Results Day Stress

20th August 2020

Results Day Stress

Amid last week's A-Level results, yesterday’s withdrawal of B-TEC results and today’s GCSE results it is a gross understatement to say that anxiety levels among students, families and educators are sky-high. Not only have this year’s student cohort had to deal with the incredibly difficult period of lockdown during Covid-19 at a time in their lives when friendship groups are usually pivotal, they have also had to cope with a change in teaching methods and of course the questions surrounding how their results will be graded in the absence of formal exams.

Reports from ChildLine

This year, despite exams being cancelled, ChildLine reported an increase in the number of calls made by students who were concerned or anxious about their results. Some of the key themes included:

  • Emotions regarding the news that exams had been cancelled (including anxiety and stress)
  • Feeling of lack of control and uncertainty over their future
  • Feeling cheated/robbed from the opportunity to sit their exams (and prepare for them)
  • Remorse at having not prepared or performed better at their mock exams
  • Fears that course work/predictions would not yield the results needed to achieve their ambitions

In a feature published on, Peter Wanless CEO of NSPCC stated;

“It is important young people remember that no matter what their results are, their grades do not define them. It’s vital that any young person receiving GCSE or A Level results has a trusted adult who can listen to their worries and discuss their options with them such as a careers advisor, teacher, parent or Childline.”

Advice for Educators

It is likely that many teachers will encounter students experiencing these feelings and heightened stress levels. It is vitally important that these very real concerns are captured and reported, and that the correct support is put in place to support students at this difficult time. And lest we forget, the majority of students returning to school are doing so after a period of extended absence during lockdown during which time they may have been exposed to a number of other challenges to their wellbeing, so relentless vigilance for the signs and symptoms of distress will be essential as the new term begins. Are staff sufficiently well-trained for this and does your school have the capacity to cope if safeguarding and wellbeing concerns start to rise?   

It is possible, some of these feelings and issues may be resolved and dissipated now that the majority of the grades have now been announced, but there is a danger that some feelings of anxiety or disappointment may manifest later on and in other less obvious ways. Ensuring that any concerns are captured, can ensure that no pupil will miss out on the support they need and that the correct welfare checks can be carried out with the best interests of the student at heart.

The start of the new school year will also be wholly unprecedented in terms of the professional and emotional demands that it will make on staff so their wellbeing also requires close attention by leaders.

Mike Glanville Director of Safeguarding Services comments; 

“The current situation will no doubt leave many young people feeling incredibly frustrated and angry after a long period of uncertainty. The overall impact of the last 6 months or so on the emotional health of our children and young people cannot be under-estimated and the consequences of this are going to be felt for some time. Schools and colleges will need to be extra-vigilant in identifying and managing those wellbeing issues that are likely to come to the surface in September when establishments re-open and the new term begins in earnest.”

students moving forward

Moving Forward                     

An article in the Times Education Supplement May edition written by Mair Bull, titled ‘Why schools need to more than exam factories,’ was an interesting prediction of the current exams results debacle. It highlights that the focus on exam results should be (and arguably is) moving away from a results driven fixation towards a more holistic approach to development and wellbeing.

Whilst the pandemic has unfortunately caused stress to students, schools and colleges and put pressure on the whole exam system, perhaps there will be something positive to take from it. Could this be the opportunity for a paradigm shift in the way that students are assessed moving forward and the chance for a more modern and student-focused way of assessment which considers pupil mental health and wellbeing?


Written by Melanie Harding