They say schooldays are the best of your life. What do you think?

Whether you like it or not you are obliged to go to school, the government decides at what age you start and finish, and you and your parents can get into big trouble if you don't turn up, get excluded or expelled. So try to make the most of your best chances to learn while you have to be at school anyway!

It might seem like a waste of time and just a way to keep you off the streets, but most people learn best when they are young and find it much harder to learn the basics when they are older. There will always be something you're interested in and something you really resent having to do. At least you can make some choices past a certain age and dump some of the subjects you hate. But do take notice of any careers advice you might be offered, as if you have any idea what you want to do, it's best to choose things which will help in that direction rather than just things you like doing which might not be useful in a career or help you get a job.

If you are lucky, you go to a clean, well maintained school with good facilities, inspiring teachers, with your best mates, a stone's throw from home so you don't get soaked on wet days, and school dinners to dream about.

If you're not lucky, the place is filthy and falling apart with everything worn out or broken, the playing field got sold off for building houses on, you don't know anyone and get picked on, it's miles away and not on a bus route, the teachers are all evil sadists and the dinners are to dream about - so long as you're having a nightmare.

The reality is probably somewhere in between. So, since it lasts for a good few years, you might as well make the most of it and learn how to survive or at least to avoid the down sides.

If you're not happy at school, what can you do? Other than bunk off lessons and spend your time in a kids playground! Your school or college should have a counsellor or someone you can go to if you have problems or want to talk, apart from your form tutor. It's usually ok to confide in any member of staff you get on with and trust though. You can always talk to Connexions or any of the other help and advice services. See who to talk to in Rough Stuff Remedies.

So what can go wrong and what might you need help to cope with?

You might be being bullied or discriminated against by other students OR members of staff. Peer pressure is stongest at school where you have to deal with a large group of other young people who may not be very friendly or a good influence. Find out what you can about resisting peer pressure and tackling bullies and people who discriminate against you.

You might be having a rough time in life outside school and find it all too much to do any real work because you can't concentrate on anything except your problems. Try finding your problem in What's making it rough? and get it sorted so you can get on with learning. If you are under pressure and too tired to cope with school because you are acting as a carer, take a look at looking after someone else, and get some tips for how to manage.

You might be struggling with the work and to learn anything much, and this might be because of having special needs whether or not anyone has yet noticed or realised why. Your physical health or limitations might be making it hard for you. Could be you are dyslexic if you still have trouble reading; if the whiteboard looks like fog maybe you need your eyesight testing. If you're ill or disabled or got allergies maybe they don't make enough allowances for you and help you when you need it. Ask for help at your school or college or see your doctor if you think it is related to your health or a disability.

Perhaps you have been in trouble and excluded, or you persistently play truant and don't turn up at school, or you have been in trouble with the law. If you have a social worker or probation officer ask them for help to get back into education. It's your best chance of breaking the cycle and turning your life around right now.

If your family are always on the move as travellers or for any other reason, you might feel you can never settle in a school and get on with learning. There is special help if this is the case. Get in touch with the Ormiston Trust Gypsy and Traveller service .

Do you feel that you have had no say, in what subjects you have "chosen" or even whether or not you stay in education past a certain point, or in the choice of school which might have been for reasons you don't agree with - like a religious school rather than a secular one, a private school instead of a state school, or the other way round?

Are you under pressure to achieve things you don't want to or feel able to because of the unrealistic ambitions or expectations of your parents or other people?

Are you buried under the pressure of studies, finding it hard to balance work, sleep and a bit of social life?

Talk to a teacher, school counsellor, Connexions advisor and get some tips on managing your time and how to revise efficiently. They can help you decide what's best for you if you are doing the wrong subjects; or if you're old enough, whether you'd be better off on a different course or at a different place - a college or on an apprenticeship which better suits your abilities and interests. If you really have a problem with the particular school you are in it might be possible to get you moved. It certainly might be possible to rearrange a few things if you are being bullied too, and if discrimination or peer pressure are getting too much your school should have strategies for dealing with this and be helpful in finding you nicer people to work with!

