Primary School Children and Exam Stress

Primary School Children and Exam Stress

From last years reports, eight out of ten school leaders stated that fear of academic failure led to an increase in mental health issues around the Sats exam period for primary school aged children.

Children of a young primary school age, and as young as six years old, were found to be suffering from the symptoms of stress and anxiety, showing up mainly as sleeplessness, panic attacks and tearfulness. Surveys proved that some children were driven to sobbing during exams, self esteems were damaged and one child was reported to have lost her eyelashes, similar to signs of alopecia.

Not all children feel affected but it was a whopping increase, in that general cases of stress, anxiety and panic attacks had been shown to have increased in more than three quarters of primary schools in the last two years. The pressure to achieve and get those good results also take its toll on the teachers who are also stressed with the current systems in education.

The children are requiring more support around Sats exam time. Children take the tests when they are aged seven and at the end of key Stage One then again aged eleven at the end of key Stage two. Teachers and other school workers are not always available to provide this and many feel that the stress put upon children is excessive. This is where the importance of a school counsellor comes into play.

Counsellors, such as myself, work with these young people at a vital stage in their development, when they are most vulnerable anyway before you add on the extra pressure of exams. I am able to give them support individually, helping them to explore emotions they are experiencing but not able to understand. I use talking and play techniques, using materials such as crayons, lego, games, drawing and talking therapy to connect with the young people which enables them to express themselves more easily. The sessions last up to fifty minutes, of which the play techniques are so beneficial as a young child will not always want to talk for that length of time. By offering this support with emotional and/ or behavioural difficulties, it not only benefits the child, but it impacts positively on the class as a whole and aids the teacher to do their role. There is often a difference seen at home by the parents too.

I currently have eleven years of experience of working with and counselling young people and children. I have a qualification in play therapy as well as being fully qualified BACP Accredited children’s and young people’s counsellor and psychotherapist. From all of the children that I see, their outcomes are recorded and monitored. I work always within the boundaries of confidentiality but not in isolation, sharing information without compromising the integrity of the work with the child.

BACP say that there is a large body of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of primary school counselling, with play-based counselling associated with significant reductions in emotional distress in primary school aged children.

Please contact me for further information regarding the counselling services I offer in schools.