A group of 5th year students have started a campaign on Instagram to share their concerns about the Leaving Cert 2021 exams. They say the closing of schools has greatly impacted their classes, and there are concerns that there will not be enough time to finish the two-year curriculum by the time the exams are due to begin next year.
Many of the challenges facing 6th year students this year also apply to 5th year students. Although Leaving Cert 2020 has been cancelled and replaced with a calculated grades system, there are no plans to carry that system over to next year, which means the Leaving Cert will go ahead as normal.
Problems facing 5th years in the COVID-19 crisis
We asked 5th year students how they are feeling about the impact the pandemic has had on their schoolwork, and what it will mean for the Leaving Cert next year.
These are some of the main issues that came up.
Learning from home
Students have said that the way their classes are being delivered is very different from one school to the next. Some schools are providing video classes while others are getting little support from their school.
All of the students said that trying to learn at home, whether that’s by teaching yourself or taking part in online learning, has been difficult and they feel like they’ve fallen behind. For students in smaller or crowded homes, finding a space to do their work in can be a challenge, and home is not always the safest environment to be in. This makes it very difficult to focus on study.
Falling behind on coursework
The curriculum for the Leaving Cert is spread across two years, which means 5th year is just as important as 6th year in preparing for the Leaving Cert exams. Some of the course content can take longer to get through than others, and students are concerned about the amount of class time they have lost since the beginning of this crisis. Many students are worried that they won’t be able to finish the full course before the Leaving Cert starts next year, which could put them at a disadvantage.
Mental health concerns
Students who were already dealing with mental health issues are finding that the stress surrounding the crisis and their schoolwork has made some of these issues worse. Other students who might not have been struggling with their mental health before this crisis are now experiencing feelings of stress, worry, and anxiety, which is having a negative impact on their mental health.
Increased competition for courses
Some students are concerned that the number of people taking the exams next year could increase if current 6th year students decide they want to re-take their exams or repeat the year entirely. This could increase the demand for college courses in September 2021, which means the points for those courses could go up.
Given that many students feel they have fallen behind on their coursework, the idea of increased points is causing a lot of stress and anxiety.
5th year students want a response
Many students understand why the 6th year group were prioritised in the initial response to this crisis. However, now that the Department of Education has found a solution to Leaving Cert 2020, 5th years are calling for the Minister of Education, Joe McHugh, to look at their situation and come up with a solution.
Some solutions suggested by the 5th year Instagram campaign, 5thyearsnotforgotten, include:
- Reducing the coursework for Leaving Cert 2021
- Making the Leaving Cert exams easier
It has also been suggested that oral exams could be cancelled. However, Aoife Devlin, a 17 year old student from Sligo, has argued that cancelling the orals could have a negative impact on students who perform better in oral or practical exams than they do in written exams, putting more pressure on them in the Summer.
5th year students on the COVID-19 pandemic
Below are some of the responses we received from 5th year students on how they have been impacted by the pandemic:
Ríona Nolan, 17, Co.Carlow
Although I am delighted that the LC got cancelled for current 6th years, I believe the government now needs to look at 5th year’s situation and how they can make the LC as accommodating as possible for us. 5th years across the country are all at different levels with online learning right now. The government needs to be in touch with all schools about how we can all sit the best Leaving Cert possible, considering the situation. Whether this be reducing our course work, or making the exams slightly easier. We have been impacted by this just as much as 6th years, and if nothing is done thousands of us will be suffering this time next year.
Roksana Segiet, 17, Co. Carlow
Online learning definitely has its disadvantages. Unfortunately, we are all behind in most of our subjects and next year, it’s going to be hard to find the time for extra classes, homework, study etc. I think that while educators are trying their best to reassure us that everything will be taken into account, it would be nice to get some kind of clarification from the government. I’m happy that 6th years were listened to and that their opinions were taken into consideration, and I really hope that 5th years will also be heard.
Adam Lambe, 17, Monaghan
Without the classroom environment and the style of teaching that I’ve evolved to learn best from for 17 years, I find it harder to learn than ever before. Because self directed learning is quite new to me, I am not producing the same quality of work. With all that said, the lack of productivity is also affecting my mental health as I feel constantly stressed and anxious about my education. Without clarity and hopefully accommodations from the department of education on the LC 2021, students like me will feel this heightened stress and anxiety and lessened productivity indefinitely!
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