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Children’s Mental Health Week: Two in three children feel anxious and stressed due to school

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Almost two-thirds (65%) of UK children say they have felt anxious, nervous or stressed because of school, according to new research commissioned for Children’s Mental Health Week (6-12th February). 

The study by Oxford Home Schooling, one of the UK’s leading home education providers, surveyed 1,000 students aged between 5 and 16 to reveal how many have had mental health issues, and the leading causes of these feelings. 

Anxiety is the most common negative emotion (39%), and this is primarily down to the pressure to do well in class (43%). Even children as young as Key Stage One (age 5-7) reported feeling anxious (26%) at school. 

The ten negative emotions UK children experience most often at school are: 

Anxious 39% 
Nervous 38% 
Stressed 37% 
Worry 36% 
Upset 36% 
Frustration 31% 
Sad 30% 
Angry 27% 
Embarrassment 20% 
10 Scared 18% 

The most prominent cause of stress, however, is homework (55%). While this is naturally more of a concern for older students – rising to 62% in Key Stage Five – over half (54%) of primary school children say homework is already making them stressed. 

Sadly, almost a fifth of pupils (18%) also say that they have felt scared at school. This is mainly due to bullying (37%), but pressure to succeed is again a major factor (28%). 

Interestingly, besides anger and frustration, female students are far more likely than their male classmates to experience each of the 12 negative emotions included in the research, particularly stress (42% vs 32%). 

Philip Eley, author and wellbeing lead of a schoolswork charity, shares his expert advice for parents on how to assist their children with their mental health. 

How to identify their triggers 

“If you suspect your child is suffering from mental health there are a number of warning signs that you can look out for. See how they react to situations when they are calm as opposed to when they are feeling overwhelmed. When you notice these changes, it is important to get them back to a level of calmness and this can be achieved through listening to music, a calming activity or breathing exercises.” 

Find healthy ways to help them project  

“School can often feel exhausting, and most children need some time to decompress afterwards. A lot of what they do when they seem ‘closed off’ are simply coping strategies that they have developed. When talking to your child, try to be calm and empathetic when reaching out – it is imperative that you help them find healthier ways to project their frustrations.” 

Be empathetic and listen to their needs 

“As parents, we do sometimes rush in to ‘fix’ things which is rarely helpful. If we offer advice, it can communicate that the problems are small and easily fixable. The best support we can offer is empathetic listening, which helps to create a calm, empathetic, non-judgemental space for children and young people to talk in an open, unhurried way.” 

Greg Smith, Head of Operations at Oxford Home Schooling, said:

“School can be a difficult time for many children, with a variety of stresses and pressures experienced from a very early age. It’s certainly concerning to see that students as young as five years old are feeling anxious, and they should be supported as much as possible. 

“Schools must take responsibility for ensuring pupils are as comfortable as possible in their care and closely monitor for any signs of these mental health issues. This is one advantage of home schooling, as parents can keep a close eye on their child’s wellbeing and adapt the learning environment to the individual.” 

For expert advice on how to support your child with school-related stress, visit: Oxford Home Schooling | UK Provider of KS3, GCSE, & A Level Courses 

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