Social media ‘more stressful than exams’, claims south London headteacher

Evening Standard, 18.05.15, teenagers feel more stress from having to keep up appearances on social media than they do from exams, a leading headteacher warned today. HMC member Marion Gibbs, outgoing head of James Allen’s Girls' School (JAGS) features and incoming head Sally Anne Huang, head of Kent College, Pembury is mentioned.

Marion Gibbs, head of James Allen’s Girls School (JAGS) in Dulwich, said teenagers live in a goldfish bowl where they are under “horrendous” pressure to look good and be popular.

She warned that young people have no “mental time off” because they are constantly looking at sites such as Facebook and Instagram and will come to regret some of the things that are posted online.

Mrs Gibbs, an expert in Classics, spoke out after announcing her retirement from the £15,000-a-year school where she has been headteacher for 21 years. Describing how things have changed, she said: “I do see teenagers under much more stress and worry. But a lot of it isn’t about exam pressure, it’s the social media pressure.”

She added: “They have to have the right image and have the right views and be popular and be liked. That’s horrendous. I am so glad I didn’t grow up in that generation… You live your life in a goldfish bowl you have chosen to go into.”

She said children used to be able to leave school and spend their evenings doing something completely different. But now everybody knows what they are doing at all times, and arguments that used to be left at the school gate can carry on all night, with more people joining in. “People are on that machine straight away and taking pictures of everything,” she added.

Pupils at JAGS are not allowed mobiles in classrooms and the school advises parents not to allow phones in bedrooms.

Mrs Gibbs set up the Southwark Schools Learning Partnership, a collaboration of seven state and three independent schools to boost results and break down barriers, and was awarded a CBE for this work in 2012.

Sally Anne Huang, head at Kent College Pembury, will take over as head of JAGS in September.

A study by the LSE has found that banning mobile phones in schools can boost children’s academic performance. It said such a ban had the same effect as an extra week of lessons.

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