Wellbeing in schools is being tossed aside in favour of exam elitism

My daughter took her own life after I failed to persuade her that getting top grades didn’t matter. Perhaps I failed because she could see that this wasn’t true. Writes Sarah Finke in The Guardian.

Last Thursday my clever 16-year-old daughter Rachel should have been getting her GCSE results. A picture taken at her school happens to illustrate one of your articles online; I recognise the children. But Rachel is not there.

Your coverage of the new GCSEs has rightly highlighted the error of focusing again on the brightest, most academic children, while doing a disservice to all of us by neglecting those who can excel at vocational qualifications.

As a nation we are facing a crisis in teenage mental health. At the same time, teachers are struggling with their own stress, the spectre of the league tables ever-present.

The government talks about the new 1-9 exams being a gold standard helping the UK to compete in a global workplace. I’d say this is claptrap, given the less practical, more old-fashioned nature of new curriculum. And do the new grades really help employers pick the best 16-year-olds? The ability to succeed exceptionally at an academic exam (with no coursework component) is in any case a poor method of selecting candidates for the too-scarce vocational traineeships and apprenticeships.

I spent a lot of time trying to persuade my sick daughter that getting the top marks didn’t really matter; that an A was good enough, that her mental health was more important. I failed in this. I know other parents who had the same discussion with their children.

Perhaps I failed because it was clear to Rachel that it wasn’t true. Despite government mental health commitments, the reality is that combating stress, improving mental health and supporting wellbeing in our school system are being tossed aside in favour of elitism.

Read more Wellbeing in schools is being tossed aside in favour of exam elitism

Do you agree? Is pupil wellbeing becoming overlooked when a schools exam success is crucial? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Northernteacher

    Until the government starts trusting teachers and the curriculum is left alone long enough to be properly embedded, nothing will change. Teachers are under constant pressure to raise grades, this pressure filters down to the children. Anyone who thinks this is not the case is a fool. The academics who advise the government on the curriculum only consider traditional qualifications to be important. Little credence is given to children with good practical skills and this is one of the reasons this skills gap exists.

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