Looking after student and staff wellbeing during exam season: Part 2 of 3

Our school is strongly focused on well-being for both pupils and staff, and understands that if staff well-being or morale is low then this can impact teaching and learning. Since returning to school and staff have found pupils increasingly aware of their own well-being, too. PSHE lessons often discuss well-being and promote and encourage strategies which may help such as the importance of exercise. These discussions have led to positive action: for example, our Year 9 recently completed an inter-tutor walking competition (how many miles could a tutor group collectively complete).

With older year groups, particularly GCSE classes, there is a definite and obvious worry about “missed learning.” Despite receiving quality resources and lessons throughout the pandemic, there is a comfort in classroom teaching that students have missed. However, staff are conscious not to add to this pressure by even phrasing the pandemic as missed learning, rather we are taking the approach of doing what we can now that is manageable e.g. helping students create realistic revision timetables, recap questions at the start of each lesson as well as promoting reading for pleasure. By breaking down the pandemic and identifying where there may be gaps, students can recognize how that should be the focus for their revision. This has led to student independence, with many pro-actively finding staff to ask for additional support or mark practice essays. Revision is the key to confidence when it comes to exams and students are aware teachers are always willing to help students!

It is important to recognize that everyone has a different stress threshold. Where some may feel stressed from disorganization others may feel stressed or overwhelmed from not being able to remember everything. This is especially noticeable in English as there are so many texts to cover which span so many time periods.

My top five tips for students to help with exam worries:

  • Recognize when you are feeling stressed – what are your warning signs? Do you get a headache? Short-tempered? Recognize this in yourself and learn to step back – it will be more beneficial in the long run!
  • SLEEP! Students need roughly 8 hours a night to be functioning properly. Your mind cannot process your days learning if you are awake all night – sleep and dreaming is literally the time your brain stores its memories.
  • Learn to put down your phone. It is so easy to sit on your phone as your revision break but sometimes this can be counter-productive. Time can go so quickly and you can become distracted and absorbed in something which distracts you.
  • Revise in manageable time frames. Revise for an hour and then have a 15-minute break and repeat. You may need to be moving around and making time to eat and drink within revision so that you are appropriately fuelled!
  • PLAN your revision! Ensure you know exactly what you are doing on each day otherwise your revising can be chaotic and overwhelming. Revising A Christmas Carol on Monday? Which part? Which character? Be specific beforehand so you do not feel confused.

English Teacher, Manchester

I have worked in my current school for over five years and have loved it! Although teaching can be challenging (and tiring) there is something lovely about encouraging students to read and write incredible stories.