“It was six years of hell, it’s a relief to be out of there.”


It’s a shame, but none of us would be entirely surprised to hear an eighteen year old say this as they sat their last Year 12 exam.


A couple of years ago I noticed that time and time again, the word relief appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage of the HSC.


“Students’ RELIEF as the HSC wait is over”


“THOUSANDS OF HSC STUDENTS across the region BREATHED A SIGH OF RELIEF yesterday as they finished their first exam”


“…with the MAJORITY OF STUDENTS EXPRESSING RELIEF that the first exam had gone without a hitch.”


“A COLLECTIVE SIGH OF RELIEF echoed across the Hunter yesterday as the Higher School Certificate came to an end.”

This weekend, more of the same, with an article discussing how many NSW Year 12 students are now undergoing hypnotherapy to overcome the stress of the upcoming HSC.


The article also references the stress management techniques encouraged by the NSW Board of Studies which include having a solid study plan, regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep and study breaks. All common sense ideas.

But, stress management plans; hypnotherapy; and stories of kids popping pills to enhance their performance – is this what the culmination of thirteen years of school should look like?


And yet, here’s the thing. I don’t know a single person whose life has been irreversibly changed because of a poor Year 12 result. (You might say you do. But I’d hazard a guess that there were other things going on other than just a poor Year 12 mark. )


It’s just we can’t let that get out can we? It’s not the story we tell kids. How often do we tell students that “this year is much more important than last year, so it’s time to start working.”


Each year gets increasingly important – until Year 12 – because stressing the importance of school and the HSC is often the only way we keep kids even remotely interested in what they’re supposed to be doing in class.


So why should we be surprised when an eighteen year old says, “It was six years of hell, it’s a relief to be out of there?”


Because they were the exact words David Hicks said when he was released from Guantanamo Bay.


Sad, isn’t it?


Author: Dan Haesler, he is a teacher, consultant, and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars. He is the co-developer of Happy Schools and blogs at http://danhaesler.com/ and tweets at @danhaesler