September 27, 2018

There is an expanding body of scientific evidence linking the human experience in the natural world to better physical and mental health and enhanced cognitive abilities.” – Richard Louv, author and co-founder of the Children & Nature Network

Too much stress is unhealthy for all of us, especially children and young people. Although the stress hormone cortisol can be beneficial in small doses, recent findings suggest the current pressures on pupils of GCSE age have the opposite effect.

A recent survey by the Association of College Leaders (ASCL) found that 9 in 10 schools and college leaders reported stress and anxiety among students during GCSEs, with many experiencing sleep problems, panic attacks and depression. 358 respondents from the survey said some students had been unable to complete a GCSE because of these symptoms.

College and school leaders reported taking action in response to these worrying statistics. Some advised students on ways to cope with exam pressures, while others helped pupils structure their revision time and deal with the practical realities of homework and exams.

However, research has shown that spending time outdoors is the most effective way to lower stress levels and boost engagement, suggesting that a more holistic approach is needed. A stress-free learning environment is vital for children dealing with pressures both inside and outside the classroom. With this in mind, here are the three elements of a stress-free school environment.

1. Green space

In 2015, A year long study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealing that pupils exposed to more green spaces showed improved learning and memory.

The findings reinforced those of a six-year study on 905 Massachusetts public elementary schools, which found that students in “greener” schools scored higher on standardised English and maths tests.

2. Sports facilities

All schools should emphasise physical activity to ensure students are both happy and healthy. Both the NHS and mental health charity Mind recommend exercise to alleviate exam stress. Unfortunately, many schools are built in urban environments and do not have adequately sized playgrounds or green spaces.

Encouraging physical activity is difficult without adequate sports facilities. Both indoor and outdoor covered spaces are needed so that pupils can move, stretch and remain physically active in all weathers.

3. Breakout spaces

No school should focus solely on academic success. Students also need to learn to socialise, unwind and discover a work/life balance that will be crucial to their happiness and stress levels, from adolescence right through to adult life.

Indoor and outdoor breakout spaces where students can relax, read, socialise or study are vital to every school environment. A combination of open, public areas and smaller, enclosed spaces is best for accommodating students with different learning needs.

Achieving a stress-free school environment

Streetspace can work to improve your space, based on your budget to help you create a stress-free environment for your students. Manufactured in the UK, our specially constructed space-enhancing systems come with a 20-year warranty, as well as long-lasting durability. For more information, view our products online or contact us today for more information.