My two children (years 7 and 9) were treated to a talk yesterday at school about stress and schoolwork. The message they were given is that some stress is good for us and helps people to perform better. A graph was shown with performance on the y axis and stress on the x axis. The results plotted make an upside-down bell curve. The conclusion being that no stress (bizarrely labelled ‘boredom’!) and too much stress (‘distress’) is bad as performance is very low but mid-level stress (called ‘eustress’) gives an optimum performance where the bell curve is at its peak.

Putting aside the scientific merits of this graph (and it is out there – just google it – but looks to be a management consultant-type thing) my main issues with this are: what’s the school’s agenda in saying it’s ok – in fact it’s GOOD – to be stressed? And are they not confusing stress with interest, enthusiasm and motivation? The latter are all positive ways to improve performance. Stress levels seem to be rising amongst pupils as a direct result of the regular testing they undergo – exams every half term. So is the school normalizing this stress rather than dealing with it?

My daughter is seeing the school counsellor again for anxiety (or should that be stress?). She’s in Year 9 so the whole GCSE pressure has definitely started for her. My son had to hear this talk too though he’s only in Year 7. His big stress-point is one teacher who angrily shouts at the class every week! How does that help?

I will raise this with the school!

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