When you move to secondary school, the Virtual School team will make sure that the change goes as smoothly as possible. Your PEP meetings will continue and we’ll keep making plans to support you, whatever that involves.

Teacher helps teenage student who is working on a laptop

We’ll allocate an Virtual School Officer to you. They will make sure that you’re given the best chance of succeeding and can arrange out of school activities and sometimes one-to-one tuition either at school or at home.

To get the best out of your education, you need to go to school every day and try your best. We’ll be with you every step of the way though and if you need any advice or support, your designated teacher will also be able to help. You should have access to a computer at home. If you haven’t, please let your social worker know.

Year 8 and 9

This is your chance to choose the subjects you really want to do in Year 10 and 11!

You will have to take some exams, but the decisions you make now and the effort you put in could make a big difference to your future. Here’s our advice:

  • Make sure you know when the Options Evenings are at school. This is when you’ll learn more about the different subjects available.
  • Tell your parent or carer and ask them to come along to the Options Evenings with you.
  • Talk to your teachers, designated teacher, your Virtual School Improvement Officer, or look in the careers section of your school library or speak to the careers advisor.​
Coping with exam stress

A little bit of stress can be a good thing as it motivates us to knuckle down and work hard. But exams can make stress levels get out of hand, which can stop us from performing our best. So it's important to address it and get it back under control.

How to manage exam stress

  • Learn to recognise when you're stressing out. A break or a chat with someone who knows the pressure you're under will get things into perspective.
  • Avoid comparing your abilities with your friends. Everyone approaches revision in different ways, so just make sure you've chosen the method that works best for you. Make a realistic timetable and stick to it.
  • Eat well. Treat yourself like a well-honed machine - eat fresh fruit and veg and have a proper breakfast. Fuel your brain as well as your body - no one can think straight on coffee and chocolate.
  • Sleep well. Wind down before bed and don't revise under the duvet - your bed is a sanctuary, not a desk. Turn your phone off. Get your eight hours of sleep.
  • Exercise. Nothing de-stresses the mind faster than physical activity, so build it into your timetable. A brisk walk round the block can help to clear your mind. Being a sloth makes our mind sloppy too.
  • Quit the bad habits. Cigarettes and alcohol never stopped anyone being stressed for very long.
  • Panic is often triggered by hyperventilating (quick, shallow breaths). So if you feel yourself losing it during the exam, sit back for a moment and control your breathing. Take deep breaths in and out through the nose, counting to five each way.
  • Steer clear of any exam 'post-mortem'. It doesn't matter what your mate wrote for Question 3(b), it's too late to go back and change your answers, so it will just make you worry even more.
  • Ultimately, don't lose sight of the fact that there is life after exams. Things might seem intense right now, but it won't last forever.

Stress symptoms

Look out for prolonged or extreme cases of the following if you feel the work's piling up:

  • Difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Constant tiredness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Unexplained aches and pains/muscle tension
  • Poor appetite/stomach problems
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Increased anxiety and irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Migraines/headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Skin irritations

If you've noticed three or more of the above symptoms and you've experienced them for a few weeks, you may need to do something about your stress levels – try talking to your GP or a trusted adult.

You can read one person's tips for avoiding exam stress on the YoungMinds website.

Rose says:


We all know that exams are extremely challenging, not only because of what we have to learn, but also because they can affect our mental health. We're told to take regular breaks, but I find it hard to know how best to use them. There's plenty of advice out there on study techniques, but I find that what I do when I'm not revising is just as important as what I do when I am.


She gives her top tips to build self-care into her day, for example

Try a grounding exercise. Grab a (non-academic!) book or sheet of paper and count how many letters there are on the page, or count or many blue things you can see in the room. These types of exercises help to reduce anxiety by focusing your brain on a specific task that is unrelated to your work.

Another grounding exercise is the 54321 trick. You need to find:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can touch
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell/taste
  • 1 good thing about yourself

Year 11

Most teenagers choose to continue their education past Year 11 and everyone has to carry on with some kind of education until they are 18, even if they’re working. This doesn’t have to mean staying at school though, there are options available.

  • Study full-time in a school, college or with a training provider
  • Full-time work or volunteering combined with part-time education or training
  • An apprenticeship

Your school should explain all of these options to you and give you some guidance. You can also contact the National Careers Service for advice or call them on 0800 100 900 (8am to 8pm weekdays and 10am to 5pm on Saturdays/bank holidays).

    Thinking of going to college or doing an apprenticeship?

    You can do A levels, an apprenticeship or another Further Education course at college. You will need to fill in a UCAS form or an application for the college you want to apply for and submit a personal statement, to tell colleges about you as a person. You should be given some time at school to practice writing this.

    If you want to go to college or do an apprenticeship, or even if you’re not sure, why not go along to some college open days to see what’s on offer?

    What about my friends?

    It’s easy to do what your friends are doing or stay on at the same school you already know well. But it needs to be the right choice for you, especially if you have a particular career in mind or a special interest, talent, skill or work experience you’d like to pursue.

    However, it’s good to know who you can go to for help. The Virtual School, your Social Worker and your place of study or work will all want you to be happy, so that you can achieve your full potential and be successful. So there will always be people around to support you.

    What if English isn't my first language?

    Make sure the college knows, so that they're able to fully support your needs.

    You can also enrol on ESOL courses at different levels, which will give you recognised accreditation, usually in City and Guilds and Skills for Life ESOL from Entry Level 1 up to Level 2 in speaking, listening, reading and writing. For those of you with very little English you can start at Pre-Entry Level but there are no accreditations on a course at this level, it prepares you for moving up to an Entry Level 1 course.

    Sometimes, you can do a part time ESOL course as well as another Level 1 full time course. This can help you progress to a Level 2 course later.

    What if I have a disability?

    Whatever you decide to do, this should be a really exciting time for you because you’ll become more independent and hopefully be studying or working in an area that you have a genuine interest in.