10-year-olds smoke, binge on junk food to ease exam stress

Children as young as 10 are smoking cigarettes, gorging on junk food, and drinking energy drinks to prepare for exams, research has found.

A poll of more than 1,000 youngsters who took Key Stage Two SATs (papers taken in England by pupils in year six, when they are 10/11, as part of a national curriculum assessment programme) last year found eight had smoked before the tests, 37 ate chocolate, and 30 drank the high-sugar energy drinks.

The survey revealed that some 55% of youngsters feared getting bad results would affect their future lives.

Three in five children (60%) said they had been told by teachers that SATs were important for school league tables, while 68% admitted feeling pressured at exam time, according to the research by Kellogg’s.

Meanwhile, a second poll of more than 1,000 parents found that 20% believed their child was too nervous to eat before exams, while one in eight said their youngster had refused food.

Almost a fifth of parents (18%) said their child’s behaviour got worse during SATs week, and 74% felt their children were under more exam pressure than themselves when they were a similar age.

Children reported not being able to concentrate due to being nervous (20%), not being able to eat because of nerves (12%), and feeling hungry due to skipping a meal (14%), according to the survey carried out by Opinion Matters.

Some 22% of children reported losing sleep during their exams, but the figure rose to 59% among children who admitted skipping breakfast.

The findings come as thousands of pupils in England take their Key Stage Two SATs this week.

Child psychologist Dr Claire Halsey said: “It’s troubling that children are expressing so many worries about their exams.

“It’s natural to experience some pressure to perform before any test, even at age 10 and 11, but these results show that SATs have become more than a little nerve-wracking.”

Kellogg’s is donating 44,500 breakfasts to 300 school breakfast clubs to help children prepare for their SATs.

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