Younger children affected by exam stress, ATL warns

According to a poll conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the mental health of children as young as six is being risked by exam stress.

420 ATL members responded to the poll, with almost half claiming pupils in their school had self-harmed and 89 per cent of this portion accounting exams as the main source of stress. Staff also said they were aware of pupils attempting suicide, with 18 of these in primary schools.

A number of teaching staff complained that the pressure placed on children at the age of 10 and 11 and the end of primary school was ‘excessive’, with come arguing that the government was to blame for raising the stakes on testing.

The poll showed that 73 per cent felt young people were under more pressure now than two years ago, while 82 per cent felt that students were more pressured now than 10 years ago. A fifth of those surveyed claimed they had no access to a counsellors for pupils, while many teachers which did have a counsellor on site said their services were overstretched, with many unqualified members of staff having to shoulder the responsibility.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said: “The government bears responsibility for much of this stress which appears to stem from a test-focused, over-crowded curriculum.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: ”Tests are a key part of ensuring young people master the skills they need to reach their potential and succeed in life.

“But we have taken real steps to ensure they are not on a constant treadmill of revision and testing, including scrapping January modules, decoupling AS-levels and removing re-sits from league tables."

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