinations in the summer exam period.”

The heads’ concerns were voiced after the charity ChildLine announced it had seen a 200 per cent increase in the number of youngsters who were offered counselling to help them cope with the exam period.

A report published by the charity this month stated school and education problems had, for the first time, become the top concern for children who contacted the helpline.

A spokesman for the charity said some 34,454 school-related counselling sessions had been carried out nationwide in 2013/14, with the majority relating to exam stress. On top of this, there were 87,500 visits to the ChildLine webpage about the issue.

The major concerns raised by the children were fear of failure, not wanting to disappoint their parents, and the general pressures linked to academic achievement.

One boy, who spoke to a ChildLine counsellor, 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.

“I am going to revision classes and trying really hard but I feel like it is not good enough for them. My parents don’t allow me to do anything else apart from revision and if I try and talk to them it always ends up in an argument.”

Helen Beattie, ChildLine service manager, said: “The exam period can be a very stressful and anxious time for young people.

“As these figures reveal, the pressure to do well is being felt by an increasing number of young people across the country.

“We hear from lots of young people each year who are anxious, worried or panicking about their exams and revision. We want to let them know that they are not alone and that ChildLine is here to listen to them.”

Mr Payne said EASH schools had been preparing students for the changes over the past few years and had put in place a range of additional support measures.

These included using smaller exam rooms for students who found exposure to the exam hall particularly stressful, study skills and exam technique advice and practice as well as counselling support.

He added: “The key to reducing student stress is of course good teaching and preparing them as well as possible for each particular examination paper, which are the key components of our strategies to support them at this important time.

“Although we are still in the early days of the exam period we have been extremely impressed with how well our students have prepared and how well they are supported by their teachers, their parents and particularly each other.”

ChildLine’s free confidential helpline can be reached at 0800 11 11 or log on to childline.org.uk

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