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Depression and low mood (young people)

School & studying

Here young people talk about their experiences of schooling, from primary to secondary schools, courses, colleges and university and if they felt depression and low moods had affected their schooling.

School work, performance pressures and exam stress
Most young people said they really enjoyed learning but for many there had been a struggle between their desire to learn and challenges presented by depression or social difficulties at school. Many had been bullied in school, struggled to “fit in” and make friends through their school years. See; ‘Bullying and depression’, ‘Childhood and life before depression’ and ‘Friends and relationships’.

For many, depression or their low moods had had an effect on their school work. Some described being “among the top groups” in the class, “a model student” or “the clever one” but their marks had dropped drastically after being diagnosed or during depressive episodes. Some felt it was hard to focus on school work when they had “no energy”, “couldn’t function”, felt “apathetic” or had little or no motivation. As one university student said;
 
“For me as a university student it’s really difficult to kind of keep up with things when things are really bad. Because like sitting down and trying to focus on a written piece of work is difficult.”
 

Oliver wrote his Master’s thesis in three days. He says there’s a link between ADHD and “manicness”.

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Age at interview: 23
Sex: Male
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I wrote my Master’s thesis in three days, okay. I wrote 60 pages in three days, they weren’t that good, I mean I think the ideas in it were quite good, I’m very pleased with what I came up with, it wasn’t polished. I really could’ve re-written small sections of it to make it a lot clearer, there were some awful spelling mistakes and few things that just didn’t make any sense, but there, there were quite some hyper-productivity, okay.
 
The interaction between the manicness and the ADHD, so with ADHD there’s a stimulus component, like I will fall asleep in the middle of a conversation if it’s that boring, like my brain actually just turns off, the only other person I’ve ever met that does that was my grandfather, and he would fall asleep in the middle of a sentence, then wake up and then continue. He was just hilarious.
 
You know like my brain needs to be fed constantly. And so all these things are feeding my brain, it’s all great and then and it means that like I can just sit down and then just write something and it’s great and I send it off to someone, “Wow it was great,” you know. And you know it’s just, it all works together.
 
And then, and then it, and then it all breaks. And then people are like, “What happened?” You know my supervisor, they got me all this funding like every, everyone had massive expectations of my Master’s Thesis, there was this big craziness.
Performance pressures and exam stress are common for anyone but for young people with depression coping with normal levels of stress when they had other emotional issues to deal with could be difficult. Especially for those in higher education, colleges and universities, workload could be hard to manage during depressive periods and some found the exam stress made depression worse.
 
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Sara says pressures at university can set off her low moods and make everything more stressful....

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Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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I’d say it [depression] is triggered because it’s, university is just so, even college, but education is just stressful and stress, it just makes everything worse. So you know you’ll be worrying about your essays, anything to be worried or upset about will just make it worse. So, it’s kind of, inevitably you will feel upset about some things, you know you’re not gonna succeed in everything but you know it will just set it off, if you don’t have a great exam, or you don’t have a great homework, you know, just one homework that you didn’t do too well on but it will just trigger you up for like a month and you’ll be upset.
 
It’s just, and it’s quite, I don’t know, I’m not a huge perfectionist, I wouldn’t say I was a perfectionist so it’s quite, it doesn’t affect me that way, that you know I must do well, but, doing well makes you feel better, and when you don’t do well you feel bad so it’s kind of quite black and white, it’s quite hard to get over something if you haven’t done well in it, and if you’re feeling low anywhere it will just feel even worse. So, definitely studying would be so much easier if there wasn’t like a constant bad mood in your mind like.
 
Even when you do well you want to have done better [laughs]. It’s like, most people do, most people do wish they could do better, but it’s kind of, sometimes you just feel I haven’t done well, Oh my God why haven’t I done well? Like, most people just let it go, you know you’ve got an A, it was great, but other people, like sometimes I’ll be like, you know I got an A, but it was such a crap A, it was such a bad A, what on earth? Like it was, it’s just because you’re constantly, there’s no kind of self confidence, self esteem, it’s low mood so you just always just think it’s not right. Even when something’s going right you just don’t think it’s right. You know you can’t really see the good in anything, even if you try.
 

