Student sobs on camera as teens reveal panic attacks over GCSE stress

The pressure to do well in their GCSE’s and A-levels has left students across the country suffering panic attacks, vomiting and crying in exam halls.

One student filmed herself sobbing after a particularly difficult biology exam as parents slammed government reforms that meant 750,000 students are sitting toucher tests this summer.

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Changes to some subjects means a handful of teenagers are completing more than 30 papers.

Teachers say pupils have been left feeling demoralised after being unable to finish questions in the time alloted.

They have also reported increasing numbers of students suffering panic attacks or collapsing at their desks with stress.

YouTube star Jade Bowler has used her online channel to discuss her own exam struggles and offer young people revision tips (Picture: @UnJaded Jade)

The changes were triggered by former education secretary Michael Gove following research showing British pupils were falling behind peers in other countries.

Employers have long complained that youngsters do not leave school with the right skills and campaigners have pointed to a ‘dumbing down’ of the curriculum under the previous Labour government.

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But students and parents have criticised the changes, with hundreds taking to Twitter to explain how the stress of studies has left them losing sleep and crying during the tests.

YouTube star Jade Bowler, who shares revision tips with her 190,000 followers, posted a video of herself sobbing moments after leaving a 42-page exam paper for her biology A-level.

‘I have never in my entire life done as badly as I did in that exam,’ the 18-year-old said.

She added: ‘I didn’t answer about four questions. I’m not going to try to hide how appalling I found that. I just ran out of time.’

Speaking in May, schools minister Nick Gibb said the new qualifications were designed to be on a par with the best performing education systems in the world.

He said: ‘These more rigorous, gold-standard GCSEs are helping to nurture the next generation of scientists, linguists and historians.

‘Thanks to our reforms and the hard work of teachers, education standards are rising in our schools and last year, teachers and pupils responded well to the new English and maths exams.’

But many argue the pressure to do well means that many young teenagers are being left vulnerable to mental health problems.

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore speaking at the Hay Festival in May about exam stress and brain development in 16-year-olds (Picture: Rex)

Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, recently told the Hay Literary Festival: ‘Why do we still have GCSEs?

‘I think we always will have them for historic reasons.

‘But that’s no good reason to have an extremely stressful exam which, by the way, I think has become more stressful in the last ten years – just at an age where children are going through all this change in terms of brain, behaviour hormones and social changes, and rendering them very vulnerable to things like mental health problems.’

She added: ‘Given that our children now have to stay in some form of education until they’re 18, we don’t need those exams aged 16.’

How to take care of yourself during exams

The Mind Set, a partnership between Young Minds and BBC Learning, offers advice from student coaches who have been through it before.

Sleep enough
Have a good night’s sleep before the exam. Staying up late to ‘cram’ is never a good idea. Stop revising at a point which gives you time to calm down, then go to bed at a decent time.

Stop and reset
If your mind goes blank during the exam, do a simple breathing exercise to focus yourself, then have a calm read through the exam paper to find something you know well. Start by answering that, to bolster your confidence, then move on to the trickier stuff.

Focus on you
Don’t focus on what other people are doing in the exam hall. You can’t judge how well you are doing by how other people are behaving.

Move on
Don’t keep re-living the exam when it’s over. You’ve done what you can and you can’t change anything now. Move onto the next one.


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