Exam Season: steps to support pupils’ and staff wellbeing

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Exam season is a stressful time for both students and staff, with the weight of examinations, coursework, future career prospects, and the inherent challenges of adolescence bearing down. The pandemic has exacerbated these stressors, making the preservation of well-being a more pressing concern.

To address these challenges, some support mechanisms have been implemented by educational settings. Establishing a safe space for students to seek support and fostering open communication are foundational steps in promoting wellbeing within any school. By nurturing a culture of care and empathy, we empower students to prioritise their mental health and seek assistance when needed.

As exam season approaches, the following steps can help students manage anxiety and maintain wellbeing:

  1. Create a Revision Timetable: Organise your study schedule around exam dates, allocating specific times for each subject.
  2. Find Your Revision Style: Experiment with different techniques, such as flashcards, mind maps, or practice questions, to identify what works best for you.
  3. Reach Out to Staff: Don’t hesitate to seek clarification or additional support from your teachers and other staff. They are all there to help you succeed.
  4. Utilise School Resources: Take advantage of extra revision sessions and support offered by the school to enhance your preparation.
  5. A balanced approach: Make time for activities you enjoy and relaxation to alleviate stress and maintain a healthy balance during exam season.

 

The impact of exam season on staff

It’s easy to underestimate how much work it takes to prepare hundreds of students for exams each year. Teachers not only have to deal with new exam rules and changes to what they teach, but they also have to do all this with less money because of budget cuts. This means fewer resources to help teachers teach students everything they need to know before exams.

More importantly, while students are at school, their teachers care for them like parents would. With more students struggling with mental health issues staff are under pressure to provide the extra support needed.

There is a crisis in school mental health, affecting children, young people and the adults around them. 

Many teachers and staff are feeling the pressure and schools are struggling to respond effectively to the amount, range and severity of the mental health challenges in their community.

 

The school mental health crisis in six statistics

  • 1 in 6 children aged six to sixteen has a probable mental disorder, rising from 1 in 9 in 2017
  • 77% of education staff have experienced symptoms of poor mental health due to their work
  • Children from the poorest 20% of households are four times as likely to have serious mental health difficulties by the age of 11 as those from the wealthiest 20% 
  • 35% of LGBTQ+ young people have a diagnosable mental health problem
  • 45% of looked after children and young people have a mental health disorder 
  • 54% of education staff have considered leaving the sector due to pressures on their mental health 

 

Schools and colleges urgently need more leaders, teachers and pastoral staff who know how to promote and protect the mental health and wellbeing of pupils and staff.

Teachers and pastoral staff steward young people through some of the most high-pressure moments of their early lives: exams, adolescence, challenges at home, and life-altering decisions. Research by the NHS shows that teachers and other school staff are the professional adults most frequently approached by children and young people about mental health concerns.

In conclusion, focusing on mental health might sound like yet another task for schools and colleges who are already feeling overloaded. Yet prioritising mental health and wellbeing has huge benefits: reducing the stresses and challenges of school life; increasing attendance; improving achievement; lowering the number of support needs; and creating a happier school and community all around.

Those who become leads and specialists in schools mental health are the pioneers who will drive this improvement, develop best practices and show what is possible.

Promoting positive well-being during exam season is not just about achieving academic success but also about nurturing the holistic development of students. By fostering a supportive environment and equipping individuals with coping mechanisms, we empower them to navigate challenges with resilience and thrive academically and personally.