As teenagers head off for their first GCSE exams, one Brighton college has teamed up with the YMCA to launch the #NoStressSuccess campaign.
The campaign, which coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week, aims to help youngsters reduce stress and look after their mental health during exam season.
The Greater Brighton Metropolitan College – known as The MET – called on ‘exam survivors’ to share their advice and stories. Some of the stories include frank accounts about fainting due to exam stress, being separated from other students at school due to anxiety and feeling ‘sad and heartbroken’ on GCSE results day.
Charlotte, 17, studying motorsport engineering, after earning seven GCSEs at Downlands Community School, in Hassocks.
“GCSEs were very stressful and they don’t need to be. People make it so much more of a
deal than it ever actually is. When you look at your CV when you’re older, employers don’t
really care what you got in Art if you’re going off to do something completely different.
“Don’t over stress it because it’s just so unnecessary and really bad for your mental health.
“Success after secondary school is being happy and doing what you love – I know I do. Even
being the only girl on my course I still fit in. I get along with all the boys and it’s great having
competitions with them to see who can do things better!
“When you come to college you relax. The teachers are phenomenal, not just as teachers
but as friends as well – they’re always there for emotional support and to have a laugh.
“I have no idea where I’ll be in 20 or 30 years’ time yet. Being on a course like this means
I’ve got so many options to choose from. I could go to uni or do an apprenticeship or even
go travelling with a race team. It’s really door-opening and means you can chop and change
your mind and do whatever you want.”
Ryan, 17, is studying music production after earning nine GCSEs at Steyning Grammar School.
“What I found really difficult when I was revising for my GCSEs was how to manage my time
as I left it too late to start. Sometimes I felt like the world was against me. By the time Easter
was over, everyone was stressing out.”
“But being at college is all-round less stressful than being at school. I don’t feel pressure not
to make a mistake. They say make mistakes and learn from them and move on.
“People’s attitude to a course like mine are generally negative but that’s because they don’t
really understand what it involves or where it can lead to.
“If you’re a friend or a parent of someone who is choosing to do something slightly different
than most people at college, the last thing that person wants to hear is ‘you’re not going to
be able to make a living out of it’ or ‘it’s not worth doing’. Demoralising them and making
them do something else isn’t going to make them do any better.
“The main thing for me, as cheesy as it sounds, is follow exactly what you want to do,
because there’s no point being stuck in something for the next two or three years that you
really don’t enjoy. Don’t spend the next two years doing A-Levels if you’re not going to
enjoy it. You might as well spend the next two years doing something you enjoy and you’ll
get something out of.”
Gabrielle, 19, is studying for a BTEC in travel and tourism, after earning three GCSEs at The Littlehampton Academy.
“I stressed out completely all the way through Year 11. On GCSE results day I was so nervous
and panicky. I studied really hard for them and when I got my results I was heartbroken.”
“I had been told that you couldn’t do anything without 5 GCSEs so I really panicked as I only
had three. Now I know GCSEs aren’t everything. I’m doing a college course I absolutely love
and I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
“Two years ago, I thought I wanted to go to university and study aviation management. The
course I’m doing is equivalent to three A-Levels so would get me into university. But now I
want to work as cabin crew when I leave college – and I’ve just been offered a cabin crew
position at EasyJet! It is perfectly fine and normal to change your mind and ambitions
around what you want to do.”
Sam, 17, is studying aircraft maintenance, after earning six GCSEs at Tanbridge House School, Horsham.
“If you don’t get all your GCSEs you have nothing to worry about. I came to college missing
one of the GCSEs I needed, others came missing a few more pieces, if not most of them, and
others arrived with stellar grades that far exceeded mine.
“It mainly comes down to showing you are willing and enthusiastic. Grades are just numbers
really. If you believe in what you want to do, honestly there shouldn’t be anything that can
“When I found out I didn’t pass all my GCSEs I must admit I was a little bit nervous because I
didn’t get English, but the college was really understanding and explored options with me.”
Felix, Fashion Student
‘If I was in a classroom now and I saw my 16-year-old self stressing about how to get an A in History GCSE, I’d slap myself’
‘There’s always a second chance if you don’t pass GCSEs. I resat Maths twiceand got it in the end’
Chas Walker, CEO of the Sussex and Surrey YMCA DownsLink Group said “More and more young people are experiencing symptoms of stress and other mental health issues as a result of the pressure associated with GCSEs. Exam stress has increased as a reported concern for young people accessing our services over the past five years – recorded levels in 2016/17 were almost double what they were back in 2012/13. Reported levels of anxiety around the transition from secondary school to college and the workplace has also increased. The YMCA is excited to be working with The MET College on this important initiative.”
‘Four Zones of Stress’
Designed to help teens keep their stress levels down and their minds open to what success can look like after they leave secondary school, the #NoStressSuccess campaign includes an online ‘Study Stress Survival Guide’ published today on YMCA Right Here’s FindGetGive mental health support website at www.findgetgive.com/NoStressSuccess. It includes a visual guide to the ‘Four Zones of Stress’ – showing how to identify and manage symptoms and when to seek different kinds of everyday and specialist support.
The overarching message of the campaign is that there is more than one path to success – whether you get nine GCSEs or none, you have options. And that while GCSEs are important for accessing college courses and future employment, they are not the be all and end all and should not be negatively affecting a young person’s mental wellbeing.
Nick Juba, Chief Executive Officer of The Greater Brighton Metropolitan College said “GCSEs are an important step towards young people finding something they can thrive at but they are not the only path to success. We have students who passed all their GCSEs with the highest grades; students who studied hard and managed to get four or five; and students who didn’t pass any GCSEs at school. What they all have in common is that they have found something that really motivates and interests them and as a result they are happy and doing well.
“My message to Year 11 students who are about to start their GCSE exams is please don’t panic during the exam process or on results day because whatever happens, there will always be options available and people to help you find the one that’s best for you.”
The MET will be running an advice clinic on Twitter at @GBMETcoll on GCSE results day on 23 August for students and parents who are worried or confused about college and training options for 16-19 year-olds in Sussex.
For more information on The MET visit www.gbmc.ac.uk
Follow the #NoStressSuccess campaign on Facebook and Twitter @GBMETcoll on Instagram at greater_brighton_met and on YouTube www.youtube.com/c/BrightonMET