Thursday, 14 August 2014

Is the crippling anxiety over exams what we want for our children?

The driving despair that has foreshadowed A-level results may well be a price too high

Ecstasy after the agony: A-level students for whom the effort paid off
Ecstasy after the agony: A-level students for whom the effort paid off Photo: Christopher Pledger/The Telegraph
Today is a big day at Pearson Towers and in homes across the land. The Daughter will get her A-level results, which should be nerve-wracking, only the anxiety has been superseded by a deeper dread.
For today is also the day she goes in for an operation. “Look on the bright side, Mum, I won’t be upset if I don’t get the A in History because I’ll be unconscious,” she says, trying to joke away our fears, hers and mine. We know the surgeon is among the best in the country, we know the procedure should be relatively straightforward. We know that in 10 days she should be better, much better, than she has been for years. We know, we know, but no one wants their child put to sleep, do they?
And yet, in some bizarre way, I realise that I am almost grateful for the fact of the surgery. My child’s vulnerability has blunted the claws of the nightmare Tiger Mother I know I would have been given half a chance. It has taught me perspective, which is seriously lacking in an age obsessed with exam grades and league tables, itself a kind of national sickness for which there is only one known cure: AAA.
One 19-year-old who will not be opening her results with trepidation this morning is Amy Latham. A couple of months ago, it was reported that Amy, a pupil at the Queen Elizabeth School in Wimborne, Dorset, appeared to have killed herself while suffering dreadful anxiety over A-levels. In the weeks before her disappearance, Amy had expressed fears about her exams on social media. On June 5, she posted on Twitter: “Option 1: stay in, cry over Macbeth notes, fail English A-level Option 2: go out, cry over ignored responsibilities, fail English A-level.” On May 15, she said: “Someone kill me before I f--- up my English exam for the second time.”
Those tweets make me want to weep. For one thing, a young woman who could come up with Options 1 and 2 had no difficulties with English. Even in her dread, Amy was wittily alert to the cruel irony of her situation. She sounds fabulous. How could a bright young woman like that be so terrified of messing up her A-level that she chose to hang herself? Let me try and guess.

No comments:

Post a Comment