Busting exam stress across Oxfordshire!
Posted: Fri, 10 Feb 2023 11:40
As part of Sport England's Uniting the Movement strategy, along with School Games Organisers, we are taking steps to review and adapt the traditional offers in sport and physical activity, to tackle the deep-rooted inequalities that exist.
Part of this movement is helping students that struggle with exam stress. We recently hosted a Key Stage 4 Stress Buster Day recently following a successful first event in March last year.
We co-created this event with Sport in Mind and School Games Organisers, which saw students in years 10 and 11 engage in a range of informative workshops. The aim was to equip the students with the skills and confidence to manage stress during the revision/exams. Sessions covered nutrition, self-care, mental wellbeing and physical activity, providing a range of coping mechanisms.
In total 124 KS4 students attended, of whom 45% were male and 55% female, 12% had a special educational need and 8% were from an ethnicity other than white British.
The experience of participants
All young people attending the event were asked at the start of the event to provide three words that described how they were feeling. 51% stated they were tired, and 28% stated they were anxious. The following word cloud illustrates the words they used to describe themselves. When comparing the views of those in the morning compared to the afternoon equal proportions described themselves as tired, but 36% of the morning students described themselves as anxious compared to 22% in the afternoon.
At the end of the event students were again asked for three words which described how they were feeling. The feelings expressed at the end of the event were much more positive with only 6% now describing themselves as anxious and 28% now describing themselves as happy, 15% stating they were relaxed. After both the morning and the afternoon session 35% used the word tired to describe how they felt. 14% of the morning participants described themselves as hungry, which is likely to reflect the fact that the session ended just before lunch!
Participants were asked for their feedback on the event. The vast majority of comments were positive and showed the impact that this event had:
"I liked the physical activity aspect and how each task allowed you to be individually involved."
"It was very informative and it was good to talk about how to talk about things that can help your stress."
"The Self Care session reminded me of what I need to do to look after myself."
"I just learnt that 80% of thoughts can be negative on the run up to exams. That seems more pessimistic than I am. I am feeling pretty positive right now!"
"The nutrition and stress sessions were good. The nutrition information was new to me and I am definitely going to take it away and make some changes."
Key themes from the feedback were that the laser tag was largely found to be good fun. The Self-Care session was referenced as being appreciated and providing useful information and insight. The sessions were frequently described as helpful and informative.
Feedback from teachers on the event
Two of the schools had taken part the previous year and found it helpful for their students. Teacher perspectives on the day are below:
"Exam stress is a big thing each year. We are hoping through this event to give the students who take part methods to help them cope in the summer. Each year we have some students who are so stressed that they reach the point of being unable to sit some of their exams, we really want to give them the tools to avoid that."
"It has been really good today, some of our students were anxious about coming to this event and were initially nervous, but they have been really engaged."
"For me it is about them learning a bit more about stress, it is about them understanding how to manage, how to sleep and reset and how to ensure they maintain a balance."