Young people turn to Childline over exam stress

Thousands of children and teenagers are seeking help from Childline as they struggle to cope with the pressure of taking exams

Teenage girl in the street speaking on a mobile phoneChildline delivered 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2017/18 – with just over a fifth taking place in May1.

Half of the counselling sessions were with young people aged 12 to 15 years old2. Some of these young people were concerned about:

  • an overwhelming workload
  • pressure from their parents
  • worries about whether they would get the grades they want.

Young people contacting Childline also said the prospect of taking exams was having an adverse effect on their mental health, with some saying it was leading to them self-harming, feeling depressed or experiencing anxiety.

Illustration of 3 purple stick figures and 1 yellow stick figureChildline counsellors are only able to respond to 3 out of 4 children and young people that reach out for help.

Our Are you there? campaign is calling on the Government to increase funding so Childline can be there for more young people who desperately need to talk to someone.

"I think I'm going to fail my GCSEs and that makes me so worried for the future. What if I can't get a job anywhere? I'm struggling in so many subjects and finding revision hard because I don't really know how to organise myself. I've been self-harming to deal with how scared I am."
Teenage boy who contacted Childline

Tips and advice to help reduce exam stress

  • Take regular revision breaks and try exercising.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable time and try get some sleep.
  • Try to think positively. Even if you don't feel like it, a positive attitude can help.
  • Remember: everyone's different. Try not to compare yourself to others.

  • Facilitate classroom discussions to get students talking about exam stress.
  • Encourage students to take regular breaks.
  • Encourage students to talk to you or other teachers about how they're feeling.
  • Help students to see exam stress as short-term.

Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCCPeter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC said:
"Preparing for and taking exams places a lot of pressure on young people. Worryingly for some these feelings can act as a trigger to them developing mental health issues.

"It is therefore vital that family, friends and teachers are there to support children and teenagers during this stressful time, listening to them and keeping them calm and focused so they can properly prepare for the challenges to come.

"Exams are very important and we really want young people to do their very best. However, they should also remember that if things don't go exactly according to plan there will be lots of other opportunities for them to express themselves and succeed."

More support and advice for children and young people


All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person. Quotes are created from real Childline contacts but are not necessarily direct quotes from the young person.


  1. 1. There were 3,135 Childline counselling sessions from 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2018 in relation to exam stress. 683 of these (22%) took place in May 2017.

  2. 2. 903 counselling sessions were held with 16-18 year olds; 1,579 with 12-15 year olds, 203 with children aged 11 and under. In the remaining 450 counselling sessions the age was unknown.