Page last updated at 01:40 GMT, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 02:40 UK

Pupils 'under greater pressure'

girl under pressure
Teachers felt pupils were under ever more pressure

More than 70% of teachers think pupils are under more pressure now than they were 10 years ago, a survey suggests.

Exam pressures and family break-up were thought to be the main stress points, the questionnaire by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers found.

Of the 700 teachers who completed the ATL questionnaire, 52% thought pressure to be popular on social networking sites was also a source of strain.

Cyberbullying, such as abusive texts and e-mails, was also deemed a stress.

More than half of those surveyed felt pupils were under more pressure now than two years ago and over 70% felt pupils currently faced more pressure than 10 years ago.

Family break-up (mentioned by 76%), teacher and school pressure to do well (mentioned by 55%), body image and pressure to look good (mentioned by 55%) and lack of parental support (mentioned by 54%) were cited as the major factors contributing to pupil stress.

The majority of respondents (81%) noted that stressed pupils experienced low self-esteem, 78% said these pupils lacked motivation and 74% said they had witnessed pupils crying due to the pressures they faced.

Many teachers said they had witnessed physical effects of pressure on pupils.

Forty-three per cent said pupils in their school had self-harmed due to the pressures they faced, 37% said students suffered from eating disorders and 13% knew of a pupil who had attempted suicide.

Teachers said stressed pupils had low self-esteem

Of those questioned, 73% said their school offered pupils access to a counsellor.

'Points-led agenda'

Completing the questionnaire, a member of support staff from a school in Warwickshire said: "The pressures and stress on young people today are immense, and children are expected to behave as adults.

"Sometimes the pressure put on them is more than adults could cope with."

A head of department at a state middle school said: "Schools are placing a lot of pressure on students to complete a lot of work and to perform to a standard that is not necessarily suitable for every child.

"There is no allowance for the fact that students develop at different rates."

And a member of support staff from a state secondary school said: "The points-led agenda is ruining the school life of children in this country.

"Schools have become businesses with targets to meet and productivity scores to publish."

'Many pressures'

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: "Unfortunately, there is a greater need for trained counsellors to handle the depth and severity of pupils' emotional, mental health and behavioural problems in schools today.

"There are many pressures on the lives of young people, both within and outside school, and it is up to parents and guardians, with support from schools and external agencies, to help those who are struggling.

"Pupils should enjoy learning, but if schools continue to be measured by their results, children will continue to be under pressure to achieve.

"If they continue to be taught in a test-focused, over-crowded and rigid curriculum, with little room for fun and creativity, they will become de-motivated and disengaged from learning."

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