Scottish exams 2021: Warnings around results' impact on pupil mental health

Thousands of young people will face the “incredibly tough” stress of exam results as the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown on their mental health takes its toll, the NSPCC has said.

The children’s charity said it had delivered almost 2,000 counselling sessions with young people across the UK concerned about exams during the pandemic, with almost half (43 per cent) including a discussion on the young person’s mental health.

It comes as Scottish Labour warned the impact of Covid-19 on pupils’ mental health was “severe”.

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Scottish Labour have warned of the 'severe' impact on mental health for pupils ahead of results day

Michael Marra, the party’s education spokesperson, said it would be the most disadvantaged communities that would pay the price for “two years of education chaos”.

He said: “For the second year in a row, many pupils are facing an exam system which judges them on their background rather than their ability – but this year there is no easy fix.

“Real concerns remain that the moderation of these results mean that young people from historically poorer achieving schools will not have the chance to fulfil their full potential.

“These young people have already had to deal with the unprecedented stress and disruption of the pandemic. It is a scandal that, after overcoming all of this, their life chances will be hit again.

"The impact of all they have faced on the mental health of our young people has been severe.”

Wendy Robinson, service head of Childline, said the approach to results day can be “challenging” for young people as they await the grades that will determine their next steps.

She said: “The impact of the pandemic has made this even more difficult – and young people have told our Childline counsellors they are understandably feeling anxious and stressed.

“The last year has been incredibly tough for young people with school closures, exam cancellations and changes to the assessment process, so it is vital that they are supported and listened to.

“Young people have told us they’re concerned that they may get lower grades than if they’d been able to sit their exams, or that their results are out of their control – whereas others are concerned that they won’t get the results they need for their future.

“Some also said they struggled to prepare and do the work they were being graded on due to having so much time out of school because of restrictions.”

Ms Robinson added that it was critical young people were listened to and provided with support.

She said: “If any young person is feeling apprehensive and worried about their results, I’d urge them to talk to someone about it.

“And if they don’t get the results they need, there are options they can take and there are trusted adults that they can turn to for help and support."

A spokesperson for Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “This year’s more flexible approach will deliver fair, credible and consistent results based on teacher judgement of the evidence of each pupil’s attainment. There are no algorithms; no historic results defining awards, no SQA [Scottish Qualifications Authority] veto on results – and the most comprehensive appeal process ever as a safeguard.

“Scotland’s industry leaders and employers have also made it clear that they recognise and value the qualifications achieved by young people this year as much as any other year.”

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