As a Sixth Year student, this year has certainly been a difficult one. There are the obvious things like social gatherings and celebrations that we will have to miss out on. There is also the Leaving Cert in itself. Despite it being a constant in the Irish education system for years, its once again facing major changes for the second time since the beginning of the pandemic.
Mental health and exams
There is a small part of me that wishes I could just sit a normal Leaving Cert, yet there is a larger part of me who understands how difficult that is. I am well used to my mental health being one never-ending rollercoaster, yet the pandemic has certainly made that rollercoaster extra bumpy. As an Autistic person, looking after my mental health is so important to me. Even in fifth year, long before social-distancing and mask-wearing was even a thing, I was struggling with my exams. I can remember one Christmas exam in particular where I convinced myself I was failing. I started crying and ended up having to be taken out of the room and comforted by a teacher.
Making my decision
It was this knowledge of my limitations that made me decide a few weeks ago to sign-up for the self-service portal. I chose not to sit the exam and instead receive entirely accredited grades. An accredited grade is based on an estimated mark you would get in a subject in the Leaving Certificate exam. In 2020, the term calculated grade was used. It was a hard decision to make, and while I have thought about it endlessly in my head, it is ultimately not a decision I regret.
Listening to some of the conversations surrounding accredited grades has been quite difficult. I feel as if those who are choosing this option are being portrayed as lazy, as people who want the easy way out and do not care about their future.
Knowing this is the right decision for me
I am not lazy. Aside from the period of online learning in January and February, I have not missed a single day of school. I also really care about my future. I know exactly where I want to go to college, and I have big ambitions. In my opinion, the idea of the hard way out always being the best way out can be quite dangerous and misleading. We should not focus on what is harder or easier. Instead, we should focus on what way will have the best results, regardless of its difficulty.
People like me, who are only doing accredited grades, know we have most of our options taken away, yet many of us also understand that this decision is best for us. If the Department of Education considers us old enough to make a massive decision like this in the first place, I think we should be trusted with it. I know that I might not get the points I need, but I also know that I can always repeat the Leaving Cert next year if necessary. If that is the path I am on, it might be long, but I know it will be a relaxing, flatter path, than one involving me sitting the exams this year.