18/05/2018 10:26 BST | Updated 18/05/2018 10:26 BST

Isn't It Ironic That SATs Overlap With Mental Health Awareness Week?

My son has spent many nights this week in tears and out-of-sorts

Is it just me, or has anyone else spotted the irony in the fact that exams have started at the same time it’s Mental Health Awareness Week?

My seven year old is facing SATs and as much as his school is doing its best to keep it low-key and relaxed, he’s spent many nights this week in tears and out-of-sorts.

Image thanks to canstockphoto
The education system is damaging children's mental health

He confided in me last night that he’s doing too many ‘quizzes’ and listed a whole bunch of students he thinks are smarter that him.

I explained that his ‘quizzes’ are not about him. They’re there for the teachers to check they’re on track with what they need to do.

I reminded him that we don’t need a piece of paper to show us how well he’s doing, because we know how talented he is. I told him to do his best in each moment and be proud of his effort.

I told him that I too used to think others were smarter than me.

I always found people who were and people who weren’t - in the end, when I compared myself to others, I felt bad. So now, I compare myself to myself. I acknowledge how far I’ve come and I forgive myself for the mistakes I make.

The problem is, there are many children suffering anxiety, or low self esteem due to the exams they’re sitting.

The current education system is so focused on making them compare themselves to others. Students sit exams that don’t suit everyone’s style of learning and end up feeling inadequate.

Teachers do what they can to support students, but their mental health is suffering because they’re drowning in paperwork and bureaucracy. They’re not allowed to just teach a subject they are passionate about.

We’re given examples each day of what’s being done to improve children’s mental health.

You’ll hear of schools that have counsellors and educational psychologists. I’m all for this, being a coach who works in schools to help children get through the difficulties they face.

However, surely it’s better to spend the money on changing the system?

If the system worked for everyone we wouldn’t have a rise in anxiety in children. There wouldn’t be a rise in the amount of parents who home school their children. There wouldn’t be a rise in the number of children who are disengaged from the system.

Through my work with these children, I see a need for creative solutions.

A system where the teachers are given the freedom to be creative and the time to nurture their students. Lessons in self confidence, self esteem and self care, to empower children to deal with whatever life has in store for them - not just focusing on building their resilience.

And opportunities for children to find their unique gifts and talents, sooner rather than later. That way, they can enhance their natural abilities, instead of feeling stupid because they aren’t able to sit still and recall a whole bunch of facts the system deems to be important for their future.