Campaign to ease students’ exam stresses

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Peer support can be critical to giving students vital guidance at times of exam stress, a prominent headteacher has said, backing a campaign to boost mental health.

Matthew Burton, who rose to fame in the television series Educating Yorkshire, is now headteacher at the Dewsbury school featured in the programme, Thornhill Community Academy. He is also backing a campaign from BBC Bitesize, championing its first peer-to-peer coaching network for GCSE and national students.

Matthew Burton, headteacher at Thornhill Community Academy.

Matthew Burton, headteacher at Thornhill Community Academy.

In modern times, with the pressures of social media, exam pressures can be even more intense for young people, he argues.

“Exams are hard, and challenging, and a right of passage that young people will always remember,” he said. “We all have that responsibility to ensure that people’s mental and physical health is right.”

The Mind Set, from BBC Bitesize, works with Young Minds, Childline and National Citizen Service to offer support and help to students. Featuring 12 student coaches from a variety of backgrounds who have recently taken their own exams, they offer practical and well-being advice on how to get through exams.

“It’s about a group of students that have been through it, and have done it,” said Mr Burton. “They can give a different perspective. Teachers are talking about it, but young adults, learning from their peers, is a really useful tool.”

Mr Burton is this month to speak at education technology show Bett, taking place at Excel London from January 23 to 26.

He will be hosting a session called Life after School, looking at how BBC Bitesize is working to support students on their journey beyond school life.

“Revision is about knowing your stuff and being able to articulate that,” he adds. “Mindset is around the how, and the why.

“Resilience is such an important part of who we are, and children need to know what a lack of success feels like. If there’s enough positive messages around children and young people, we can hope there’s enough pieces of the jigsaw to support them.”