There’s an Anxiety Epidemic in Secondary School Students Going Back to School

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Psychreg, (2019, September 5). There’s an Anxiety Epidemic in Secondary School Students Going Back to School. Psychreg on Educational Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/anxiety-going-back-to-school/
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A tutoring agency has discovered that over two-thirds of secondary school students suffer from anxiety when they start a new school year. A survey of 1,000 students aged 12 to 16 found that 62% suffer from feelings of anxiety at the start of a new school year. With over 2.5 million students of secondary school age going back to school this week, that means there could be over 1 million anxious students in the UK. With unaddressed anxiety potentially leading to numerous physical and mental health problems, this anxiety epidemic poses a real threat to the well-being of UK students, as well as jeopardising their chances of academic success.

While it is well recognised that UK students are at risk of a variety of mental health issues, with as many as 1 in 3 secondary school students suffering from mental health problems, there has been little recognition of the prevalence of anxiety in students upon starting a new school year.

Recent studies on specific aspects of a school child’s experience, such as the transition from primary to secondary school, anxiety leading up to tests, or anxiety in children that struggle with disorders such as autism, have received some attention. However, a more general understanding of how children feel about going to school, particularly returning to school after the summer holidays, is largely unrepresented.

Tutor House, the UK’s leading tutoring agency, has undertaken a student survey to assess the stress and anxiety experienced by students when they begin the new school year.

Tutor House asked 1,000 students aged between 12 and 16 whether they felt very anxious, slightly anxious, or not at all anxious about returning to school after the summer holidays. 62% of students claimed to be suffering from feelings of anxiety, with 34% claiming to feel ‘slightly anxious’ and 28% reporting they felt ‘very anxious’ about returning to school. 

Students were also asked what aspect of returning to school they were most worried about: ‘making new friends’, ‘keeping up with schoolwork’, ‘a new teacher’, ‘getting good grades’ or ‘other’.

Thirty-eight per cent claimed that ‘getting good grades’ was their prime cause of anxiety, with a further 11% citing ‘keeping up with schoolwork’ as their main concern. ‘Other’ causes came in third at 7% while ‘a new teacher’ and ‘making new friends’ accounted for 4% and 2% respectively. The results indicate that the pressure of succeeding academically is a root cause of anxiety in pupils.

While for many students, anxiety around returning to school will quickly melt away after a week or so, for some students this back to school anxiety can become prolonged and have lasting implications for their mental health, as well as impacting on their ability to perform academically. Prolonged anxiety can cause symptoms including fatigue, panic attacks, sleep problems and difficulty concentrating, all of which can negatively impact a student’s ability to learn and their emotional well-being. Suffering from anxiety can also lead on to further mental health problems including depression, eating disorders and OCD. 

There are a number of steps parents can take to alleviate their child’s anxiety, from talking through their concerns to meeting with their teacher or investing in a private tutor to help build their self-confidence academically. Prevention is always better than cure, but if you feel your child’s anxiety is persevering or becoming intense it is best to seek out professional help through your GP or a child counsellor.

Tutor House is the UK’s leading tutoring agency, making finding the perfect tutor for every student quick and easy. On a mission to give every student the personalised education they both need and deserve, Tutor House are committed to recognising the unique needs of each student and finding the right tutor to help them achieve their goals.

Alex Dyer from Tutor House says: ‘Discovering just how many of our students experience anxiety relating to going back to school is alarming and something all parents and teachers should be aware of. While the impact on a student’s academic performance is, of course, troubling, it’s the impact on their mental health which is most disturbing. We often pass off feelings like anxiety as trivial or even natural, particularly in the run-up to a change like starting a new school year. However, it is evident that students are feeling an unhealthy level of anxiety over something which should be a positive experience – returning to school. 

‘It seems that students are feeling an exorbitant amount of pressure to perform, both academically and socially, without necessarily having the tools and support they need to do so. While students should be encouraged to try their best, it is vital that they feel able to do so in a safe and non-judgemental environment. We hope that making parents aware of the stress their children may be feeling and the start of a new school year will help them to spot any troubling signs and encourage them to find ways of helping their child manage stress effectively.’


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