Staying silent on exam result stress is never the right answer

Des Mannion
Friday, August 9, 2019

As the calendar turns to August, it will seem to many children and young people that the summer holidays have only just begun.

With the days and weeks ticking by, September will be just around the corner which means a return to school. Some older children will be heading to colleges, sixth forms and universities.

Before that happens though, these young people will need to find out either their GCSE or A-Level results and, unfortunately, many will find this experience extremely worrying and stressful.

While some children and young people will not feel the pressure of the looming results day in August, others will worry about the contents of an envelope and how it may affect their future prospects.

As a result of the pressure many children feel not to let others down, some feel unable to talk to their parents or carers, or even their teachers, about their concerns.

It is worth reminding any young person in that position that the NSPCC's free and confidential Childline service is there for them.

Our figures show a trend that the number of counselling sessions with Childline staff and volunteers on the issue of exam stress has risen for the fifth consecutive year.

We also know that contacts to Childline on the issue of anxiety around exam results tend to peak in August - the month when GCSE, A-Level and other exam results are usually published.

In 2017/18, Childline delivered 1,298 counselling sessions to children and teenagers across the UK who were apprehensive about their exam results and what they do next - a rise of 15 per cent on the previous year.

Across the UK just under a quarter of all counselling sessions being delivered during August were on the subject of exam results.

Our figures also suggest that girls are far more likely to contact Childline for help or advice regarding exam results stress than boys.

For older teenagers, the desire to get good grades and secure university places can feel like a lot to bear.

We know that young people have told counsellors about their worries of exam results stopping them from going to university, with many expressing concerns about sharing them with their parents and teachers.

Others said they were struggling to cope and that the build-up of pressure as they waited for their grades was making them feel stressed and depressed.

But we are also aware that once teenagers have got their results they can feel overwhelmed by what comes next, especially if they don't get the grades they were hoping for.

Whatever their worries, it's vitally important that they don't bottle it up and they share how they are feeling and discuss their options with a friend, trusted adult or Childline.

The Childline website has detailed advice on dealing with the undoubted stress of this time and I'd urge all young people dealing with their exams - and their families - to visit it.

Des Mannion is head of service at NSPCC Cymru