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Teachers report 'increased anxiety and worry' among primary school children

Teachers and principals are reporting "increasing levels of anxiety and worry among" among primar...
Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

12.09 11 Dec 2020


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Teachers report 'increased anx...

Teachers report 'increased anxiety and worry' among primary school children

Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

12.09 11 Dec 2020


Share this article


Teachers and principals are reporting "increasing levels of anxiety and worry among" among primary school children.

This is attributed to changing family and societal structures, including poverty, family breakdown and working life, according to new research.

A report from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) looked into the lives of 4,000 children in 189 different primary schools around the country.

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The "landmark" study of primary schooling will continue until 2025 with students and teachers visited each year by researchers.

One principal said they had seen a "huge rise in anxiety and it's related to family issues, family problems… just little children unsure of their arrangements in the evenings, worried about a lot of things".

Responses to the study also found anxiety around standardised tests on the part of teachers, children and parents.

The report was carried out by University College Dublin’s (UCD) School of Education on behalf of the NCCA.

Associate professor at the school, Dr Jennifer Symonds, said a focal point of the research was asking teachers about their perceptions of anxiety regarding standardised testing.

She told The Pat Kenny Show: "We actually had one teacher who commented in a case study that they had personally witnessed rising levels of anxiety.

"But actually what the data we have is telling us is about what teachers and parents and children think about standardised testing, so those aren't about the rise in anxiety.

"What we did see was that teachers were reporting that parents were anxious about standardised tests, that children were anxious and that teachers themselves were anxious about standardised tests.

"Interestingly, the teachers are quite split on whether the tests are a good measure on learning."

Dr Symonds said comparison happens a lot in schools as students look around the class and can see who is doing well in different subjects and who is not.

She said: "Standardised tests are really a way of indicating to children how they're performing in relation to their classmates

"We found, very interestingly, that 70-80% of children in second class were actually grouped by ability.

"So children look around themselves and they say who's doing better than me."

Dr Symonds added: "Children at that age are just beginning to look around and say who am I...and I think it can be quite stressful to evaluate yourself in comparison to other people all the time.

She said that when kids start comparing themselves with others, that's when the negative impacts such as anxiety start to show.

Teachers report 'increased anxiety and worry' among primary school children

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Main image: File photo school children in a classroom. Credit: PA

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