Ambitious parents and schools are stressing kids out, according to a new report by the Children's Commissioner.

The pressure to achieve good marks and exam grades is making half of eight to 17-year-olds anxious about their academic performances, according to Dr Maggie Atkinson.

Dr Atkinson suggested that parents, aware of the constant call for improved education standards, pass on the pressure to their children by setting unachievable targets.

Speaking at the North of England Education Conference in Blackpool, Dr Atkinson said: "At least half of them (pupils) worry about school work and the pressure of exams.

"And they outline pressure from home as well as school as part of that worry." Children in England face tough exams at the ages of nine, 11, 14, 16 and 18.

Brian Lightman, of the Association of School and College Leaders, blamed the stress of these exams.

"From the point of view of children's health, we are really concerned about the over-emphasis on external exams - which is far greater than in other countries," he said.

"Parents are reading all the time about the pressure to pass examinations. They pass that on to their children because they believe they must get good grades to succeed in life."

The survey, which questioned almost 2,000 children, also found that 25 per cent do not like being at school most of the time, while 59 per cent do.

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