Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta
Year 12 students across NSW are in the home-straight as they prepare for the Higher School Certificate (HSC) which starts on 16 October. The HSC marks the end of formal schooling and the period leading up to the exams can be a stressful time for many young people and their families.
Strange as it may seem, higher levels of stress can actually be useful for HSC students as it helps to increase alertness. However, we know that feeling stressed all the time isn’t healthy. It can lead to poor sleep patterns, low energy and feeling overwhelmed.
As parents, you can support your child through the HSC by ensuring they allow for some ‘downtime’ as well as for study. Downtime might involve hanging out with the family or doing something that is relaxing. It’s also really important that your son or daughter is getting to bed at a reasonable hour, especially the night before an exam.
Having healthy meals and snacks is also important. A good breakfast fuels the brain and heightens focus. Exercise is another way they can manage their stress during the exam period.
Listen out for negative self-talk like ‘I’m going to fail this exam’ or ‘I was never any good at maths anyway’. This kind of talk only undermines your child’s confidence. Try to ensure that conversations about the HSC don’t become full of negativity or self-doubt.
The best advice you can provide to your child in the lead-up to and during the HSC is to stay positive and believe in themselves. Too many young people see the HSC as the only road to a successful and rewarding career. It’s not. Believe me, there is life beyond the HSC and it’s great. There are so many different work and study pathways available to students today.
Stay connected to your child during HSC time. Just knowing that you are there when they need you is often enough. If you are concerned about the impact of stress on your child’s physical or mental health, encourage them to speak to their GP or someone they trust.
One day, there will be a much better way than the current model of the HSC to measure achievement and learning at school. Until then, please remind the young person in your life that the HSC is only a measure of what he or she knows and can reproduce within a set time. It is not a measure of their worth or what they are capable of achieving in the future.
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta