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73 replies

lu9months · 23/04/2021 08:36

my son is 16 and very bright but anxious. he was predicted excellent gcses. however his anxiety has become so severe that hes no longer able to get into school for the gcse assessments. he doesnt think he can do A levels now. im panicking about his future but all that really matters is his wellbeing. id love to hear stories of school/education problems all working out fine in the end, to help me focus on the here and now and stop worrying so much about what the future holds . thanks.

OP posts:
ExtraOnions · 23/04/2021 20:39

Really pleased you started this OP.

DD is 14, in Y10... not been in school since October, due to anxiety, and hardly did anything in lockdown. We have been to CAHMS, and currently waiting for an ASD assesment.

She’s really bright, estimated grades 7-9, with school confident she can catch up before exams ... but she can’t get into school. I waver between “this is a complete disaster” and “there are a lot of pathways in life, she’ll be fine”. It’s great to read these stories ... thanks all

Wbeezer · 23/04/2021 20:44

My son left school at 16 due to anxiety, he tried CBT to no avail, tried lots of different options work and training wise but anxiety always caught up with him and made him retreat back to his room. Until he was diagnosed and treated for ADHD at 21, hes now about to complete a computing access course and goes to get a degree eventually, medication has unlocked his potential to learn, better late than never!

cookiemon666 · 23/04/2021 20:56

My son was a very troubled teenager. School refused from year 7 until I took him out in year 9. He went to college at 14 and although he still wasn't great, he did attend more. At 16/17 he grew up, got a part time job and his tutor believed in him.
He is now just finishing a level 2 bricklaying course. He will then do an apprenticeship.
He is on the spectrum and is dyslexic.

Hankunamatata · 23/04/2021 21:17

What about online school like Interhigh. They do their exams in quiet assessment centres so possibly a room to himself? you could look at getting an echp to fund it.

Jet22 · 23/04/2021 21:37

I had severe social anxiety was pulled out of school on medical advice in year 9 as it was also making me physically ill. At 17 I took a GCSE resit course as it was my only option (I hadn't done any GCSE work before this course), so I only took English, Maths and Science GCSEs and got 4 C grades and an E in Maths. I went to college a few years later redid my maths and got a grade C in Maths and I did access to HE, then did a BA degree and a MA.

Cowbells · 23/04/2021 21:46


I had severe social anxiety was pulled out of school on medical advice in year 9 as it was also making me physically ill. At 17 I took a GCSE resit course as it was my only option (I hadn't done any GCSE work before this course), so I only took English, Maths and Science GCSEs and got 4 C grades and an E in Maths. I went to college a few years later redid my maths and got a grade C in Maths and I did access to HE, then did a BA degree and a MA.

That's amazing. You must feel so proud of yourself.
MrsVeryTired · 26/04/2021 20:39

Thanks for starting this thread @lu9months and all those who have responded, very heartening Flowers

SarahAndQuack · 26/04/2021 20:56

I teach in Higher Ed and I have seen a lot of students who had a really horrible time at school and who've got through it all - I can think of quite a few who had some time out of school one way and another. I taught a student whose anxiety was so bad we had to do skype lessons, long before covid made that seem quite standard, but it all worked out.

Also, I know it feels like the be-all and end-all, but it isn't. My brother had the most appalling struggle with school (he's very dyslexic) and eventually battled through to get a very good degree. But ... in his late 20s he realised he didn't actually enjoy what he was doing at all, and he's retrained as a gardener, and he's totally happy. A big part of me thinks he'd have been better to do than from age 16 rather than constantly pushing himself to do something that he hated. He had bad depression for years and he's much better now.

Jennydot · 26/04/2021 21:00

So sorry for what you’re going through.

I’m a teacher and cases like your son’s are unbelievably common since the pandemic so I am in no doubt that any decent education provider will see it as their duty to support people like your son in any way possible.

Secondly my brother had very serious mental health problems when he was at university. He had a lot of time off and now he’s got a degree, is married to a lovely woman and has a great job as an accountant. It’s a really difficult time in many young men’s lives but it doesn’t mean they won’t turn out as happy and balanced adults. Good luck. You sound like a really supportive mum so.

Neome · 26/04/2021 21:04

My dear friend has just told me with massive pride how brilliantly her 30something son is doing in a challenging and quite mathematical career.

He really couldn’t do school education, left with next to no qualifications.

CallingOnAvengingAngels · 26/04/2021 21:07

DP says he was anxious about GCSEs and bombed as a result. He came away with a couple of Cs and a bunch of E/G/Us, had been predicted A/Bs.
He did a national diploma at college and went to uni from that at the normal age graduated at 21, got his degree fine and it hasn't impacted his career. He chose non exam type subjects at college and uni to play to his strengths!

Fespital · 26/04/2021 21:15

My DB flunked his A Levels. Was supposed to do headline course at university and instead ended up doing course he got his highest A Level in

He is now a senior manager for a ooooh company.

DSis flunked her A Levels and had to take her second choice uni and course. Is now in a senior management position in nationally renowed company whose business is directly relevant to her second course and not her first course

Both of them were absolutely gutted but it really worked out for them.

My cousin flunked his GCSEs and ended up doing a most junior position in national company. He rose through the ranks and despite being younger than me had exactly the same job title but a significantly higher salary at the same time as me. So 5 years earlier than me AND with a bigger salary. GCSEs, A levels and uni definitely weren't needed for him.

blowinahoolie · 26/04/2021 21:29

OP thanks for starting this thread💐 I hope your DS finds his way in life, as others have said there are so many alternatives to university to make a success of yourself. He will be okay. Lots of parental support should go a long way in helping him.

I have lots of worries about DS3 as he has additional needs including speech delay and worry what his future holds. We all just want them to do well and make their own way in the world one day.

My older two I feel will be okay, but youngest two have lots of obstacles in their way. Reading this thread has helped me relax a bit now.

blowinahoolie · 26/04/2021 21:35

Also DH was called stupid by a class teacher in primary school but didn't have dysgraphia diagnosed until several years later. He has above average intelligence, definitely not stupid. He hated school for this reason.

BanginChoons · 26/04/2021 22:26

I left school at 16, didn't go to college as I became a homeless teenager, had my first child at 20. I worked in various care jobs on minimal wage. I turned 30 as a single mum of 3 and decided to do an access course and apply to uni. Once at uni I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I went on to qualify with a first class degree and now work for the NHS in a job I love. The wage isn't particularly high but it is a good amount more than I ever earned before and now I have a career to focus on when my kiddos grow up and leave me.

I also have a very anxious 15 year old who is currently trying to make it through the GCSE assessments. We've looked at college and work placements for a back up plan when he most likely doesn't get the grades he needs. I've managed to get him to agree to doing some work experience in the summer, im really hoping it will give him some confidence. Is that an option maybe for your lad?

Saracen · 27/04/2021 02:08

I never thought of my eldest's educational detours as a disaster, but I think there were moments when DC felt it was disastrous.

With no GCSEs, they tried to go to college to do art. Both colleges offered only a longwinded route involving a very low level art course which would have taken 2-3 extra years before even starting the Level 3 course which DC was already ready for. My teen wasn't prepared to slog through all that.

Plan B was a Level 3 art course with an online provider. The college had a good reputation, but this particular course turned out to be rubbish. DC found it a waste of their time so they jacked it in halfway through, returning to independent art study instead. Meanwhile they did English and maths GCSE independently and got good marks in both.

Then applied to do an animation degree, on the off chance somewhere might take them. With no formal qualifications beyond those two GCSEs, they received a good handful of offers. One admissions tutor described DC as the most impressive degree candidate he had ever seen.

DC started uni this year, just before their 21st birthday. They are loving the course and came top of the class in the first term assessments.

Ginandplatonic · 27/04/2021 02:31

I have several friends with kids who missed significant amounts of school -years in some cases - due to anxiety and other mental health issues. In every case those kids have found their way to their chosen careers - either by doing well in a non-mainstream school alternative and going to uni at the traditional time, taking the time out to improve their mental health and going to uni later via access courses, or leaving education and working.

There are so many alternative ways for kids to get where they want to go these days OP. When you’re immersed in it it feels like missing the last few years of school is a disaster that will affect their whole life, but that really really isn’t the case.

All the best to you and your DS.

memberofthewedding · 27/04/2021 02:43

I was expected to pass the 11+ with no problems (1950s) but due to an incident in school I had a mini breakdown and failed maths by 2%. In those days you could not pass on aggregate so I went to a secondary modern (the precursor of the modern comprehensive). I did well there and was top of my class in several academic subjects so I got the O levels but my parents would not allow me stay on for A levels. I still managed to qualify in a profession and later n life to go to uni and progress to a Ph.d. but thats another story.

I did not have supportive parents although my grandmother did a lot to help and encourage me. Just because a child misses out at one stage (for example does poorly in exams) does not mean they are damned for life.

GreenSlide · 27/04/2021 02:50

My brother, like many anxious children, was extremely bright. He managed to sit 5 of his GCSE exams, went on to do a course here and a course there, never finished. Quit a job here and there too. Going for interviews was awful, he'd be pale and shaking. I worried he'd never get a job. But eventually in his early 20s he got a job as a kitchen Porter and his workplace saw his potential and supported him through training to become a chef. I couldn't be prouder - and more relieved that someone gave him a chance. They all get there in the end OP.

feelingdizzy · 27/04/2021 02:58

I was asked to leave school at 15 as I was a disruptive influence! Lots of difficult stuff going on in my life.
Worked out fine I'm a headteacher now !

OneInEight · 27/04/2021 06:58

ds2 is another one taking the scenic route to education because of anxiety. Actually given he had two years of doing virtually nothing education wise & then another year building up a relationship with his tutors so he was actually in a state to start learning again he is doing well to be only one year behind his peers educationally wise. Having worked as a tutor for the Open University I have been able to not panic about it as I saw lots of students who for one reason or another had dropped out of the conventional education route being able to pick up their studies very successfully in adulthood.

Longgreenbananas · 27/04/2021 07:05

I got 2 A-levels, a D and an E. One was general studies.

Went to uni, failed my first year (pass rate only 40% and didn’t even get that).

Re-did my first year of uni and completed the degree, scraped a 2:2.

Fast forward 10 years and I have a very successful small business doing exactly what I love. Happily married, own a house, amazing life! I won’t say I didn’t benefit immensely from education, but exams and grades really aren’t the be all and end all

felulageller · 27/04/2021 07:53

There are loads of college opportunities nowadays. Much better than school for lots of YP.

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