Childline increases counselling sessions over exam anxiety

A surge in calls suggests a spike in anxiety as exams draw closer.

SSTA 77th Annual Congress
SSTA 77th Annual Congress

The number of counselling sessions over exam anxiety led by charity Childline has almost doubled in seven months, new figures show.

More than 200 counselling sessions about exam worries took place in March 2022, nearly double the number of sessions in September 2021.

In 2021-22, Childline practitioners delivered 1,734 counselling sessions to pupils who are worried about exam stress and revision, a 62% rise on the previous year.

Over 200 of these were in March 2022, nearly double the number of sessions delivered seven months beforehand in September 2021, reflecting increasing levels of anxiety as exams draw nearer.

Children told Childline counsellors that their exams were affecting their mental health and ability to sleep.

A 15-year-old girl told Childline: “My GCSEs are coming up soon and I’m extremely stressed out about them. I missed so much school the last few years because of the pandemic and I worry this will reflect in my results.

“I’ve been pulling all-nighters to revise but then I can’t sleep when I try. I can tell this is taking a toll on my mental health – even my friends told me this is affecting my mood. I’m completely terrified of failing these exams and letting everyone down.”

The NSPCC figures from 2021/22 also revealed a two-month spike in exam-related stress during May and June last year, as pupils went back to school in March and learned that full public exams would be cancelled for a second time because of the pandemic.

Alex Gray, service head at Childline, said: “Our latest Childline stats on exam stress highlight the mounting concern felt by children and young people as they look to sit their exams this month.

“Children are still feeling the effects of the pandemic and with GCSEs and A-levels due to take place as normal this year following two years of cancellations, it is really important they get the support they need to manage any concerns or worries they may have.

“As well as speaking to a parent or a teacher, children can contact Childline 24 hours a day, seven days a week and speak to one of our trained counsellors who can provide non-judgmental support and advice.”

The charity said that children could visit its Calm Zone and advised pupils to take regular breaks from revision to exercise.

It advised parents not to place unnecessary pressure on children to achieve certain grades.

A recent survey by the Association of School and College Leaders found that more than eight in 10 headteachers say their pupils are more stressed and anxious about exams this year than they were pre-pandemic.

Some heads said there had been a rise in self-harm incidents, with several stating that A-level pupils were experiencing the worst anxiety as they had never sat a full set of public exams.

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