Mental health concerns as Gordano headteacher report exam stress rise

Gary Lewis and his successor Tom Inman. Picture: Ian Johnson

Gary Lewis and his successor Tom Inman. Picture: Ian Johnson - Credit: Ian Johnson

Increased pressure on exams has impacted on students’ mental health and schools are ‘grappling really hard with the issue’, according to a headteacher.

Gordano School boss Tom Inman believes the restructuring of GCSE exams has had a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of pupils, who are enduring greater stress and anxiety when sitting their exams compared to previous year groups.

Coursework in most subjects has been scrapped – as has the traditional A, B, C style of grading – and there are fewer exams which count towards a grade, ramping up the importance of success in each test.

And Mr Inman believes the new system has presented students with more difficult challenges which have affected their state of mind.

He said: “The exams are more difficult, there is no doubt about that.

“It has provided real challenges, particularly for accessibility of students who are not at the higher ability end of the scale in terms of literacy and writing demands.

“The removal of coursework and the increased pressure on the exams process itself, with exams counting for more and, in most cases, all of a subject’s grade has real impact in terms of pressure, and we’ve seen the impact of that on the students’ mental health.

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“That is something as schools we are all really grappling hard with at the moment.”

Nailsea School headteacher Dee Elliott revealed parents, too, are suffering from the mental strain of GCSEs more than ever before.

She said: “The stress on parents has been the greatest we’ve ever seen.

“The strain on parents coming in has also been something we’ve noticed and the fact we have worked so well together has enabled students to flourish and subsequently celebrate these wonderful results.”

Mr Inman told the Times he breathed a ‘strong sigh of relief’ after the Portishead school earned ‘another set of strong results’.

He added: “It’s reassuring we’re at the point where we’ve now had the first set of exams and we’ve got some results, papers and evidence which we can work forwards with, but it’s worrying and stressful for people when you don’t know the context of the new world of exams so it’s been tough.”

For a full round up from exams season, see the Times on Wednesday.