Young people overwhelmed by exam pressure

Date published: 14 May 2019


Childline reveals thousands of young people have turned to them for support as they struggle to cope with the pressure of exam stress.

New figures from the NSPCC are revealed as children all over the country prepare for their exams, with Childline delivering 2,795 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2018/19, with around a third taking place in April and May.

Of these counselling sessions, 442 were carried out by staff and volunteers at the Helpline’s Liverpool and Manchester bases.

Young people who were stressed about their exams worried about disappointing their parents; trying their best and still failing; having excessive workloads and feeling unmotivated to revise.

A teenage boy told Childline: “I am about to take my GCSEs and I am under so much stress that I find it hard to motivate myself. My friends are studying a lot which is putting me under more pressure. I’ve tried talking to my mum, but it ends up in an argument as she gets angry when I don’t study.”

Other young people told Childline counsellors the prospect of taking exams was having an adverse effect on their mental health, with some coping by self-harming and others saying they were feeling suicidal.

The most common ages for exam stress counselling were with 15 and 16 year olds, as they worked towards their GCSEs.

Childline is urging all young people to speak out if they are stressed about their exams, especially boys as figures reveal they are five times less likely than girls to talk to counsellors about the pressure they are under.

ChildLine logo

Anna Williamson, Childline counsellor and writer of teen book, How Not to Lose It said: “It is vital that family, friends and teachers are there to support children and teenagers during this stressful time. 

“My advice to parents would be to never say ‘it wasn’t like this in my day’- children won’t care and it isn’t about you. Also never compare siblings. What you can do is ask if they need anything, say you are proud of them and offer an end-of-exams celebration to help them visualise it being over.”

The NSPCC has recently received over £2million thanks to players of People's Postcode Lottery, which will help Childline be there for more children who need help with exam stress or other issues.

Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline said: “I hated exams, and I absolutely understand why they stress so many young people out. They can be important, but they shouldn’t be overwhelming.

“That’s why it’s vital that Childline is there to support any young people who feel the pressure is unbearable.

“This funding thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery will help us answer children who need us, so that we can be there for them when they have no-one else to turn to.”

Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email help@nspcc.org.uk

Children can call Childline on 0800 11 11 or visit www.childline.org.uk any time of the day or night.

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