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.
So far we have heard from Portlaoise CBS’ Eamonn Delaney, Scoil Chriost Ri’s Kate Corrigan, Mountrath CS’ Seth Burns Mooney, Colaiste Iosagain’s Emma Dunne, St Fergal’s Niall CossandPortlaoise College’s Lauren Mills
Up next is Heywood CS student and Ballinakill native Dervla McDonagh.
1 – What is your daily routine at the moment?
Well currently I don’t really have a set daily routine which I probably should at this stage, but I do try to get up as early as possible around 10 most mornings and get my head into the books then.
I like to take a few ‘study breaks’ during the day as I like to call them which sometimes last a bit longer than I intend them to be as I get distracted very easily. I think TikTok may have to go as I spend a good hour at least scrolling through it! Or get distracted by baking too.
2- What supports have your school provided for you and have they been useful?
Our school has been very supportive to us in fairness to them, Mr Bowe our principal is sending us out an email every week making sure we are all staying safe and giving us as much updates as he can.
Our teachers are doing very well too considering the circumstances. They have all set up google classrooms for us in all our subjects which seems to be working well at the moment.
The only downfall of this is that some of our practical subjects such as Biology and Ag Science, we can’t carry out the experiments which is frustrating as some students like myself take in information better when physically doing a task.
3 – Are you getting out for much exercise?
I do try get out for a walk everyday I suppose I’m blessed as Heywood gardens is just up the road from me so I’ve no excuses really.
I also do home workouts with my sister to get my mind off stressing over these exams too.
4 – How do you feel about the decision to scrap the oral/practical elements of some subjects and give everyone 100% across the board?
To be quite honest I was delighted when I first heard the orals were being cancelled and everyone got 100% across the board as that wouldn’t be my strong point so overall I can’t complain.
But I was talking to my friends when this was announced and I can see why some people might be upset or disappointed by this as maybe they may be better at the oral side of things rather than the written exam itself or may feel it’s not there real grade. But getting 100% in any exam is a bonus to me!
Another downfall to this that got me worrying as well is that unfortunately maybe people would receive harder marking in the written exam and not get what they should achieve due to the dreaded bell curve, anyway I suppose we will all just have to stay as positive as we can and not worry about these things.
But ultimately I think it was the right decision to call off the oral exams it was simply too risky at the time and people’s health is more important.
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?
Well I’m not much of a study-er at the best of times but yes I do find it very hard to motivate myself to study for something that looks to me to be something that is very uncertain.
But I suppose we will all have to tip away at our study in case it does go ahead but ultimately I feel I will not do as well in the exams because of the unknown.
6 – Are you able to interact with your friends? And if so, how are you doing this?
Yes I interact with my friends everyday we sometimes Group FaceTime which I feel is so important to keep in contact with your friends at this stressful time in our lives with everything going on at the moment.
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?
Yeah I think unfortunately young people are being portrayed quite badly in the media at the moment for not adhering to the social distancing guidelines but I feel they are getting better now and copping on to the seriousness of this horrible virus.
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?
Well to be honest I hope they do get postponed! I feel so unprepared in myself as in some of my subjects like Home Ec for example there is such a big course to cover and will need more time realistically to get it covered if we are to continue it online but fair play to Ms McDonald she’s doing her very best and helping us so much.
And I think doing the exams online is a very unfair thing to do but look they are going to have to go ahead in some way in the near future.
9 – Anything else you would like to add?
As I’ve mentioned beforehand about the uncertainty and the unknown about the Leaving Cert, I feel student’s stress levels especially at this time will be at their peak.
With all students trying to get the work done at home, other things have to be taken into consideration. For example. some students may not have access to a computer or internet facilities. Others may have younger siblings like myself that don’t understand the stress of this year. The simplest of things like my brothers pounding the basketball off the ground or pucking the sliotar off the gable end of the house sets me off anyway – I don’t know about others.
But ultimately our mental health is most important at this time and the situation we are in at the moment is not ideal for this. I know the Leaving Cert may not be priority for our government but we simply need some kind of answers we are anxious enough as it is.