Holly used to be “a mode student” and top of her class. Gradually her grades started slipping and...

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Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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I was like, a sort of typical naive happy schoolgirl, I got on with all my work and sort of I was a model student, top of my class and things, and typical, the perfect daughter I suppose. But I got into the habit of sort of not doing my work and things, and because I stopped doing work, I got bored and sort of started looking at different things and so I suppose it was school when it was picked up because, you know all of a sudden I didn’t have the energy to do any work, and I couldn’t be bothered with it all. And so my grades were slipping and it was the teachers that picked up the problems initially, and they put it down to the parental difficulties because they were getting divorced and things, so obviously they thought well that’s the cause of it.
 
And so we went into some sort of family therapy kind of thing, which never works, ‘cos when you’ve got parents that are about to divorce, putting them in a room together and say, “Talk,” probably not the best idea. So it was sort of, it went on from that really, but it was initially the school that picked up on it.
 
 
 
Because of my behaviour changed straight away and I used to be a good student and I was getting into trouble, I was getting myself deliberately kicked out of lessons because I just didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to be in the room with everyone else, I wanted to be somewhere else. And it got, at first it was sort of just one lesson every now and again, and it got so bad that I was being kicked out of pretty much every single lesson, for every single day, and obviously they’re going to notice, if I’m not in any of my lessons. And so it was the, the school that suggest that I got some kind of counselling sort of thing. 
School performance was a major factor in how people felt about themselves. It could become a vicious cycle where people couldn’t do the work properly because they felt so low, ended up getting low marks in exams and would then feel even worse about themselves. One woman said she always blamed herself for her grades going down, though she had dyslexia and was struggling with depression;
 
“Because of my low self-esteem I didn’t really bother about it [grades falling]. I figured well I’m getting these results because I’m rubbish at it, not because I’m not making the effort”.
 
A couple of people described themselves as “perfectionists” and said for them, the performance pressure or school stress was particularly hard to handle and could make depression and anxiety worse. Some felt external pressures from teachers or their family to do well and felt they were “failing” not just themselves, but others too.
 
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Emma-Jane wanted to do well in school and now in Uni to be accepted by her teachers.

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Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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It’s difficult to pinpoint it, it’s kind of, looking back, my memory isn’t overly brilliant but like, I do remember like at school, I did, I do have an, a want to kind of please and be accepted, I want to be accepted by the people around me, by like teachers, by lecturers, by you know all that kind of thing. And it makes me sound like a right little geek, and I know it does. But like the need to succeed in order to please people is quite important in that aspect, and obviously like I will run around like every hour of every day.
 
Although I know it’s impossible to please everyone, and do everything, even though I know it’s impossible and therefore I set up myself goals that are impossible to reach, so all I can do is fail. And that then obviously that then doesn’t help to go, “You’re a failure,” kind of train of thought. But it’s but yeah like at school I always kind of wanted to like please people and stuff.
 

Craig says he felt like he’d failed everyone’s expectations in school, including his own.

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Age at interview: 20
Sex: Male
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It made me feel disappointed in myself and that I’d failed myself, I’d failed my teachers, I’d failed the parents. And that just made me worse, it just made me feel a whole lot worse, and you know, then it starts the onward spiral of you feel worse so you do worse, and then as you do worse your expectations of yourself fail more and then you start going worse and before you know it, you’ve dropped out of college and you’re out of work and you’ve not got nothing to your name.
 

Jennie describes herself as “a perfectionist”. She has learnt to cope with stress so that it...

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Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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I want everything to be done right, and to my best ability, and like I said I got all A’s and A stars at GCSE, and then all A’s at A’ level. And just doing everything I do I want it to be done to the best of my potential, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that, and just with everything like, like the counsellor used to say to me, “You, you see failure as a bad thing, whereas sometimes failure can be a positive thing.” Like last year when obviously I didn’t enjoy, like, like my course, I saw that as a failure whereas she saw that as a positive thing because it gave me a chance to rethink and have another chance, whereas I, that was like the end of my world for that moment in time, because I’d failed and everything’s got to be like successful and an achievement and like done 100%.
 
