Exam stress is part of a “perfect storm of pressures on girls”, finds new Girlguiding research

21 August 2019

Two thirds of girls and young women aged 11-21 say there is too much pressure to do well in exams, reveals Girlguiding’s 2019 Girls’ Attitudes Survey.

As teenage girls in England, Wales and Northern Ireland wait to receive their GSCE results tomorrow, the survey also shows that the majority of girls worry poor grades will ruin their future opportunities in life.
More than half of girls (52%) say exam pressures affect how happy they are, yet four in five say they don’t get the support they need to manage exam-related stress. To combat this, half of girls and young women want schools to be assessed on how well they support pupils and what they do to encourage wellbeing, as well as academic results.
The research also found:
  • Four in five girls aged 7-21 have experienced bullying or unacceptable behaviours
  • One in eight girls aged 13-21 say sexual harassment and catcalling stops them from going out
  • 45% of girls and young women aged 11-21 feel they need to check their phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night
  • Over a third of girls aged 11-21 have seen images or videos online that they wish they hadn’t, because they were upsetting or harmful
  • 71% of girls and young women aged 11-21 filter photos they post online
Megan, 17, a spokesperson for Girlguiding, said:
“More than half of girls say exam pressures affect how happy they are. I know this feeling all too well; I sat my GCSE’s last year and I spiralled under the stress. I would often cry myself to sleep, choosing between showering or taking another practice test for physics.”
Emma, 19, is a member of Girlguiding’s Advocate panel, a group of 18 girls aged 14-25 who act as the charity’s spokespeople. She said:
“It’s upsetting to hear that so many girls feel there is too much pressure on them to do well in exams, and that this could affect the rest of their lives. We really need to do more to support girls to thrive and show off their many talents - but without reinforcing the idea that good grades are the only measure of success. In a world full of filtered photographs and online bullying, the last thing girls need to face is a worrying amount of academic pressure. Yet exam stress is very real and forms the perfect storm of pressures on girls, to the detriment of their mental wellbeing.”
Meg, 29, a volunteer for Girlguiding in Streatham, said:
“Girls and young women must have space to de-stress and enjoy themselves, which is important for wellbeing and mental health. That’s one of the reasons I love volunteering for Girlguiding. We give girls the space to have fun together every week, with no focus on exams or results. It gives girls the freedom to learn in other ways.”
Girlguiding offers a space for girls to escape stress and gendered pressures. Girls can work towards badges which support them to combat stress, including Healthy mind, Mindfulness, Meditation and Self-care.
The charity’s Think Resilient scheme, developed with YoungMinds, teaches girls how to support themselves and one another. Through the peer education programme, girls can develop the skills they need to cope in difficult times.
In April the charity launched Future Girl, its major new manifesto for girl-led change. 76,000 girls and young women in Girlguiding shared their vision for the future, which includes a call for schools to prioritise and support their wellbeing. Girlguiding is now working with girls all over the UK to make this future a reality.