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Mental health before marks, says NZ education expert

As NCEA results are released today, it is important that students and whanau remember that mental health is more important than grades, according to the head of nationwide high school tuition company, Inspiration Education.

More than 140,000 students will be nervously logging in this morning, as NCEA results are released. Many of them will be feeling a strain on their mental health, particularly those who receive grades they aren’t happy with.

“Our mental health is essential for allowing us to improve, reflect, and push forward. As students and whanau receive their results today, it’s important to remember that grades aren’t a reflection of your intellect, ability, or value as a human being,” says William Guzzo, General Manager.

“Grades merely give you a timestamp of how much you knew at a given point of time and aren’t a permanent indicator of your ability to achieve in further study or in life.”

“Often it can be difficult for adults to fully understand how students might be feeling. For many students, NCEA feels like the defining point of their schooling, and since teenagers have spent most of their lives at school, it therefore feels like the defining point of their lives. Consequently, NCEA results can severely affect many students’ self-esteem and undermine their mental health.”

“As trusted adults, the best way we can help is by challenging this notion, and showing young people that grades are not the defining point of their lives, or a life sentence,” says Mr. Guzzo.

His advice is especially important this year due to the recent release of the report into the tragic death of a 17-year old boy in 2016, who died by suicide the day after receiving his NCEA results.

“When you receive terrible exam results, it feels like your whole life is closing in around you and there's literally no hope. It feels like it's just not worth trying or caring anymore. It's totally normal to feel like that – your reality feels like this right now.”

“When you are in this state, the key thing is to think about what you can control. You can make up extra credits through enrolling in Te Kura summer school, for example. Coming up with a game-plan can make all of the difference,” Guzzo explains.

Guzzo knows first-hand what difference a good game-plan can make.

“I had a terrible experience in NCEA Level One. Having Dyspraxia and ADHD meant that I was terrible at assessments. My exams went disastrously and my grades were terrible. I was really down, felt dumb and felt like giving up on school, but instead I chose to reflect on what had gone wrong and created strategies to turn it around,” he says.

Two years later, Guzzo was awarded Dux at Rongotai College. It’s that turnaround which made him passionate about education and led him to help others succeed at high school.

“Although hardship is awful to experience, we can also see it as an opportunity to gain determination, empathy, and courage. Failure gives us the opportunity to change, persevere, and grow more than if we hadn’t.”

“You can't control hardship, but you can control what you do next.”

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