VIVA: " Empower your students to achieve their best "

Not just another part of school life

For as long as students have been sitting exams, they have been suffering with test anxiety; the question is not whether this is part of students’ lives, but rather how can it be managed effectively. More recent investigation into the effects of exam stress shows that it can result in feelings of panic, low mood, non-attendance in school, non-completion of tests, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed by school life. With more children and young people reporting high levels of exam related anxiety, schools need to find practical and effective ways to improve the lives of their students, and help to safeguard their mental health.

You do not need to accept the ill effects of exam stress as just another part of school life. You can make a change to give your students the resources they need, to ensure the detrimental effects of test anxiety are kept to a minimum. You can help to empower young people to feel in control of their emotions in such a stressful time, so that they can perform better under the exam pressure.

How was VIVA developed?

A word from Dr David Soares

At the heart of my career has always been a focus to help children. Working as a secondary school teacher helped to confirm this for me, as I had the opportunity to help young people reach their full potential. Being part of the important milestones in my pupils’ lives was extremely rewarding, as I helped them to navigate their journeys into adulthood.

It wasn’t until I took on positions as both Head of Year 11 and Director of Learning that I could clearly see an area in which I could really make a difference. This role allowed me to take a look at the impact of the examination process on young people. Most of us will experience exam stress at some point in our lives, but we often overlook the greater impact that this stress can have on not only academic performance, but general wellbeing.

It was not enough to just acknowledge the problem, I really wanted to do more to find a solution. Whilst I loved the job, I was not always able to dedicate my time to one-to-one support for those that needed it. This was the motivation I needed to take the leap to a different discipline. With new found focus, I returned to University and retrained as a Child and Educational Psychologist. I completed my doctorate at the University of Manchester, using my experience of education and knowledge of psychology to explore how educational opportunities can be improved to help young people reach their full potential.

My doctoral thesis investigates ways to improve student and staff wellbeing, whilst helping to alleviate test anxiety symptoms. Along the way I have published several articles and resources for test anxiety and continue to work closely with the Educational and Child Psychology programme. The goal is to find new ways to equip staff and students with the tools to effectively manage the symptoms of exam anxiety.

What is VIVA?

VIVA is a unique test anxiety tool kit for schools. The programme has been devised by educational psychologists, supported by the latest research as well as direct feedback from school staff and students. Its main purpose is to help young people from the age of 11 and up to tackle the detrimental effects that testing can have on their mental health. Our programme aims to support them from when they begin their revision, right through to their last exam.

Over the course of the five week programme, students will be given the opportunity to build new skills and apply them to their school lives, using the key elements of VIVA: Psycho-educational learning about stress and anxiety, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), and Mindfulness. This unique combination includes tried and tested methods of reducing stress and anxiety, integrated to provide the most effective approach.

Through staff co-delivering VIVA with an educational psychologist, your school will be equipped to deliver VIVA to future cohorts.

Here's a flavour of what students can expect in each of our sessions together:
Session 1

How do we notice it and what can we do about it?

Session 2

Thinking about thinking.

Session 3

Challenging unhelpful thoughts

Session 4

Mindfulness helps, especially when there is chocolate involved.

Session 5

Effective study skills – this will focus on the practicalities, sharing revision tips and tackling procrastination and perfectionism.

What will your schools get...
Session 1

Each pupil will complete a pre/post questionnaire measuring their anxiety levels

Session 2

Certificates of completion of the course will be provided to all pupils

Session 3

Weekly sessions, lasting approximately 1 hour, will be co-delivered by an Educational Psychologist (EP) and a member of staff, with the view of upskilling staff to be able to continue the programme with future cohorts in the absence of the EP.

Session 4

Feedback from parents, pupils and staff

Session 5

Each pupil will receive a booklet accompanying the presentations, containing helpful tips and thought provoking exercises

Session 6

Schools to receive an acrylic plaque, recognising them as having been trained in alleviating mental health/exam anxiety

Session 7

Staff to receive an integrative framework to ensure fidelity delivery of the programme

In working together with the Educational Psychologist over the five weeks, your staff member will be equipped to continue delivering the programme to future cohorts competently and effectively.
Staff in schools will be well-positioned to identify and respond to the needs of their students, as well as creating a culture in which the pressures of exams are recognised, discussed, and managed.

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