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Return of exams see Childline deliver more counselling sessions to concerned children

New figures from Childline indicate rising anxiety levels about exams amongst children and young people during the current academic year.

The pandemic meant that GCSE and A-Level exams were cancelled in 2020 and 2021. However, a return to normality in September has seen the NSPCC run service provide more support to anxious students as end-of-year tests start to loom on the horizon.

In 2021/22 (April 21 – March 22) Childline practitioners delivered 1,734 counselling sessions to children and young people, across the UK, with concerns about exam stress and revision, which is a 62% rise on the previous year.

More than 200 of these were given in March 2022. This is almost double the number of sessions delivered in September 2021, highlighting the increased worry felt by children as exam season draws closer.

When talking to Childline counsellors about their upcoming exams this month, children shared that their worries were affecting their mental health, anxiety levels and ability to sleep. Some young people also shared that they were struggling to focus and concentrate, find the motivation to study or were feeling the pressure from parents and teachers.

A 15-year-old girl told Childline:

“My GCSEs are coming up soon and I'm extremely stressed out about them. I missed so much school the last few years because of the pandemic and I worry this will reflect in my results. I’ve been pulling all-nighters to revise but then I can’t sleep when I try. I can tell this is taking a toll on my mental health - even my friends told me this is affecting my mood. I'm completely terrified of failing these exams and let everyone down.”

The latest Childline figures from 2021/22 also reveal a two-month spike in exam related stress during May and June last year, as students returned to school in March and dealt with the news that exams were being cancelled again and there would be changes to the assessment process.

Mairead Monds, Team Manager at Childline Northern Ireland said:

“Children are still feeling the effects of the pandemic and with GCSE’s and A Levels taking place as normal this year following two years of cancellations, it is really important they get the support they need to manage any concerns or worries they may have.

“As well as speaking to a parent or a teacher, children can contact Childline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and speak to one of our trained counsellors who can provide non-judgemental support and advice.”

Young people can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or via 1-2-1 chat on

Childline also has a huge online community where children can get support from their peers on message-boards and use expert resources to help them through any issue they are concerned about. If adults are worried about children they can get advice from NSPCC practitioners on 0808 800 5000 or

Children can also visit Childline’s Calm Zone which has been a great source of support for children and young people during the pandemic.

Advice for young people taking exams includes:

  • Make sure you take regular breaks from revising and do some exercise

  • Go to bed at a reasonable time and try and get some sleep

  • Try to think positively – even if you don’t feel like it, a positive attitude will help you during your revision

  • Remember that everyone's different - try not to compare yourself to your friends.

Advice for parents and carers to help ease exam stress:

  • Don’t place unnecessary pressure on your children to gain certain grades.

  • Encourage children to take regular breaks, eat snacks and exercise.

  • Help them revise by leaving them the space and time to do so.

  • Be supportive and help alleviate their worries by talking to them.


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