Pupils suffer from 'exam stress', claim teachers

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The Independent Online

Stress on children caused by up to 75 exams in their school careers is driving youngsters to the point of destruction, teachers' leaders said yesterday.

Stress on children caused by up to 75 exams in their school careers is driving youngsters to the point of destruction, teachers' leaders said yesterday.

Pressure to perform in tests was leaving teenagers with serious stress-related conditions such as anorexia and bulimia by the time they left school, they warned. A survey by the Secondary Heads Association, the Professional Association of Teachers and the Children's Society found most children were suffering serious symptoms of stress and were at risk of becoming "dysfunctional".

Union leaders said children between 11 and 18 were reporting sickness, lack of sleep, loss of appetite and problems relaxing because of exams.

Girls were more likely to suffer stress than boys, but union leaders said boys had reported that exam stress left them tearful and distressed.

Ministers have insisted that national testing is the only way to guarantee standards. But teachers said new tests for pupils aged 12 and 13 and the growth of modular A-level courses would increase the pressure.

The survey, due to be published in the autumn, found that average sixth-formers could have taken up to 75 exams during their school careers. Teenagers who leave school at 16 face around 60 tests, ranging from compulsory and optional national curriculum tests in maths, English and science at seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, and 14 to GCSEs and A-levels.

Ministers have insisted that national testing is the only way to guarantee standards. But teachers warned new tests for 12- and 13-year-olds and the growth of modular A-levels would increase the pressure.

They called for an increase in the amount of coursework which could be assessed as part of a student's final grade.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said ministers recognised that pupils might be nervous before tests and exams and insisted the Government encouraged head teachers to do as much as possible to relieve stress and reassure pupils. But, he said, a survey carried out last year by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Government's exam regulator, found that the vast majority of teachers reported little or no stress among 11- to 14-year-olds preparing for their National Curriculum tests at secondary school.

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