I just feel like as well my little brother, like I always said I want to have independence so I can look after him, and ‘cos I’ve not got that independence it’s failing, and they’re like, “No it’s not, you’re 18, 17, 18, how can you be independent at 17, 18. You’ve still got to be a child for your parents, and they’re not going to see that as a failing because if you, like if you’re going to university and it’ll give them opportunities in the future for you to look after him, so it’s not a failing. You are doing something successful at the end of the day.”
 
But I mean I still am a perfectionist, I mean my Uni work like I will do it always to the best, and sometimes it does get on top of me like, I’m stressed because I know I’ve got four assignments before Christmas, and I want to get them done and, so I still have that, but I have a more, when I do get stressed instead of like it leading to being depressed sort of look at it more positive and find something else to do.
Some people struggled with school work because they had learning difficulties, dyslexia or ADHD which hadn’t been recognised until much later. A few people said they “got in trouble” because of learning difficulties. They were accused of “messing about” in class though they were just “bored” or couldn’t understand some of the lessons.
 

Lisa was keen to learn but had difficulty understanding some things. Because of dyslexia, she got...

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Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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Because I couldn’t read and stuff, and I wasn’t as quick as everybody else I think that’s why they picked on me. But then when I was in year 2, I was diagnosed with dyslexia, which is why I was finding it difficult, they, they just think I was you know being stubborn or didn’t want to do it, and it wasn’t, I was eager to learn but I found it difficult to read, and you know, understand things. And then they tried me with these glasses with like a green tint you know, and then I was top of the class for reading, and they realised that my reading age was higher than my actual age.
 
Like I had the reading age, the reading age of a 14 year old when I was about 11. So, they, like realised then and I’ve, I never used to picked for reading in mass every week, and then my Mum spoke to them and said, “Look she’s got her glasses now,” and then I was picked a few times, and then I decided I didn’t like it anyway so. That was another thing they picked on me for.
 
And when I was in High School and I had my glasses on, the kids would be like, “Oh Sir, she’s got sunglasses on, you’re not allowed to wear sunglasses.” And the teachers didn’t believe they were for dyslexia; I’d tell ‘em, “They’re for dyslexia,” “No they’re not; they’re sunglasses, take ‘em off.”
Some ended up re-sitting their year or re-enrolling on their university course.
 
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Gemma decided to re-start her last year and all the teachers were very supportive of her decision.

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Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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Eventually I came to the decision to leave school in March and re-start my last year in September, giving me 6 months to focus on getting better, and it felt like a fresh start. All my teachers were lovely, especially my PE teacher who told me about her sister who'd had depression for 6 months and told me that if I ever needed to talk that she would always have the time for me. Having that support from school and work that I wasn't expecting was a great help, and I think I wouldn’t have even gone back to 6th form six months later if it hadn’t been for that support.
 

Ruby’s was life was “chaos” when she was meant to do her dissertation at university. She re-enrolled a year later and had great support and understanding from her teacher to finish her studies.

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Age at interview: 27
Sex: Female
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I stopped going to lectures and stuff, just couldn’t manage it. Just drinking, by then it was like, “Right I won’t drink till six, I won’t drink till five, I won’t drink till four,” and it got to like 3 o’clock and I was opening the first bottle and stuff, but…
 
