As grades for A-levels fell dramatically last week from 2021, Spurgeons Children’s Charity warns of the impact on students across the country ahead of GCSE results day on 25 August. With GCSE and A-Level students sitting formal exams for the first time this year, the charity also offers parents advice on supporting their teenage children in navigating this time, ensuring their mental health is a priority.
According to a recent survey1 by the Association of School and College Leaders, 82 per cent of headteachers report stress and anxiety among pupils are higher than pre-pandemic levels. Four in five teachers received more requests for students to sit exams away from the main exam hall. As schools see the return of league tables2, students face new levels of pressure as they prepare to receive their results. The charity says it can negatively impact their mental health if students are not adequately supported.
Debbie Pattison Fegans Counsellor (part of Spurgeons’ mental health services) says, “While older children may not always voice their need for support, it’s important that parents offer this whatever the child faces on results day. If your child is upset that they haven’t done as well as they had expected or hoped, let your first act be one of love and support, assuring them that you love them regardless of their result.”
An exploratory study3 published on the National Library of Medicine on adolescent suicide during Covid-19 lockdowns, found that while lockdown-related stress was the most common attributing stressor to the 37 adolescent suicide cases included in the study, exam related stress was the second most common stressor.
Debbie says, “It's clear that we need to consider and address the strain on mental health that exam and results season is having on young people.”
Amélie Coyle, a GCSE student from Tunbridge Wells, recalls going into the first lockdown shortly after a spinal surgery which had caused her to miss some of her schooling already. As a child of a keyworker, she chose to go into school during the second lockdown after struggling to establish a good study routine at home during the first school closures. She describes how the interruptions have impacted her:
“In the lead up to my exams I felt quite stressed and anxious, and not as prepared as I might have been if we’d had uninterrupted schooling…”
In the lead up to results day, Amélie has reflected on the exam season following the pandemic and believes things would have been different for her if she had experienced less interruptions.
“My friends and I often wonder how different the experience might have been had we not been isolated from each other and not had to learn over Teams or Zoom. I’m contemplating what might happen if I don’t get the grades that I need, but I’m looking forward to starting A-levels with hopefully two full academic years of study without these kinds of interruptions. I’m really hoping that we can all put the pandemic behind us and never experience lockdowns again.”
A recent Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) blog4 predicted that this year’s results will be higher than when summer exams were last sat, but also lower than the results awarded by teacher assessment in 2021. This was reflected in the outcomes of A-Level results last week, as students fight for university places5. Ofqual predicts that very few schools will see higher results than in 2021, considering this year’s approach taken by the Department of Education to begin re-establishing of pre-pandemic relationships between subjects.
Ian Soars, CEO of Spurgeons Children’s Charity and parent to an A-Level student, says:
"As a charity, everything we do is to promote and protect the value of children regardless of their circumstances. Our children need to know they matter, regardless of their results. The key to nurturing our children's mental health during this results period is to endorse and engage with your child, ideally before the results day, but also in the days and weeks that follow.
"In the lead up to A-level results last week I made sure my daughter knew I value her in many ways beyond academic achievement — such as appreciating her generosity and kindness. As they receive their results, children will look out for their parents' reaction so remember to wear pride on your face, whatever the results paper says.
"If your child has reason to celebrate, celebrate with them. Whatever their results, give them a sense of security to know that it's recoverable, avoiding a 'doomsday' outlook and remembering to reassure them in their moments of panic or doubt."
Parents or students who need support can go to https://www.fegans.org.uk/what-to-do-if-your-kids-fail-their-exams/ to access online support and advice.
For interviews and further information please contact:
Hollyanne Boyce: Jersey Road PR
[email protected] or 07706 355336
Notes to Editors
About Spurgeons Children’s Charity
Spurgeons is a Christian children’s charity founded in 1867 and runs 50 services/projects in 22 Local Authority areas across England (Midlands, East, West, South and London). With more than 400 staff, 150 volunteers and thousands of supporters, Spurgeons deliver a range of support services, including:
Spurgeons was founded in 1867 by one of the most well-known public figures of the day – a Baptist preacher called Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He founded an orphanage in Stockwell, south London. The Spurgeons Home moved first to Surrey and then to Kent after the war, but closed in the late 1970’s.
Since then, Spurgeons has supported vulnerable children and families through many different types of work across the UK. Today, the charity has contact with around 30,000 children and adults, whilst working more intensively with over 3,000 children and young people.
Over the last financial year during Covid-19 and lockdown, 783 children were identified in safeguarding incidents Spurgeons responded to. 86% of children whose outcomes were measured with an evidence-based measuring tool showed positive progress.
Spurgeons services include children centres and family hubs, prison-based family support, services to support young carers and families affected by domestic abuse. They also offer parenting courses and support and more recently school counselling and support through the services of Fegans, which transferred into Spurgeons in 1 July 2021.
Spurgeons kept all their services open during the pandemic, adapting to ensure they maintained contact with vulnerable children and families
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