· Over 3,000 counselling sessions with children about exam stress in 2016/17
· More than fifth of these took place in May 2016
· Nearly 100 children from Wales contacted helpline last year
Thousands of young people are turning to Childline for help as they struggle to cope with the pressure of exam stress.
New figures from the NSPCC-run service reveal that it delivered 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2016/17 – a rise of 11% on the previous year.
Of those, 98 children from Wales contacted the helpline. This was up from 82 in 2015-16 and the total number is likely to be far higher because many children do not reveal to counsellors where they are calling from.
Girls in Wales were far more likely than boys to contact Childline for help – a picture repeated across the UK.
More than a fifth of contacts to Childline from across the UK took place in May as pupils faced upcoming exams with many telling counsellors they were struggling with subjects, excessive workloads and feeling unprepared.
Children aged 12-15 were most likely to be counselled about exam stress but this year saw the biggest rise – up 21% on 2015/16 – amongst 16-18 year olds, many of whom will have been preparing for A-levels to determine university places.
Worryingly young people are consistently telling counsellors exam stress can contribute to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, excessive crying, low self-esteem, self-harming and suicidal thoughts, or even make pre-existing mental health conditions worse.
A Childline counsellor from the Prestatyn base offered her own advice about how to deal with exam stress.
“I found talking to family and friends, having breaks from revision, going outside and meeting with friends throughout the week helped with exam stress,” she said.
“I like to think my experience can help them as I was quite a stressful person when I was in school. I try to tell them that they should try to meet with friends and family as it can help their wellbeing.
“I would go for a run or a walk with my friends and arrange things throughout the week. Simple things like going downstairs and talking to my family, or giving myself days off revision, also helped.”
One teenage boy who contacted Childline said: “I’m really feeling the pressure of A-levels, I’ve been having panic attacks and difficulty breathing. I’m so afraid of not getting the right grades and I’m stressed about the future. My life could turn out so differently depending on what I get.”
Another teenage boy 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.”
Des Mannion, head of NSPCC Cymru / Wales, said: “Every year we hear from thousands of children who are struggling to cope with the pressure to succeed in exams. For some this can feel so insurmountable that it causes crippling anxiety and stress and in some cases contributes to mental health issues or even suicidal thoughts and feelings.
“Exams are important but worrying and panicking about them can be counterproductive, leaving young people unable to revise and prepare. It is vital that young people are supported by family, friends and teachers during the exam period to help them do the best they can. Childline is also here 24/7 for any young person needing confidential support and advice.”
Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline said: “I am very distressed that so many young people are turning to Childline because they have nobody else to confide in safely when they are desperately anxious.
“We need to recognise how stressful exams can be, and reassure our young people and support them through these tough times which I remember only too well in my life, and my children’s lives.”
The NSPCC has the following advice for young people taking exams:
· Make sure you take regular breaks from revising and do some exercise
Go to bed at a reasonable time and try and get some sleep
Try to think positively – even if you don’t feel like it, a positive attitude will help you during your revision
Remember that everyone’s different – try not to compare yourself to your friends.
Advice for parents and carers to help ease exam stress:
· Don’t place unnecessary pressure on your children to gain certain grades.
· Encourage children to take regular breaks, eat snacks and exercise.
Help them revise by leaving them the space and time to do so.
Be supportive and help alleviate their worries by talking to them.
Advice for teachers:
· Facilitate classroom discussions to get students talking about exam stress
· Encourage students to take regular breaks from studying for exams
· Encourage students to talk to you or other teachers about exam stress
Childline has created expert advice for young people taking exams for BBC Learning’s The Mind Set which is the UK’s first national peer-to-peer coaching network for GCSE and National students. A series of videos dedicated to helping young people through exams are also available on Childline’s YouTube channel.
Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk
For further information, please contact the NSPCC Wales press office on 02920 108159 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
· There were 3,135 Childline counselling sessions from 1st April 2016 to 31st March 2017 in relation to exam stress.
· 704 of these (22%) took place in May 2016
· 844 counselling sessions were held with 16-18 year olds; 1504 with 12-15 year olds, 237 with children aged 11 and under. In the remaining 550 counselling sessions the age was unknown.
· The number of counselling sessions with 16-18 year olds about exam stress rose by 21% in 2016/17 (from 697 counselling sessions in 2015/16 to 844 in 2016/17).
· There were 2,835 counselling sessions in 2014/15 compared with 3,135 in 2016/17 – an increase of 11%
· All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person. Quotes are created from real Childline contacts but are not necessarily direct quotes from the young person.
About the NSPCC
The NSPCC is the leading children’s charity fighting to end child abuse in the UK and Channel Islands. Using voluntary donations, which make up more than 90 per cent of our funding, we help children who’ve been abused to rebuild their lives, we protect children at risk, and we find the best ways of preventing child abuse from ever happening. So when a child needs a helping hand, we’ll be there. When parents are finding it tough, we’ll help. When laws need to change, or governments need to do more, we won’t give up until things improve.
Our Childline service provides a safe, confidential place for children with no one else to turn to, whatever their worry, whenever they need help. Children can contact Childline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0800 1111 or by visiting www.childline.org.uk
Our free helpline provides adults with a place they can get advice and support, share their concerns about a child or get general information about child protection. Adults can contact the helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0808 800 5000, by texting 88858 or visiting www.nspcc.org.uk
About The Mind Set
The Mind Set is the UK’s first national peer-to-peer coaching network for GCSE and National students, exploring exam stress through student coaches who have been there and done it. Created by BBC Learning in partnership with Childline, Young Minds and NCS, The Mind Set provides a broad range of expert content featuring advice for young people at every step of their exam journey.
The NSPCC’s Childline service is continuing to provide additional dedicated support, advice and self-help content for young people who are struggling with exam stress.
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