Academic anxiety greater source of student stress than body image concerns, says former government adviser

The Independent is reporting that academic anxiety has become a greater source of stress for teenagers than concerns about body image, the government’s former mental health tsar has said.

The new, tougher GCSEs – which students in England are receiving results for – have caused worrying levels of anxiety among teenagers, according to parents, teachers and experts.  

Natasha Devon, the Department for Education’s former mental health tsar, has seen a rise in secondary school students asking for help to cope with “academic anxiety” over the past two years.

Traditionally, the number one concern among teenagers she worked with was body image, she said.  

Her comments come as tens of thousands of 16-year-olds receive their GCSE results.

Under the biggest shakeup of exams in England for a generation, GCSEs have been toughened up and have moved away from coursework to exams at the end of two years.

Traditional A* to G grades have been replaced with a 9-1 system, with 9 the highest grade, for the reformed GCSEs which were first awarded in summer last year with maths and English.

This year, a further 20 subjects will be awarded grades under the new numerical system in England.

Speaking of securing top grades at GCSE, Ms Devon told The Independent: “It does feel like there is more pressure on students and they feel they have to be more competitive with each other.”

Ms Devon, who works with teenagers in schools, said: “Academic anxiety has now replaced body image worries as the number one reason pupils give for feelings of panic and distress.”

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