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A Testing year?

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As we venture into 2024, we must remember to limit the pressure we put on the youth in our community, says Wanstead resident and A level student Zadie Larsson

As an A level student, it becomes hard not to associate this New Year with impending exams and uncertainty over my next steps. Whether you are choosing to go to university, an apprenticeship or straight into the field of work, the prospects of moving on from school into the adult world can be scary.

There is also the added pressure of being sure of what career you want to pursue. Many young people have an immense feeling of uncertainty over choosing their prospective career options. It is important to normalise the feelings of uncertainty that many youths feel.

For a lot of us, 2024 marks the most important exam year yet, the impending dread of A levels looms, and instead of being excited for the New Year, young students in the community can feel extremely anxious. I invite the adults reading this to limit that pressure as much as possible and to feel compassion towards your children, grandchildren or friends. Anxiety can show itself in a myriad of ways, the NHS saying that signs of anxiety can be seen in ‘irritable’ behaviour, demonstrating how easy it is to confuse ‘acting out’ with genuine worry. Children who find schoolwork a struggle, or those with special educational needs or mental health difficulties, may be more likely to experience academic anxiety. However, so can high achievers, particularly children who are overly perfectionist or whose parents have very high ambitions for them. No one is exempt from these feelings; there is such a broad spectrum of what anxiety can look like for each individual person. For a lot of people, exams add to – or actually cause – the anxiety that a lot of students feel. Academic anxiety is likely to increase as children get older, although primary school teachers have reported anxiety in their pupils too. It can be argued whether such young children need this academic pressure put on them. However, the only thing we can control is the way in which we help our children and young adults through these difficult times.

In this New Year, I urge you and your families to pay attention to the small signs that you may miss in your children and to understand that 2024 might not hold the same excitement for everyone.

To the youth of our community, this year might seem scary and full of change, but with change comes excitement! If we try to have the most positive mindset we can and flip the negatives into positives, then this year won’t seem so daunting. If we start to mentally prepare ourselves now, then one big change can be broken down into small, manageable ones, ultimately resulting in an easier transition into adulthood.

Wishing everyone the most fabulous New Year! If you feel scared or nervous about exams, don’t worry. We are all in this together.


For information and support on the issues covered, visit wnstd.com/youngminds