Stephanie Smith: As exams approach, no wonder our teens wonder what it’s all for

Households throughout the land are coping with the stress of looming GCSE, AS and A-level exams.
Households throughout the land are coping with the stress of looming GCSE, AS and A-level exams.
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Moody groans and depressed sighs, constant snack foraging and other well-practised procrastination tactics, monosyllabic answers, lots of eye-rolling and a chronic shortage of mugs because they are all mouldering away somewhere upstairs in a bedroom that looks like a skip filled with dirty clothes, scraps of paper and old crisp packets?

If you recognise any of these signs, you probably have a teenager in the house, soon to sit GCSE, AS or A-level exams.

It’s a tough time for teens, ridiculously stressful, especially as many must be wondering what, exactly, they are supposed to be working so hard towards. Even if they get the grades they need for university, they can look forward to yet another three years of endless study, assessment and examination to allow them to “progress” to the next year and achieve their degree.

After which, they may well find that no one else much cares about their degree, least of all the sort of employer they would prefer to work for. Once they compromise on a job, their rent will take a huge proportion of their salary. They won’t be able to afford their own home until their late 30s, paying off a student debt of £50,000-plus until into their 50s, and will have to work into their 70s, after which they can look forward to a pension their grandparents today would dismiss as paltry pocket money.

So, if the nation’s teenagers are looking gloomy as they mope about in their sweat pants, peering into kitchen cupboards in search of Frosties, who can blame them?

A new book, The Well-Being of Children in the UK, edited by Professor Jonathan Bradshaw of the University of York, suggests that UK children are more unhappy than they were in 2009, with worrying trends emerging when looking at youngsters’ mental health. It’s not all bad news, with positive trends noted too, including improved levels of exercise and educational achievement – but at what cost?

Through no fault of their own, today’s children and teenagers will have to shoulder a huge burden. The least we can do is try to support them now and make their childhood as happy as we can.

“As a nation we pay enormous attention to the well-being of our economy, the state of the weather and sporting league tables, but we need to make more effort to monitor the well-being of our children,” says Professor Bradshaw. “We need to devote more resources to understanding how they are doing and to ensuring that their childhood is as good as it can be.”

Worth bearing in mind as your teen disappears upstairs with a bowl of cereal, slopping milk as they go.

Twitter: @yorkshirefashQ

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