Schools are so obsessed with exam results they’re slashing the time kids spend exercising

exam results
Sam Woolfe

Children and young people across the country are dealing with worrying levels of stress. But this isn’t healthy stress. The pressure to do well in exams means that many pupils are now suffering from mental health issues. And now, a survey has shown this obsession with delivering better exam results is driving many schools to cut down on physical education; which is only going to worsen the mental health of students.

Exam pressure 

The Youth Sport Trust’s (YST) survey found that 38% of secondary schools have reduced timetabled PE classes for 14-to-16-year-olds. Teachers say:

PE provision has declined because core/eBacc subjects have been given additional time with students taken out of timetabled Physical Education for extra tuition in other subjects.

And increased competition is playing a role. As YST highlighted:

One in three [teachers] cited exam pressures as a key reason for the decline.

The importance of PE

In response to the survey results, YST chief executive Ali Oliver made it clear why PE is so important:

Like English and Maths, Physical Education should be part of the bedrock of a good education which equips young people with the vital skills which support their wellbeing, ability to learn in other subjects and help prepare them for employment.

A high quality Physical Education curriculum uses sport as a vehicle through which a joy of movement is established, life skills are developed and an understanding of a healthy lifestyle is acquired.

Cuts to Physical Education time are depriving young people of these benefits at a time when they have never needed them more. We will be selling this and future generations short if Physical Education is not made fit for the 21st century and put at the heart of a broad and balanced curriculum in our schools.

Many other experts emphasise just how beneficial PE is for pupils’ well-being and educational performance.

Mental health consequences

Childline previously revealed that it “delivered 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2016/17 – a rise of 11% over the past 2 years”. And the young people who called Childline for help said their exam stress has led to issues such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, low self-esteem, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and a worsening of mental health issues.

Exercise plays a crucial role in combating stress and mental health problems. So by cutting down on PE time, schools could be risking both pupils’ mental health and their exam performance. This certainly isn’t good for either schools or students. In spite of this, increased competition in the jobs market has encouraged many schools to prioritise a focus on exams over broader well-being.

Get Involved!

– Contact Childline if you’re affected by exam stress.

– Read more articles from The Canary on education and mental health.

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