St Brendan’s College Junior Cert student Daniel Murphy this week shares his thoughts on the upcoming State exams calling for clarity from the Dept of Education.

 

I have to admit in truth last year when we got the news of a few weeks off I, and my friends, were delighted. It was great and I had loads of time to myself. It started as a two-week holiday which later turned into four weeks – then into three months, and soon the summer holidays in the sun rolled in. Yes, we had our online classes with the work being sent out to us, but in those three months life was great. As a Second Year I had no worries about the Junior Cert at that stage.

But returning back to school as a Third Year in September after five and a half months at home, I began to realise that we should have been more focussed on our study last year. However, that is in the past and there is nothing I can do now but just concentrate on the future and what’s going to happen in the upcoming Junior Cert, which is the biggest worry a Third Year student has right now.

We know from those that have gone before us the daunting pressure that it brings. This year it seems to be really tough because the long absence from being in school itself has changed everything about preparations. Added to that are all the adjustments to school systems because of COVID-19.

It’s now five weeks since we were last in a normal school classroom, face to face with our friends and our teachers, and as the days to the State exams draw closer, the uncertainty and the anxiety has begun to set in. Our teachers have been fabulous with their encouragement and I think we have all become more used to using the online Teams App as our virtual classroom. But we could be off for another few weeks by the way it’s looking. The more time this goes on the harder it gets to keep motivated and engaged on your own with a laptop in your kitchen!

In the last few weeks Third Years all over Ireland are calling for answers from the Minister for Education, Norma Foley, asking that she and education stakeholders make more extensive changes to the Junior Cert now or tell us what they’re going to do about running the exams or asking our teachers to deliver predictive grading. It would take the stress off me and my fellow classmates. All we have been hearing in the past few weeks from the Minister is that the Junior Cert will go ahead, about the reopening of school and how they are safe – even though the rest of the country is told to stay at home. The Minister has said that three quarters of schools have not been affected by COVID-19 but that means a quarter of schools have been affected that is thousands of Junior Certs around Ireland that have lost more time than us which must make it even harder for them to be prepared properly and fairly. And the Minister and her Department don’t seem to be listening to our pleas to clarify if they are thinking of cancelling the Junior Cert.

Last Saturday night I attended a national Student’s Council Zoom meeting with students from all over Ireland and a common theme we have realised is it is getting harder to rely on a Government and a Department who don’t want to make a decision about our future and are not considering or looking at the situation from our point of view.
While we await such clarifications there is nothing for it but to do our best to stay motivated and engaged, to stay working with our teachers in our online classes while, for some, anxiety and worry build each day.