March 20, 2020 The SST Team

Are Selective Schools Stressful?

All High Schools have their elements of stress. Can you, reader, honestly tell me there was never a moment in your high school life where you weren’t cramming for a test, or sweating on a mark, or simply feeling anxious about high school drama that you thought would quite-possibly-very-literally ruin your life? If your answer is yes then you, my friend, are one exceptionally lucky soul. But if your answer is no, then you fall within the majority of people who did at some point feel the stress of high school environments press down upon you.

There is no beating around the bush that the high school system causes stress for its students, with a huge emphasis on high stakes testing (starting all the way back in year 3 with NAPLAN right up until the final HSC examinations), and the exceptionally daunting question of “What on Earth do I want to do with my life once I graduate?” leading up until that final goodbye handshake with your principal. I personally found that I experienced stress in both the High Schools I attended (my local public school until year 9, then Manly Selective from year 10 onwards), and majority of it was centred around academic marks. And Selective Schools do have extra pressure, as everyone inside is bright and hardworking, and you need to apply yourself if you want to keep up.

That being said, the teachers are attuned to the emotional experiences of their students. They are aware that students in their schools often feel the pressure to succeed as they are now competing against students as advanced as themselves. They generally have visits from studying skills companies as well as mental health seminars to help students learn successful coping techniques for stress. For many students, stress in schools comes from workload and expectations. The best way to help your children learn successful stress management skills is to teach them time management skills, study techniques like chunking, personal scheduling, and make sure they still have some down time with their friends and family.

Furthermore, throughout my University Education courses we learnt that applying controlled degrees of stress to students helps bring out the best in them. The scholarly studies on the effects of correctly applied stress on optimum performance are numerous (have a look at the Stress-Performance bell curve if you’re interested), and a students’ sense of achievement is much stronger when they succeed in a stressful environment rather than in a relaxed one. Gifted and talented students will often take the pressure off themselves and go into cruise mode, putting in low effort for good marks and failing to reach their full potential. An environment in which they feel expectations are high and slaking will not get them by, like a Selective School, can be the perfect environment for encouraging them to reach their full potential.

As I’ve said, controlled stress assists in developing students social and emotional skills as well as encouraging consistent application to their work as students rise to the challenge. But be aware that not all children will thrive in a stressful environment, and it’s important to consider your child’s personality before you enrol them into a school that might be overwhelming so they can thrive in the educational environment that’s the right fit for them.

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