Wellbeing advice offered as the exam season gets going

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Childline has reported an 11 per cent rise in counselling sessions relating to examination stress over the past two years.

As students across the country began sitting their examinations this week, the NSPCC’s support service has raised concerns about the impact on many young people.

Figures from Childline show that it delivered 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2016/17, up 11 per cent in two years.

And while 12 to 15-year-olds were still the most likely to be counselled about exam stress, there was a spike in calls from 16 to 18-year-olds in 2016/17.

One teenage boy who contacted Childline said: “I’m really feeling the pressure of A levels, I’ve been having panic attacks and difficulty breathing. I’m so afraid of not getting the right grades and I’m stressed about the future. My life could turn out so differently depending on what I get.”

Another teenage boy said: “I am about to take my GCSEs and I am under so much pressure as my parents are expecting me to do really well. I am going to revision classes and trying really hard but I feel like it is not good enough for them. My parents don’t allow me to do anything else apart from revision and if I try and talk to them it always ends up in an argument.”

Callers to Childline are reporting issues related to exam stress including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, excessive crying, low self-esteem, self-harming and suicidal thoughts. Others have reported that exam stress has made their pre-existing mental health conditions worse.

Childline has recently partnered with BBC Learning’s The Mind Set, a national peer-to-peer coaching network for GCSE and National students, to create expert advice for young people taking exams. A series of videos dedicated to helping young people through exams is also available on Childline’s YouTube channel.

The Childline statistics have come as another charity, the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust (CWMT), launched a guide to help teachers support the mental wellbeing of young people sitting their exams.

CWMT provides free mental health training for schools and has produced guides for teachers, parents and students with support from HeadStart Wolverhampton.

The teacher’s guide features tips and advice on how best to support young people who may be suffering from anxiety and exam stress.

The NSPCC’s advice for exams

The NSPCC has the following advice for young people taking exams, their parents and teachers:

Young people

  • Take regular breaks from revising and do some exercise.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable time and try and get some sleep.
  • Try to think positively – even if you don’t feel like it, a positive attitude will help you during your revision.
  • Remember that everyone’s different – try not to compare yourself to your friends.


  • Don’t place unnecessary pressure on your children to gain certain grades.
  • Encourage children to take regular breaks, eat snacks and exercise.
  • Help them revise by leaving them space and time to do so.
  • Be supportive and help alleviate their worries by talking to them.


  • Facilitate classroom discussions to get students talking about exam stress.
  • Encourage students to take regular breaks from studying for exams.
  • Encourage students to talk to you or other teachers about exam stress.

Further information


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