And then my second hospitalisation was for three months nearly and , I was supposed to be doing my dissertation and graduating that year, on the day that I was supposed to go to my graduation ceremony I signed on for disability living allowance, so didn’t get quite to wear the cap and gown and stuff, but a year later I went back and finished, but that was purely purely through the kindness of one of my teachers, who said, “Don’t even worry, you don’t have to come to lectures, just turn the work in, there’s no deadlines.” She was absolutely fantastic to me, and I ended up I got a first, so I was like really chuffed. But like it was because she’d given me so much leeway to do it. If it had to, if it had been re-enroll and go to lectures, no way I’d have managed it, no way, I was too all over the place, like, I was, my life was just completely chaos. There’s no other word for it, just absolute chaos, like, so I had to literally get stuff done as and when I had a few moments of sanity, you know like, before I got drunk.
A few people found the prospect of future studies daunting and stressful because they didn’t feel optimistic about their future at the best of times. A couple of people said they tended to worry about everything and run through worst case scenarios in their minds of what could go wrong at college or university. For some, having to make choices early on in school about their study and career paths was overwhelming.
 
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Suzanna was worried about getting into university. The university had a flexible system whereby...

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Age at interview: 26
Sex: Female
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I found a very helpful careers adviser and that there were such things as special application processes for people applying from different or difficult circumstances. So I felt more confident in applying to universities in general. In the careers library I found a thing that was about universities, as in people wanting to apply for sort of people in state schools and things like that, to spend I think it was a week or ten days in the university, completely paid for. And I did the language course, and it was really interesting because you got to know the place and the people that looked after you were students, well obviously there were other people, and it was a really, really good. So I, then I applied.
 
And yeah, there were, there’s a system which is quite good where you can give more information if you’ve had a weird educational background or illness, or whatever, so I had a letter about that. Which I know is maybe making excuses and stuff but otherwise they would have found my UCAS form very confusing and things like that. You know and give me more of a chance as in for them to assess me, not, but not you know to be taking this into consideration.
 
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There was a lot of pressure and heavy work load in Tasha's grammar school. She felt making GCSE...

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Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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But when I started secondary school I went to a grammar school so there was quite a lot of pressure on the work side, there was a lot of homework then. And I’ve on and off been unhappy, sort of always since I was about nine.
 
I sort of it probably got worse in year 9 because I had to make my choices for GCSE’s. And then it, although everyone says like you don’t need to make decisions about your life now, you don’t need to know what you want to do, by choosing your GCSE’s you limit your A’ levels, and then, so… So it still seemed like a big deal to me, and then my GCSE’s I feel like it was quite bad as well, especially in year 10. But I somehow pushed myself and I did quite well, I was like proud of myself, but I started my A’ levels and I did the first year and thought I hate this, I don’t know why I’ve come back. So I left and I thought that by leaving I would sort of get rid of the unhappiness ‘cos that’s what it’d always been in school.
Changing schools and not going to school
Many of the young people spoke with had missed out large chunks of school. For a few, this was because of extended hospital stays or feeling unwell but for most, not going to school was their way of getting away from social pressures, work stress and bullying. Some said they went to school but just didn’t do anything there. A few people found being in school so intolerable that they decided to change schools. For some this worked, and they felt better able to fit in and do their work whereas for others the situation remained just as bad or got worse. One woman describes how changing primary schools helped her;
 
“At my first primary school no-one wanted to work and it was a school with a bad reputation and the one I went to everyone was sort of better behaved and I fitted in better.”
 
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Sarah found it difficult to fit in with her new Sixth Form. She was bullied for being smarter than others, started having panic attacks and missed out months.

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Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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I was enrolled to go to one of the sort of gifted and talented schools and I hadn’t got in. And I’d ended up in like the rubbish school for all the thick people and things like that. And it was really like you felt really, I felt really bad about that then, but then when I went there and realised that I was so much, like I was smarter than other people, other people picked up on that and sort of started bullying me for it
 
I went to the rival like 6th form, so like the teachers were a bit dodgy, people were dodgy and, the workload was like, it was much bigger than you get in your GCSE level. So I, like I started panicking. But I was doing well, I was like keeping high, I was doing quite well, and then I just sort of stopped going. ‘Cos I couldn’t cope, I was having panic attacks, I was like starting and I’d feel dizzy and sick in the classroom so I missed about four or five of month of sixth form altogether.
A couple of people actually stopped going to school altogether. They later realised that not getting their GCSEs or other qualifications restricted their opportunities for work and further education. One woman left school to be home schooled instead which she found a great experience. Home schooling gave her a break from school pressures and enabled more flexibility in her work.
 

