The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting almost every aspect of our lives at the moment.
Bar those working in essential services, the rest of the population is off work and instructed to stay in their homes for the majority of the time until Easter Sunday April 12 at the earliest.
While around 120,000 Irish Leaving and Junior Cert students have seen their lives turned upside down in the last month.
Those set to sit the Leaving Cert, about 55,000 of them, have been particularly inconvenienced as the one set of exams they have spent the past five or six years preparing for are now in jeopardy.
They have been out of the school setting since March 13 after they were closed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
On March 19, the Department of Education announced that Leaving Cert and Junior Cert orals and practical exams were cancelled and all students would be awarded full marks.
However, with the written state exams just over two months away, the Department have been silent on what contingency plans, if any, are in place should they not be able to begin on June 3.
All the time, students have been taken out of the routine that they have been used to for the past five or six years just moths before the all important exams.
So, we decided to reach out to the schools in Laois and ask those getting ready to sit Leaving and Junior Cert exams how they are getting on.
What their routine now is, how their school are trying to help them and whether they believe the exams should be postponed or done online if they cannot proceed on the scheduled date.
Up next, it is Scoil Chriost Ri student and Portlaoise native Kate Corrigan:
1 – What is your daily routine at the moment?
I try stick to my typical school day by using my timetable to keep things as normal for me as possible. So I will study or do assigned work from 9am-4pm according to my timetable and try keep the breaks the same as well which can be difficult at times but I find it is the best way for me to keep on track.
2- What supports have your school provided for you and have they been useful?
My school, Scoil Chríost Rí, have set up numerous groups on the likes of Edmodo and Microsoft Teams which are online resources which we can communicate through and receive and share our assignments and homework.
This enables us to keep in contact with all our teachers, year head and guidance counsellor. Our teachers have been amazing in guiding us through this strange and difficult time and ensure that we have all the resources we need to continue on with our courses and our study.
3 – Are you getting out for much exercise?
Yes, I make sure I get out of the house for a walk or run everyday as it can be difficult to motivate yourself to study or do school work being stuck inside for the day, I think it’s essential to clear your head and find a balance.
4 – How do you feel about the decision to scrap the oral/practical elements of some subjects and give everyone 100% across the board?
Personally, I think it was a huge weight lifted off many students shoulders as it gave us some clarity and allowed us to focus on the written exams going forward and took away some of the uncertainty.
However, I do feel as though it can be disheartening for many students who have put in immense work over the past two years for the oral sections of the exams which carry a huge amount of marks but I realise that this was the only fair and realistic outcome to be made.
5 – Do you find it hard to motivate yourself to study for the exams as it is unclear if the exams will even go ahead as currently scheduled?
Yes definitely at times, even with the constant encouragement from our teachers it is exceptionally difficult to find the motivation with the uncertainty of it all.
However, keeping the mindset that the exams will go ahead in June and keeping a routine helps keep the motivation flowing and pushes me towards my end goal.
6 – Are you able to interact with your friends? And if so, how are you doing this?
Using social media I’m able to keep in contact with my friends.
However not being able to see the people that I’ve spent everyday with for the past 6 years is proving very difficult and also it is heartbreaking knowing that there is a possibility that we may not get to spend another day in school together or even graduate.
7 – How do feel young people are being portrayed in the media at the moment? They are being blamed a lot for ignoring social distancing guidelines. Do you believe this is a fair criticism?
I feel as though young people are being portrayed unfairly as the majority of people that I know and on social media are promoting the social distancing guidelines and sticking to it themselves so I do not believe that this is fair criticism from what I see myself.
8 – If the Coronavirus crisis continues and you can’t sit your exams in June, do you think they should be postponed or should exams be facilitated online?
I think that if the exams are postponed it would be even more difficult to remain motivated and will cause unnecessary stress on a student.
It would rob students of crucial time to save up and prepare for college or whatever they’re planning on doing post leaving cert. Also, by postponing the Leaving Cert I don’t see how it would be possible to get exams corrected fairly and in time for students to go on to their third level education by September. Facilitating them online could be a fair solution however it could prove unsuccessful and unfair.
Personally, I would love to see it go ahead in June however I understand that people’s health is the number one priority.
9 – Anything else you would like to add?
This is obviously a really difficult time for anyone let alone a leaving cert student and I think we’d all like some clarity.