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Rise in Mental Stress in Children

Discussion in 'Education news' started by JosieWhitehead, Mar 5, 2016.

  1. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    Are we putting too much pressure on the young of today - and do you think that we should be doing so? How is it in your school?
  2. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    In my school we have a noticeboard devoted to stress reduction tips. We recently brought in a student counsellor and run mindfulness sessions for the students.

    And yes, it's probbaly necessary, we put too much pressure on them (and I don't mean just from external exams). They're pulled every which way, It's sad.
  3. Jesmond12

    Jesmond12 Star commenter

    I'm getting an increasing number of phone calls from parents who are expressing concerns that their children do not want to come to school. The children are not coping with the demands of the new curriculum and they are switching off in the classroom.
  4. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    When I did NPQH in 2005 I tried to raise awareness of mental health issues in the school ( top 1% social deprivation in the country ). Also bid for and was successful in receiving a small grant to look at innovative practice re students with complex and challenging home backgrounds so they were better able to cope with the demands of school. It 's always been an issue.
    JosieWhitehead likes this.
  5. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    I think it is a really worrying issue at the moment, and not just for pupils from deprived/challenging backgrounds.

    Schools are under pressure to meet all sorts of requirements to compete in the league tables and look good for Ofsted (Progress 8, EBacc, progress of Pupil Premium pupils, etc.). Pupils are set unachievable targets (ie: virtually all pupils have targets of A or B in all subjects) because otherwise the school will be criticised for having "low expectations".

    Consequently, teachers are under pressure to meet data-based targets for pupil progress and know that their pay progression and job security are at risk if they don't have evidence of pushing pupils to meet these targets (however unrealistic the targets may be).

    So this pressure gets passed onto the kids. The weak SEN pupil with a target grade of B in French feels frustrated and demotivated when they're only achieving Es. Schools put in place intervention sessions after school and at lunchtimes, and parents employ tutors in the evenings, leading to kids feeling exhausted and unable to take any more in.

    I've decided I've got to stop putting pressure on some of my pupils now. If I know they've been trying their best but their brains are saturated and they're tired and fed up, there is no point in me forcing them to complete another controlled assessment resit (although I can still say I have offered them all the opportunity to do so). Because they won't do better under the current circumstances and when they do worse it just serves to demotivate them further and make them feel rubbish about themselves.

    I do remind pupils about the importance of taking a break (ie: revising in short bursts with relaxation in between, rather than cramming for 4 hours straight) but I worry that the pupils who need this message are perfectionists who will keep working anyway, and the ones who listen are the ones who don't need another excuse to take a break!
  6. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    It's typical woolly thinking that the suggested strategy for dealing with stress brought about by pressure in schools is...not to reduce the pressure but to offer expensive counselling. Good for you, Myrtille. There's a lot more to life than school. the world won't end if everyone doesn't get perfect grades, but we will, if we're not careful, end up with suicide and misery like they have in the far east.
    minnie me and JosieWhitehead like this.
  7. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    great post. Schools are very much part of the problem, we should not be criticising the NHS for failing to treat what we are causing. Of course, along with the problems of private rental causing frequent house moves and thus school moves. and many other issues, but we as a profession could do something about school pressure on children if we would only stand up to ofsted and all its ills.
    JosieWhitehead likes this.
  8. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Yes - I know that high achievers also succumb to the anxiety caused by expectation and the students I taught with SpLD who were above average and had an aptitude for certain types of 'learning' but who were / are tested and expected to perform well in a one size fits all exam system. We laud 'ability' to the detriment of other skills, traits and characteristics.
    -myrtille- likes this.
  9. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    I agree entirely. However I think our HT sees it as a sign of the school's caring attitude and concern for pupil welfare.
    minnie me likes this.
  10. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    The problem is that it is assumed that every bit of learning must take place within the lifetime of a child, which isn't nature's way of doing things. I felt a failure when I failed the 11 plus, and our teachers told us we were failures and had low IQs which we'd have for the rest of our days. Yes they did! There was no question of becoming a teacher, which is what I wanted from the age of 5. I left school at 15 with not one qualification, but I was teaching by the age of 21 and there is not one day of my teacher's life I didn't love, and in my retirement have learnt two languages (German - GCSE; and Italian - A level) and I've written 1,350 poems for children, plus learning many more things. Why should children feel failures if they just cannot reach grades when they are children? Our lifetime extends beyond these years. There is something to be said for children doing some work (yes) - but also having time to be children and enjoy playing when they are young.
  11. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Ah yes . .....I was not super bright at school ( convent grammar ) ( my Maths was a disaaaaaster ! ) but I tried very hard and got the prize for effort ( ! ) in the Sixth Form. I only got 2 A levels. My degree was a Third. However, during my career I went onto study a third language, get additional accreditation at Masters re SEND , achieved NPQH ( maybe not saying that much ! ) went onto to tackle other elements of an M Ed and have been published many times in a range of educational journals and publications. We never stop learning and it is beyond cruel to label and categorise students at such a early age .( By the by some of the girls with whom I was at school potentially far more capable academically did not go on to achieve great things in their chosen fields. Choosing to marry well ( global chairmen, dentists , MOD blokes, ) they abandoned their 'careers' before they took off - I think it was such a waste BUT who am I to comment ? it was their choice )
  12. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    Oh, E X C E L L E N T Minnie. You do not have to have achieved everything at a young age and enjoyment of life as well as hard work go well together all through one's life.
  13. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    Our lifetime extends beyond these years. There is something to be said for children doing some work (yes) - but also having time to be children and enjoy playing when they are young.[/QUOTE]

