Ambiguity over GCSE examinations for current year 11s has put a strain on mental health, I have found speaking to many pupils. Students are being required to have a second wave of mock assessments, and sit, according to Ofqual, formal assessments in exam-like conditions as often as possible. Pupils don’t know how important these mocks will be, and so have spent the holidays worrying over revision. This much needed break has been tainted for many teens by the worry of upcoming assessments. 


Despite having had mock examinations already, schools all over the UK have been advised to hold second, and most likely third, waves of mocks. This is so that if the official exams are cancelled, students will have reliable results taken from many assessments. This also puts extra pressure onto commonplace tests, as, per Ofqual, any evidence may be used in the event of teacher assessed grades.


The director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, Julie McCulloch, said the plans from Ofqual involve ‘students having to sit a series of mock exams, which may or may not count towards their final grades, as well as then probably having to take formal exams next summer’, as reported by The Guardian. She comments that this is ‘far from ideal and places them under a great deal of pressure.’


Due to rise in Omicron cases in the UK, schools are increasingly unsure over how to advise their students. This uncertainty has reflected on students’ educations. Pupils have no clues from the schools as to how vital these exams will be, as they have no idea whether these results will have to be used. 


Nina Gunson, headteacher of Sheffield High School, said this at the Girls’ Schools Association’s conference:


“I don’t think it’s the final exams that’s causing the anxiety, it’s the unknown and the possibility that they might have teacher assessed grades.”


Zoe Macintosh, a student of Putney High, holds views that appear to reflect with much of the school, and country. 


“I feel like the extra sets of exams mean that I don’t have a break, and the stress is piling up with little to no sympathy or support from adults around me. The uncertainty of whether we will sit final exams or not induces more stress as I don’t know how every exam or test, I sit will affect my final grade”


These extra exams come in a context of worsened mental health amongst teens, especially female secondary pupils, according to an NHS study. Taken from the study report:


‘Older secondary pupils and female secondary pupils continue to report poorer wellbeing scores for happiness, life satisfaction and worthwhileness. Pupil-reported anxiety broadly mirrors these findings.’

‘Anxiety appears to have increased on average between October and December 2020 among secondary pupils’

‘Higher average scores for anxiety are seen for older pupils and female pupils’


This unfortunately means this pressure may feel heightened for the pupils whose mental health has worsened during the past few months. 


Parents have also noticed the distress their children are under. One parent says ‘my daughter has been somewhat isolated from our family holiday due to her revision. Of course I’ve told her she’s working too hard, before guidance has even been announced, but she won’t listen.’

Another parent pleads that the second exams be optional; they ask that only students who felt they did poorly in the first mocks could repeat. 


However, some students feel this second round of mocks would be useful. Some felt they should’ve worked harder on the first mock examinations and aren’t happy with the results they received. Some have stated that they weren’t aware these mocks could be vital and want a second chance. Yet, is this extra worry and stress fair on those who worked hard, as per the advice of the school?