THERE was great alarm caused nationwide when figures suggested 80 per cent of young people felt exam pressure had significantly impacted on their mental health.

The statistic was revealed in a report named Wise Up to Wellbeing in Schools, conducted by charity Young Minds, and was a big wake up call for parents and teachers alike.

On top of this, the number of young people seeking help for stress in the run-up to the exam period from ChildLine, a free counselling service for children run by the NSPCC, increases each year.

Over the school year 2017/18, the helpline delivered 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress, predominantly to those aged between 12 and 15, with the largest worries about overwhelming workloads, pressure from parents and concerns about not achieving the grades they wanted.

Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High School is taking action to alleviate the stress, and recently linked up with local running enthusiasts to promote the therapeutic benefits of physical exercise.

Members of the local athletics club, Tynedale Harriers, and organisers of the newly formed Tyne Green parkrun, which hosts a free weekly run to the community, teamed up with pupils to encourage them to get active as a form of stress relief.

Joining in with the national #RunandRevise initiative instigated by England Athletics and mental health charity, the school created a Run, Student, Run group to encourage pupils to gather for physical activity, while also adding social benefits too. Pupils were also invited along to take part in the May 18 parkrun which had a #RunandRevise theme.

One of the people behind the project was Tony Brown; a trustee of Hadrian’s Learning Trust which runs the school, a parent of a sixth form student at the school, and a keen runner himself.

He said: “As a parent, I am well aware of the stresses that exams place upon students, which feels greater today than it has ever been. As a runner, I am also aware of the positive benefits running has on mental health, which is heightened when done socially with a group.

“On seeing details of the #RunAndRevise initiative, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss to bring it to Hexham.

“The school has been very enthusiastic from the start, as it sees the real benefits that physical exercise can bring. I hope that the students will want to carry on with the initiative as they work through exams and beyond.”

The running initiative is an extension to the additional work the Hexham school is dedicating to pupils’ mental health and wellbeing. Earlier this year, Queen Elizabeth was chosen by the Education Secretary Damian Hinds as one of 370 schools in England to take part in a series of innovative trials to improve mental health support in schools.

The scheme saw staff receive mental health training to roll out six, one-hour lessons to year 9 pupils. This was on top of the personal, social, health education lessons all students received.

According to a very recent short inspection from Ofsted inspectors, the school has made huge progress in supporting pupils’ wellbeing with inspectors praising the emphasis placed on the issue.

Of course, it is not just teenagers sitting GCSEs and A-Levels who feel the pressure. Children aged six and seven have the stresses of Key Stage One SATs, with Year 6 pupils under slightly more pressure in the Key Stage Two equivalent.