Lisa tells what it was like to be home schooled.

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Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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The teacher I had though was really good, and I loved learning, like stuff, and I was really good at it as well.
 
How does it work?
 
They come to the house, every day for about an hour, an hour and a half and basically you do Maths and English ‘cos that’s the most important to do. You know and they test you first of all to see which subjects you need to be learning, and mine was Maths and English. And I’ve always been top set for English, and top set for science, so, it’s just Maths now that I’m still trying to come to grips with, I go to college now total maths, so.
 
Yeah. Was that difficult to kind of do the work when you weren’t in school, or was it easier?
 
It was easier for me to do it, to work without ‘cos I didn’t have all the distractions of thinking, “Oh they’re gonna pick on me when the lessons over.” You know I had the lesson, and then went and did whatever.
Transitions between schools could be tricky. A couple of people had been split from their friends when they moved to secondary school. Some changed to do their A-levels in a college rather than in their secondary school. For them, it was easier to fit in socially and focus on their work among students who were motivated and took their studies more seriously.
 

Holly moved from Sixth Form to college to do her A-levels and she loves it. She says people are...

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Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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When I was discharged I went back to sort of my normal home life and my old school life, and because I’d missed so much work it turned out that actually I couldn’t really take the exams, having missed this big chunk in the middle. And so, you know before missing it I’d been not attending all of my lessons, so it was sort of a slow slope in and to get back into the life, the way I was doing it, I didn’t attend all my lessons just to sort of gradually go into in, and so I missed quite a big chunk of the year. And so we decided it would be better to sort of write it off and say, well that’s it, we’ll start again, and that was at the sixth form, and so in the September I started again here and it was completely different because just the way they treat you, they, whereas before I was continuing with people that, that I’d gone to school with and such, whereas here it was all new people, and they treated you as adults. It was, it wasn’t sort of assumed and you know, teachers on first name terms and things.
 
And whereas before it was saying Sir or Madam and it was, here was just a great change to be able to have that responsibility and to do my work. All the people that are here want to be here because, you know, it’s their education whereas the schools I’ve been before were just people being there because they had to be there. And so they didn’t work, they didn’t get on, and yeah, I actually love it here.
Support from school
Young people’s experiences of support they had got from their teachers and schools varied but most of them felt unsupported and in some cases that the school made things worse. Quite a few people had counselling through school but felt it had been inadequate for anyone with more than a “bit of exam stress”. They felt that teachers generally lacked understanding of young people’s mental health problems and were unable to deal with depression or self-harm appropriately. As one woman described;
 
“Total lack of support I received in school. There was no counselling service and a complete lack of understanding of young people’s mental health. I felt throughout my school life they didn’t care about what was going on with me; simply caring about grades and hitting targets.”
 
“There was nobody who seemed to have even the slightest understanding of just how bad anxiety and depression is. They just treated me like I could ‘snap out of it,’ but wasn’t trying to.”
 
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Helena says her experiences in school made her so anxious that 'the real world frightened me'.

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Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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Through years 8 and 9 I started missing a lot of school. This prompted threatening letters from heads of year and visits from the education welfare officer. My dad was getting worse in his abuse and arguments between my parents happened daily. The education welfare officer made everything much worse. She would visit and simply order me to school, blaming my mum for everything. She wouldn’t even talk to my dad even though he was the cause of a lot of my anxieties. She also started threatening my mum with prison. Could she not understand how that would only make things a thousand times worse? Thankfully my mum never ended up in prison.
 
Through my GCSE years of 10 and 11 I wasn’t really going to school. I had zero confidence and began to find it hard to leave the house, becoming quite agoraphobic. Because of the bullying from all sides I thought everyone wanted to hurt me in some way. Every time I didn’t go to school I was terrified of the education welfare officer coming round. I was stuck in my house where I felt safe but also scared. No one was giving me any support except my mum, who tried her best to understand my problems.
 
