Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland pupils need help with exams pressure

Editor's Viewpoint

It is the time of year when pupils prepare to take their GCSE and A-level examinations. Naturally, many will feel a certain amount of pressure to perform well, but it appears that for significant numbers that pressure is unbearable.

Last year, Childline delivered more than 3,000 counselling sessions to pupils who had turned to them in distress.

While the figure of 93 sessions in Northern Ireland may seem small, it has to be remembered that those pupils were at the end of their tethers and felt they had nowhere else to turn.

The most concerning factor about the Childline statistics is that they show an 11% increase in the number of sessions delivered, indicating that examination stress is a growing problem.

The largest growth is among those pupils taking GCSE and A-level examinations. This is natural given that the results in both can determine life choices in a results-driven world.

But it is not just the pressure that pupils put on themselves that is causing them concern. They feel pressurised by parents, who understandably want them to do well, and also from hoping to do as well as their friends and peers.

Any parent reading this report should pause and think if their expectations for their children are realistic or if they demanding too much.

Children need encouragement and routine to enable them to do their best, but that can easily escalate into a feeling that they will let their parents down if they don't get good grades.

But it is not only pupils taking major examinations who feel the strain. Those as young as 12 to 15 were the most likely to need counselling - an indication of the demands made of pupils from the moment they begin their post-primary education.

As Childline points out, the best remedy involves the pupils, teachers and parents working in harmony to reduce the pressure.

Teachers and parents should encourage children to speak up if they feel under strain and should set realistic goals for every child.

Pupils should realise that while examinations are important, even more so is their health. They should seek help either at school, home or from bodies such as Childline if things deteriorate to a level where they feel their wellbeing is being impaired.

They should also remember that every person has varying abilities and can be a success in different ways.

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