    How very dare you, children are simply educational units to be forced through the latest version of the sausage machine.
    Of course, no matter how well they do, the top jobs will still go to those with the rich parents who get them into the old boys network at an early age.
  14. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    I'm sick to the back teeth of "Aim Higher" "High Expectations" "Aspirational Grades" etc. Even worse is blaming a lack of progress on the perceived absence of such things.


    1. The relationship between aspirations and attainment is not straightforward. In general, approaches to raising aspirations have not translated into increased learning.
    2. A key reason for this may be that most young people have high aspirations for themselves. As a result, it is more important to keep these on track by ensuring that students have the knowledge and skills to progress towards them.
    3. The attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that surround aspirations in disadvantaged communities are diverse so generalisations should be avoided.
    4. Effective approaches almost always have a significant academic component, suggesting that raising aspirations in isolation will not be effective.
    5. Have you considered how you will monitor the impact on attainment of any interventions or approaches?

    What works.jpg
    minnie me likes this.
  15. hhhh

    hhhh Star commenter

    If you asked teachers now whether the Victorian way of schooling was wicked and cruel, most would say yes. But have we created (or perpetuated, maybe extended) something that's worse? I think it was in the late nineties that it really started-the idea that all children are basically the same, so that as long as we have 'targets', they can all achieve the same. It eventually resulted in what we have now-that data matters far more than children. Or teachers, for that matter.
    indusant likes this.
  16. indusant

    indusant Senior commenter

    It's little surprise that pupils are stressed when teachers are also constantly stressed. Many secondary schools are just awful places to be. The obsession with data completely misses the point of what education should be about. Kids are just numbers, and not much else.

    As for teachers, the pressure and workload forces them to work constantly, but not efficiently. The pressure eventually becomes counter productive and people burn out. It's the same for the kids, especially when the prevailing view is that progress has to be shown every 10 minutes. When there is so much pressure for something to happen it often just doesn't happen. It's like a double bind.

    I really think that good things (even genius) can occur when people are relaxed and not stressed. You can begin to follow your own voice, your own inner 'music'. But schools are not the place for developing this. They are the places of bureaucracy and box ticking. There is a lack of self trust as everything has to be scrutinised and approved by some 'other'. It breeds insecurity and paranoia in teachers and pupils alike.

    It all adds up to a system that is conducive to mental stress. It's gone to such an extent that any alternative seems outlandish. Perhaps that is what is most depressing about it. Hopefully the current mess will eventually lead to a happier period to be in education. All things must pass, and all that...
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2016
    minnie me and palmtree100 like this.
  17. snowyhead

    snowyhead Lead commenter

    Now, according to Barry Smith of Michaela Community School pupil stress (and it would seem the majority of mental health conditions) is a myth:

    Mental Health
    I really don’t like all this talk of ‘intolerable pressure’ and ‘stress’ on school kids.

