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'I don't know how to cope': More teenagers seeking help for exam stress

PUBLISHED: 12:25 12 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:32 13 August 2019

Pupils sitting an exam. The NPSCC says its Childline service is taking more calls from teenagers concerned about their exam results. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Pupils sitting an exam. The NPSCC says its Childline service is taking more calls from teenagers concerned about their exam results. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

A soaring number of young people are reporting feeling panicked and stressed about their exam results, a leading children's charity claims.

The NSPCC said counselling sessions delivered by its Childline service have increased by more than 50pc over the past four years, with 1,414 sessions being delivered to children and teenagers in 2018/19.

One-fifth of these sessions took place in August - the same month in which A-Level and GCSE results were released.

Childline revealed that young people are turning to the service worried about whether they will get the grades they need to get into university, while some told counsellors they were unable to sleep and felt "on the edge" due to the stress of results day looming over them.

One young person who contacted Childline said: "I'm really anxious about getting my exam results. I don't think I will get the marks I need to get into my chosen university.

"Before the exam I had a panic attack and had difficulties breathing. I'm so afraid of not getting the right grades. I'm terrified that I've messed it all up and I'll ruin my future. I don't know how to cope."

Dame Esther Rantzen, founder and president of Childline said: "I am sure we all felt nervous at exam time, but the possibility of failure has taken on a greater importance than ever before, and is deeply worrying our children.

"I would like to remind young people that whatever happens with their exam results there will be plenty of opportunities for them to go on and succeed in their lives. We all have different strengths and qualities that make us who we are.

The spike in the number of young people contacting Childline coincides with the GCSE and A-Level reforms, as spearhead by former education secretary Michael Gove.

Many parents and teachers believe these changes have made the qualifications more difficult as the amount of coursework has reduced, and the breadth and depth of content has increased.

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Speaking about the reforms in 2013, Mr Gove said: "By making GCSEs more demanding, more fulfilling and more stretching, we can give our young people the broad, deep and balanced education which will equip them to win in the global race."

Childline has the following advice for young people:

- Don't panic if you don't get the results you were hoping for.

- You may have to make some tough decisions but remember you always have options and you can get help.

- Everyone is different so try not to compare your results to your friends or classmates.

- If you're disappointed with your results it can help to talk to a teacher or someone you trust about how you're feeling.

Advice from the NSPCC for parents and carers includes:

- Try not to place pressure on your children to gain certain grades

- Your child may find it hard to talk to you about their results so be patient and supportive until they feel ready to open up about how they feel.

- Encourage your child to take their time to think about what they want to do next. There's no need to rush into a decision straightaway.

- Help them think about their choices by writing down a list of pros and cons for each of their options.

- See our special souvenir A-level supplement in Friday's EDP and get up-to-date results coverage on Thursday at edp24.co.uk.

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