Primary pupils are having panic attacks and self-harming over exam pressure, teachers report

Scott Lyons, joint divison secretary of the Norfolk NUT, and Sarah Brownsword, a primary education l

Scott Lyons, joint divison secretary of the Norfolk NUT, and Sarah Brownsword, a primary education lecturer at the UEA. Picture: Mustard TV - Credit: Archant

Primary school children are having panic attacks and self-harming over the stress of exams, education leaders have said.

In an interview about Justine Greening's proposal to scrap SATs for seven-year-olds, Sarah Brownsword, a primary education lecturer at the University of East Anglia (UEA), said schools were seeing more and more mental health issues in school.

'It's really young children having panic attacks because they are under pressure from these tests,' she said.

It was echoed by Scott Lyons, joint division secretary for the Norfolk NUT, who said it was particularly prevalent among girls.

'I hear more about self-harming in year six, girls especially,' he said. 'That was never heard of but it's happening more and more. My members are saying we are dealing with mental health issues, eating disorders and so on.


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'Considering SATs revision starts as early as Christmas, but probably even earlier, that's almost six months of real pressure on these children.'

Mrs Brownsword said the pressure to get pupils through their SATs in year two and year six was even putting teachers off working in those groups.

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She said: 'When I speak to the trainees who we have at UEA, many of them don't want to go into year two or year six. They're thinking 'I would quite like to be a year six teacher in two of three years time', but not in their NQT time.

'On the flip side of that, we have got schools who won't take [UEA's} students in year two or in year six, and we need our students to have a wide variety of experience in the different year groups.'

The exams would be replaced with tests for four and five-year-olds, the Department for Education has said, but pupils would not know they are being tested.

• What do you think of the proposal? Leave your comments below.

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