Majority of parents say exam pressure is affecting children’s mental health, poll finds

Children have lost sleep and sought healthcare advice over stress related to tests, survey says

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Tuesday 14 May 2019 15:49 BST
Exam stress has highlighted the issue of mental health in schools
Exam stress has highlighted the issue of mental health in schools

Exam pressure is affecting children’s mental health, according to nearly two in three parents surveyed for a new poll – with more than a third saying their children have lost sleep due to anxiety about results.

More than one in 10 respondents, with children aged 13 or over, said exam pressure affected their own child’s wellbeing “severely” and 9 per cent said their child has sought healthcare advice.

The Mumsnet survey, of more than 1,500 parents with school-aged children, has been released as tens of thousands of students across the country begin their Sats, GCSEs and A-level exams.

But the poll suggested that the issue does not only affect teenagers, as one in five parents of school-aged children said that their child has been in tears because of results pressure.

When asked which factors cause stress to their children, 31 per cent cited pressure to achieve good school results – which is more than those who chose pressures from social media or bullying.

“Many teenagers claim to be supremely unbothered about exam results, but parents often know better and there seems to be a groundswell of concern about the amount of pressure young people are under,” said Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts.

The findings come amid rising concern that that high-stakes tests in schools are having a negative effect on the mental health of young people – especially primary school pupils

Labour pledged to scrap the Sats exams last month, as well as plans for a new baseline assessment for four-year-olds in English primary schools.

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Jeremy Corbyn said the “regime of extreme pressure testing” would be abolished amid reports of children crying, vomiting and having nightmares.

Meanwhile, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman has suggested that primary school pupils should not be told that they are taking exams to prevent feelings of anxiety.

Ms Spielman said headteachers who speak to children about their Sats exams and ask how they are feeling could make them more worried.

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