NSPCC regional head Caroline Watts on the help available to students

AUGUST is traditionally an anxious month for teenagers around the country and their families, as they await their exam results after months of preparation, hard work and stress.

In amongst all the anxiety of the build-up to results day, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Whether they admit it or not, everyone you know who is also waiting for their results will be feeling just the same as you, and regardless of whether you are waiting for your GCSE or A-level results, or you’re close to someone who is, it is entirely natural to feel emotional about an event like this.

There is so much pressure – and perceived pressure – placed on young people to do well in education, by teachers, family and even by the students themselves, that expectations can become impossibly high. This, naturally, leads to worry and concern for the teenagers, and can cause emotional as well as physical problems.

In the last year, Childline volunteers have delivered 1,414 counselling sessions to children and young people who were worried about exams and exam results – an increase of nine per cent on the previous year, and the fourth consecutive year-on-year increase.

Young people who have contacted Childline reported suffering panic attacks caused by worrying about their exam results. Many said they felt under pressure to achieve grades to ensure they could get into their first-choice university, and worried that if they did not achieve this target, they would disappoint their parents or ruin their futures.

Some anxious students also reported problems sleeping, fear of being compared to their peers and worrying about future employment as well as further education, during calls to Childline counsellors in 2018/2019.

After all the build-up and worry, suddenly seeing the results in black and white in front of you can bring about a surge of emotions – both positive

and negative.

Once you receive your results, whether they are better than you had expected or if you didn’t do as well as you had hoped, the most important thing to remember is this – there are always options available to you.

If you haven’t done as well as you wanted to, it can be easy to panic and think negatively, but please, take some time to think about what your next step could be and the opportunities ahead of you.

Your next step might be looking at how you could stay in education, either progressing from your current grades or resitting one or more exams. You might want to find out more about apprenticeships or vocational courses which could be open to you.

The choice is yours as to whether you’d prefer to go to university or further education, or leave academia completely and head straight into full-time work, but remember, whatever direction you choose to take, it must be the right decision for you.

However, while nobody else can make the decision for you, there are lots of people who can help you plan your future. You do not have to make these decisions alone.

Speak to your teachers, career advisers or university clearing helplines about what courses might be available to you, or which might be most suitable. Speak to your friends or family and get their advice on your options. You don’t have to take their advice, but it never hurts to hear someone else’s opinion.

And if you’d rather speak anonymously to someone about your fears and concerns about exam results, your future, or anything else that’s bothering you, our Childline volunteers are on call and available online 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

You can discuss your results, thoughts about your future, or just let off steam about how you’re feeling right now – whatever the reason for your call, we’re here and we’re ready to listen.

And if you’re a parent or carer with concerns about a young person’s wellbeing in the run-up to or after receiving their exam results, our Helpline is available to offer guidance and support.

The most important thing to remember though, is that despite all the work that goes into your studies, the letters and numbers on that piece of paper do not determine the rest of your life.

Childline can be reached 24/7 on 0800 1111 or online at childline.org.uk

If you are an adult worried about a young person, you can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 8005000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk