The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on our country as a whole. I think some people don’t see that the impact of the virus has filtered into the mental health of our students. As a Leaving Certificate student, I must admit I am extremely unhappy with the disregard the Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh has displayed towards Leaving Cert students’ mental health.
Leaving Cert exams postponed
The decision was made by the government to postpone our exams until July 29th and also postponed due dates for projects in subjects such as geography, art and history until “late summer.” This has put students in a very vulnerable position and I think it has had a major impact on the mental health of LC students.
Firstly, I would like to know McHugh’s reasoning behind not giving students predicted grades as 49% of students who voted in the Irish Second–Level Students’ Union’s (ISSU) recent survey voted for predicted grades. I know that this is not ‘the norm’ in Ireland but this pandemic is not ‘the norm.’ By choosing predicted grades there would be no congregation of students, teachers or superintendents while the exams are ongoing. There are so many things to consider and I’m not convinced that this has been thought through.
Sitting the exams during a pandemic
I would also like to know what way classes will be held for two weeks before the exams. As we all know this virus will not be gone by mid-July so students and teachers will still congregate at breaks times which could put them at risk? Even if classes are spread out and there are only six other people per class, how will this work?
Currently I have not completed the course in four out of my seven core subjects and so I am at a disadvantage as I will be unable to answer some of the questions on the exam paper come July. I am very concerned about how Minister McHugh will address this. At the time of writing many prominent TD’s and political parties, such as Ruairi Quinn, a former Minister for Education, have come out in support of the cancellation of the Leaving Cert and the implementation of predicted grades.
Students’ mental health
I think predicted grades would have been the easiest and safest way to go. For the students who may say it is ‘unfair’ and say they would have prepared better for the actual Leaving Cert exams, I think it’s important to remember that postponing the exams has already caused so much upset, stress and anxiety for students. For a country who preaches about mental health, we need to put our words into action.
If predicted grades were implemented, there could also be an appeal system put in place where students who are unhappy with their predicted grades can sit an exam to try to achieve a better grade. This reduces the pressure that thousands of students are under. This policy, commonly known as a ‘No Detriment’ policy, would mean that anyone who wants to sit their exams could do so safely. For example if only 20,000 out of over 65,000 students were unhappy with predicted grades, exams could then be held with social distancing guidelines in place. If exams were held for all students without predicted grades, I personally cannot see how the exams would be able to take place while ensuring the safety of all students with social distancing measures etc.
In conclusion, I believe that predicted grades is the best option in terms of both the safety and mental health of Leaving Certificate students. If you are struggling with the stress of exams or with this pandemic in general please talk to a friend, family member, or someone you trust. If you could do with having a chat with someone, SpunOut.ie’s anonymous, 24 hour text line is always open. You’re worth talking about and we’re here to listen and support you. Text SPUNOUT to 086 1800 280. Standard SMS rates may apply