Exams and exam results - what a nightmare, stress city here you come. Learn how to deal with revision and the stress of taking exams, and what to do if you fail or don't get the grades you need for going to the next level whether that is for staying on at school, going to university or work-related qualifications. It's not the end of the world, whatever anyone else wants you to believe, but getting it right first time can save a lot more hard work. It's not impossible to get qualifications when you are older, but most people find that life can easily get in the way, houses, families, finances, and they can't fit in or afford to go back to full time studying so generally it's best to do it young before your life gets more complicated.

Further education or work - make a balanced and sensible decision and don't be pressured, but don't miss your chances either. It's easier to stay in education than to come back to it later, but only if that is what you decide is right for you. Your rights and making decisions can help you with finding out what your rights and responsibilities are, and how to get good advice to make decisions. If you choose work, you might want to look at the GTRT section In or out of work. If you think later on that you made a bad decision after all it may not be too late, but better to try to imagine what is best in the long run before you choose your subjects and whether to extend your education or leave and get a job, and what type of qualifications will suit you best.

Could be you are better suited to getting on with the job as well as learning. Find out all about apprenticeships including what opportunities there are in your area. You can talk to a mentor who is or has already been an apprentice.

If you go on to university, or start to live away from home because of your education, training, or work, you might feel really homesick or completely lost in a place where you don't know anyone, or how to cope on your own. Universities, like schools and colleges, should have counsellors to talk to, or other tutors or teaching staff. Read more about how to make friends if you find it hard to settle into your new peer group and how to cope with living away from home. Leaving home can be fun and exciting or it can leave you feeling helpless and lonely.

If you are worried about money and staying on at school or college, find out about the Education Maintenance Allowance and other stuff on Money Troubles .

So what's good about education then?

Lots, actually.

Your school has got resources you would find it hard to access on your own. Sports and music facilities are usually fairly good, and technology and media studies keep up pretty well with stuff which will amaze a good number of your parents and especially your grandparents. If you're willing to learn and you've got good teachers you can get a long way whatever your school is like.

There are probably opportunities outside of lessons to learn and play sport, music, drama and there maybe clubs and societies for various hobbies and interests. If there are, it is another way of having fun and making friends without having to look too hard elsewhere. There may be opportunities to go on trips or holidays if you can afford them, and perhaps to take part in voluntary work. All these things are so much easier when organised by a school or college so make the most of them while you can. Universities have wonderful chances for social life, independent living, sports and the facilities and equipment for all kinds of things you might never get the chance to try again.

Things your parents might have had to cope with and which have changed for the better - They are not allowed to make fun of you any more in PE if you are overweight, throw the chalkboard rubber at you in class, make you learn latin or keep you in detention without warning. But seriously, there is much more allowance made for different styles of learning so if you are better suited to hands-on stuff and course work, you get credit for that and not just passing a pesky three-hour exam at the end of the course.

Knowledge, training, and equipment all get more advanced and more things which are useful and relevant to real life have become part of the curriculum. There is a certain amount of choice in which subjects you can opt for and your school and careers service will advise you what is a good combination and useful to you. There is a lot to be said for taking a balance of useful subjects and things you actually like and want to do, so long as you talk it over and think about it first.  Ask older friends and relations - some will tell you they wish they had made more use of the chances to get educated while it was easy - and school is free.  

The page was last updated on 18 June 2014 by andrea.bateman.

explore a guide to rough times

Contact our PALS team

need help, fast?

find out who to contact in a crisis

What's your problem?

what's making things rough?

explore the issues affecting your emotional and physical wellbeing

Get a life

enhance your life

find out how to boost your self esteem, relax and recharge

My liked pages

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust,Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital,Cambridge, CB21 5EF,T 01223 726789