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Studying during Coronavirus: Heywood student on prepping for state exams in a pandemic

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 Tuesday May 5 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. And on Friday April 10, it was announced that the schools would remain closed ‘until further notice’.

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.

While on April 10, it was confirmed the Leaving Cert exams set to take place in June have been postponed. They are now rescheduled for late July or early August – while the Junior Cert is off altogether.

The deadline for submission of Leaving Certificate practical and other projects, in subjects such has History, Geography, Art, PE and Construction, has also been rescheduled to either late July or early August.

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 DelaneyScoil Chriost Ri’s Kate Corrigan, Mountrath CS’ Seth Burns Mooney, Colaiste Iosagain’s Emma Dunne, St Fergal’s Niall Coss, Portlaoise College’s Lauren Mills,Heywood’s Dervla McDonagh, Knockbeg’s Ross Bolger, Clonaslee College’s Eva Hyland, Portlaoise CBS’ Thómas Dunne, Scoil Chriost Ri’s Grace O’Brien, Mountrath CS’ Ellen Timmons, Portlaoise College’s Igot Stankiewicz and Knockbeg’s Conor Donlon.

Next up, it is Ballyragget native and Heywood CS student Lauren O’Reilly-Phelan.

1 – What is your daily routine at the moment?

As best as I can, I try to follow a school day schedule. I wake up around 8:30am, get a good breakfast and gather my books for the ‘school day’ ahead.

I try to stick to my original timetable to incorporate and give time to each of my subjects. I take my breaks throughout the day and finish at 3:50pm. From there I would usually talk to my friends, go for a walk or anything to get away from the books! This would be my routine on a good day when I feel motivated and productive.

2- What supports have your school provided for you and have they been useful?

Our school has been as helpful and efficient as they can regarding the supports they have availed to us. Everything from live classes on Hangouts, assignments on Google classroom, and the use of Revise Wise books free of cost and so much more!

I personally find these resources very easy to use and helpful as most the information and help you need is right at your fingertips. As always, the teachers are always there to give a hand whenever we need it!

3 – Are you getting out for much exercise?

I try my best to incorporate exercise daily but it is hard to go out sometimes as others are walking around the same area and I want to be as careful as possible with the new restrictions.

I am a camogie player so I always go out the back yard and play a bit either against a wall or with my brother, either way it’s important for me and I say many other sports people to keep in our touch for the sporting season that will hopefully go ahead.

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 was delighted when I heard the news, it was music to my ears! I feel the oral exams are a great stress and pressure put on students, alongside the uncertainty of whether the exams would take place or not. Therefore, a sense of relief was evident across the country after the announcement.

However, I feel a lot of people have studied tirelessly to achieve top marks in the orals. I also sympathise those who have spent a sum of money towards grinds for these exams. Regarding practicals,hours of practise, hard work and time to have every person rewarded the same scores can be disheartening for some.

5 – Do you find it hard to motivate yourself to study for the exams as now the date has been pushed out to late July or early August?

Personally I find it very difficult to find motivation to study due to the recent announcement of the deferral of the exams, as it most likely means no summer, debs or time to rest after this tough time.

This in my opinion is not fair to Leaving Cert students around the country who are trying to keep motivated and studious during this long draining pandemic. It is hard enough as it is to study now let alone during our summer!

6 – Are you able to interact with your friends? And if so, how are you doing this?

I interact a lot with my friends through social media such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facetime and many more. I feel talking with friends is a great stress relief and it is nice to be able to catch up with them.

Sometimes we will create a group study over Hangouts. I find this a very effective way to study and have fun at the same time!

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?

In my opinion, adolescents are being portrayed as a problem in today’s society and a risk factor for spreading the virus. We are blamed for not understanding or not respecting the guidelines. I feel the majority of young people are very aware of the crisis and put in the effort of social distancing to try prevent the spread.

Unfortunately, there is a small minority of young people who are refusing to follow the guidelines which is giving a bad perception of young people in today’s society and in the media.

8 – If the Coronavirus crisis continues and you can’t sit your exams in late July or early August, do you think they should be postponed further or be cancelled altogether?

In my opinion, I think the exams should be cancelled regardless. I believe the fairest solution would be to use predicted grades. These results would be a combination of references from teachers, past results and predicted grades. This would be in line with what other European countries are doing regarding the Covid-19 crisis. While no proposal is flawless, I believe this is the safest and most efficient option.

This would ease students minds as we would have a definite answer and results to go on. I would be of the opinion that the deferral of exams would be detrimental to students welfare. Firstly, with these deferral dates, there is huge uncertainty concerning college for many students and lack of motivation.

Furthermore, we are still unsure on how long the crisis will last, which could cause exams to be rescheduled again. In all, I believe predicted grades would be the safest option,which have students’ best interests at heart.

9 – Anything else you would like to add?

Aside from exams and schoolwork, it makes me sad to think about all the great memories we will miss out on from our last few months of secondary school. It was an unexpected shock for us as students, to be informed that it would be our last day in school,seeing our friends, having the laugh and the overall enjoyable school day.

While unfortunately this was inevitable, I strongly believe that the government could ease our minds by making a definite decision regarding the Leaving Cert.

SEE ALSO – Feargus Dunne: ‘It’s true what they say. Those small moments are the big moments.’