As my problems were psychological and not physical the teachers and heads of year couldn’t understand what was wrong. In my school at that time there were no counselling services of any kind. I was ‘ordered’ (if I didn’t go it would be me refusing help) to see a counsellor out of school with my mum. She was a nice woman and really did try to help. The only problem was the main focus of each session seemed to be about getting me back into school, not the underlying issues. Also, I had to go with my mum and couldn’t talk freely on my own.
 
I did most of my coursework for my GCSE’S at home and wasn’t allowed to be entered in for certain subjects. I was at one point placed in a special room for people with ‘behavioural problems’ where I was allowed to do my work without been surrounded by other pupils (I’d developed huge anxiety over even seeing anyone from my classes.) Looking back I felt I was only put there so they could say I was in school.
 
I left school with five GCSE’S and a huge amount of relief, I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I’d like to say that once I left everything got better, but it didn’t. My experiences in school had made me so anxious, the real world frightened me.
 

Going to school was “horrible” for Sophie. She had difficulty understanding some of the lessons...

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Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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[Going to school] Horrible. I just used to think I used to walk into school and think that everybody would be looking at me and, I just, walking down the hallway and just get really paranoid and self conscious. And when I was at school because I had difficulties in understanding things, it’d just affect me then they used just like play off it in the classes because I couldn’t do the work ‘cos I didn’t understand it. And then I’d get kicked out because I was messing about, but I couldn’t understand the work, so, it was just going around in circles really. And, so I never used to go to school, then I, then I had a meeting with the welfare officer and my Mum about how I could learn to go to school, and then they said that they was gonna put me on a half time timetable at school. I tried to do that and I still didn’t go, I mean I was only going like three times a week to school, I still wouldn’t be able to manage that to go in a group of like people and feel that everybody was looking at me, and, and then I’d, didn’t go to school at all.
Many were angry and frustrated by the lack of intervention by school in bullying or other social problems. A couple of people felt that even teachers were bullying them and one woman said her teachers “severely disliked” her and saw her “as a distraction”, rather than offering her support.

A few people felt well supported through school or university and said it had made all the difference for them being able to finish successfully. Flexibility around deadlines and course work enabled these people to finish their courses and achieve to their ability. Understanding about difficulties with depression and a sympathetic ear was also really important to these young people.

 
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Suzanna's teachers are really understanding and flexible when she's feeling unwell or work is...

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Age at interview: 26
Sex: Female
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I’m really lucky that I have really nice, really nice understanding teachers and my teacher, he knew quite, he obviously he let me in, and he knew all the background stuff that my school had sent, so he knew about that. And he kept me back after a lesson very early on to ask whether he could do anything in the lessons to help me with the dyslexia so that he could make things easier for me, for example, writing on a board, which I thought was very thoughtful. And when I left originally with the social anxiety thing he knew ‘cos I went to him, I had to have a letter to say that I needed the time out.

 

When I was ill my other teacher wrote to me, a couple of times, when I was in hospital, and I talked to my teacher just before I came back, and he was really nice. I've found both my teachers very understanding and helpful in general. If I've missed some work due to illness they tell me not to worry too much and to concentrate on the new work at hand and that I can catch up on the other work in the holidays.

 
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Holly tells about one of her teachers who supported her through school.

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Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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There was one teacher that obviously noticed the difference, that I was in school, but I wasn’t attending the lessons. And then I’d be in school for sort of, from 7 o’clock in the morning until 7 o’clock at night simply because I didn’t want to go back home. And so there was one teacher particularly that sort of stayed later so that I could stay later. Which was quite nice, and we’re still good friends now actually, she became a head of year towards the GCSE year, and obviously because she knew what other people didn’t know, and I hadn’t told her, but she picked up on it. And we never spoke about it up until quite recently in fact, but she still knew, even if I was sort of putting on a front and saying, “Everything’s all happy and lovely,” she would always know, and I never knew how she did it, but she would always know. And, she, she was a great support to me at the time, and she called social services a couple of times because things at home obviously weren’t great. And yeah, she was brilliant.
Life after
Quite a few people said that while they were in school, they never realised how much more there was to life. They wished someone had told them about the all the different choices they had after school, instead of feeling pushed onto a rigid educational path. Some people said their lives had only started after school and wished they had realised earlier on the whole world outside of school waiting to be discovered;
 
