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Exam Stress Rife in UK Primary Schools
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Exam Stress Rife in UK Primary Schools

Primary and secondary schoolchildren are being subjected to a “pressure cooker environment” in class – with many young pupils experiencing “heart-breaking levels” of exam stress, a new report has warned in the UK.
The National Union of Teachers has claimed that some students are taking part in lessons before they are mentally ready, causing them to feel a sense of failure at a very young age, reports skynews.com
One teacher in a school rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, the office for standards in education, described how a four-year-old approached them in tears because they “are still in the bad group for reading” – despite how in most other European countries, children of this age are yet to formally start their education.
Another educator claimed a “severely dyslexic” and “incredibly hard-working” year-six pupil resorted to physical self-harm because of the “pressure she felt to achieve to a level similar to that of her peers.”
The stress endured by young children is often amplified by how some schools have progress charts and test results displayed on classroom walls, according to Prof. Merryn Hutchings, who conducted the research.
One teacher she interviewed claimed self-harming was “rife” in 14 to 16-year-olds, while one year-12 student said some of her classmates would cry throughout an exam because they were so stressed.
Primary schoolchildren take SATs exams in year two and year six – and 90% of teachers surveyed by the NUT said their pupils became noticeably stressed and anxious as the tests neared.
The Young Minds charity described the findings as “very concerning”, and said success in the UK education system should be judged by the development of a child’s character, resilience and wellbeing, not their exam scores.
Campaigner Lucie Russell said: “Constant testing and assessments are creating an environment which is putting a lot of stress on young people and affecting their confidence, self-esteem and mental health.”
She added: “Young people tell us they feel completely defined by their grades and that they’re a failure if they don’t get what everybody thinks they should be getting.”
The Department of Education has said it is committed to ensuring “every child is given an education that allows them to realize their potential”.
A spokeswoman said: “We are raising standards with a rigorous new curriculum, world class exams and new accountability system that rewards those schools which help every child to achieve their best.

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