School students in an exam

Digital Monitoring and Stress – How to spot the silent sufferers before it impacts on academic attainment

A guide for Independent school leaders

Stress levels in independent school students have never been higher. An immense amount of pressure is felt by pupils competing to achieve the highest accolades. Immersed in cohorts of students all striving for the top whether it’s to be part of the elite 1% of achievers in the country, being excellent enough at sport to be considered for England, or becoming Young Musician of the Year, an A* can seem disappointing within this group of students if another student has achieved a higher percentage. The fear of not achieving straight A*s seems an unthinkable stress to many, but to a significant number of students it is the case. 

Causes of anxiety and stress

The cost of a private school education has raised significantly in the last 10 years with parents needing to find an extra 65% to fund their children through school. Where a private education was just a normal pathway for many families previously, an increasing amount of families now have to make significant financial sacrifices in order to achieve it. They may sacrifice family holidays, the type of accommodation they live in, or work extra hours to afford it. This can lead to very high expectations. Parents need to feel that the sacrifices have been worth it and that the fees they are paying will turn into top grades and achievements. Teachers also feel the pressure of the need for pupils to succeed, often encouraging students to undertake many hours of prep and attend extra classes. This pressure of high expectations causes many students to work very hard to achieve their best. 

Risks

Many students will thrive from the pressure and be invigorated by the competitive environment. But for a small minority, the pressure can become overwhelming. Some students may spiral to a breaking point where they are unable to copeStudents can become ill with anxiety and stress and may start to become withdrawn, show uncharacteristic moments of aggression and anger, have constant negative thoughts, and lose confidence in achieving even the smallest of things. This can lead to under achievement and for some, not being able to cope with being at school altogether.  

Spotting the signs 

It can be difficult for teachers to identify students with stress and anxiety. Many students will feel the pressure from time to time but for the majority, it will not be anything more than a passing moment. Often the students spotted will be the louder, more expressive ones that can communicate their pressureto their teachers. But what about the silent sufferers? Stress and anxiety can build up over time. A student may not show outward signs until it has become a serious problemAt this point, they may already be suffering from panic attacks or have started being regularly absent from school; factors which are likely to have already significantly impacted their academic achievement.  

How can digital monitoring help?

Digital monitoring is a discrete and intelligent solution that can pick up subtle behaviour signals which may indicate that a child is showing signs of risk or concernWhether it be from a student’s internet search during a lesson or a message typed on their own device at breaktime, a good digital monitoring solution will detect any signs of risk or concern even if they type a sentence and delete it straight away 

Once risk is detected, alerts are triggered and sent straight to the school’s Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL). This allows the DSL to intervene and provide the support needed before any issues have chance to develop.  

To find out more about how digital monitoring can help keep your students stay on track, see our recent whitepaper, Achieving online safety excellence in the independent school environment. A best practice guide for school leaders and DSLs. 

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