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 Delaney, Scoil 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 Igor Stankiewicz, Knockbeg’s Conor Donlon, Heywood’s Lauren O’Reilly-Phelan, St Fergal’s Robert Phelan, Scoil Chriost Ri’s Julia Cahill, Portlaoise CBS’ Darragh Carolan, Heywood’s Leah Moffitt, Knockbeg’s Canice Whearty and St Fergal’s Gemma Hoare.
Next up, it is Portlaoise native and Scoil Chriost Ri student Emma Finn.
1 – What is your daily routine at the moment?
There is no doubt that my daily routine has been turned upside down in the last few weeks but sure what can we do. For now, I try to force myself to wake up relatively close to normal school time but this is proving to be a large challenge. I eat my breakfast and then try wrap my head around the concept of home school and the pile of books staring at me.
I scan through emails from teachers, decide what work really needs to be done and handed in to them today. I take what I like to call well -earned breaks at many stages of the day as my concentration levels are out the window these days! I get my dinner and multiple cups of tea handed to me by my parents to keep me sane throughout the day. Come 4 o clock that is my day done, go for a walk and then it is TV soaps for the evening.
2- What supports have your school provided for you and have they been useful?
To be fair, all of my teachers have been very helpful in this surreal scenario however it is not as effective as it would be if we were in the classroom. Each teacher has created an Edmodo or Microsoft Teams account where we can access work and contact our teachers throughout the day.
My French teacher is even making videos and posting them for us to follow when doing our work which is a great help.
3 – Are you getting out for much exercise?
I think everybody has turned to exercise since most people are filled with free time. I try everyday to get out for some fresh air to get away from the books and clear my head.
It is so draining being stuck in the house all day so exercise has become such an important part for me to take a break and not be surrounded by reminders of school. Look on the bright side, I am going to be a lot fitter by the time this is all over.
4 – How do you feel about the decision to scrap the oral/practical elements of some subjects and give everyone 100% across the board?
I know a lot of people have mixed feelings on this but personally I couldn’t be happier. Yes, people who have worked hard for these orals may see this as being unfair but I think we should all be happy receiving full marks.
I have never received 100% in any exam and to get it in my Leaving Cert French and Irish oral I will take that any day. If anything I think this has given us all a boost to work harder since we received this grade.
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?
After hearing the news that the Leaving Cert has been postponed, I felt very disheartened much like a lot of students. Of course our health is much more important however it does make it more difficult to stay motivated for an extra couple of months.
I know I will find it hard to motivate myself especially when it comes to the months when we are supposed to be on summer holidays.
6 – Are you able to interact with your friends? And if so, how are you doing this?
Yes, I am able to interact with my friends every day. It is times like these where technology is very handy.
All social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp are used more than ever to keep in contact.
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?
There is no doubt that teenagers have been portrayed to be the main problem for ignoring social distancing and to an extent they are correct however if you walk down main street or any other town you will see that it is not always teenagers who are ignoring social distancing guidelines.
I think people see a group of teenagers and place the blame directly on them without realising that adults are equally to blame.
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?
To be honest at this point I don’t think that there will be a solution that everybody will be happy about. I do not think postponing or cancelling it would work as each student has a certain path they want to take, whether that is college or otherwise and prolonging the leaving cert would make it much harder for us all.
I think if the exams do not go ahead in late July or early August, we should be given predicted grades. It may not be the option we prefer but at this time I think it would be best.
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