Increasing exam pressure on pupils is not the answer.

IT’S half-term this week, which means only one thing in our house; how to persuade my Year 11 son to start revising in earnest for his GCSEs, which loom ever closer on the horizon. It’s not an easy task, for either of us. Mother and writer Jayne Dowle writes in The Yorkshire Post.

Jack has already been in tears several times. It’s heart-breaking to see your 6ft 3in tall teenager crumple like a toddler because his brain simply won’t accept any more information. In response, I swing wildly from sympathy to frustration. The sympathy is based on acute memories of my own exams.

Last year, a survey carried out by the Key, a national school support service, reported that eight of 10 primary school leaders reported that their pupils were displaying serious symptoms of stress during SATs tests. Some children had lost all their eyelashes because of anxiety. These are 10 and 11-year-olds we’re talking about.

That’s just one of the reasons why Schools Minister Nick Gibb’s solution is preposterous. He’s arguing that school children should sit more exams from an early age so that they can learn to cope with stress.

I’d like him to come and explain that to my son who found his Year Six SATs so stressful that he screwed up the practice papers and ran off in hysterics down the garden. I had to beg his teacher not to send any more home. I can’t even recall what his final test scores, the whole thing was so traumatic.

That’s why I’m so glad that the academy secondary school he attends takes a much more constructive approach to GCSE preparation than anything Mr Gibb has suggested so far. It’s operating a “twilight school” until 6pm every evening, offering pupils targeted revision support and help with exam techniques.

This level of support costs money of course, not only in extra payments for extra teaching hours, but heating, lighting, security and I’m told, sometimes free pizza to keep spirits up. It also demands a huge degree of commitment from both school management and individual teachers, who can’t scoot off home at 3 o’clock. Personally, I think it’s amazing. Responsive pupil-centric teaching, the absolute antithesis of rote learning and pointless testing.

If he really wants to help raise standards, Mr Gibb should fund this kind of programme in every secondary school in the country. I can’t tick every multiple choice box correctly on Jack’s chemistry papers, but I do know that putting youngsters through even more exams is not the answer to the question of GCSE stress.

Read more Jayne Dowle: Increasing exam pressure on pupils is not the answer.

What steps is your school taking to guide it’s pupils through the coming exam period? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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