At the moment, like many other young people all over the UK, many of our Shout Out volunteers are undertaking exams and tests at schools, colleges and university. So this month we have decided to blog on this subject; Here is an honest and open view from Megan, one of our Shout Out volunteers:
It wasn’t that many years ago when I was at school, but so much has changed in such a short amount of time and it’s heartbreaking.
As I write this my sister is worrying about starting her GCSEs. I look after a 7-year-old who goes to school each day just like I did – except, unlike me, he’s barely allowed to be a child because of the amount of homework he’s set. Then there’s school itself, where playtime is heavily regulated, because what on earth would health and safety have to say about children being children?
People say that your school years are the best years of your life, and once upon a time I think that was likely very true; but now I disagree hugely. The average school pupil has such a high level of anxiety that it matches levels which people were hospitalised for in the 50’s(1). Surely that is not right or fair.
From a young age were are pitted against one another. At first it’s developmental milestones, then as soon as we learn to write we are set SATS. The most talented pupils are put into gifted and talented and everyone else is told they aren’t good enough, they must be better.
By 14, you are choosing subjects which could limit your options later on in life. You are learning complicated maths equations and analysing books which you have little interest in. It’s no longer ok for you to simply get 5 GCSEs above a C, because so many children are expected to get A*s across the board.
Very few people in life excel in specific areas, let alone across a wide range of subjects. I personally excelled in science, others like the arts or sport… Those individual strengths are what allow society to work. If we were all able to do everything amazingly, that would be very odd indeed. Yes, some skills are key to life, to be able to read, write and do simple maths will aid your life, but you know what- YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET STRAIGHT A*s TO BE GOOD ENOUGH! Human beings are not encyclopaedias: we aren’t meant to know everything.
Teachers are put under pressure to squeeze grades out of their pupils in order to move their school up the league tables, but it doesn’t seem fair to compromise pupil’s health in pursuit of grades. Constantly telling children that they can’t have fun or that they have to study 20 hours a day or even that they have to be exceptional in every subject is never going to create a well rounded and happy adult who is ready for real life.
Life is about so much more than books and exams. Life is about social skills, experiences, communication, and adventure; it’s about discovering who you are, having fun and developing your strengths. I think that’s been forgotten in our education system somewhere.
From primary school to university, summer for many is a time of exams. It’s a time where the pressure builds and sometimes emotions explode. Right now, what I want to say to all those who have exams, now or in the future, is so long as your try your best, that’s enough! You don’t need to get perfect grades, you simply need to do your best.
Yes grades have some importance, but they are nowhere near as important as we’re taught to believe. If you fail an exam you can often resit it at a later date. If you don’t go to university when you initially planned to (or at all), that’s okay, you can explore life and go at a later date or maybe find something different and more suited to you. There is no time limit on education. Despite what society says, you are never too old and it’s never too late to try again.
On results day don’t beat yourself up if the grades in your envelope are less than perfect; be proud of yourself for what you have achieved! You might have performed more strongly in some areas than others. Most of the time just sitting the exam and trying your best is good enough. Your grades do not define who you are. You are more than a grade!
It’s also worth remembering during exam season that your health is more important than any exam grade. Remember it’s ok to put down the books and go for a walk or see some friends! It’s ok to take a day off and just sleep. To succeed you don’t need to constantly revise but you do need regular breaks and to look after yourself.
Get early nights and a good sleep routine. Arrange to see your friends and get out of the house. Spend time doing things you enjoy. Eat well and drink plenty – your mind needs food and water. Take regular breaks whilst studying – proper breaks that relax your brain, because a relaxed brain learns better than a stressed brain.
You’ve got this, no matter what your academically capabilities are or what circumstances you are battling behind closed doors. Stop listening to the pressure the world is unfairly pushing on you and instead just do your best!
Nurturing yourself and who you are will always be more important than the grades you end up with.