“When you’re at school, you feel like it’s the be all and end all. You don’t realise there’s a f***ing world out there with best friends that you’ve not even met yet. At school and stuff it feels like that’s gonna be forever, and it’s not. If I could tell myself anything back then, it’s just count down the days, there’s a world outside there waiting for you, away from all this crap.”
 

Secondary school helped Emma “develop as a person” and gain some independence but didn’t prepare...

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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I would say secondary school was harder because, although it meant you could have more independence and more freedom, not that there was very much of that at [school name] I have to admit, it was quite sheltered but because I’m going through puberty, and all the other girls are, some have got, some you wouldn’t even know had special needs. They’re like really street wise, pardon me, and they take the pee out of the uncool kids such as yours truly, and others. And it’s just difficult in an all girls school when you’ve got, “Miss, [friend’s name] won’t be my friend. [friend’s name] looked at me funny. I hate you. He stole, she stole my boyfriend.” Kind of thing. It’s just so petty, and rumours and stuff, oh Jesus.
 
But I would say I would say that my best friendships of all, thus far, have been at school. And in a lot of ways I’d say the High School helped me develop as a person, but I don’t think it prepared me enough for the world. The real world as it were.
 

Edward regrets not doing a gap year, travelling and “branching out”. He wishes he’d known how...

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Age at interview: 18
Sex: Male
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And one thing no-one ever told me when I went to college is that so many people come as mature students, so many people take a gap year, then another gap year. Nobody ever, ever said to me about that, no-one ever told me about these foundation years, no-one ever tells you at college, you know you don’t have to do science A’ levels to do engineering, you can go off do several gap years, come back and do a conversion year and then do it. It’s all sort of like, it’s acceptable to do a gap year, but it’s really pushed when you have to do something like voluntary or a year in industry, which is fine, but it’s very structured like you must do A’ levels, you must go onto university or you know have a place waiting for you at university really.
 
And I suppose most people do that, but I think looking at my college and what I’d been through a lot of people don’t. I think sometimes it’s good to take a couple of years out. I regret not doing a gap year. I’ve no idea what I’d have done with my gap year, but I think it would have been useful to work, save up some money for university, ‘cos if I’m here for six years money is obviously a big issue, maybe not travelled but maybe worked for an organisation where I could have travelled, but on, in retrospect I can use this year, this is, I call this foundation year my branching out year, where I can try all these new things, and I will probably will work everywhere else, and it’s, it gets me to see what I want, so in some ways it is a gap year, so to speak.
 

Beth hated her University course and decided to leave and get a job instead. She enjoys seeing...

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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Half the stuff was you know, first year stuff and I found that really boring, like I took philosophy because I thought it would be interesting, I’ve never done it before. It was moral philosophy and I felt like I was doing Christianity again and I could do it with my eyes shut. And that upset me and then other things were hard and I had to work at but I felt like I didn’t fit in again. I’ve not had a problem since I was in, the beginning of secondary school that I didn’t fit in, I had always fitted in since then. And it was horrible, and I just, well it wasn’t that made me not want to go to Uni, it was there were other aspects of actually start thinking about what I wanted from life and what I wanted to do in future years I’d probably never ever go for a career with a degree. And I would rather have those four years setting myself up for a better career practically than doing that. But I just hated it. I hated university [laugh].
 
So as soon as you left you felt so much better?
 
Oh, it was a weight off my mind, where I could just go to work and do something and I knew what I was doing every day and I knew I was gaining things from this and it wasn’t just a grade to kind of see how you were doing, but I could see the results of what I was doing every day, and I worked my way up and it was, it’s good. It feels good. 
 

Last reviewed June 2017.

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