    In my experience most kids are bone idle unless you’re right on top of them. They’re not stressed out. They’re making excuses for lack of self-control.

    If kids at Michaela don’t do homework, and this is monitored very tightly, they are guaranteed a detention. The kids know. There is no escape. There is no doubt. There is no ‘stress’.

    If kids break the rules twice in a lesson, this could be fiddling with your pen and then later on turning around to smirk at a mate, they’ll get a detention. Guaranteed. No escape. No doubt. No uncertainty. No ‘stress’.

    Does that sound like ‘intolerable pressure’ to you?

    Are you thinking, ‘My God! That place is a prison. Those poor kids are at high risk of mental health issues due to the hot house, highly academic, no excuses ethos, where Oxbridge entry is touted daily?’

    That’s because you’ve never been to Michaela. We read out test results, we show TT Rock star rankings at break, we punish kids who get lots of demerits and we reward kids who get lots of merits. We celebrate high achievers. We celebrate effort. We celebrate change for the better.

    We don’t do ‘tea & sympathy’ we do ‘pull your socks up!’

    We’ll help you pull your socks up, but we won’t let you make excuses.

    ‘I slept in!’ won’t cut it. Detention. ‘I forget’ is a blatant lie. Detention. The list goes on.

    Kids at Michaela aren’t ‘stressed’! They know the way school works, the way every teacher works.

    You break the rules? You’re guaranteed to be punished. You work hard and you’re kind? You’re guaranteed to be praised.

    I reckon our kids do about 60 to 90 minutes of homework per night. The ones that don’t, the ones that offer up excuses instead of effort – they know they’re going to get caught and do detention.

    So, kids at Michaela aren’t under ‘intolerable pressure’ or ‘stressed’. They simply know 100% that every action has a consequence. They know that, ultimately, they are in charge, they decide their own fate.

    That’s true empowerment. No stress. Your future is what you make it. The choices you make today will form your future. And yes, because unless we watch you like a hawk you’re lazy, we will punish you every time you fail to pull your weight.

    I don’t think we’re doing kids any favours at all talking about ‘a rising tide of stress due to high expectations’.

    The real scourge of society isn’t the supposed epidemic of mental health issues.

    What we really need to battle is procrastination, the media fuelled obsession with fame at any cost and in any domain – too many teenagers live for notoriety, the excuse culture that permeates everything, the pseudo medicalisation of normal emotions, the overuse of words like ‘depression’, ‘mental health’ and ‘pressure’. That’s what we need to fight rather than handing out limiting and harmful labels.

    I’ve never known a stricter, happier, more loving school. I’ve never taught prouder, more confident, more polite kids. I’ve never worked with more committed, hard-working, passionate teachers.

    This doesn’t happen by accident. It happens when kids know the rules and the rules don’t budge.

    Maybe that’s the response we need to ‘the rising tide of stress’.

    More schools that call pupils and parents to account every time.

    I know what I think.
  18. Malaguena

    Malaguena New commenter

    I have met Mr Smith and he is very no nonsense and practical. A lot of what he says is spot on, though I don't agree with all of it. I have a son who is in primary who has been unable to sleep at night because he is worried about being no good at maths and due to the constant "interventions" he is placed in as teachers are worried about not meeting their targets.
  19. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    When I was at primary school, we were quite aware that the 11 plus was coming and that if you failed it, you would be cast on the rubbish heap for the rest of your life - - - well, that is what it seemed like. And quite true, the first day at secondary modern (and not a very good secondary school at that), we were told that we had been thrown onto the rubbish heap and it was their job to pass the next four years until we went to work in shops or factories. Yes, you really felt a failure if you failed the 11 plus, ha ha Luckily (and I'm well into granny-hood now) I've had more than enough time to prove they were wrong! Tell your son not to worry. Oh, I should mention that parents often bribed us with "a new bike" for passing the 11 plus. It has always been a worry about not being good at maths or other subjects, but you survive somehow and some actually do enjoy their lives and get by even though they're not too good at maths.
  20. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    so the only worthwhile activity in the evening is doing homework as laid down by the godlike teacher. No value on being a cadet, scout, guide, St John's cadet, playing music, spending time playing with other children, playing with parents, reading a book........
    of course that works well for parents whose children are an inconvenience that gets in the way of their own career.
    JosieWhitehead likes this.

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