Stress and anxiety among exam students is higher than pre-pandemic, say most heads

13th May 2022

More than 80% of Head Teachers have reported that stress and anxiety among students taking their exams this summer is higher than in pre-pandemic years, according to a survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

The survey, of 527 Head Teachers and principals of schools and colleges in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales show that 78% of schools found that they have received more requests for students to be able to take exams in separate rooms from the main exam hall compared to pre-pandemic.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This survey reveals the extremely challenging circumstances facing students, schools and colleges as they embark upon the first full set of public exams in three years.

“It shows that this is far from being a return to normal, and we are particularly concerned about the impact on the mental health and wellbeing of young people. It is clear that schools and colleges are doing everything possible to support them. However, their budgets are extremely tight because of years of government underfunding, and the government has simply not shown enough urgency in improving mental health support for young people going back long before the pandemic began.

“We also have to question whether it is right to continue to subject young people to such a huge number of high-stakes terminal exams at GCSE as is the case in the current system. Stress and anxiety were already problems pre-pandemic. It must surely be possible to slim down the exam system and make it more proportionate and humane.

Schools North East Director, Chris Zarraga said: “The findings from ASCL are shocking but not surprising and tally closely with feedback from schools across our region. The students who are sitting exams now, particularly A level students, have not had the experience of sitting exams previously in their GCSE year and are being told that they are now sitting exams which could have an impact on their futures. There has also not been enough consideration of ‘fairness’ in this year’s exams, particularly for those students in region’s like the North East who have suffered huge disruption throughout this academic year.”

Schools North East is holding its Healthy MindEd Conference coming up on 20th May 2022 at The Fed (formerly known as the Lancastrian Suites) in Gateshead where sessions will be looking  the ongoing impact of the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing, as well as the perennial challenges that have been exacerbated. If you would like to find out more about the conference you can click here or if you would like to book your place on to the conference click here.